Goldfrapp answer your questions
Stuart Taylor asks:
A few people have noticed similarities in the keyboards on ‘Rocket’ with Van Halen’s ‘Jump’. Who’s the definitive VH frontman – David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar?
Alison: I’m not very familiar with Van Halen as a band, I’m afraid, but I think we were definitely inspired by that sound. It’s not exactly the same sound as the sound but it’s definitely been inspired by it. Other than that, I’m not very familiar with any lead singer other than the Roth bloke that you just mentioned.
Will: David Lee Roth?
Alison: David Lee Roth. Is he the blond-haired one?
Yes, famous for abseiling across a large mountain face or something.
Will: You’re not even going to admit to it! It’s kind of a guilty pleasure, that track, isn’t it. It’s so ridiculously ‘up’ that you can’t not like it.
Alison: I don’t find it a guilty pleasure. I just like it.
What happens in the ‘Rocket’ video?
Alison: It involves, um… a rocket. Surprise surprise. (Laughs) Keep it simple! So we’ve got a huge rocket and a huge truck. That’s all I’m telling you.
So Alison, during some interview in 2004 you said, “I hated the 80s. I celebrated when they were over”. And now ‘Rocket’ and ‘Believer’ have this 80s sound done in a modern way. You and Will even mentioned 80s artists as your inspiration for the album. I know that the things can change in five years, but can you say more about this contradiction?
Alison: Well, I think quite often Will and I have said we’ve hated things and then we go and do them. (Guffaws) It’s kind of like when you’re at school and you say you hate the boy in the back row and you end up going out with him. So yeah, I see it a bit like that. Sometimes the things you hate are also the things you love, really. Secretly. But I did generally speaking, I have to say, hate the 80s: the fashion, the politics, generally the 80s were really pretty awful. But – and I think especially compared to England – I do think there were much better and more exciting things that came out of America in the 80s. I think music that came out of America in the 80s was much better. Apart from The Specials and New Order. So I think I was maybe specifically talking about England in the 80s when I originally said that.
When you say you enjoyed the music that came out of America, do you mean their mainstream music, or their alternative music?
Alison: There was some fantastic electro and stuff like that coming out of America in the early 80s. Stuff like electronic music and then also things like Prince… And ‘Jump’, of course. (Laughs)
Will: Talking Heads – that was early 80s.
Alison: I think there were some really great songwriters, all that stuff was really good. Really imaginative and exciting stuff – mainstream and more leftfield, much more than in England or in Europe.
It’s interesting that the 80s seem to have been in a constant state of revival since the mid-1990s.
Will: None of them are going away! The 60s, the 70s, the 80s, they’re not going away. You know, when I think of the 90s it’s surprisingly amorphous compared to the 80’s. Even though the 80s was horrible it had a strength to it that you can’t ignore.
Alison: It’s true, and the 90s was a sort of backlash to that. Suddenly loads of blokes in black t-shirts taking themselves incredibly seriously. Nowadays, though, you can dress up in ridiculous clothes and make great music and be taken seriously.
Steven O’Neill asks:
Schmaltzy charity singles are very much the rage at the moment. If you had to choose a song from ‘Head First’ to be covered as such a single, which would it be?
(Both guffaw) Will: ‘Voicething’? No.
Alison: (After a lot of thought) ‘I Wanna Life’. (Starts giggling) That’d be quite funny.
Will: ‘Head First’ has that kind of singalong chorus, doesn’t it?
Alison: Fucking hell, that’s a really horrible idea.
Was there any pressure from your record label to get another ‘pop’ album out quickly?
Will: Get it out, quick! (Laughs) No, there wasn’t pressure for a certain type of album. Well there was definitely pressure to get it out quickly, but they never tell us what sort of record they think it should be.
Alison: No, they would never tell us anything like that. We’re incredibly lucky in that respect
Will: We play it to them and they just kind of go, ‘hmm, yes’.
Alison: So they definitely don’t tell us what we should be doing. But they do say when they’d like it done. And they don’t put that much pressure on us – they tell us when they’d like something done and they tell us the advantages of that happening, but really we’re left to our own devices… We don’t get that kind of pressure like from other record companies.
Do you agree with Toby’s suggestion that the last album wasn’t a pop album?
Alison: I don’t agree with that, I think some of it was.
Will: ‘Caravan Girl’.
Alison: ‘Happiness’… I definitely think there were some tracks on there that were pop. I just think again we just kind of confused issues by releasing something that was very different to Supernature.
