We continue our conversation with the singer-songwriter –
whose US tour has just started – along with his producer Mark Ronson. Go here for Part 1.
BY A.D. AMOROSI
Mark Ronson has produced warm
retro R&B pop hit records for Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen. Rufus
Wainwright makes a denser operatic brand of popular music. On Out of the Game, the pair produced
something in-between with an emphasis on the poppier side of things.
BLURT: Did you guys know and meet each other casually
before you started to work together?
MARK RONSON: I was in a suit. I’m
RUFUS WAINWRIGHT: We were in the same
nightclub. He looked great in that suit. He always wears a suit. Me, I was very
casually dressed. I just wanted to hang out with him to start.
MR: We share a lot of friends. I always felt
he was someone I should know, someone I’d enjoy being around. When it finally
happened we quickly knew that we’d have a bond. I have an instinct for these
things. That’s why when we got in the
studio together, it was… immediate, you know? I remember being blown away by
seeing him at Glastonbury when he did the Judy (Garland) show. I admired
his balls for playing Judy.
RW: The balls of having no balls.
MR: In front of 40, 000 people at an
outdoor festival. That was something.
Was there something specific that you wanted from the other
RW: I’m at this point in my
life-I’m 38-where I’m trying to be a pop star, not the most famous person in
the world, but to make something more out of what I’m already doing. By the
same token I have an extremely successful, critically acclaimed career. That
side needed to be appeased as well. Mark was the full package in tending to
both sides. He has success and he’s an artist. Sonically, I wanted the warmth
and depth that he provides. I’ve
been looking for that for a while.
MR: I just had a feeling. It wasn’t just
something I wanted to pull from him. He’s got strange chords and odd time
signatures. He has such gorgeous melodies, to say nothing of that voice. I
almost couldn’t imagine what he could want from me-HE is the full package! But
there was a shot at critical credibility that he could provide me and that
You both used each other. Do each of you have a manner that
you work that was challenged by the other?
RW: Oh very much so. First off, we
did it in a very short time period-a month of recording, really. It was very
quick. Also, when he’s mixing, he usually likes to do it by himself. At one
point I just came into the rerecording suite while he was working and he smiled
and said, “Rufus I feel really uncomfortable with you in here.” Very sweet. I
left. I was apprehensive that that was how he worked. Yet when I returned to
the suite I was blown away by what I heard. It was so fast we had to develop a
new language. No time to get personal or be hurt with little ego things. We
were on a mission. That haste helped the songs, I think.
MR: After producing his own records
and doing that opera,, I thought he might be ready to relinquish something [laughs] That said, every idea he had was the best one in the room-the
orchestral arrangements, especially. I knew I might not always be in my comfort
zone but that was good.
Mark, you use the Dap-Kings as a painter would his palette.
Was there a different set of instructions for them this time out?
MR: There were, actually. The
stuff we did, say for Amy, was a sound of the ‘60s, the drums, the snap of the
horns. The tempos. With Rufus, it was more Laurel Canyon
with the sounds of the drums… softer, warmer. The guitar work on the title
tune and “Sometimes You Need” was very George Harrison sounding. I think the
Kings were challenged and excited.
RW: They did get a little nervous though
when I asked if they’d consider changing their name to the Dap Queens [laughs]
Because you guys had discussed it being such an up-tempo
album, something slow like “Candles” must have come as a surprise. How did that
change the game?
RW: That was the first track we
recorded actually – the only vocal I never touched after the demo. It was
pretty grueling and emotional. I have to say as well that Mark relinquished
much of the reins to me on that one.
MR: I knew that Rufus had an exact idea of
how it should and his instincts were spot on. Sounds like you agree as well.
That tune was really instant.
What’s the song that warranted the most work, the most of
MR: From start to finish, I‘d say
“Rashida.” It was so much a piano song and as it grew it took on more of that
Queen style grandeur. “Jericho”
was pretty involving, too.
RW: For me, because it was really a
meeting of our minds, totally on the same page. “Sometimes You Need.” I was
worried that I wanted to make every song radio friendly and Mark really
respected my particular form of neurosis and let it run wild on that song
I know you enjoyed each others sound and sartorial
splendor. What else stood out?
MR: His punctuality makes me uncomfortable.
I don’t like anyone getting to the studio before me.
RW: I’d say his indestructible hair-do. It
Go here to view Rufus Wainwright’s North American tour
[Photo Credit: Gary Nadeau]