Wainwright’s bumpy ride to fame
He was born into showbiz royalty but who would’ve thought that a pedigree like Rufus Wainwright’s could lead to a life of rape, drug abuse and gay beats?
But it is these experiences, plus a host of others that have inspired Wainwright’s latest album, Release The Stars, which he says reveals the complex mind of a post-modern musician.
“I’ve produced the fifth album myself. It’s a very comfortable record but is a lot more assertive about what I want and need from life,” Wainwright said.
“The whole idea is that it’s time to release your love and ideas – to take action and be somebody.
“My favourite songs are Slideshow and Do I Disappoint You. They capture my perception of what I thought the song would be like when I wrote them.”
Already midway through his world tour, Wainwright will arrive in Australia for a string of concerts in January.
“It’s going to be a big show – there’ll be eight of us on stage,” he said.
“All of us will be dressed on stage – with costume changes, dancing and dramatic impulses. The costumes will be a mixture of Eurocentric and Allah.”
Wainwright is the son of singers Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle. He rose to popularity on the Montréal club circuit when he was in his 20s, where he won a Juno award for best alternative album.
But Wainwright doesn’t believe his success is based on his famous pedigree – though it did have some influence.
“It wasn’t like being in the Jackson 5 and my parents weren’t superstars – there was room to grow,” he said.
“I feel very fortunate to know how to operate on a stage through an infantile instinct that I practically received from my mother’s breast.”
But like many young stars, and many children of well-known parents, Wainwright’s life has not always been a bed of roses. Coming out was the cause of much grief and despair.
“I came out to myself at 14, which was quite rare back then,” he said.
“I couldn’t come out to my parents then because that would have freaked them out because of AIDS. I accepted that and started hanging out in a lot of parks.”
But that passion for beats soon caused its own problems, with Wainwright sexually assaulted in London’s Hyde Park.
“It made me not want to have sex for a long time, which in retrospect was horrific and I had to deal with the mental issues,” Wainwright said.
“It was probably not a good idea to have sex at that time but it made me concentrate on my songwriting.”
But it was his battle with drugs, particularly crystal meth, that had the biggest impact on Wainwright both personally and professionally. It was a battle he won, but only thanks to the help of friends and family – particularly Sir Elton John.
“There are no redeeming qualities with crystal and it’s not worth trying or contemplating. It’s in a league of its own,” he said.
“With gay men it targets the fear and repression and diseases and anxiety. It’s the devil.
“I don’t know if I had a near-death experience, but the emotional breakdown helped me stop.”
But life after 30 is proving a boon time for Wainwright. He plans to write many more songs and record more material which he hopes will inspire the world on to bigger and better things.
But Wainwright says he still has one major concern in his life – the insipidness of the gay community.
“It’s become dull and dumb. The unfortunate pay-off to easy access to a homosexual lifestyle is that the mystery has dissolved and you don’t have to try as hard as you used to,” he said.
“I don’t want gay men today to forget that we have this amazing heritage and intense history that shouldn’t be forgotten. There was a time gay people had to be smart to survive.”
Rufus Wainwright plays at Sydney State Theatre on Tuesday 29 and Wednesday 30 January 2008. Tickets for the 30 January concert go on sale Thursday 6 September. Bookings on www.ticketmaster.com.au.