Q: It's darker than that, though. You were raped.
A: It's a terrible thing I had to deal with for a long time. But it sort of saved my life, too. I needed a smack upside the head, and after the assault I didn't have sex for about 10 years. It really straightened out my loose behavior.
Q: On a far lighter note, you own lederhosen custom-made by a 25th-generation Austrian artisan. Is that the most indulgent thing you've splurged on?
A: I bought an $11,000 brooch the other day. It's gold with Mexican sapphires, from the fifties. It's very beautiful. I realized after my mother's death that, in the mourning process, luxury becomes really important. It's a part of the brain related to loss and eternity and death, wanting fine things that will last.
Q: You wrote an opera—with a French libretto, no less. What's the biggest misconception people have about opera?
A: That it's boring. Yes, I think there's a hump you have to get over, but if you stick it out, it'll get more exciting. There's murder, intrigue, infanticide, lots of sex, lots of death. It's great.
Q: The new album is your sparest, most stripped-down release yet. Are you entering a mellower phase?
A: After writing the opera and doing my Judy Garland–cover concert—after I'd dazzled and wowed for a few years—I wanted to just hit 'em with a bullet. Just me and a piano. And it's in keeping with the times, too. We're in a recession. Things everywhere are being stripped down. You have to go with that.
Q: You've joked about wanting busts of yourself erected around the world. Do you wish you were more famous?
A: There is a bust available on my website. It was originally a tongue-in-cheek idea of making little plastic busts people could buy at my shows, but those turned out to be more expensive to produce, so there are these huge sandstone Rufus busts you can put in your garden. I don't know. I think I've done a pretty fantastic job, but of course I want to sell millions of records. I bemoan the fact that all my famous friends have places in St. Bart's and I have to go to Montauk.
Q: You do have a hard-core fanbase. What's the craziest thing a fan has ever given you?
A: A few years ago, this woman, God bless her, who must have been experiencing a nervous breakdown, abandoned her children and started following our bus. At one point, in order to get backstage, she made us a crate of pumpkin preserves. We didn't eat any of it. It was probably laced with roofies and Ecstasy.