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17 novembre 2008

It's not all glitz for Goldfrapp

By Andy Welch, Halesowen news, Saturday 1st November 2008

Goldfrapp begin their UK tour in Cambridge on Thursday October 23. We talk to Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory about their music, working relationship and the ups and downs of life on the road.

It's no wonder that thousands of musically-minded people aspire to being in a band. After all, what could be better than flying around the world to play to fans who've parted with hard-earned cash to see you perform? Most things, according to Alison Goldfrapp, one half of the electro duo to which she gives her name.

"I love performing, don't get me wrong," she says, "but I hate touring."

Having just come back from a brief trip to Australia to play the iconic Sydney Opera House - smaller than Alison imagined, but beautiful nevertheless - it might just be jetlag talking. Considering she's wearing an enormous pair of sunglasses even though we're indoors, it's difficult to know whether the notoriously acerbic singer is being serious.

"Some journalists ask stupid questions, or have their angle they want to get across," she admits later, "and I guess I'm just not very good at hiding what I think of people."

Today, at least, she's great company, and, along with her musical partner Will Gregory, explains in vast detail the intricacies of touring, travelling, their songwriting style and many other topics, some more related to their music than others.

"It's a funny thing, touring," 42-year-old Alison begins. "Like I said, I hate it, but at the same time, you get addicted to it. There is this weird bubble you live in, the routine. I can understand people freaking out on tours, throwing things out of windows, because you have no control over anything you do. You have to rely on everyone around you to get it right, and if they don't, you find yourself going mad at them because the smallest detail has become so important and annoying," she says.

"You don't have to think what you're doing, or have any responsibility," Will adds.

Will's experience of touring comes largely from his time as a self-employed musician. He doesn't actually play live as part of Goldfrapp now, and hasn't done since they first toured after their 2000 debut Felt Mountain.

As a multi-instrumentalist, however, 49-year-old Will has performed with Spiritualized, Tears For Fears, Peter Gabriel and fellow Bristolians Portishead. He also played on the latter's recent album, Third.

"I always think touring's a bit like being in the army," he continues. "When I was a lot younger, I remember seeing a photo of myself before and after a tour and, believe it or not, I looked so much better after, really young and healthy! I suppose before, I was this self-employed musician wondering where money and food were coming from. On tour, I was eating well and sleeping."

As he finishes the sentence, a playful smile runs across Alison's face. "You need to come on tour Will! I'll stay at home, and you go out on the road." Well, that's not such a bad idea," he answers. "I've got a little boy now, so I'll go on tour for a rest."

Goldfrapp's most recent album Seventh Tree was released in February 2008 and received rapturous reviews for its blending of whimsical, distinctly English folk, sun-kissed, West Coast harmonies and the band's established electronic sound. Seventh Tree is arguably the band's finest album, and as far as musical arrangements are concerned, the most complicated.

For Alison and Will, recreating their music on stage has always been something of a problem. Both are said to have to been unhappy with the sound of their early tours, a factor that in turn led Will to stop playing on stage in order to concentrate on the music from the front-of-house, like an audience member.

"What I contributed on stage was tiny in comparison to what Alison did anyway," he remarks, humbly. "And now we have someone who can play keyboards better than me anyway. I don't think our sound would have come along so far if I'd stayed on stage."

Despite the numerous musicians on stage during their current live shows, Alison maintains that regardless of Seventh Tree's complexities, it's actually easiest for her to sing live. "On the last album in particular, there was so much... stuff happening," she says. "Every available space was filled with synths, just popping up here, there and everywhere. I found it quite hard to sing to, and felt quite alien to the rest of the sounds. In many ways, it's easier to sing these songs, and more of a sense of being 'in' the music. We also worried about how the set was going to work, with things like Eat Yourself off this latest album next to something like Ooh La La, but it works," she continues. "Having that contrast is great, and I love the setlist at the moment."

Since Goldfrapp made their debut, visuals have always played an important part in everything they've done. Live shows have often seen Alison parading seductively around the stage with bottle-blond hair, like some sort of modern-day Marlene Dietrich.

That image has been toned down of late - "mainly because I thought it was taking over the music" she admits - but also because it was becoming hard to maintain while on tour. These days, in-keeping with Seventh Tree's pastoral, rural contents, you'll find Alison and accompanying musicians sporting white or natural-coloured flowing gowns.

"I design all the stage costumes," says Alison, coyly. "I've always been interested in the current theme, and I suppose all the albums are inspired by nature, the idea of paganism, certain kinds of films and folk music. Folk can be a really broad spectrum of things," she concludes. "People immediately get this idea of someone sitting playing a guitar round a campfire, but it's so much more than that. There's a whole world, waiting to be discovered."

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