Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Censored musical genius

Perfume Genius on homophobia, battling YouTube and oily pornstars

"I was a weird, very gay child," says Mike Hadreas, aka Perfume Genius.
There is no big gay secret with indie darling Perfume Genius.
“If I was mysterious about my gayness I think that would be really shitty of me to do, and I don’t want to do that,” says 30-year-old Mike Hadreas, aka Perfume Genius, about his approach to writing the songs for his sophomore album Put Your Back N 2 It. “I’m gay, so when I write love songs or songs about my life it just happens.”
Featuring heartbreaking and haunting songs about substance abuse, self-hatred, romance and homophobia, Hadreas’s critically acclaimed record is being hyped as one of the best releases of 2012.  
“There are people who think maybe it wasn’t the best idea to make an album that everyone could think was this big gay statement, but whatever — I think it’s bullshit. People just respond to people doing their own thing,” Hadreas says.
“After my first album I got lots of letters from people in and out of the closet saying that I was helpful to them when it came to processing things. I had lots of heavy exchanges that I thought about while writing this album. I also thought about what kind of stuff I could have related to when I was a kid, something unapologetically gay.”
In his late 20s, Hadreas moved from New York to live with his mother in Everett, Washington, in order to shake drug and alcohol problems. Once there he began making music, something he’d always wanted to do.
“I was a weird, very gay child. I didn’t have an easy go other people weren’t that into it,” he says. “There’s this video of me at my fifth birthday where I made everyone watch me dance with this veil to a Gloria Estefan song. All the parents were watching, laughing and trying to cover their mouth, but I was dead serious. Listening to music and performing was always an escape, but I guess there’s finally space in my head to do it.”
Hadreas’s tender and bizarre music video, featuring burly gay pornstar Arpad Miklos, made headlines earlier this year when YouTube banned and then eventually reposted it.
“I knew I wanted two men to be in it, and I knew I wanted one of them to be unavoidably or stereotypically masculine so people didn’t think it was too cutesy or sweet,” Hadreas says about the “Hood” video in which a shirtless Hadreas and Miklos embrace. “He was very oiled up, so when I was leaning on him I was slowly sliding off and lip-synching, so we had to do that a bunch.”
Hadreas points out that more people ended up watching the video in the end, and he was happy the music community, including REM’s Michael Stipe, jumped to his defence.
“I guess it’s because we could have sex with each after those 16 seconds are over that it’s not appropriate,” jokes Hadreas. “I’m just used to things like that happening — I think all gay people are — in that people tell you, ‘No, you can’t do that,’ and you’re like, ‘Whatever.’
“The thing I get the most angry about is when people are like, ‘Why are you in my face about it? Why are you flaunting your gayness?’ Straight people are doing it all the time; straight stuff makes up like 90 percent of what’s out there. If anything, this whole thing made me want to make an even gayer promo ad. The next thing I do will be like . . . dicks bouncing or something.”

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