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Genre Hopping With Goldfrapp

Written by Lucy Donnelly on July 6, 2010

One of the primary goals of the semi-amateur music journalist is to hide from the interview subject the fact that they are but a semi-amateur music journalist. Particularly when the subject is one Alison Goldfrapp – half of English glam-rock-avant-psych-disco-synth-dance-etc-pop (they are renowned genre hoppers) duo Goldfrapp. Having been around the traps for over a decade and producing music that is recognised as being of an extremely high calibre – regardless of taste – by musos everywhere, this is a woman who has done the interview circuit a grillion times.

Thus it is definitely NOT an occasion where aforementioned semi-amateur music journalist wants her carefully constructed image of ‘Professional, Hard-line Interviewer’ tainted. It is also definitely not the moment she wants to hear: “IF THAT’S YOUR FATHER ON THE PHONE TELL HIM WE NEED BREAD!” “Um… Mum… I’m kind of on the phone to Goldfrapp..”

Fortunately Alison seems to understand that even Professional Hard-line Interviewers have their genetic Achilles’ Heel. Her phone manner remains polite, warm and genuine. In fact, it’s almost hard to believe that I’m talking to a woman who has released five full studio LPs and attained such a supreme degree of international success that she has. Humble – almost to the point of being self deprecating at times – she laughs ‘Well, I suppose that’s why we’re not very popular I guess!’ when I remark on the massive amount of money that goes into advertising and marketing of young dance/pop acts these days in order to be noticed.

That said, heaven help you if any of your questions are laced with ignorance – even if the ignorance is not your own.

Exhibit A: Your latest album Head First has a distinct 80s synth-pop feel to it and some reviewers are likening it to Lady Gaga, even going so far as to say you’re playing ‘catch up’ in a way… trails off tentatively

“Well that’s just fucking ridiculous isn’t it?” she replies heatedly in that thick British accent, perfect for roasting a tasty morsel of interviewer. “I mean, for starters we’ve been around much longer than Gaga – Will and I got together in 1999 and Gaga is more a recent phenomenon… so I don’t understand why anybody who’d actually done their research would be making claims like that.”

Yikes. Consider me crisped to a nice medium-well.

As for commenting on Gaga being lauded by the media for being the pioneer of extravagant costuming (or lack thereof), theatrics and sexualised performances… “I don’t think my performances on stage are necessarily ‘sexualised’, I think it’s completely different and I wouldn’t liken myself to acts like Lady Gaga in the way that I present myself at all. Gaga is much younger and I think we’re both expressing different ideas through our music. I’m not out to shock, it’s more entertaining and behaving in a way that suits the songs and feels right.”

She also laments that the fiscally-charged way of the music industry beast is completely antithetical to the Goldfrapp philosophy. “You know, we were never in this for the money,” she says. “For us we do it because we love it. And it’s nice when people like our music, but that’s not why we spend all of this time writing it. If I’d wanted to be rich I wouldn’t have gotten into music.” She recounts an experience very early in her career where one reviewer likened their predicted longevity to the phrase ‘today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s chip paper’. Consequently Alison stopped reading potentially damaging reviews and focused completely on the creative process itself. And funnily enough, almost a decade later they’re still in the headlines. (Take that!)

And it is a creative process in every sense of the word with this band. Though there is a definite ‘Goldfrapp’ sound and Alison’s voice is extremely recognisable, no two of their albums are alike. Supernature (2005) had a very glam-disco feel, where as 2002’s Black Cherry was a darker pop album – which in contrast to 2010’s synthy Head First, perfectly illustrates her next point.“The type of album we create is just a reflection of how we were feeling at the time. We weren’t attempting to conform to any type of genre that may have been popular, which probably explains why we weren’t such a big commercial success.”

Oh but I beg to differ! According to the highly reputable, the Goldfrapp success rating is a tidy 83/100. Not bad for a ‘small-time’ band – which, despite evidence to the contrary, Goldfrapp still appear to view themselves as. Much to Alison’s amusement, her personal ‘sexiness’ rating also comes in at a very acceptable 84/100. The irony that she in fact prefers the fairer sex was not lost on her either. “I suppose the way to become sexier to men is simply to be completely unavailable!”

However getting back to the commercial accessibility of Goldfrapp. Their current album Head First is their first in a few years – since 2008’s Seventh Tree. Released through Mute in March of this year, the album sees the duo throwing out the folk and bringing back the shiny pop. But they have a few tricks up their sleeve for 2010’s Splendour in the Grass festival And national sideshow dates. “We won’t be playing music solely from the new album, we will also be performing a lot of our old songs.” Probably a good thing, as the album itself only lasts for a mere 38 minutes tops – hardly enough tuney fodder for a sideshow me thinks!

We hang up the phone just as the melodious sounds of Professional Hard-Line Interviewer’s mother can be heard bellowing in the background “… AND TELL HIM TO GET SOME MILK TOO WHILE YOU’RE AT IT!” Sigh.

Australian tour dates:

Sydney, Big Top – Thursday July 29

Brisbane, The Tivoli – Friday July 30

Melbourne, Palace Theatre – Tuesday August 3

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