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Alison Goldfrapp on solo stardom and sexuality: ‘I’m not comfortable with a definitive label’

Exclusive: "I feel sexuality, sex and desire transcend so many things," says the pop icon, as she prepares to drop debut LP The Love Invention

By Jamie Tabberer

Alison Goldfrapp
"There’s a certain confidence I’ve gained," says Alison Goldfrapp of her new era (Images: Fraser Taylor)

From ‘Strict Machine’ to ‘Ooh La La’, Goldfrapp’s speciality has long been synth-heavy pop bangers that pulsate with confident, subversive sexuality. “There’s a directness there that people can relate to, and I myself am quite ambiguous about my sexuality,” reflects front-woman Alison Goldfrapp of her loyal LGBTQ fanbase. “And sexuality in general, I feel like, which is why I’m not comfortable with a definitive label. I feel sexuality, sex and desire transcend so many things.”

One of several key whispery acoustic moments among the band’s wider electronica-driven catalogue is ‘Annabel’, a song bursting with feeling and written from the perspective of a child questioning their gender that, when it dropped 10 years ago, didn’t seem a big deal. If it came out today, it would be controversial. Really, it should be the other way around. “I know what you mean,” blinks Alison, who agrees the song “absolutely” endures as a demonstration of allyship. 

“I’m straight. Pretty much. Ish. Straight-ish!” – Alison Goldfrapp

Queer fans will once again find much to love about Alison’s dancefloor-focused debut solo album The Love Invention, out 12 May: a pure pop masterpiece that explores themes of self-acceptance and growth. “I feel really focused about this,” she says. “I’ve wanted to do something more rhythmic and more electronic for some time.”

Here, the newly-solo star reflects on Goldfrapp’s legacy, music industry misogyny, and why she’s feeling more happy and confident than ever before.

“Have I ever traced my surname’s origins? No, is the bottom line” – Alison Goldfrapp (Image: Fraser Taylor)

Alison Goldfrapp on going solo

“There’s a certain confidence I’ve gained. Lockdown sort of forced a new independency that I hadn’t really experienced in the same way before. It forced me to set up a studio in my home and do things independently, which I hadn’t quite done in that way before. And through that, it gave me a new confidence. ‘Oh, I can experiment a bit more.’ ‘Oh, I can reach out to that person and say, do you fancy doing something.’ I felt like it was a time to try out new things.”

On Goldfrapp bandmate Will Gregory

“Will’s great. He’s very supportive of what I’m doing. We might well end up doing something together again at some point. He’s always done other various little things since the beginning, actually. Film projects, his Moog orchestra [The Will Gregory Moog Ensemble.] So, it’s not new for him. It’s new for me.”

On her name

“I don’t like Alison particularly, and my middle names are more boring even than my first name! When I stay in hotels, I often give myself a pseudonym, depending on what mood I’m in. My old tour manager used to sign me into hotels as Dolly Gold!

“Have I ever traced my surname’s origins? No, is the bottom line. I’m still yet to find out the truth about it. There are so many stories in my family that have been passed down. I still need to find out. We’ve always been told it originates from Germany. However, my eldest brother is convinced it is old English. But I don’t see how it can be. It remains a mystery.”

On labels

“It’s interesting how we feel we want to put more labels on things now and define things more. I understand that. There are a lot of reasons, I know, why that should be. On the other hand, I’m not comfortable with labels a lot of the time. But I understand why they’re necessary for people. I get that totally. So, I’m not really in a position to comment [on other people’s use of labels], because I’m straight. Pretty much. Ish. Straight-ish! [Laughs] I ain’t got a label!”

“I remember this guy saying to me once: ‘You’re 40 now and still wearing miniskirts. Do you think that’s acceptable?’” – Alison Goldfrapp (Image: Fraser Taylor)

On Goldfrapp’s influence

“I definitely can hear little things. But we’re all magpies. Music. Fashion. Writing. Film. There’s always a zeitgeist. I don’t think those things can be helped. It’s just very human.”

On happiness

“There is someone special in my life. It’s true. I’m just in a happier place generally. I feel like so much has changed. I feel like I’m much more aware of time and enjoying the now. Trying to separate myself from a lot of old shit. So, there’s lots of love in different ways. Not just with the person I’m with.”

“Lockdown sort of forced a new independency” – Alison Goldfrapp (Image: Mute)

On misogyny 

“I remember this guy saying to me once: ‘You’re 40 now and still wearing miniskirts. Do you think that’s acceptable?’ [Laughs] I laugh because I’m like: ‘What?!’ Who says you have to stop wearing short skirts at 40?

“I never get bored of playing ‘Strict Machine’ live” – Alison Goldfrapp (Image: Mat Maitland)

“The last time I was doing some interviews in France was slightly problematic. Often, I was with Will, and they’d ask me about me about my dress, which is fine, but just talk to Will about the music, and completely ignore me. Which used to really piss me off. Someone was asking about why I haven’t had children, which isn’t a bad question in itself – I think it was the way they asked it, in the context of what they’d been asking me previous to that. It felt very personal in a way that felt derogatory. I feel that especially ‘the female has this role, and the male has this role’ – I feel you have to think beyond those things now.”

“My old tour manager used to sign me into hotels as Dolly Gold!” – Alison Goldfrapp (Image: Mat Maitland)

On Goldfrapp’s music

“There are certain songs I still love doing. I never get bored of playing ‘Strict Machine’ live. I listened to the song ‘Forever’ the other day. Someone had it on a playlist. It made me cry! It was really mad. I could remember every detail of everything I was thinking and feeling at that moment as I was writing it and in the studio. It was quite overwhelming.”

Alison Goldfrapp’s The Love Invention is out 12 May 2023.