Will: I think pop songs are usually kind of pithy, short, concise, and get to the point. I think we always try and do that. I think we’re quite good at not rambling. I mean ‘Little Bird’ had an extended outro, but I wouldn’t say it wasn’t necessarily poppy in that way.
Joe Trueman asks:
If you had to compare your new album to a breed of dog and/or a type of sausage, what breed and/or type would you choose?
Alison: Oh Lord. (Flounders) I do like a sausage though. Hmm. (In deep thought)
Will: Is Joe Trueman from Meat magazine? I like a Cumberland sausage. It’s quite traditional, but it’s quite… Herby.
Claire Murray asks:
Is it true you were going to do a James Bond theme? If so, what happened? It would’ve been awesome.
Will: We were talking – we’re friends with [Bond music ‘supremo’] David Arnold, so we do talk to him. He’s a really nice guy and we like what he does. He has sort of talked to us about the possibility of that, and of course we love all that cinematic thing, so we’ve got a good sensibility for it, possibly. But I mean, these things are all often committee-led decisions and… What I understand is that there was talk about us doing Casino Royale and then because they were changing to Daniel Craig, and they wanted to kind of reinforce whatever his character was, as he was the new Bond, they wanted a male artist to do the song- so we didn’t. So that is, in a nutshell, what happened.
Had you started thinking about what sort of song you might contribute?
Will: Um. No, we hadn’t gone as far as that, we were in the middle of touring. But it was nice to meet David and get to know him a little bit, so that was the nice thing about it. I think he’s got a good feel for how to use big forces – like the orchestra – with pop material.
Do you have ‘spare’ songs kept away for projects like this?
Will: We write songs that we don’t like enough to put on the record, and it tends to be the case that they’ll go in a bottom drawer. And the the thing is, occasionally when we start a new album or at some point we’ll open the drawer and have a look. And then we always think, ‘you know what, we put it in here for a reason: it’s not very good’. So there has never been a ‘spare’ song, really.
Alison: But we have got some spare songs! We’re saving them up for a special occasion. And I think sometimes it just doesn’t fit with that particular group of the other songs that you already think work well together, and there might be a few songs that just feel like they’re not really sitting well together.
Will: That’s true with this album – there are a couple of songs that we like but they just didn’t fit.
Do you feel every album needs a theme or would you release just a collection of different styled songs?
Alison: I think naturally when you start writing, you’re trying to find a palette of sounds that reflect the mood and the ideas that you have or how you’re feeling, so I think just naturally it tends to make its own world and theme, which is exactly why sometimes you’ll write something which is good but it doesn’t sort of fit with the world or the story you’re trying to tell.
Phil Guest asks:
Alison, on the cover of the upcoming ‘Rocket’ single, you’re sporting a very fetching pink jumpsuit. Is this your homage to early 80s pop icon (and purveyor of a Number One single, lest we forget) Kelly Marie ?
Alison: (Laughs) Who’s Kelly Marie?!
She sang ‘Feels Like I’m In Love’.
Alison: Oh, I don’t know that. That’s a no.
Will: Simon Cowell used to wear a pink jumpsuit, didn’t he, actually?
Alison: Did he?
Will: I think so, so it could be a tribute to that.
Alison: I beg your pardon! No thank you.
Will: There’s footage of him doing something in a pink jumpsuit.
Alison: You’re kidding. I did meet him once and he was wearing a very pink fluffy jumper. (Bursts out laughing) When we were doing ‘Supernature’ we were doing a TV performance in America, performing ‘Ooh La La’, and he put me right off. He ruined my moment. Because he was standing at the front, behind the camera with his arms folded like he does, checking us out. He was actually very nice, he came up to us afterwards to say hello and he said how much he loved the song, but it was that moment with Simon Cowell standing behind the camera – I felt like I was being judged on fucking X Factor and he was thinking ‘NO’. I couldn’t think of anything to say to him other than that I really liked his pink fluffy jumper.
For someone like Simon Cowell, who specialises in big Asda ballads and so on, how do you think he views Goldfrapp?
Alison: I really haven’t got a clue, a lot of people like that probably haven’t even heard of us I’d imagine. Are you talking about the people who buy Asda ballads? I’m sure a lot of them haven’t even heard of us.
Will: No. It’s interesting, isn’t it, that whenever you get a list of people’s favourite songs of all time, they tend to be ballads. Ballads aren’t very fashionable are they, but they certainly hit the spot…
Will: Yeah, I think people like the emotion in ballads.
