Sam Mickens Interrogates Alison Goldfrapp of Goldfrapp
Kyle T. Webster
Your new record, Seventh Tree, is a pretty marked departure for Goldfrapp. Can you discuss why it turned out the way it did?
I think we wanted to put more space back into the music. You know, we'd been touring for [2006 album] Supernature a lot, and it was fantastic, it was good fun, but I think we kind of wanted to bring back some space. Everything was very banging the whole time; every available space was filled up with a little synth sound or something popping or exploding. We wanted to pull back from that. There's something very satisfying about stripping everything away and just focusing on something very small and intimate, which is kind of how I felt emotionally as well.
With the new record, you've talked about themes of animal mythology and used the owl head masks in the photos. How are those ideas present on the record?
They've always been there, you know, I think they're just part of our psyche and my psyche, and it's just part of our visual language.
Do you have a specific intention with the image of the owl?
Yeah, I do, but I can't quite put my finger on it yet, what it exactly is. I think maybe the owl represents this quiet kind of thing that's kind of around—you know it's there, but you don't necessarily see it. And I guess it has all these connotations in children's books, like the wise old owl. I think there's something very peaceful about it, sort of fascinating that it's got this kind of presence about it.
They're also vicious predators.
[Laughs] Yeah. I don't know. But that's what's so brilliant about animals in drawings and literature and paintings—they always kind of symbolize something, and you don't always know what it is really.
A lot of your career has dealt with sexual imagery and energy. Do you think that the relationship of sex to your work has changed with this new record?
Yes [laughs]. Yes, I do, I do. Yes.
Can you describe how?
I don't really know, because it's sort of a very tangible thing and a subjective thing. But I did get bored of this image I created for myself. I got bored of people expecting me to look and behave in a certain way 24/7. I got bored of looking at images of other people, highly sexed sort of images. And I got bored of people talking to me constantly about my shoes. I mean, I invented that image for myself, I'm not blaming anyone else for it. It's not that I dislike that image; I just think I wanted the sexuality to be expressed in a different way, a softer way. Also, there are a lot of things that have happened in my life personally that kind of... it just felt like it didn't match what I was feeling and what I had been through. It wasn't working for me anymore.
I was curious what you think about the music that you came up around a long time ago, acts like Orbital and Tricky—what you thought at the time or what you think about it now.
What do I think about it now? Orbital—I just did it because it was fun and because I knew them, and also it payed the rent. And, Tricky, I mean, you know, [it was a] great experience. I felt I learned a lot from doing all of those things. I'm not going to comment on what I think of them artistically or creatively.
Are there any specific musical touchstones for this record?
Whole loads of shit. It's funny, 'cause I always listen to new things, but quite often it's the things I listened to when I was really young that still have the strongest influence. I sort of went back to listening to a lot of Minnie Ripperton when we were first starting to write the album. It was something I listened to a lot, years ago. Like Come to My Garden is one of my all-time favorite albums. And things like Nick Drake. Films have always been a big inspiration as well. The visual is very much a part of what inspires our writing process, as much as music.
Are there specific films that were particularly inspirational for this record?
A lot of American '70s road-trip movies—Badlands. I think a lot of this album is about traveling and being on a journey of some sort, either physically or mentally or both—a lot of light and hazy sunshine and long roads. As well as very English kinds of things like The Wicker Man... My brain is gone, actually, kind of melted.
Are you touring right now?
I just got back from a week's holiday, but yeah, we are on tour. And it's teatime here. Teatime... I'm sorry.
Goldfrapp play Wed Sept 17, Showbox Sodo, 8 pm, $22.50 adv/$25 DOS, all ages.