Page last updated at 08:23 GMT, Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Talking Shop: Goldfrapp

Alison Goldfrapp
The band's hits include Ooh La La, A&E and Strict Machine

Alison Goldfrapp is one of Britain's most mysterious pop stars.

Over the last decade, she has worn the guise of a saucy disco queen, a honey-voiced siren and an insightful earth mother.

Whether costumed in a glittery space dress or an extravagantly embroidered owl costume, she has studiously avoided talking about her private life - and earned a somewhat unfair reputation as a surly, combative interviewee.

So it seems almost implausible when, on the band's new album, Head First, she sings about something as normal as pulling on a pair of jeans ("they're a little tight," apparently).

But when she arrives to speak to the BBC, the singer is indeed wearing a pair of snug blue jeans and a fashionable, loose-fitting sweater.

The dressed-down style suggests the star is more comfortable in her own skin these days - an impression bolstered by Head First's major key buoyancy.

Along with the band's less visible but no-less-important other half, Will Gregory, the singer discusses her new-found optimism and why she's banned Prince from her stereo.

What was the mood you wanted to create on Head First?

Alison: We wanted to do something fairly "up" and direct and celebratory. We wanted things to feel warmer and maybe less ambiguous.

Head First sees the band return to synth-pop

What prompted that?

Alison: [Cagily] We were feeling upbeat.

Because of Barack Obama?

Alison: [Laughs] Yes, that probably helped… But I think the album speaks for itself, definitely.

Will: It redresses a certain balance. We've done a lot of moody ballads in our lives, so maybe it was time…

A lot of people assumed Seventh Tree was a break-up album...

Will: [To Alison] Really? Had you heard that?

Alison: Yeaaaah… Kind of.

...And this album sounds like you're putting that old relationship to one side and rediscovering life.

Alison: Yes. That's definitely, definitely, pretty accurate. It's a generalisation but it's a good one. It's valid.

Head First is your fifth album - that's traditionally "best of" territory.

Will: The label wanted to put out a greatest hits before this album came out, actually, and we said "no". So there might be one after this.

Now that you have a well-established fanbase, do you feel the weight of their expectation in the recording studio?

Will: Yes, although hopefully that's all out of your mind while you're dealing with the physical, mental processes of trying to get the whole vision for the record. Then, once you've finished it, there's time to think 'what have we done?' and get paranoid all over again.

There's a part of you that can't believe someone hasn't written it already. But I think that's just normal healthy paranoia.

Goldfrapp on stage
Will Gregory rarely appears on stage with the band

Do you have those expectations about any of your favourite artists or bands?

Alison: I stopped listening to Prince because I thought, "Oh God, no. I just want it to be like the old days!' I just loved him when I was a teenager and stuff. I was just utterly obsessed with him.

What was the first Prince album you got into?

Alison: It was actually the first one. It was very disco and seventies. I loved that.

Did you record the album in your house again?

Will: We went down and did the strings in Abbey Road, just for a day. But normally we work at home.

We have this idea that big studios are for performing ideas that you've already created. I don't understand the thing where bands hire out big studios to write in. You could probably buy a house for the money you're spending.

Alison: It's like there's a big clock ticking, telling you how much money you're spending.

But working at home must carry infinite distractions… Aren't you always nipping out to buy a Crunchie, or taking a quick tea break and "accidentally" watching eight back-to-back episodes of Friends?

Will: It's not actually home. It's just a studio in a house. Neither of us lives there. People don't come round or anything. It's quite a focussed little space.

Alison: I think we're pretty disciplined. We start at 11 and finish at seven. But, yeah, sometimes when I go home and carry on working it all gets a bit fuzzy and a bottle of wine comes out. And you do that as well, Will.

Will: Hmmm, yeah.

Last time you went on tour, you had a lot of musicians to reproduce the big, acoustic sound of Seventh Tree. Will you be doing that again?

Alison: We're giving it a lot of thought! It was a wonderful thing, touring Seventh Tree. We got to use an orchestra…

Will: We did the Electric Prom, which was totally acoustic, and we've never done that before.

When you played the Royal Festival Hall, you handed out kazoos and got the audience to accompany you on Happiness.

Alison: We'd wanted to do that for bloody ages!

Will: It was great afterwards, outside. You could hear this kind of buzzing disappearing gradually into the four compass points.

Alison: The problem was working out how we were going to get a kazoo to everybody…

Will: We definitely didn't want to do it right at the start of the show

Alison: That would have been tempting fate.

Goldfrapp at the BBC Electric Proms in 2008
Goldfrapp played the BBC Electric Proms with a full orchestra in 2008

Can you drop any hints of what you're planning this time around?

Alison: Er, there'll definitely be people on the stage. But, no, we haven't really decided yet.

Do you get jealous of the lavish stage productions that Lady Gaga and Muse put on?

Alison: We did enjoy the Electric Prom because we were allowed that freedom a little bit - to make costumes and that sort of thing. But it would be wonderful to have more money, because that's what it comes down to.

If money was no object, what one thing would you buy in for the next tour?

Alison: A whole load of pyrotechnics.

Maybe we could start a Facebook campaign or something.

Alison: Yes! Please make a donation.

Will: Send in your fireworks.

Alison: No, don't send in your fireworks.

Will: Oh, right. Don't do that.

Head First is released on Mute Records on 22 March, and single Rocket is out now. Goldfrapp were speaking to BBC entertainment reporter Mark Savage.

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