The Perth International Arts Festival is bringing Rufus Wainwright back our way for a show at the Perth Concert Hall on Monday, March 2, 2015. Here’s our last interview with Wainwright, conducted by BOB GORDON in March, 2013.
Rufus Wainwright, it turns out, is quite the homemaker. Ironically however, he’s in a line of business where he has to leave home.
“I’ve got a couple of homes that I’ve had to leave,” he notes down the line from Los Angeles. “We have a beautiful house in Montauk (New York) and a nice apartment in Toronto.
“And then also of course I have a beautiful daughter (Viva Katherine Wainwright Cohen, whose mother is Lorca, daughter of Leonard Cohen) in Los Angeles whom I wish I saw more of. So I’m always leaving, but I’m also always coming back (laughs). I’m a bit like a boomerang.
“You know, I’m almost 40 and I still look fairly presentable and am in good health. So now’s really the time to get out there and do my thing. To make my mark. I’ve accepted that.”
Wainwright may indeed have a number of homes that he shares with his husband, Jörn Weisbrodt, but that number is dwarfed by the global destinations from where he is in demand. He demurs a little at the suggestion, but he could well be described as an International Citizen.
“Well I’m certainly a prized member of the Commonwealth,” he laughs. “Be it England, Canada, Australia and some of the former colonies. I started playing places like South America, which was very exciting. And deeper into the stranger regions of Europe. So it’s starting to seep through the world… oh, and Asia. You know what? I guess I am. I guess I am!”
Wainwright’s most recent LP release was 2012’s Out Of The Game, the tour of which saw him perform here at the Riverside Theatre last September.
“I was very, very happy with the shows,” he says of the reception to the album. “Very, very happy with the band. Very, very happy with the tour and the places I played. I do feel the record industry, or the recording industry or videos or radio… I don’t understand any of that anymore. I don’t get how that works.
“And it’s always a little bit of a sting, when you got out there and you’re eclipsed by a rather large Korean guy dancing (laughs). After all that you’ve done. The times are a bit odd, but people keep coming to the shows and that’s what it’s all about.”
At this juncture in music industry history it seems impossible for the majority of major working artists to take album sales as any kind of barometer as to their popularity. Wainwright concurs.
“I won’t kid you and say it doesn’t matter that I don’t sell a lot of records,” he reflects, “but as I said, it’s really not my fault. People don’t buy records anymore; they don’t know where to get them. It’s like a physical problem.
“But that being said, yes. For me to be able to go to Australia, or go to Korea, or South America and fill a room and make people happy, that really is what it’s all about. There’s a good million musicians standing right behind me who would really kill to be in the position I’m in. I have to constantly be grateful for how things are going. Even though I’m not, you know, flying on a jet plane with Lady GaGa or anything.”
Wainwright’s work over the years has been comprehensive, including all manner of collaboration, solo work and genre diversity. Out Of The Game was a more pop-styled release, produced by Mark Ronson, but bear in mind it was preceded by the All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu, a piano/voice suite founded on Shakespeare’s sonnets and written for his late mother, Canadian singer, Kate McGarrigle. This itself was preceded by Prima Donna, an opera with a French libretto.
“They feed off each other of course,” he says of such stylistially separate pursuits, “but I think, especially, once I stepped into the opera arena – I wrote Prima Donna and now I’m in the process of writing another opera – I realised with that world it’s kind of like the distance between a battle and a world war (laughs).
“And I’m excited to be in this world war of music, but in the end because I tend to go for larger kinds of ideas, you need all your past experiences to help add up the equation and make it possible. So it all melds together in the end.”
In 2010, when the touring cycle for Songs For Lulu was nearing its end, Wainwright told X-Press Magazine, that a break from piano was in order. A lifelong relationship, however, can only pause for so long.
“I had my break with Out Of The Game,” he says. “But the piano, like a jealous wife, has called her lawyer and said, ‘he’d better get his ass over here or we’re getting a divorce’ (laughs). So I’m back with good old Piano Lady.”
Wainwright will turn 40 this year. Some choose to be highly contemplative of this life event, while others ignore it complicity. He is most certainly in the former camp.
“Well I’m not ignoring it,” Wainwright states, “that’s for sure. I’ve decided to attempt, in a very kind of gay way, to get the last bits of youth up and working (laughs). Whether it’s going to the gym or trying to eat well, getting enough sleep and so forth.
“I don’t know… that’s what I’m saying to you right now, but of course there’s an hour from now, when the pasta arrives. But I am thinking about it. My intentions are very, very pure and honest, but we’ll see what the reality is (laughs).”
Tickets for Rufus Wainwright are available at www.perthfestival.com.au.