Crooner talks new pop album, gay evolution and Gaga diss
There are bad romances, and then there’s the kind that Rufus Wainwright had during the making of his latest album, Out of the Game. The troubadour got smitten with super-producer Mark Ronson, who added a pop bend to Wainwright’s classical leanings. Love at first sight? Just about.
“One day we finally hung out at this party — at the U.N. of all places — and we were just completely enamored of each other,” Wainwright says. “Needless to say, we went into the studio and struck up not only a great musical relationship but a great friendship … and, at least from my end, a huge crush.”
And the singer doesn’t just give his love away: He recently slammed Lady Gaga for being “predictable and boring,” setting off a media — and gay mafia — frenzy. In our interview, Wainwright talked about those comments, the eyes that comforted him during his mother’s death and the evolution of his gayness.
How did this “love affair” between you and Mark Ronson begin?
I had heard the legend of Mark Ronson for many years. In fact, we had done shows together in the past, but because he’s a DJ he was always on much later than I was, so we never really crossed paths. Then, word got out that I wanted to work with him and word got out that he wanted to work with me, and we were both very excited.
Is there a sex tape?
There’s not a sex tape. There’s an audio sex tape that we will make at some point and get to you. (Laughs)
Your classical and theatrical sensibilities are still present on the album, but what was it like to meet Mark, because of his pop leanings, in the middle?
As much as he’s involved and immersed and knowledgeable of the pop world, for really over most of the 20th century, I am, by the same token, involved in opera and classical music. We could both appreciate each other’s dedication to our respective musical genres, and that kind of ignited this exchange between us. I didn’t feel like I had to relate to what he was telling me and he didn’t feel the same with me, either; we just had to enjoy what we had to give, and there was no pressure in that respect.
Does songwriting come easier to you now than it did at the beginning of your career?
It doesn’t seem to have abated much over the years. I don’t know if that’s a personal decision or kind of a natural function. I mean, I do seem to hurl myself into these situations where I have to write songs or I have to learn new material or come up with something, so physically, it’s a job that has to get done. But it always gets done somehow. I don’t want to get too descriptive of it, because then it might disappear. (Laughs)
During “Sometimes You Need,” you refer to the effect of movie stars on our lives and on your life. Who did you have in mind?
I’m being very specific, actually. There’s a friend of mine, Quinn Tivey, and he’s Elizabeth Taylor’s grandson. I had just met him, and he’s a lovely guy and he has his grandmother’s eyes — those amazing violet, black Irish eyes, or at least they look black Irish to me. At the time, my mother was very ill (she died in early 2010), and I went to L.A. to see him, and there was just something about staring into those eyes that I found incredibly soothing and distracting in the face of this horrific experience.
What’s the last movie that changed your life?
I was a big fan of Melancholia. I loved that movie. I really got it. You know, I didn’t necessarily get Lars von Trier’s last movie, the one with the bloody penis in it (2009’s Antichrist).
Tell me about the track “Montauk.”
It’s a postcard, shall we say, to my daughter Viva, welcoming her to her future home and hoping that she enjoys it. Superman has Krypton and Rufus has Montauk — that’s where I go to reboot.
And it also works as a commentary on gay parenting.
Yes. Arguably that could be the first big major song about having two dads on a mainstream level.
You’re getting married to longtime partner Jörn Weisbrodt in August. But what finally sold you on the idea of marriage?
I’m still … I’m not on the fence about it, of course; it’s happening, but I do think we’re still in the process of defining what gay marriage is, and it’ll take some time. But you can really only define it by doing it, you know? (Laughs) So I don’t think anything is set in stone about what it means or how it’s going to go down, but I do think we need to move forward and figure that out.
For you, what’s the most important part of the ceremony?
I don’t know. I am in the process of picking who I want to marry me, meaning, do we want the priest, do we want the sheriff … or do we want the pope? (Laughs) I don’t think we’re going to get the pope. So that’s where I am right now, figuring out who’s actually going to do the ceremony, and that’s bringing up some questions for me. I’m kind of shying away from the religious end of it at the moment.
Back in the day your idea of gay was this old-school personification, kind of like Oscar Wilde. How has your idea of gayness evolved?
I still love that Oscar Wilde persona and I haven’t put that to bed yet in certain ways, but I also think that my belief in maturity is more of a Hindu theory, where over the years you become all of these different people and by the end, you’re sort of this cast of characters. I learned a lot from those bohemian days and respect it tremendously, but nonetheless, I want to survive and go on to the next level and experience other things. It’s more of just adding things to the recipe.
You used to have a thing for cigarettes and chocolate milk. What are your current cravings?
My boyfriend just got a job in Toronto and I have this thing now for maple syrup. I just tip it into my mouth and guzzle it straight from the bottle.
Since this album is being called “your most pop album,” what contemporary pop do you listen to? We know it’s not Gaga.
(Laughs) I really appreciate what Arcade Fire has been able to accomplish, especially with all of their success last year. It was really fantastic to watch. Also, Adele is tearing everything up and really paving the way for both me and other artists who want to be a little different from the norm. I think it’s a good time.
Would you take back your comments on Gaga?
I don’t dislike her. There’s just not a single song (that I like) there. I can’t hum one of her tunes. And her whole, “You’re like me” thing? How can you say that with a piece of cheese on your head? I certainly had an appreciation for Madonna, but Madonna wasn’t like that. She wasn’t all, “You’re like me.” She was, “You’ll never be like me.”
Won’t it make it awkward should you and Gaga attend the same gay benefit?
Perhaps if she sings one of my songs, that would rectify it. (Laughs)