Madonna a été appelée "Oldfrapp" pour avoir imité Goldfrapp.
Alison Goldfrapp: Ice Queen of Pop
Is she genuinely shy, or is her silence an excuse to be rude? Either way, it's worth putting up with Alison Goldfrapp: when she opens up gems spill forth
By Nigel Farndale, The Telegraph Group Limited, London 2010
Published: 00:00 September 6, 2010
If June 6, 1944, is the longest day, my hour in the company of Alison Goldfrapp may qualify as the second longest.
It's not the singer's scaly silences so much (though they are bad enough), it is the grumpiness. Example: I ask her if, when she is on the road, there is a hierarchy among her band. An innocent — even bland — question, you might suppose. A chance to share a droll anecdote about how the drummer always comes at the bottom of the pecking order, perhaps. But no. "That's you saying that, not me saying that," she snaps.
"Hierarchy is your word, not mine."
Amusingly, her publicist, a friendly soul, has told me Goldfrapp is on good form today. He must be aware of her reputation, must know that almost every interviewer who has come into contact with his client has noted how frosty she is. So why put up with it, you might ask? Well, she's hard work, but her Garbo-like mystique is intriguing. You have to tease answers out of her. Be persistent. And after a while you are rewarded.
You also come to realise that, through her occasional silences, she is speaking volumes. To be fair, Goldfrapp, which is her real name — it is German in origin, though she is British — has never pretended she likes being interviewed. Indeed, she has said she has a complex about talking to people, has nightmares about it even. She puts it down to a lack of confidence, to being shy. Yet shyness can be an excuse for rudeness, the social equivalent of wearing sunglasses indoors and not taking them off when talking to someone, which she also does. Occasionally she will tilt back her sour face to study me — her Ray-Bans are darker at the top than the bottom — and I half glimpse the eyes which, exaggerated by false lashes, are made so much of in her videos, along with her shapely legs and her natural golden ringlets.
Today her hair is half-gathered, her legs tucked up beneath her. She is wearing black, which emphasises her pale, almost transparent skin, and, though she does smile from time to time, this has the effect of lowering the room temperature even further. But, and this is the reason it is worth having a stab at interviewing her, for all this, she makes good, hooky, interesting music and has been doing so for quite a while.
She was something of a late developer musically, having turned 30 before she landed her first record deal (she is 44 now). Her break came in 1999 when she teamed up with Will Gregory, a classically trained musician who had previously worked with Portishead and the composer Michael Nyman. He is articulate, well-spoken and seven years her senior. They formed Goldfrapp, her surname being more arresting than his, and developed an innovative brand of electropop. She usually writes the lyrics, he the melodies. After a couple of albums they hit paydirt in 2005 with Supernature. It opened with Ooh La La, a T.Rex pastiche, and sold by the million. Madonna said it was her album of the year and invited Goldfrapp to her parties. Soon after this, Madge began imitating Goldfrapp's look and sound, inspiring critics to call her Oldfrapp. Younger acts have followed, including Florence + the Machine and Lady Gaga.
But by the time others were copying her, she had moved on. A melancholy album followed and her latest, Headlong, is even harder to pigeonhole, with quirky shades of Van Halen and Olivia Newton-John. The imitation is as often of Goldfrapp's flamboyant stage persona as her music. She doesn't dance much but she certainly has presence, and a sense of the theatrical. She designs many of her costumes herself, from the high camp of feather boas and bell-bottomed catsuits to the surreal juxtaposition of horses' tails hanging from hot pants. Her videos are equally witty. It's a paradox that someone so introverted in private can be such an extrovert on stage. I guess it helps in her job to have exhibitionist tendencies.
"I'm not sure about the exhibitionist tendencies," she says, emphasising the words mockingly. She chews on a strand of hair. I ride the silence. "Um, I think a lot of singers are shy people. I suppose singing on stage is not like talking, you are not as exposed."
