Alison Goldfrapp

Alison Goldfrapp
On a recent tour stop in Toronto, Alison Goldfrapp talked to Exclaim! about the group’s new album, Seventh Tree. Clad in a T-shirt dress, a sensible cardigan, oversized sunglasses and absolutely no make-up, Goldfrapp looked a far cry from the flamboyant sex symbol that she morphs into as a performer onstage. We discussed the illusion and theatricality of performance, as well as the illusion and theatricality of love, revealing Alison Goldfrapp’s great intelligence and a vulnerability that one might never expect from the electronica diva with world-famous gams.

There's a great deal of clown imagery on the new album and in your recent press photos. What inspired it?
I’m interested in images that are very familiar, I suppose. The clown is such a familiar image. It’s an iconic image, in a way. It has so many different connotations. It’s meant to be something that’s sort of comical and funny and yet actually we associate it with sadness and a slightly desperate entertainer. So it’s got all of these connotations and it’s something that’s been depicted in art and in movies and, you know, we’ve made it into this really quite sinister image. I like that about it. Also the imagery of it; the costumes, the craziness of that. Along with the harlequin and the graphicness of that pattern. And the Pierrot as well, is something that we’ve seen in imagery. In paintings, in literature and in photographs. There’s a photograph of my dad as a child in a Pierrot costume which I’ve always really loved, so I kind of like the idea of also taking that on. And I suppose I like the "androgynousness” of clowns and Pierrots and harlequins. I don’t associate with being either male or female, particularly. So there’s something else that appeals.

That’s interesting because your costumes onstage are almost hyper-feminine. Mini-skirts and gloves and boas…
Costumes like that…they are kind of androgynous. Those kind of costumes are worn by men to look like girls. Maybe if I wore trousers with them, I wouldn’t look quite so feminine!

So it’s a theatrical thing. You wouldn’t generally wear the things you wear onstage?
Oh god no! I can’t be asked! When I get up in the morning, it’s just chuck on whatever is handy. Unless I’m really going out somewhere, I just can’t be bothered with clothes very much, to be honest.

My favourite song on the album is "Cologne Cirrone Houdini.” But I have no idea what it means…
I don’t know if I do, either. I think I was reading a book about Houdini at the time. And I was kind of associating that idea with a boyfriend that I’d had who was a git [laughs]. You know... the art of escape. I think a lot of the songs on the album are sort of [about a] road trip… going somewhere, travelling somewhere. Travelling on a long journey with someone and sort of knowing that they don’t really love you. But you’re stuck in this car with them on a very long trip. Discovering someone… when you’re stuck in a car, you quite quickly find out…

You either love them at the end of it or hate them.
Yeah, or you find out even though you’re spending quite intimate time with someone, actually you’re worlds apart from them. [Long pause] I guess that’s sort of what being in love is about. You sort of project all your fantasies and feelings onto someone completely unsuitable.

Not that you talk from experience or anything!
[Laughs]

Who would be your dream collaborator, living or dead?
I don’t know, really. I often get asked about who I’d like to collaborate with. It’s not something I think about a huge amount. I mean, I’m quite shy and I find singing in front of someone… it’s quite an intimate thing. I find it hard to open up, I think I feel quite intimidated by it…. it is a wonderful thing when you’re making music with someone, it is quite amazing and it’s quite intimate, so I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about who I’d like to work with in terms of… Will [Gregory, other half of Goldfrapp] and I would like to do some music for film and I’d really like to write a piece of music for choir. But obviously I wouldn’t be involved in that, it would be a performance of what we’ve done. So I quite like stepping out of that limelight.

Will doesn’t tour with you, is that right?
That’s right, yeah.

Can you tell me why?
He just doesn’t like touring.

Fair enough! Do you like touring?
I like playing live, I really do. But it can be exhausting, touring. It really is. And unfortunately, we don’t have very much money to tour with, so we eat some really crappy food and sleep on tour buses. It’s not glamourous by any stretch of the imagination. So that side of it is quite difficult. But the actual playing live, I really enjoy.

Have you had a favourite tour experience or a favourite city?
I love going to New York. I in fact really enjoy coming to America. I didn’t like it at first, but I’ve grown to really like it. And I especially like going to New York. Canada is really relaxed and really laid back. It’s kind of nice. It’s much more pleasurable doing interviews in America than it is in Europe.

Why is that?
I don’t know. People seem to ask me more intelligent questions. I think they’re less cynical, actually. The press in Europe sometimes are quite cynical… so far though, the English press have been very kind to me, generally speaking.

That’s a rare occurrence.
Yeah, I’m waiting for them to really get in there and rip me apart. I’m sure the time will come very soon, probably. I’m due for a cremation!

Your albums are obviously very sexy. They’re on homemade make-out soundtracks…
Oh my god, really?!

Oh yeah. How does it make you feel that probably many babies have been conceived to the sound of your voice?
That’s absolutely shocking and disgusting! [Laughs] Well, that’s a wonderful thing. I’m glad that I contributed some kind of pleasure in people’s lives.