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Date March 26
Type Interview
Source Greater Manchester's City Life
Title Interview: Alison Goldfrapp
Country UK
Journalist/Photographer Gary Ryan
Text Since their inception at the turn of the millennium, the chameleon-like Goldfrapp have effortlessly shape-shifted their way through multiple genres.

From the eerie, ambient-opera of their Mercury-nominated debut album, Felt Mountain, through to the glam sado-pop of Black Cherry (2003) and the Dionysian-disco of Supernature (2005), to the pastoral folk of Seventh Tree, each flick of their creative wrist elicited a phalanx of admirers and imitators.

And the direction for their latest effort? Well, Alison Goldfrapp is in love. This is new territory for the pair to mine creatively. Sure, they’ve done sex – and how! – with Alison probably most famous in the public consciousness as the dancefloor- dominatrix who posed naked on the cover of Supernature wearing nothing but a peacock’s tail, and once appeared onstage playing a theremin with her crotch.

Added to this is The Frapp’s media persona of unimpeachable frostiness: interviews have variously gone from euphemistically pointing out that she ‘doesn’t suffer fools gladly’ to implying that she life-coaches Satan.

That’s what makes Head First so disarming: tracks such as Alive and I Wanna Life so joyously revel in the struck-match, first-touch thrill of new love; swapping hauteur for heart.

The first most knew of her new relationship was when a newspaper outed her as dating the film editor Lisa Gunning; whom she met when Goldfrapp provided the score for the John Lennon biopic, Nowhere Boy.

In late December, the publication (patronisingly) hailed her as a ‘midlife lesbian’, part of an (apparently) burgeoning trend of women taking the ‘men’ out of the ‘menopause’. Or something.

“That was a bit odd, that one,” remembers Alison, while rehearsing for Goldfrapp’s forthcoming tour.

“I’ve never spoken about my private life to anyone really. Well, obviously my friends know, but publicly, I’ve never been talked about outside of the context of music, so it was a bit of a surprise. And the tone of the article, I think,” she crinkles her nose, “was a bit clichéd.

“But apart from that, I’m not bothered. It’s absolutely fine and in fact, it’s been quite interesting talking to people about it and it’s something I’m very happy to talk about and very comfortable with.”

In any case, sapphic fe­elings didn’t suddenly activate when she hit 40: she freely admits that she’s had romances with both genders, and refuses to be straitjacketed by labels. “The thing is, I’m quite a private person, so I’m not into celebrity or all those things. I kind of think it’s not really that relevant.

“I mean, I’m sure it’s interesting to people but ultimately, I feel like in this world of constant gossip and internet speculation, it’s nice just to do music and talk about that.”

Was she ever worried that divulging more about her personal life might change the perceived meanings of songs? Neil Tennant once noted that in ‘coming out’, the Pet Shop Boys catalogue had been depressingly dismissed by 90 per cent of the record buying public because they think ‘it isn’t about them’.

“That’s interesting,” considers Alison. “We’ve always been ambiguous and there is an argument that says if someone knows your sexuality, it’s not ambiguous anymore. But I don’t see that at all. If George Michael sings about a girl, do people think he’s a liar? Ultimately, it doesn’t make any difference. We’ve all got hearts. I don’t think sexuality is ever as black and white as people make out.”

Out and still outré, Alison and her musical partner Will Gregory completed Head First within six months; their swiftest turn-around for a record so far. After their foray into introspective folk in Seventh Tree, they retreated to “getting the synths out again and making some noise”.

“We wanted to make something that was kind of arch but celebratory,” she adds. Seemingly raiding the Magic FM playlist for untrendy, decommissioned sounds from the likes of Olivia Newton-John, Laura Brannigan and Van Halen, it’s euphoric and jubilant.

“I was coming into the studio every morning in jogging pants and jumping up and down in joy,” deadpans Alison.

Having etched the template for Noughties mainstream pop – with the likes of Xenomania, Little Boots and La Roux in debt to the pair – Goldfrapp suddenly don’t seem as blindingly recherché as they once did; in 2010, with Eighties-influenced synthpop being the charts default setting, did Goldfrapp ever worry that it would look as if they were imitating the imitators?

“Well, we’ve never been a reaction against what’s happening in the mainstream,” disclaims Alison. “We’ve just always done whatever we want to do. And we’re not particularly interested in what’s fashionable. And we were doing what people call...” – she spits the words out like furballs – “‘Eighties electro-pop’ with Supernature and Black Cherry. It’s just that nobody was interested then. They didn’t know what the hell we were doing. And now it’s totally normal.”

In fact, as a synth-toting, dressing-up-box-ransacking, sexually-unapologetic women who is in complex control of her work and vision, you could argue that Goldfrapp paved the way for the unstoppable pop behemoth that is Lady Gaga today.

“She’s gone to extremes,” laughs Alison. “She’s really going for it. Which I think is amazing. It’ll be interesting to see where she’s going. For me personally, the music’s not as interesting to me as her image though.”

Last year, Goldfrapp spent four days in LA penning a song with Christina Aguilera for the superstar’s forthcoming album, Bionic. “She sent us a Mood Board with photos of things she was interested in and that was kind of...,” she chuckles and swiftly drops any diplomacy like an Acme anvil.... “actually not very helpful at all to be honest.

“So we ignored it. She was really lovely I have to say. She’s a very relaxed person and looked after us well.”

 
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