The last time we had a talk with Goldfrapp, the duo were just about to release their Grammy-nominated 2010 album Head First. Turns out it was a project that singer Alison Goldfrapp doesn’t have much fondness for. “I’m not very proud of that one,” she says of the previous LP as we talk about The Singles, a recently-released collection of her and Will Gregory’s most well-known songs with two new ones (“Melancholy Sky” and “Yellow Halo”) added on. She continues about Head First: “I think there are some good tunes on there. I feel like we should have given them to someone else instead of us releasing them as Goldfrapp.”
Twelve years on, Alison and Will are closing this first chapter of Goldfrapp’s story and looking ahead to the future. They’re taking this next year to work in the studio, and while Alison was a tad reluctant to talk about the pair’s upcoming material, we did manage to get some scraps of info from her. Read on!
IDOLATOR: It’s lovely to speak with you again. Was it hard to narrow down which songs to include on The Singles? Did you two have much say in the process?
ALISON GOLDFRAPP: We didn’t have a huge say because we didn’t really want to have a huge say, to be completely frank. We could have just let the record company do it themselves, EMI. But we thought it was best to get involved. It feels like a really positive thing. It felt like a good time to do a collection of singles, but it also felt good to write two new [songs] for it, so it didn’t feel like a sort of retrospective. I think they wanted to keep it short and sweet, the most relevant songs, in the terms of what was most known, if you like. That’s why those got chosen and not others.
What are your thoughts as you look back on the first decade of Goldfrapp?
AG: It’s a bit like moving house or something, going through all your stuff and deciding which bits you want to chuck out and looking back over things. There’s a slight fear, but actually it’s really good to move on. We feel like it’s a really good time for us to move into new pastures and a new era. For me, if I’m being completely myself, I didn’t like the last album very much. I’m not very proud of that one. I think there are some good tunes on there. I feel like we should have given them to someone else instead of us releasing them as Goldfrapp. I’m not crazy about that one. But everything else I’m very proud of. Of course, you don’t always get it right. I look back at things and think, oh, I wish we’d done it a bit like that. Or, why did I do that? But that’s the way it goes, isn’t it? Nothing’s ever perfect. That’s why you keep making things and you’re always trying to see something else and rediscover things. I feel a real affinity to certain sounds and certain feelings and imagery, and I think it’s quite interesting how, even after all this time, they’re still there — Felt Mountain and Supernature and Seventh Tree, visually, I feel like those things are still very relevant in my mind.
I agree with that, but we’ll have to agree to disagree on Head First. We included it on our Favorite Albums Of 2010 roundup. I really like that one!
AG: Do you really? Well, I’m glad you do. I really like “Voicething” and “Shiny And Warm”. For me [the album is] just too “on the nose.”
I can see that. It’s very poppy compared to your previous albums. Can you envision a time when there will be a release of a full singles collection from Goldfrapp?
AG: Yeah. We really wanted to do a deluxe version of [The Singles]. We had it all there ready to go and EMI didn’t want to do it. They wouldn’t let us do it. So that’s that for now. It’s a shame. I can’t talk anymore about it really.
We’ll leave it at that then. You tweeted last month that “Lovely Head” was the first song you and Will ever wrote together. How has the way you two work on songs together changed since those early days, if at all?
AG: To be honest, no, it hasn’t really changed. It’s a funny old process. I will come to the studio with ideas or lyrics or melodic ideas. A song starts from anything, really. You’re collecting thoughts and ideas all the time. But it’s not really until Will and get into a studio together and we’re jamming and sharing those ideas that things start to become physical things, if you like. It’s like collecting food and taking it to the studio and spicing it up and making it into the meal! [Laughs] That’s how we work. We tried doing it separately and it’s never really happened. A lot of things come out of improvisations. As soon as we start playing, we record, because you never know what’s going to happen when you play. You might have a tiny little line or a tiny little sound, and you can go back to it and build little tiny moments.
Looking ahead to the new material you’re working on, what’s inspiring you these days? And is there a theme to the next album at the moment?
AG: Well, it’s so hard to talk about your work when you’re right in the midst of it. I’m always slightly reluctant because there’s something — you sort of feel like you’re breaking a spell a bit when you start talking about it, when you’re still in the middle of working out what it is, yourself. But I’ve been reading a lot and watching lots of films. Like I said, I feel like the aesthetic of Felt Mountain and Seventh Tree is a sound and vision that feels very relevant to me. I would like to expand on that. That’s all I’m gonna say!
That in itself is intriguing.
AG: I think we’ll always play with acoustic sounds and the synth sounds. Even on Felt Mountain, we had these lush string sounds, but we also had lots of cranky old synthesizers. And that’s still very much there now. We’re just going to be expanding on that territory, I feel.
Are there any producers you would like to work with on the new album?
AG: Not yet, although we’re very interested in that. I think we’re going to wait a little more to see how the writing develops and the sound develops and then take it from there. We feel like we need a bit more time to decide if we want to work with a producer and, when we’ve established a bit further down the line, who might be best suited for that job. It’s always great to work with other people. It’s great to have someone else there with a more objective view on things. It’s always been quite good for us to work with someone else much further on into the writing period, when we’ve kind of found our feet.
Will the new album be out next year?
AG: I think it will definitely be next year. We’re just gonna really take our time. The last album, it felt very rushed. I feel like we want to just take our time and not be rushed. What’s so great about now is we feel like free agents. It sort of feels like the first time, and we’re reveling in that. We toured pretty much constantly since we started — we’d do a tour, put an album out, do another tour. We’ve been doing that for 10 years, so it’s actually quite nice to sit back and go, you know what, it’s ready when it’s ready.
Switching gears, how did the two of you come to remix Lady Gaga’s “Judas” last year?
AG: She just asked us. It came about through her people. That was great fun! It was really nice of her to ask us and we really enjoyed doing it. Hats off to her for putting it out.
Are there any one-off festival appearances or live gigs you’ll be doing this year?
AG: No, we’re not going to be doing anything! We’re just going to be in our studio bubble, and write and do things and hang out. I feel like I want to take that hat off, if you will, of the last two years — just step back from it all. Sometimes you need to just step back from things and clear the decks in order to make way for new things.
Goldfrapp’s The Singles is available now.