Rufus Wainwright has learned the lesson about the studio : this is not the duration that counts, it is more the quality of time you spend there.
July 2, 2020
Updated 4 July 2020 to 4h16
The inspiring disobedience of Rufus Wainwright
Rufus Wainwright is not one to hide his desires to explore, leaves to dare projects more sharp. Mine of nothing, the author-composer-interpreter who grew up in Montreal had not trod on a scene pop over the last eight years. He is back July 10 with Unfollow the Rules, an album teeming in three acts with which he has revisited his roots, in particular by returning to the studio in california where he had immortalized his songs founding, in 1998.
We joined Rufus Wainwright before the public health crisis : anticipated in April, with the release of her album has been postponed because copies of the physical album, which the musician holds a lot, were also confined in a warehouse.
Interview with a creator that keeps a foot in tradition, but who has the eyes turned towards the future.
Q It’s been a while that we hadn’t heard new pop songs of your own. Is it that you lacked?
R I have had a few interesting journeys in the meantime. I took the time to devote myself to my approach to operatic. I worked on the sonnets of Shakespeare… I have not been idle, I’ve worked constantly. But what’s good to be back in the world of pop, it is to see that the detours I’ve taken, even if they could be made to look like suicides to professionals, I do not believe that they have been in vain. I’ve learned new languages music through them. It has allowed me to come back with new tools in the writing of songs and also in the production. I feel a bit like a Robin hood of art. I went to the opera, and I am left with the gems… even if they may be fake!
Q You seem to invite us to disobedience with this title, Unfollow the Rules. This is the case?
R I stole this reply to our daughter. A few years ago, it was proclaimed with much attitude that she no longer wanted to follow the rules. I found the twist interesting, it stayed with me. I see a side of old, in this idea of re-examine those traditions that are there since always and question their existence. We can talk about gay rights or women… there are so many things that are changing now at a level that is so deep. Stop following the rules is a necessary exercise to trace the source of what is really happening.
The other hand, it is also an expression very current. We stop to follow people on Facebook or on Instagram. There is a digital component to this phrase. I think it shows well in this kind of battle between the past and the future.
Q What was the starting point for this new album?
R While I was working in opera, I’ve written a lot of pop songs like a kind of liberation of the chains of the theatrical world. The last song of the album, Alone Time, is probably one of the first that I have written. It is also one of the first I recorded for this album.
Q This piece suggests a work of vocal harmonies. But you are the only one singing, isn’t it?
R Yes. It is a kind of tribute to Brian Wilson. It was going with the concept of making an album in Los Angeles using these traditional places and sometimes the same musicians who played on those great albums, like the drummer Jim Keltner. But I would say that Brian Wilson is probably the king of this castle. It was good of him to lift my hat at the end, lining up all these tracks with my voice.
Q You have chosen to return to the Los Angeles studio where you recorded your first album…
R Yes. At the time, we spent several months in this studio. When I look back with the benefit of hindsight, it was cost monstrous. I can’t even believe that it happened… But I was so naive at the time, I didn’t account. The result was that I had to pay for it. I had to pay back the record company.
For this album, we was in the same studio, but for only two days. We did most of the work with my producer, Mitchell Froom. But for large sessions, when we were looking for this sound more classical, we went to this great studio. For me, it is a kind of lesson. This is not the duration that counts, it is more the quality of time you spend there.
Q Why was it important to you to go back in the studio?
R a personal point of view, it allowed me to re-examine my foundation, to see a little bit how I became the musician I am today.
But there’s also the fact that many of these places are dismantled. There is a whole heritage that is threatened today in Los Angeles. Currently, with technology, we can make an album in our basement. The idea of going to these sacred places that are completely dedicated to the music is lost a little. There are certainly things super that check-in lounges, bedrooms and especially bathrooms. But I’m still betting that there is a spirit, a sound quality and durability that comes with the good old recording studios.
Q In this era where music is consumed a lot online, often simple, the idea of putting forward a full album, pressed on vinyl, you always seduces?
R When I am back in the studio, the idea came very much with the concept of the album. We were going to do a cycle of 12 songs that will snap up the listener and bring him into a journey that will allow him to blend in a universe. This is more often the case these days. There is a culture of the simple, which is dictated by the immediacy and by the digital. There are also good ones in there, I don’t want to have the air of a grumpy old man. But personally, I still believe in the magic of the albums.