With a title like Put Your Back N 2 It, you’d think the new Perfume Genius album would be all booty bass or hip-hop. But Mike Hadreas’s second record comprises intimate mumble-pop as only a seen-it-all gay kid could do. He might sing about brutal things, but the 28-year-old wields plaintive empathy rather than shock-value tactics to explore dark realms. We chatted to him about making misery a muse and what it was like to be pawed by a porn star.
“AWOL Marine,” came to you after watching homemade porn featuring an older guy and young hustlers.
I tried to put soul into a situation that I thought was soulless. But saying that could be kind of disrespectful to the dudes in those videos -- maybe they were totally fine afterwards or had a good time and it was rude of me to think, Oh, those poor guys…
What was it like working with porn star Arpad Miklos in your video for “Hood?”
I wanted someone really masculine-looking. Because if it’s just me and my boyfriend, you know, we’re kind of boyish, and they’ll just think it’s cute or emo or something. I wanted someone really male-looking to be kind of tender. I hoped that would make the people that I wanted to make uncomfortable more uncomfortable.
Is “Take Me Home” about a hooker?
Hookerish activities. The kind of thing where you wake up every day and only have one goal, and you just need to get what you need. It can become this weird cycle, and you don’t realize that you’re just going one direction, and how aimless and gross it is. I would think about that sometimes when I’d go to sleep. Like, what if I was sort of lifted up and I could see the pattern as it was happening?
The darker moments of your life almost seem like muses when it comes to the music you create.
I wouldn’t appreciate things now if I didn’t know the opposite end. I wouldn’t be where I am right now if it wasn’t for that. Sometimes I’ll think, What if I stayed in school? What if I got sober eight years earlier? What would my life look like? Who knows, it could be a million times better, but it wouldn’t be what I’ve got going on right now.
“17” is basically a gay suicide letter.
When you’re a teenager, you’re convinced that your problems are worse than everyone else’s, or more dark or more dirty or gross. And I still feel like that sometimes, and I’m not a teenager anymore. I sometimes wonder if I’m exploiting something that happened, but it’s more that I feel like if I really talk about it, then it can come up from wherever it’s hiding, and after I talk about it, it’ll kind of fizzle out. And that if I didn’t, it would just be a knot that I carry around.
If music is the soundtrack of our lives, whose life is this album the soundtrack for?
Well, the intent of the album is, I was listening to a lot of old soul music and music I grew up with, and I remember I couldn’t 100% relate to it. I could relate to almost all of it, but then I could always convince myself that I was different enough that the song wasn’t about me. And so, I guess I just wrote this album for other really weird little gay dudes across the country. And so it’d probably be for some kid wiping his mom’s makeup off when she comes in the door, really quickly, and then going back to his room like he never did that. That’d be one of the scenes.