Perfume Genius

Mike Hadreas talks to Dazed about his music and tells us how the dark periods of his life make his work so much more emotive

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Perfume Genius aka Mike Hadreas is the Seattle-based musician who has gained a covetable reputation as one of the most original and interesting songwriters’ currently making ripples on the music scene. Like his underrated debut album, Learning, Hadreas’ latest album, Put Your Back N 2 It, has all the hallmarks of his work to date.  

I wanted a bodybuilder to embrace me, to show me tenderness. I wanted a stereotypically masculine guy to be the one showing this sensitivity

There is darkness, an off-kilter yet totally alluring charm, and a healthy dose of self-loathing put together in such a salient way you get lost in the layers of his sound. Hadreas has cleverly mastered putting together an album that will compel you to keep listening to it over and over, and each time he offers you something new, whilst carving out his niche: making sad music really beautiful.  

Dazed Digital: Making the second album, were you faced with the inevitable pressure of trying to out-do the début?
Perfume Genius: Certainly felt that way to me – was fairly paralysing at first – the expectation. But I got over it soon enough, when I really thought about who I was writing for, who I wanted the songs to comfort and soothe, instead of writing for everyone in general. I certainly hope everyone in general will have be moved by the music, but I think if I wrote with that big of an intention it would come off as an after-school special, too heavy handed. 

DD: When you write a song is it a purely personal thing or do you think about how what you’re saying will be interpreted?
Perfume Genius: Sort of flops back and forth. Or starts one way and ends another. Sometimes I will start a song for my friend and end up patching in a few of my experiences (sorry friends!) or the reverse will happen. I think of how the people involved in the songs will react. Then I tweak them a bit so the point will come across to more people than Heather.

DD: You've talked previously about being totally derailed by life during a period when you were kind of out of control. Do you think the rawness of your personal experiences helps you channel and express emotion in your music more effectively?
Perfume Genius: I certainly hope so. It would be nice to have some sort of benefit from all that bullshit. I think sometimes you can see the good more clearly when you have been on the opposite side. You can come out more compassionate, more honest, more desperate. But all that icky past, all the shame and blah, blah, blah – it needs somewhere to go too. I guess I am trying to fit all that in the songs.

DD: How did the concept for your video to 'Hood' come about?
Perfume Genius: I wanted a bodybuilder to embrace me, to show me tenderness. I wanted a stereotypically masculine guy to be the one showing this sensitivity. Then I bought a Freddy Krueger glove, there was a lot of back and forth with the director. Eye shadow, the wig in my bedroom, it was fun. I am pretty proud of it. It is very sweet. Arpad did a really good job. 

DD: Did you know Arpad Miklos was some super famous pornstar? Was it intentional to cast him as that part in the video?
Perfume Genius: We were having a hard time finding a bodybuilder willing to hold me while I lip-synced for two minutes. Arpad had time in front of the camera, an ample amount of chest hair and that willingness. It was awesome and worked out great; he has an intense and steady gaze. I have never seen his work, before or since, which apparently is some sort of gay miracle because everyone else has.

DD: What's next? What have you got planned for the rest of 2012? When will you be touring the UK?
Perfume Genius: Very soon! The shows are selling well too which is awesome, you guys should call my homeland and tell them what’s up. After UK/Europe it is festival time, which is a very fun time. I am pumped for summer. It has been shit here in Seattle, a dreary dark mess.  

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