Mike’s Muses: The Women Behind Perfume Genius
By Hello Mr.
Photos by Richard Perez
“I wear whatever the hell I want! I've spent too much time worried about how I look, and how I seem to other people.” Mike Hadreas’ words from issue 05 seemed to resonate when we saw him perform as Perfume Genius in New York City March 19, at Stage 48 for his biggest audience to the date. He is wearing fishnet stockings, an oversize Betty Boop shirt-dress, and the coral red shellac manicure he planned for in our interview.
Mike’s performance style is something you’ve never seen before. If you were lucky to catch him on his tour already, you get a gold star. If you’re catching him in Europe this summer, you’ve probably already booked your tickets to see him live (a wise choice). Though you could possibly guess from his style and sound, much of Mike’s inspiration comes from a collection of very strong women. For issue 05, we sat down with Mike to ask him about his muses (among other things), and we feel it’s only appropriate that we share a little more from the full-length interview about his heroines who, let’s be honest, we’re pretty in love with too.
Mike Hadreas has pointed to the angsty singer-songwriter many times as a key source of inspiration for his most recent album Too Bright and has even played with John Parish in the past, a former drummer for the lady PJ herself.
“I'm so obsessed with PJ Harvey and especially in this last album too. I kind of called upon her a lot while I was writing.”
If you don’t follow Mike on Twitter, we strongly suggest you do so now. Not only is he wickedly funny, but he frequently retweets Cher, an on-brand goddess and social media anomaly inspiring his eccentric wit.
“She's super good at Twitter… She's got some really choice tweets.”
When Mike Hadreas does covers, he often omits the chorus and plays the verses plus the bridge. As a part of his usual set, Mike pays his homage to Sade singing “By Your Side,” and has gone on record saying he will stop being friends with someone if he finds out they don’t like her. Valid.
“I cover a Sade song sometimes…. There's such a rich smoothness – smoothness, like no one can even get close to the smoothness.”
Mike refers to the British heart-jerker as a pop artist who mainstreams their lyrics with vague pronouns and straight-accessible love stories. Though Mike politely refuses to do so with his own work, it does not stop him from loving dear Adele.
“People have been telling me for a long time to go more of the Adele route – that's not shade to Adele because I'm obsessed with her as you know.”
A watershed moment in Mike’s teendom, he often says that buying his first Liz Phair album is one of the reasons his music is so “controversial.”
“I got a Liz Phair album when I was thirteen. And, you know, it was really dirty and nasty and unapologetic. I had never heard someone talk about sucking dick or something. I had never heard someone sing a song about it in a way that was shameless.”
Mike’s mom is super important to his life and career, and as it turns out, her musical taste affected him too.
“I actually went to a Bonnie Raitt concert with my mother…. She pointed at my mom because my mom has the same hair as Bonnie Raitt – my mom's a redhead. She isn't really doing it anymore, but she used to sport a white strip on the side just like Bonnie. But my mom and her shared a moment at the show. My mom would play her records all the time. I didn't always love all the music my mom played, but I really liked Bonnie Raitt.”
Yet another musical influence passed down by Mike’s mother. When he says he likes Annie Lennox, he means it.
“A lot of [my mom’s records] would be adult contemporary type music... like Annie Lennox's stuff. Not in an ironic way at all. You know what I mean? Like when I say I liked an Annie Lennox song, it's not in a jokey way at all. Like I'm fucking serious.”
To read the full article, order issue 05 now on our shop.
Richard Perez is an artist and photographer currently living in New York City.