“We hate the idea of ever repeating ourselves...” hmv.com talks to Goldfrapp's Will Gregory
When Goldfrapp released their sixth studio album, 2013's Tales of Us, it represented a bit of a departure from the glam-influenced electro-pop sound that has found them filling dancefloors everywhere over the last few years, eschewing the synthesizers and drum machines of their earlier records in favour of acoustic guitars, pianos and strings, producing a much more mellow and reflective album than we're used to hearing from them.
This week however they return with their seventh full-length offering, Silver Eye, which marks a return to a more electronic, dance music vibe. With Silver Eye arriving in stores today, we spoke to the duo's synthesizer supremo Will Gregory about what we can expect from the new album...
So Silver Eye is out today, you announced back in 2015 that you were heading back into the studio, have you been working on the new album all that time?
“Yeah, it has been a bit of a haul. I mean we did do other things a little bit in between, but we actually finished the album in the summer, so it took about a year and a half I guess.”
How does the writing process work between the two of you?
“Well, it's always been basically the same, which is a sort of mixture of improvising and trying to find sounds that are inspiring, to then sort of launch into some mood or atmosphere. Alison is a brilliant improviser, once you get a kind of sound world together, things start to happen. So it quite often works that way around, but not always, it depends. Sometimes she's got some ideas, sometimes I've got some ideas that we start from as a premise.
“Sometimes, but very rarely, either she's sung something into a dictaphone or I've messed around on a synth and that becomes the kernel of something, but usually we both have to be there just doing it.”
Your last album, Tales of Us, featured much more in the way of acoustic and orchestral instrumentation than some of your earlier records, but from what we've heard so far this sounds like a move back to more electronic sounds – is that the case on the rest of the new album?
“Yes, it was a conscious decision I think, as an antidote to the previous record, and we quite often do that. You know, once you've put on that outfit and you've gone out and toured it, suddenly it feels like it needs to go back in the cupboard.”
So you end up making something that's a reaction to the last thing you did?
“Yeah, I think so. You kind of start thinking about what you've been missing, or what you'd like to hear or would be nice to explore anew. We hate the idea of ever repeating ourselves, although I'm sure we do unconsciously sometimes.”
Was there any particular track that set the direction for the rest of the album?
“Well, various things were bubbling up at the same time, 'Tigerman' and 'Everything Is Never Enough' were coming together, but I think when we got 'Anymore' that was a moment when it felt like there was possibly some way of all the different threads being drawn together behind that kind of sound, or that kind of more synthetic sound world, so I think that was a key moment.”
Quite often in the past you've self-produced your records, but this time you've had John Congleton and The Haxan Cloak working with you – how did they both get involved, and what do they bring to the record?
“We've always tried to find people to help us and sometimes we do, sometimes we don't. We had Flood (aka Mark Ellis) producing our fourth album and that was great to have another ear, another person in the trench with you. So we thought we'd get someone else involved this time, especially with the more beats-y, uptempo, rhythmic stuff.
“I think we sometimes don't feel confident about how to make rhythm tracks, beyond just 'boof-baff'. Although I like 'boof-baff'. Nothing wrong with that, Stevie Wonder made a whole career out it, certainly in terms of his drum parts.”
It's been a pretty good career, to be fair...
“Well, yes! But anyway we wanted to find someone who could help us out with that side of things and we got together one or two different people. Leo Abrahams was great, he gave us some drum loops at the start which definitely set the ball rolling, in fact one of the tunes that he did the drum programming on is still there, 'Moon in your Mouth'. And then we loved The Haxan Cloak, we'd been aware of him for a while and he did an amazing gig at Glastonbury two or three years ago, and I suppose we wanted that more doom-laden, dark edge that he's got.
“We liked that way of thinking about electronic sounds because it was in contrast to some of the other electro music we'd been doing, so he came in and definitely added that, there were some great sounds that he put on. I mean the tracks were more or less up and running, but he definitely focussed them and gave them a lot more bottom end, really.”
So what about John Congleton, how did he get involved?
“John comes from a more punk tradition so he's not so much about the beautiful hi-fi sounds, he's more about getting the song out and making it gritty. So he came in towards the end and I think that was a nice point for him to come in and rough things up a bit, throw things up in the air and see what came down.”
What kind of album is this lyrically? Are there any recurring themes?
"Well, Alison has got a lot of lyrics about.... I don't know how to describe it it collectively, you'd have to ask her... but there's a lot of stuff about these pagan, ritualistic ideas to do with the moon, water, magic. Our society has sort of layered over that part of its history but it's still kind of there under the surface and in our heads, in that part of the brain that's the early bit, the reptilian bit. That's where the Silver Eye thing came from, it's a metaphor for the moon.”
So you've done a handful of warm-up shows, what are your touring plans for this album?
“There's going to be a full-on tour in the autumn, but we'll be doing some of the summer festivals, and then we're off in the autumn around Britain and parts of Europe, then we'll be in America in April, so I think we're definitely in that phase now of being on the road.”
How do you go about putting your setlists together these days? There's a lot to choose from and a lot of different styles...
“Funny you should mention that, I've literally got a setlist in front of me trying to figure that out! But I think this record kind of references Black Cherry and Supernature, it's got some of the more punchy, uptempo things. This is a very non-acoustic record, so I think there are a lot of tracks that will fit in with the more glam, stompy electronic stuff, there will be quite a bit of that I think.”
Silver Eye is available in stores and online now, you can find the album in our online store here...