Alison: They’ve changed over the years. Coldplay do ballads. They just take on a different style – lots of guitars and drums and going around a big chorus as many times as you possibly can and singing in a falsetto voice…
Alex Murray asks:
Is the new album suitable for water aerobics?
Will: Oh yeah. Any type of aerobics.
Julian in Germany asks:
Assuming that you won’t die what would you do for the rest of your life?
Alison: For the rest of my life, I would like to make music. And I would like to have a cleaning company in Spain. I think I’ve decided that I’d like to have my own white van and buy cleaning equipment, work til lunchtime, nosing in people’s houses, cleaning floors that don’t have carpets, then kick off at lunchtime and then spend the rest of the afternoon just mucking about with sounds.
Jeff Wood asks:
Has writing with Christina Aguilera opened the door to more collaborations with other mainstream pop icons? (eg Britney Spears, Justin Beaver, or such and so forth).
Alison: It’s something we’ve been asked in every interview we’ve done so far, which is now quite a few, and it’s all over the net and everywhere. Everyone’s talking about us writing with Christina Aguilera, and… Well, we wrote her a song, but we have no idea what is happening with it. And that’s because they haven’t wanted to play it to us.
Will: Probably for security reasons. I mean if we were in LA they’d probably just say, ‘come round and we’ll play it to you’.
Alison: Yeah, so we don’t know. That’s the short answer of what’s gonna happen, whether it’s on her new album or not, we just don’t know right now. Unfortunately we’ve been asked about it in interviews so it’s all round the net at the moment with me saying, ‘I fucking hope she doesn’t release it because it’s not finished!’ We’d really like to have the opportunity to hear it and improve it if we can.
Was there something about writing for Christina that appealed in a way that writing for other artists hadn’t previously appealed?
Alison: We just thought – well, we’d never ever done it before. I think we’ve been asked once and we weren’t able to because we were so busy, and this just sort of came at a time when we were in between albums and we just thought it’d be an interesting experience.
Will: We did have a couple of tracks that were sort of undeveloped, and we just sent them to her.
Alison: And she really liked them.
Will: So she got us over to work with her on them. Well, one in the end, for a week. And it was nice. I think it was a good experience. A bit of a challenge.
Alison: It was kind of an experiment really, it was one of those weird things that sort of snowballed into something bigger than we’d really thought about. She was telling everyone that she was working with us and a whole bunch of people and the truth is that we haven’t really heard anything.
The list of potential and rumoured collaborators on this album is pretty impressive…
Alison: Yeah, and I don’t know what the deal is with them either, so it’s one of those things that’s snowballed and been talked about, but actually no one really seems to know anything. (Laughs) Christina Aguilera’s obviously a very big name, and there’s a big machine that circulates all around it and we’re kind of very small fry and really independent, so you’re really at the mercy of the big machine that’s constantly revolving around her, and there’s not very much that we can do or say at this point.
Is there any appeal in outside songwriters contributing songs for Goldfrapp?
Alison: Yeah, I think we’re open to any suggestions of anything! It’s all very interesting, and I guess if someone said to us, ‘we’d really love you to perform a song that we’ve written’, we’d definitely give it a listen.
Could you please ask Will and/or Alison which of the following they think would look cuter with a bow tie and top hat: cat, gorilla, octopus, giraffe, walrus, owl, tyrannosaurus rex. I think all of them except the octopus would look cute, and the octopus would look eccentric and cool. But I’m interested in getting opinions on this. Thanks.
Alison: I don’t like animals dressed up at all. I get quite upset.
Not even for Halloween?
Alison: I did see someone who’d dressed their pug as a bat on Halloween and it actually did look hilarious because it really did look like a bat. This little black pug with wings on it, and it really did look like a bat. It was quite extraordinary.
Will: Dressing animals up: they always look like they hate it. They put shoes on them now, don’t they?
Alison: Oh no, that’s sick.
Will: Yeah. An octopus is a very interesting creature, though.
Alison: Oh! An octopus has two hearts. Did you know that?
Will: I didn’t know that, but the fact I do know about them is that they’ve only got 200 brain cells. And yet they’re very intelligent.
Alison: I saw that in a cracker at Christmas!
Will: If you see an octopus in the water, they’re the most beautiful things. Especially the ones that change colour. It’s really sci-fi, what they get up to.
Alison, your Christmas crackers don’t sound like much fun.
Alison: They were kind of boring, I just wanted a party hat. Christmas was educational at my house.
There seems to be some confusion as to whether the (ahem) penis on the new album cover is intentional or not. If you could get Alison and Will to clear it up it would be much appreciated.
