Goldfrapp Interview: Will Gregory on death, happiness and drama
March 17th 2017
Tanya Bonnie Rae
- Goldfrapp's Will Gregory :: Interview with Tanya Rae
- Goldfrapp's Will Gregory :: Interview with Tanya Rae
Will Gregory is one half of UK electronic duo Goldfrapp, who are set to release their seventh album, Silver Eye, at the end of the month. FBi’s Tanya Bonnie Rae spoke to the man behind the synthesizer about life, death and some other light-hearted topics.
Tanya Bonnie Rae: I understand it’s been three years since your last visit to Sydney, so tell us, what have you been working on since 2013?
Will Gregory: We had a bit of time after the tour to regroup, and then we got asked to do some music for a theatre production in London for the Greek tragedy Medea. It was really interesting to step out of the studio and step into a rehearsal room with lots of actor-y people and get involved in a whole other process.
I know this year marks your seventeenth year of making music, how would you say the music industry has evolved since the year 2000?
It’s completely turned upside down. Now the record companies have become very much diminished in their power. They’re no longer the gatekeepers of musical distribution. Music is out there distributing itself amongst everyone and in some ways that’s a great thing, in other ways it’s tough. Obviously to make music it takes resources and if there aren’t any resources left to pay for it to happen it becomes slightly diminished. I think that some people are citing musicians as the canary in the mine for lots of other parts of our life.
Would you say the industry has become a little bit more cutthroat?
I don’t know that it’s cutthroat, I think it’s just the fact that there is so little protection for the freedom of movement of people’s music. Once it’s out there, it’s on everyone’s phones, it’s getting sent around and, consequently, the whole element of live performance has become hugely more significant in the last 10-15 years because that is where people are able to reap the rewards of their work, because no-one is buying it anymore. I’m as guilty as the next person for listening to music on YouTube, and YouTube pays some tiny amount for music don’t they? So, we’re struggling, but at the same time it’s kind of brilliant [laughs] because if you want to hear a piece of music from any time in recorded history it’s there under your fingers in seconds.
It’s become very accessible.
Yeah, exactly. I mean what do you think, do you think it’s a good thing?
I think it is a good thing because it is at our fingertips, as you said. It encourages people to go out and find music and explore music because you can do so very easily and very cheaply, and because of that you’re exposed to way more, in terms of genres of music and in terms of platforms of music.
I think you’re right. The problem is that there are probably three people in the world who are benefitting from it. You know, the guy who owns Spotify, the guy who owns YouTube and the guy that owns Google, and these guys are having a great time. But before there were many thousands of people benefitting, and now it’s only a tiny handful. That’s a bit of a worry because it’s not just going to be music that’s in that position, it’s going to be all kinds of other industries; all sorts of shops are closing left, right and center because of Amazon. I think there has to be somebody who waves a flag at some point and says, “Woah”, you know [laughs].
You’ve recently said in a press release: “I think writing an album is like being lost in a wood – you’re trying to figure out an interesting path, you don’t know whether it’s going to be a dead end or somewhere interesting and you never know where to stop because around the corner some beautiful vista might open up.” With the direction that you’ve taken for Silver Eye, your new album, which part of the woods would you say you’ve ended up in?
[laughs] Well, I think we’ve got out of the woods [laughs]. Because we’ve finished it, so I’d like to think that. I suppose we’re in a different bit because now we’re trying to figure out how to do it live and that’s always a kind of reckoning for all the excesses that you indulged in while you enjoyed the happy hours of frolicking around in the studio. And then somebody would say, “Ok, now all very well, but where are you going to get that whip crack you used?” Or, “Where are you going to get those 400 strings that you layered up in the studio?” So sometimes there’s a bit of a head scratch that happens, but at this point the writing is fun. It’s also scary because you spend a lot of the time being completely at sea. You don’t know where you are, you don’t know what’s happening or why.
I’ve also just read the lyrics for the song ‘Happiness’, “We can see your troubled soul, give us all your money we’ll make it better.” If money isn’t the key to happiness, what would you say is?
The key to happiness? It’s quite interesting, I think if you ask yourself whether you’re happy or not, it’s usually because you’re not.
So you’re saying I’m unhappy?!
Yeah, if you’re saying, “Am I happy?”, you’re kind of saying, “I am unhappy.” So I think one of the keys is not being aware [laughs] of whether you are or not. And in order to be not aware of it you have to be kind of distracted; you have to be engaged in doing something that you’re interested in.
I agree in the sense that you have to be engaged in something that you’re interested in, but I wouldn’t necessarily use the word distracted, because distracted suggests that you should be busy, and remain busy until the end of your life when you’ve distracted yourself enough from the fact that you may or may not be happy.
Yes [laughs], maybe distracted is a flippant way of putting it, but I think if you’ve thought about the fact that you’re going to die, if you try to deal with the metaphysics of life on a daily basis, you definitely would not be happy. Because the reality of it is appalling really [laughs]…we’re all gonna die!
What a wonderful way to slowly wrap up the interview, by the way we’re all going to die!
[laughs] Yes, but I suppose it’s learning how to feel happy about it, maybe.
I understand you come from a classical background as well. How would you say your tastes in particular have contributed to producing this new album?
It’s difficult isn’t it because I think classical music usually takes longer to express itself. I think classical music is a way of listening to music, which gets you used to the idea of layers. I like music that’s working on more than one level.
I think classical music would also teach you patience.
[laughs] Do you think so? Have you been sitting in very hard seats listening to long operas or something [laughs]? I’m just interested in all music to be honest with you. I did start playing classical music, and I used to play the oboe in an orchestra and it’s a lovely way of hearing music when you’re sitting in the middle of it, but it also makes you want to play with other people. I worry about all those people that sit in their rooms making it on a computer, missing out on actually playing music with other people. That’s something that I enjoy when Alison and I are working together because a lot of the time we’re playing. She’s singing or playing, or I’m playing and probably not singing – it’s a two-way thing.
Is there anything else that inspires the sound behind Goldfrapp?
I think everything you do will seep in somehow to what you’re doing. I like film music because you can imagine a film that goes with what you’re doing. And I think sometimes we do that because it’s easier to talk about what might be happening in the scene – that is the music – in terms of low, high, long, short, slow, fast. If you’re trying to communicate with somebody else you’ve probably borrowed from visual metaphors and talking as if you were scoring a film – to an imaginary film.
There seems to be a lot of influence with film and theatre in your work.
Well drama I think, yes. I like there to be drama. We want there to emotion and colour and character. We want something to be happening.
Listen to the full interview above. ‘Silver Eye’ is out March 31st via Mute Records.
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WHEN: Friday 2 June, 8pm
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