What would she normally be doing now, on a typical afternoon, if she weren't subjecting herself to the torture of an interview? "At the moment? Getting on a plane. Having some crap food. Getting off a plane. Touring. The gig bit is fine but the travelling... it's so unglamorous. The loos at festivals, the dressing rooms, sticky, smelly.
"Actually, I'm enjoying it at the moment."
When she says she is enjoying it at the moment, that suggests she wasn't in the past. What is it she finds enjoyable now? "Well, we get on really well, the band."
This is where the hierarchy question comes in. I re-phrase it. Bands often fall out on tour. The clashing of egos. The close proximity. But because she is the leader of her band, presumably her word goes. "I suppose I am the boss. It's my gig but we've known each other a long time, so we are a team."
Is Will the more musically trained? "The more musically trained."
I take it from that answer that she doesn't read music? "No. It's all by ear. But I use my voice. If you've got a computer and an ear for melody you don't have to be classically trained. I think it's a bit of a myth that if you can read music you can write music. It doesn't work like that."
With her background in the visual arts, perhaps she is stronger on the design side of the live shows? "Actually, I was doing music before art school."
I surreptitiously check my watch. The hands seem to be going backwards.
It occurs to me that her hostility might be an act, a pop star being cool. She is very image-conscious, after all, and very controlling of it. But there may be another explanation. Her singing voice is silky and appealing but her speaking voice, well, isn't. She is self-conscious about this, not surprisingly, given that her father, a well-spoken army officer, mocked her for it.
Goldfrapp grew up in the Hampshire countryside, in what is known as "Jane Austen country". Her early childhood there was happy, especially when she was at a private prep school. But then she failed the entrance exam for the senior school and had to go to a comprehensive instead. The children there seemed "scary". To fit in, she dropped her received pronunciation, tried glue-sniffing and pricked herself an ink tattoo on her hand. She left school at 16 with two O-levels, one in drama, one in art, and moved in with a friend.
At 17 she went to live in a London squat, where she smoked a lot of cannabis. She wasn't sure what she wanted to do, was that it? "I was clear that I wanted to do music and I wanted to write songs. But I wasn't clear about how I was going to make that happen. I wrote loads of songs but didn't want to show them to anyone."
But she doesn't mind showing them to Will? "He is very good at not making me feel self-conscious."
She says her close friends found it "odd" when she became famous. Was it a bit odd for her, too? "Around Supernature I was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of travelling I was doing and the number of interviews. It was all a bit, Whoa! A bit weird. I didn't know how to deal with the attention. It made me uncomfortable. I love making music and performing but I don't like the celebrity side of it. The photographs I find pretty gross, actually. No one tells you how you are supposed to react when someone shoves a camera in your face.
"I like going home and having dinner with my friends. People sometimes have an expectation of you when your career is at a certain level. They want you to be some kind of character. It can be quite stressful. People want to meet you."
Unexpectedly, she now laughs; an easy, room-filling laugh. "But I don't get the same attention any more, so that's quite good! It suits me fine."
There is a palpable sadness about Goldfrapp, a weariness, and she wears it like a heavy cloak around her shoulders. We talk — well, I talk — about how music has the power to reflect and manipulate emotions, especially with the use of major and minor keys. "Yeah, certain chords will feel right," she says, nodding in agreement.
"We spend a lot of time talking about the atmosphere and mood of our songs. Every sound has a personality."
Has she been in love many times in her life? "I don't think so. I don't know. I haven't really thought about it. Sorry, how did we get on to this?" Major and minor keys. Emotions. "Oh, OK. Do I fall in love easily? I don't know. I get into people. I like discovering them. I've probably been infatuated with a lot of people in my life, I don't know whether that is the same."
She is in love at the moment? "Yes. It's a good place to be. The world seems like a kinder place when you are in love."
Source: Gulf News.
Goldfrapp makes most of her own outfits.
Goldfrapp are Will Gregory and Alison Goldfrapp. They teamed up in 1999.
Madonna's been called Oldfrapp for imitating Goldfrapp.
Photos: Rex Features.