ARTICLE GREG KRELENSTEIN
WITH HIS OWN SIGNATURE SOUND OF OPERATIC POP, RUFUS WAINWRIGHT HAS ALWAYS MARCHED TO THE BEAT OF HIS OWN WITTY AND TORTURED DRUM. THIS WEEK HE CELEBRATES THE RELEASE OF BOTH VIBRATE: THE BEST OF RUFUS WAINWRIGHT, COMPOSED OF TRACKS FROM HIS SIX STUDIO ALBUMS PLUS A NEW SONG—"ME AND LIZA"—AND A BLU RAY AND ACCOMPANYING ALBUM OF HIS LIVE FROM THE ARTISTS DEN PERFORMANCE, ORIGINALLY BROADCAST ON PBS.
HERE, WE SPEAK TO RUFUS ABOUT NAUGHTY NIGHTS IN THE CHELSEA AND WHY HE'S STILL WAITING ON BJÖRK TO RETURN HIS CALL.
Selecting the songs for the Best Of... must have been a challenge as there's so many incredible and diverse songs within your body of work. Can you describe the process?
RUFUS WAINWRIGHT I got a lot of help from my friend Neil Tennant from the Pet Shop Boys. He's not only super smart but super instinctive in terms of what a general audience can take. He made the initial list, then I came in and tweaked it up to my somewhat too-high standards.
Though I love all of the different Rufus eras, Poses will always be my touchstone. What are your favorite anecdotes from the recording in the Chelsea Hotel and going out in New York in a more debaucherous time?
RW Well, I guess I lived in the Chelsea Hotel during the last gasp of its legendary notoriety: one of the Ramones sadly died there of an overdose during my stay. Luckily, I fared better, but it was pretty touch and go. In the end I must admit that I gained a lot from the darkness, but from always focusing on the light. The good light, not the train at the end of the tunnel.
Are you still in touch with Natasha Lyonne [about whom "Natasha" on Want One was written]?
RW Natasha is quite possibly the most incredible woman I know. Both her brilliant professional career, but most importantly her inspiring personal voyage, remains a constant source of inspiration. She's also, along with Carrie Fisher, one of the two funniest women on the planet.
Working with Mark Ronson on "Out of the Game" and Robbie Williams's single, "Swing Both Ways" were such interesting departures after the more operatic tunes on the preceding records. Are there other pop producers or artists in mind you would like to collaborate with in the future?
RW I keep saying Björk but the bitch never gets back to me! Does she speak English?
From your collaborations with Viktor & Rolf and Marc Jacobs, high fashion has also been a big part of your career. Is this something you hope to revisit again?
RW My belly is frightened by the fashion, which is good. I have a trainer on the road and am looking forward to boyish cuts.
Are there any other projects you have upcoming that you think will be included on your Best Of in the next 20 years?
RW I'm writing another opera about the Emperor Hadrian. I hope that a couple of arias make it on my Best Of in 200 years.
photography alex lake, courtesy of the artist