Perfume Genius: "I Think All Gay Men Are Used To People Saying No To Them, To People Not Giving Them Choices."
Mike Hadreas, aka Perfume Genius, is a talented, young singer-songwriter who has made quite a mark with his sophomore effort, Put Your Back N 2 It. However, the release was not without controversy.
Perfume Genius' 16-second ad for the new album was deemed inappropriate by YouTube because it featured the singer being held by a gay porn star. The ensuing hullabaloo confused Hadreas as much as anyone, since he comes across as rather shy and introverted and is just happy anyone likes his music. He spoke with us about that and more in preview of tonight's show at Dan's Silverleaf.
How did you come up with your moniker?
I was watching a movie called Perfume. The book is really good, but the movie is really bad. My friend was making fun of it. He kept calling this obese guy a perfume genius. When I started putting my songs up on MySpace, I didn't know what was going to happen. I actually didn't put much thought into a name and just quickly used Perfume Genius. But then people started listening and I was kind of stuck with it. There certainly wasn't a lot of planning.
Is the opposite Stinky Moron?
That would be a good name, too. There's something there to work with.
Why not just use your real name, Mike Hadreas?
I don't know. Even with my press photos, I've always wanted to cover up my face. It's different now than in the beginning when I was shy. I still like not using my real name, though. I might not like the actual words, but I like the way they look in print. Plus, my last name is hard to pronounce.
Your music is often labeled indie-pop or chamber-pop. What do you think of those labels?
I have no idea what chamber-pop means. Chamber would seem imply bigger and I don't really have that much going on. Indie-pop is alright, I suppose.
It's been written that your music is fragile. Do you agree?
I get that. Fragile is the most common way my music is described. My music is quavering. I'm getting better at that. I don't know if I quaver as much. I am a shy person.
Do you suffer from stage fright?
Hell yes I do. I have different ways of combating that. I've tried a lot of things that haven't worked.
Your promotional video for your new album was banned by YouTube. What was your reaction?
To be honest, I don't understand why it was banned. I knew that my videos can make people uncomfortable, but the ad is just a 16-second clip that I thought was kind of sappy, almost too sweet. I think all gay men are used to people saying no to them, to people not giving them choices.
Isn't it hypocritical of YouTube to ban your video, but offer so many others that show heterosexuals engaged provocatively?
Of course, and that song ["Hood"] I was playing in the video is about my reluctance to be affectionate with my boyfriend in public. It's weird that that song is playing in the clip and the ad is deemed not family friendly.
What is family friendly?
I don't know. Perhaps Rihanna's side boobs are family friendly.
Why did you move from New York to Seattle?
Well, I actually moved to Everett, my mom's house. I just couldn't hack in a bunch of different ways in New York. I was doing a lot of drugs and drinking. I realized that, at the very least, I needed to change where I was and get myself healthy. That fully didn't work, but I still manage to do the same things and be healthy living with my mom. It was a first step of me getting sober.
Does your mom like your music?
She does like it. At first, my parents didn't know what to think, especially my dad. He is very business-oriented and wanted proof that it was a legitimate thing that I was doing. He wanted to know that I could actually make a career out of music. When my second album came out, he was very pumped because it was recorded well.
Why did you record the album in England?
I was put in contact with [producer] Drew Morgan and he knew what I wanted. He brought some great ideas to my songs, like using a string section. He just kept me pumped up.
One critic wrote that your songs sound as if they came from someone who has been through troubles and can comfort others. Do you agree?
Yes, I hope so. I've never been as purposeful or given so much effort in my life.
Do you think your songs might be too dark and confessional?
No, I don't. There's a fine line you have to walk. You don't want to be overly self-indulgent. It's like talking about your dreams. No one wants to hear that. Even if it comes from some place that's really personal, I try to step back a little bit. It's got to be about more than me. It's not that I wouldn't base a song on fictitious stuff, but most things are about my personal experiences or a patchwork of what has happened to me and my friends.
Would you consider yourself a role model for gay teenagers?
I don't know if I am a role model, but I've had young kids write to me. I try to write songs that I wish I would have heard when I was younger. It's kind of strange to think of yourself as a role model. That wouldn't be a bad job.
Do you enjoy writing about taboo subjects such as pedophilia?
I like taking on things that I didn't deal with very well. I like to write songs that are compassionate. I am not reliving some horrible memory. The way I have prepared it is a little more respectful and adult.