Patrick Wolf’s Favorite London Haunts
When he’s not playing sold-out shows on both sides of the pond, Patrick Wolf hangs his hat in London’s West End. Here, the avant-garde musician shows us where he lands when he’s feeling bookish, thirsty and, yes, hungry.
“All of my favorite places in London are within walking distance,” says British singer-songwriter Patrick Wolf, whose new album, Battle (featuring a spoken-word contribution by actress Tilda Swinton), is out this month. “I’m a big supporter of Soho. A lot of the focus in London today has moved to the East End, but I went to my first clubs in Soho when I was 13 and 14. I feel a real duty, anytime somebody asks me where to go, to say Soho because the artistic community used to be a Soho community. Now, because of rents rising, everyone thinks the cool place is the East End. But my heart is always in Soho.”
FIRST OUT CAFÉ BAR 52 St. Giles High Street If I’m ever stressed in Soho, and my BlackBerry is going crazy, and I just need to sit somewhere very quiet, and not be bothered at all, I go to First Out, which is the first ever gay and lesbian café. I’m a gin drinker, and so I’ll get a gin and lemonade and I just sit there, read a book and turn the BlackBerry off. It’s so quiet and peaceful. When it comes to cafés, I guess I have that Joni Mitchell streak, where I just want to observe and read, and just calm down for half an hour.
WATKINS BOOKS 19 Cecil Court
I left school when I was 16, so I never really got an education. I think that knowledge is power, so I started to go to bookstores to research folklore, mythology, religion and other alternative histories of England, like pagan history, the history of witches. It really fueled me a lot as a songwriter. I’ve spent a lot of time in there over the past six years, just zoning out looking at the books. The name of my first album, Lycanthropy, came from that shop. The word “lycanthropy” is the scientific term for someone with a psychological problem where they think they can transform into a wolf. The shop is on my favorite street in London. It’s a beautiful street that’s got tiny shop after tiny shop. I always had a dream that I’d live on this tiny street. Today, I found The Werewolf Book: The Encyclopedia of Shape-Shifting Beings, which is about people who claim that they have gone from man to animal.
J P GUIVIER & CO. 99 Mortimer Street
This is the place where my dad bought me my first-ever violin, when I was about 7 years old. I think he saved up for a long, long time, because he knew that the only thing I really wanted to do with my life was play the violin. When I’m on tour, if my viola is broken, they always repair it. Over the years, they’ve been so kind and gentle to all my instruments; it’s like a hospital for them. The place smells of resin—what you put on the bow when you practice the violin. That, to me, is one of my favorite smells of all time. KOKON TO ZAI 57 Greek Street
In England, there’s really only one place to find radical, avant-garde clothing, and this is it. When I was younger, I would save up just to buy one T-shirt from here, because it wasn’t just a T-shirt—it would have totally avant-garde threads hanging off of it, like mini-couture. Since then, if I need something special for a tour, or if I need something where there’s only one of in the world, I go here. A lot of the people who I really believe in as designers sell their work through this shop—it’s run by a designer called Marjan Pejoski, who made the Björk swan dress. The men’s basics there are always inventive, and with a twist. I went in there recently and bought a black shirt with sleeves around the waist, so you could tie it around your waist. I think it’s my job—the job of a pop star, or a rock star, in a way—to always be wearing things that aren’t readily available to people.
M. GOLDSTEIN 67 Hackney Road
It’s my friend Piper and Nathaniel’s shop. Piper was in a group called Posh—she was my favorite pop star. Growing up, I read that she also owned a shop in Soho. I bunked off school, turned up one day and asked her to give me an autograph. I had a black eye and she asked me what was wrong and I broke down to her about school and she became like a godmother to me. M. Goldstein is a bric-a-brac shop—real, aristocratic bric-a-brac. I’ve bought an American musical sword from here, vintage, rare postcards and walking sticks. It’s a perfect, random shop of amazing things.
Photography By Hamish Brown.