Alison Goldfrapp performing live at the Royal Festival Hall in London on 18 April 2008
|Birth name||Alison Elizabeth Margaret Goldfrapp|
13 May 1966 |
Enfield, Middlesex, England
|Genres||Electronic, synthpop, electroclash, trip hop, ambient|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, singer-songwriter, record producer|
|Instruments||Vocals, piano, tambourine, synthesiser|
Alison Goldfrapp was born in 1966 in Enfield, Middlesex, the youngest of six children. Her father, Nick, had been an army officer, and subsequently worked for Scope and English Heritage. Her mother, Isabella, was a nurse. Goldfrapp's surname is of German origin, and she has German ancestry through her father. While Goldfrapp was growing up, her family moved frequently, eventually settling in Alton, Hampshire, where Goldfrapp attended the independent Alton Convent School. She sang in a choir at the school and has said that she loved being in a school with nuns. However she was forced to leave at age 12 due to failing the senior exam, and attended the local comprehensive school. At this time she sniffed glue on one occasion and had an incident which involved stealing a tractor. She moved to London aged 16, where she lived in a squat, and began using drugs on a regular basis; such as cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy. She then studied art at Middlesex University.
She made an acting appearance in Paul Gilbert's graduation film Your Night Tonight in 1988.
Goldfrapp's interest in music began in Alton, Hampshire, where she sang briefly in a band called Fashionable Living Death, formed with anarchist friends, and was involved in other bands, including Demented Children, Waste Product and Creatures of Darkness.
In 1994 she featured on the Orbital album Snivilisation and the next year featured on trip hop artist Tricky's 1995 song "Pumpkin". Goldfrapp was introduced to composer Will Gregory in 1999 after he had listened to her vocal contribution for "Pumpkin". Gregory felt a connection with Goldfrapp and invited her to record a demo for the film soundtrack he was composing, to see if they could work together. The demo was never completed, but the recording session had been pleasant. Following several months of phone calls, they decided to form a band and began performing under Goldfrapp's last name.
Goldfrapp cited this song as her favourite on Supernature.
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The pair began recording their debut album over a six-month period, beginning in September 1999, in a rented bungalow in the Wiltshire countryside. The recording process was difficult for Goldfrapp, who often found herself alone and disturbed by the mice and insects in the bungalow. The band's debut album Felt Mountain was released in 2000 and featured Goldfrapp's synthesized vocals over cinematic soundscapes. The lyrics on Felt Mountain were written by Goldfrapp and are abstract obsessional tales inspired by films, her childhood, and the loneliness she felt while recording the album.
Goldfrapp released their second album Black Cherry in 2003. The band recorded the album in a darkened studio in Bath, England. The studio's walls were covered in neon lights and Goldfrapp used them to write down her song ideas. The album focused more heavily on dance music and glam rock-inspired synths than its predecessor. Black Cherry peaked at number nineteen on the UK Albums Chart and sold 52,000 copies in the US. Supernature, Goldfrapp's third album, was released in 2005. The album comprises pop and electronic dance music prominently featured on Black Cherry, but focuses more on subtle hooks instead of the large choruses that made up its predecessor. It has sold one million copies worldwide and earned the duo two nominations at the 2007 Grammy Awards for Best Electronic/Dance Album and Best Dance Recording for the song "Ooh La La". Seventh Tree, Goldfrapp's fourth album, was released in 2008 and debuted at number two on the UK Albums Chart. The album is a departure from the pop and electronic dance music featured on Supernature, featuring ambient and downtempo music. The band were inspired by an acoustic radio session they had performed, which led the duo to incorporate acoustic guitars into their music to create "warm" and "delicate" sounds.
Goldfrapp possesses an expansive soprano vocal range, which one journalist has claimed spans five octaves. She is also noted for her operatic abilities, in which she was classically trained, particularly on the group's debut album Felt Mountain and prominently on the songs "Utopia" and "Pilots"; her delivery in a more contemporary voice has been described as "breathy", "sultry", "ethereal" and "startling".
Goldfrapp has also been commended for her vocal versatility, morphing her voice to fit various genres such as folk, pop, classical, dance, rock, trip hop and electronica throughout her career. Goldfrapp has also been noted for her use of a vocoder, altering her voice to fit the artistry of the material she is singing, such as in the songs "Lovely Head", "Pilots" and "Slippage". Vocally, Goldfrapp has been compared to Kate Bush, Tori Amos and Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins.
Goldfrapp produces and writes most of her material alongside band mate Will Gregory. She draws inspiration from a range of artists and musical genres. As a teenager she listened to Kate Bush, T. Rex, Donna Summer and Iggy Pop and The Stooges and discovered Serge Gainsbourg while working in Belgium. While travelling through Europe in the early 1990s, she also began listening to Polish disco music and cabaret music from the Weimar Republic. Other media, including film, have had an impact on Goldfrapp who cites Roman Polanski's 1966 psychological thriller Cul-de-sac, the 1973 cult film The Wicker Man and the James Bond franchise as influences. She also draws inspiration from surrealism and nature, all of which appear in Goldfrapp's album artwork, which she designs in collaboration with Big Active. Goldfrapp believes that "music is a visual experience" and therefore visualises her lyrics before writing them. While writing, Goldfrapp uses her vocals to create melodies and drumbeats. Her songwriting is characterised by its use of animals to describe human emotions and status.
Goldfrapp first modified her image in 2003, from a sophisticated Marlene Dietrich-inspired look to that of a new wave diva. The reinvented image included false eyelashes, customised T-shirts, military uniforms and fishnet stockings. While touring in 2004, sections of the group's stage show featured Goldfrapp in a white dress wearing a horse tail and dancers with deer heads, which were inspired by her interest in animals and mythology.
In 2008, Goldfrapp again reinvented her image, this time as a circus performer. The artwork for Goldfrapp's album Seventh Tree featured her dressed as a clown because it is an "iconic image" with "so many different connotations." For the album she chose to tone down her overtly sexual image because she felt that it was taking over the music. Her new image, inspired by paganism, featured her dressed in white or natural-coloured flowing gowns with loose, curly blond hair.
During 2010, Goldfrapp took on several new images once again, to fit with their then-forthcoming album Head First. The music on this album was more '80s-influenced, reflected in the artwork featured on the album's first single, "Rocket", which features Goldfrapp in a pink jumpsuit. For their live shows, she would wear spangly black leggings and a jacket covered in glitter-spangled black plastic strips which would be blown about violently by two electric fans placed at front centre-stage. The glitter and the shine of the plastic reflected the colourful stage lighting and, caught in the gale of the electric fans, created the impression of flurries of multicoloured sparks.
In a February 2010 interview with The Sunday Times, Goldfrapp confirmed she was dating film editor Lisa Gunning, but rejected being defined as a lesbian, saying, "I think of everything as being about a person and a relationship, and I am in a wonderful relationship with a wonderful person. It just happens to be with a lady... It's something I've thought about for a long time and it concurs with my philosophy on life and sexuality. I don't think it can or should be pigeonholed. I've thought about this since I was a teenager. I've always found it claustrophobic to think about having to put things into categories like that. My sexuality is the same as my music and my life. Why does it need a label?" All of Goldfrapp's relationships before her relationship with Gunning were with men, and because of this she was surprised when she fell in love with Gunning.
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