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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Rufus Wainwright strikes a 'Pose'

The child of twisted folk musicians Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle, Rufus Wainwright was welcomed to the music industry with universal high praise for his 1998 self-titled debut. Last years Poses garnered even better reviews for the self-declared \gay opera queen,"" by keeping the trademark lush arrangements more focused. The Daily Cardinal got the man on the horn recently, where he espoused eloquently between gulps of chowder.  




Didn't get you too early today, did we? 




No no, I've been up since seven in the morning. I need, like, two hours of sleep time, so I'm totally ready, totally fueled and totally gorgeous. I'm a complete wreck actually. 




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How's the tour going so far? 




Great, great, I did ""Rosie O'Donnell"" yesterday, that was fun. Most of the shows are sold out, and my band has come together. I don't know, I've been doing this for a long time, and I feel like I'm starting to get a good payback. 




Is this your first headlining tour? 




This is the biggest headlining tour I've done. I did another one for my last album, but these are much bigger venues, much more of a pull. 




I think so, I think the Madison show may be already sold out. 




Well, Madison is kind of a musical town, isn't it? 




Yeah. I wanted to ask you about your contribution to the I Am Sam soundtrack [a cover of the Beatles' ""Across the Universe""]. In all the reviews I have read, it is consistently named as one of the few highlights on the album. 




(Sounding hurt) Oh. Well, I certainly am happy with how it turned out. I'm happy with the version that's on the record but I wanted it ... it was really important for it to be really amazing. Actually, we recut the vocal and put strings on it and put it on the end of my album [Poses]. That song was kinda almost, presented to me, or handed to me by Sean Lennon. There was this benefit, at first it was for gun control, this John Lennon tribute ... and he insisted that I perform it. I'd never really heard it before, and he taught it to me. Then, of course, there were the terrorist attacks, and the benefit itself was postponed, and then also dedicated to New York.  




So anyway, I got up and sang it with Sean, and it was such a great thing, and then the I Am Sam soundtrack was going on about the same time, and they had asked me to do whatever Beatles song I wanted. That one just sort of seemed to transpire, and we did it, and I was so happy with it that I wanted ... it was weird, because we recorded it on Sean's birthday, which is also John Lennon's birthday, so I dunno, the song itself seemed to wanna be birthed again, and it was up to me to do it properly, which I like to do when I cover songs.  




I'll have to listen to the version on Poses, because the version on the soundtrack is almost sparse, and I would venture to say that sparseness is not what you are known for. 




No, no, but my father's one of the great sparse recording artists of all time, so I know sparse. When I made my first record, I decided I'm gonna work with a huge orchestra, and all these different studios and producers and go downhill from there, so my final record will be solo. 




How do you translate such an orchestral sound to a tour like this? 




Well, there's six of us onstage: I'm playing with Teddy Thompson, Richard Thompson's son, my sister Martha, got Butch [Norton] from the Eels and this guy John Ballenger who plays the clarinet. I don't know, between the six of us the interesting thing is, while it's not as big-sounding as the record, but funnily enough, and especially with this last record, what I like about a lot of the arrangements, although they were pretty lavish, but they're also almost like chamber music and a lot of the lines and a lot of the sound is quite intimate, though big. It's always very daunting when I set out to do a record, but in the end a lot of people who play with me say ""it makes sense."" And that's a credit to how much work was put behind most of these records. I don't think there's anything that's superfluous, especially on this record. 




Is there anything else that changed consciously in your songwriting process between your first album and Poses? 




Well, after my first record was done, I was completely tired of music, sick of the piano and I wanted to join a monastery or a ... sex ring or something, just something focused on the human side of my life, as opposed to the trained-monkey side. So, I didn't do anything: I didn't write, I didn't think, I went out a lot, I went probably more towards the sex ring as opposed to the monastery, and just sort of lost myself in New York. I mean, I knew I had to make a new record at some point, but I really wanted the songs to come to me, and not to necessarily toil over them as much'although I still like to work a lot on my arrangements, which is what happened with Poses. Once that song was done, I knew I had a thread that I could follow and knit into a sweater. 




An excellent analogy. I could not come across any real criticism of either of your albums. What's this about? 




I've gotten bad criticism. I haven't gotten a tremendous amount, but there are certain critics. It's interesting, because it's almost vehemently bad, as in, 'I don't get this, I don't want to go here, there was a punk revolution, rock was trying to get rid of this kind of shit,' that's the sort of criticism I'll get. Especially in England, they're really insecure there sometimes. But I don't get a lot of bad criticism. Of course everytime I get a little bad criticism, I hit the wall, or the roof, or whatever. But the way I want it to be ... I'm not putting myself in these people's shoes, but Wagner, Verdi and Beethoven are my favorite musicians, and whether you like opera or classical music or not, it really doesn't matter, because the works themselves are so plainly great and are so airtight. You might not like it, and it might not be something you want to be listening to and that's totally fine, but you can't deny its existence. And that's my main goal with my music, not whether you like it or not, but whether it's built to last, or if itself becomes a force to be reckoned with. And critics appreciate that because they don't get a lot of that.

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