June 30, 2019 Amy Scott

Rufus Wainwright Interview

Out in NJ

Provocateur, raconteur, and a bit pretentious? You bet. Every bit of it the real deal? For sure. That’s Rufus Wainwright. He is renaissance music man with all the flair and attitude that has kept him just outside the mainstream, but one of the gay community’s (and anyone with really good taste)’s greatest treasures. Many people don’t even know that Rufus Wainwright was the first Out Gay Artist to be signed by a major record label. His loves are include Pop, Baroque, Opera (he’s written two), his guilty pleasures may no longer include Cigarettes — but Chocolate Milk, Leonard Cohen Judy Garland, and as I found out when I caught up with him recently in Berlin by phone … Jersey boys.

A: Wow, it’s been a big summer for us gays, right? Taylor Swift’s even singing about us! Don’t you just feel like gay is the new cool?

R: Ha! I feel that Gay always been cool!!… I mean, arguably for the millennia….

R: You know when I when I first came out, to myself – I was pretty young. I was about 13. That was in the mid eighties, and it was a much more turbulent and kind of vicious world that I inhabited in terms of being gay… .you know with AIDS, and it was still illegal in a lot of the western world or at least frowned upon, and so I felt much more under pressure… but that being said, I then was forced to discover just this amazing history of homosexuality throughout the ages and hearken back to other periods that were so far more treacherous than the one I was living in. That was the kind of exploration that had to occur to give some reason just to feel positive about what was going on in my life.

But nowadays it’s it’s a real double edged sword – and I and I use that term a lot but this is one of the one of the ways where it works really it’s it’s literally that where on the one hand you have all of these new found rights, and AIDs is no longer ravaging the community, and we can adopt children and all this stuff but then at the same time it’s being so commercialized and so kind of monetized and and really kind of fed into this corporate system….It’s a tricky situation — on the one hand we want to celebrate all of the advances but also not just you know become fodder for the beast you know, and so I do feel that my own legacy is to basically really encourage young gay people to look back at our history to try to really continue the tradition of excellence and usualness and queer freedom and not make it all about acceptance and about you know fitting in … Let’s not our lose our edges, you know?

A: I know that you’ve loved Opera you’ve since you were a child I know and you’ve written 2 of them so far and the first “Prima Donna” I know you’ve admitted was a bit of a learning experience, and now you’ve already premiered your second, Hadrian, last October, in Toronto, but you’re still working on it? What can you tell us about it?

R: It’s based on the life and the love affair of the great Emperor Hadrian, and his boyfriend Antoneous, and they were like the Calvin Klien and young model couple of their day, and sadly Antoneous was killed… on the Nile… Hadrian made him into an Egyptian God and wound up going back to his palace and drinking himself to death… so it’s very loose.

I’m very rooted in a 19th century sensibility, so one great thing about Hadrian is that it has the chance to create this old school grand opera with all the trimmings, duets, and ballets choruses and parades, but then to have the two main characters be out gays. So I’m very happy to give that back to Opera.

A: And we will be getting it here in the US?

R: Yes yes you will, and that’s all I can say for now!

So “Out of the Game” in 2012 was your last -can I say traditional new pop material- yes
now is that the reason for the name of the album or will you come back to pop music?

Yeah it was a bit tongue in cheek in the sense that I was working with Mark Ronson he was he was arguably the most popular producer I’ve ever worked with so for me to say out of the game is kind of joking but in hindsight yes I did kind of go out of the game for a while With writing operas and stuff but now with my new album I’m going to be back in the game

A: and when is that coming out?

R: that’ll be out in about a year

It’s I say I finished it and I worked with the great producer Mitchell Froom and it’s a really great record and it I can’t wait to share it with everybody I’m gonna be doing a lot of the songs that back I’m on this tour, so there will be a lot of new material.

A: So we’re going to talk about the tour in a second but before that I want to touch on married life! You’ve been with your husband Jorn now for what is it 14 years you’ve been together?

R: Yeah, It was just 14 this last month, we got together around my birthday which was July 22nd, and we’ve been married around 6.

A: Are you like an old married couple who sits around watching Netflix like other couples or do you just read the Times and create stuff?

R: Ha! Well, we you know we do a combination of things, we do bicker… we do have projects and stuff we do watch quite a bit of TV… especially since we have a daughter whose 8, so once we put her to bed, it’s like we just like a turn on the news and you know have Trump put it to sleep. I find the horror kind of so exhausting that it actually makes us tired and ready for bad

A: You’re and American citizen right?

R: Yes I am yeah I was born in New York

A: So what are your thoughts on 2020 and the election? You got anybody?

R: Yeah well I mean, you know I will go with anybody and and against Trump on the democratic field I will say though that I’m I’m becoming ever more impressed by Elizabeth Warren. I’m getting I’m definitely energized by her by her attitude and kind of ability to really clarify the situation and make it about you know the issues and don’t know give us a real


Buttejudge is very impressive as well… and Kamala Harris has a real star quality to her… she is like a character in an opera… If it’s Joe Biden it’s Joe Biden.

A: All right, let’s talk about the tour…. now you started this tour in Japan you played Ireland you’ve been all over Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, France, Berlin, Spain Italy and then and now you are headed back to Jersey

R: Yeah I’m very excited to be coming to Jersey

A: Really?

R: Yeah! Jersey has always been fabulous to me and I can play those gigs and then you know drive home after the show and wake up in my own bed, and take a dump in my own toilet and that might sound disgusting, but it’s fucking wonderful.

And I think with great about New Jersey is that it really is a different planet from New York minute you’re over that bridge you are on a different planet, it’s kind of a parallel universe and so it’s it’s always exciting to go and I have to say I have a somewhat of a weak spot for the Jersey boys who are you know just so, like, so wrong with that you want to make them right you know? And now that I’m married guy nowI can only get an imaginary kick from that you know?

A: Well I’m sure a few will still appreciate hearing that from you though! Thanks, Rufus!

R: Thank You!