Leader of the Pack
By Jason Lamphier
So you shared your sexual interests with people in high school?
Yeah, I used my sexuality in a punk-rock sense, as a way of upsetting everyone. It's one of the last taboos within education: to chose to be feminine in a masculine society. In an all-boys school, it was fun to dye my hair pink, and if someone tried to beat me up, instead of fighting back I'd say 'If you come any closer, I'm gonna give you a kiss.' I don't even like the word bisexual. It's more like I'm just free to do what I wanna do with my life. In the same way musically, I don't like to belong to any genre.
How do you feel about rock and pop musicians avoiding the topic by not discussing their sexuality? Mika, for example, doesn't want to label himself, and he remains ambiguous.
In a way, I find it slightly cowardly. We're living in more liberated times than we were 10 or 20 years ago, but it's still very tough in many parts of the world. There are still kids being beaten up, committing suicide. In Egypt, if a boy kisses another boy, they get hanged. [Sexual orientation] is still a very important thing to speak about. You make the choice whether you want to be a political artist or an entertainer, or somebody who's very aware. Obviously, [Mika] belongs to a canon of musicians that are entertainers. That's fine'it's fine to be the clown and make people happy. But I've been that before. I feel now the more aware I've become of the world, the more I want to be inspiring to kids in awkward situations in life, being somebody that suffered a lot of hardship for being an individual and not ever conforming to what people wanted me to become. I can't let it overshadow my artistic vision, but when I'm doing press and publicity, I'd rather not treat it as a vanity project now and just use the page to talk about issues that I feel can inspire other people. The more I get to know about the world, I don't feel we're very far ahead of where we were 20 years ago, or that it's slipping back a little bit.
You're touring with Amy Winehouse. What do you think of this new wave of young musicians like you, Mika, Lily Allen, and Winehouse coming over here from the U.K. and appealing to both pop listeners and DIY indie rockers? Do you think there's a reason for this, some sort of trend?
They're all gutsy people. I read something on Lily where she said our generation is angry. We're living in a time of war, a war that has nothing to do with us. We're living in our parents' choice'this is a war that is beyond us, and we're powerless. And it's shocking to see how intrusive the paparazzi can be. There's a lot to be angry about in England. But what's great is that [none of these musicians'] music is angry. You don't have to be the Sex Pistols and constantly be like 'Fuck the government, fuck the Queen,' because we've seen already that doesn't work very well. Personally, I'd rather make a great record that inspires people and then whisper in their ears 'Hey, there's something a bit wrong in the world at the moment.' I wouldn't say I'm a political artist, but in my own little way I'm trying to change things. It's time not to walk barefoot and grow long hair and have a beard because it belongs to a different generation.
For the full story on Patrick Wolf, pick up the July issue of Out.