Alison: The penis?! What fucking penis?! (After some explanation as to general vicinity of supposed penis) There’s a penis IN THE CLOUDS?
This seems to be something of a hot potato among fans.
Will: This is the pot smoking contingent, presumably. I think it kind of says more about them than it says about us. Rod? Was it from Rod? Well, there you go then.
Alison: Rod’s obsessed with cock.
Will: Sorry, Rod.
Cenk Ozer asks:
We had one strong animal standing out for every album (‘Felt Mountain’ deer, ‘Black Cherry’ wolf, ‘Supernature’ horse and ‘Seventh Tree’ owl). Now which animal we can relate to head first and why?
Alison: Um, that hasn’t sort of featured in the psyche of this album at all – or we haven’t come across any as yet. I really can’t think of any…
Do you like cats?
Alison: Yes. Will, do you like cats?
Will: I grew up with cats. It turns out I’m allergic to them, so I must have really liked them to put up with that.
When you say you grew up with cats, was it like a mad cat house?
Will: (Laughs) No, it was one cat, and we put up with each other, and I think it was good. I like the fact that they don’t really care what we think about them, particularly. They’re just independent, aren’t they, and they’re cool in that way.
John Baker asks:
I was cycling along this morning listening to ‘Rocket’, and thinking about how Goldfrapp are probably the best band in Britain. I was then wondering if they’d ever got any recognition in music awards ceremonies for their brilliance? I can’t ever remember seeing them at the Brits? It seems to me that this could be due to the fact that the ‘male’ music industry has a stale and dated concept of what a band is, so it celebrates dross like The Kooks etc, because of its obsession with a band being a group of ‘real musicians’, usually boys, rather than celebrating the unique aesthetic techno boffin wizardry displayed by the likes of Alison & Will. I was thinking that if Alison had been considered a female solo artist (which you could argue she is in the live sense) she would have walked home with oodles of trophies by now, and I wondered what she might think about this?
Alison: Yes, I do think that’s probably true. We’re not easily categorised because we’re not really a traditional band as such. There are many elements of that – so Will doesn’t tour when we go out and play, for example, and I’m not really a ‘solo artist’ and yet quite often I’m probably perceived as one, I’m in photographs on my own or I’m asked to do things on my own. So I think we’re not easily categorised and we’re not really a dance act either, although sometimes we’re seen as one. I think that was obvious for ‘Supernature’, when we were nominated for various awards, and they didn’t really know whether to put us in the Dance category. And they don’t know where to put us in the record shops either, which doesn’t help. But I think we probably haven’t been up for many awards simply because people don’t like us that much. (Laughing) But I agree that when people are thinking about awards we don’t really make it easy for them.
Artists will often say ‘it doesn’t matter about awards’ but do you ever look at awards shortlists and think, ‘oh for fuck’s sake, we had an album out this year and it was quite good’?
Alison: (Laughing) Yeah, I think we’ve done some really great albums and it’d be quite nice if we got a pat on the back and a ‘well done’, but at the same time I think they’re all bollocks as well.
Yes, it’s a fine line between not being not nominated, and…
Will: Being slightly relieved. (Laughs)
Alison: Yeah, I remember when we were up for the Mercury Music Prize and we went to the night out, and I found the whole thing quite excruciating sitting there and the record company all sit round the table going (whispering) ‘yes, yes!!!’. It’s a bit like when you’re at school and you’re up for the egg and spoon race or something. I don’t know, you feel like there’s some sort of pressure on you and you’ve failed if you don’t get it and… I feel like they’re a bit…
Will: Divisive, aren’t they?
Alison: Divisive, and very, very random. Unless you’re talking purely on record sales, and then it’s people winning awards for having made lots of money.
Do you think this album will win you any new fans?
Will: Well maybe it will. I think because there are so many ‘up’ songs on there, it might mean that more of it gets played in the public arena, which I think may mean that more people get to hear it. I think it’s got that going in its favour, although that wasn’t the thinking behind it. I think that’s just the mood we were in when we wrote it.
Alison: Although you never know with these things. I don’t think you can ever predict what’s going to be popular or not as popular. I think I’ve sort of stopped thinking about that stuff. I think sometimes the record company get excited about something that may have more commercial success but the truth is I don’t think they know either. So you just sort of do your thing.
‘Rocket’ is out on March 8 with the album ‘Head First’ to follow on March 22.
Goldfrapp.com is a website where you are able to find more information about Alison and Will and the music they make.
Thanks to Devina Pereira.