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Rufus Wainwright on addiction struggles: ‘I have a very fond place in my heart for drugs’

The music legend reflects on overcoming drug and alcohol addiction in the Attitude August issue.

By Thomas Stichbury

Music legend Rufus Wainwright has always been an open book about his well-documented battle with alcohol and drugs.

As the saying goes, it is all about the journey, not the destination, and the singer says he was able to “grow” from the experience.

In a candid interview in the Attitude August issue – out now to download and to order globally – Rufus, 46, revisits that chapter of his life.

“I have a very fond place in my heart [for] drugs in the sense that I wholly admit and admire and champion in a lot of ways the decadent history of the gay male world”, he says.

Photography: Tony Hauser

“It is something that I still find fascinating and important, culturally, the battles and the triumphs and the tragedies that that holds,” he begins.

The Judy Garland fanatic and former enfant terrible adds that he turned a corner once he kicked his vices.

“It is fascinating to enter that spectrum and to experience that and to go through that – which I did wholeheartedly – but what’s more fascinating is to get out of it and to grow through that.

“[However], I do think this is a problem, especially today for some reason, of certain gay men getting really stuck in that whirlpool and not using the energy that is allotted to them by decadence to grow,” he ponders.

Photography: Tony Hauser

Back with his ninth studio album Unfollow the Rules, out now, Rufus returns to the ‘theme’ of addiction on the song ‘Early Morning Madness.’

“It was about drinking too much and feeling like s***, and then having to get back onto that rollercoaster, day in, day out.

“I don’t really drink any more – I haven’t for a long time – [but] I still have those early-morning madness moments. You’re nowhere near out of the woods,” he explains.

Asked if he still feels the push-and-pull effect of addiction after all these years, Rufus maintains that “you always do.”

“Not as brutally as when, you know, you’re just stepping away from it – or jumping out of a window from it!” he exclaims.

Rufus – son of late Canadian singer Kate McGarrigle – argues that artistry and substance abuse are linked.

“It returns, the dark dreams, and it’s very much tied to my sensibilities as an artist,” he continues. “There is no mystery that singers, painters and musicians… [have] a need to double [down] on all the heavy elements that life has to offer, death and destruction being one of them.”

Currently living in Laurel Canyon, in Los Angeles, with his partner Jörn Weisbrodt and daughter Viva, Rufus is thankful that he has a network of loved ones around him.

“Having such great people in my life as my husband, my daughter – we’re a very close-knot family – I have the support around me that is needed,” he says.

Rufus Wainwright’s new album Unfollow the Rules is out now. The Attitude August issue is out now to download and to order globally.

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