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Perfume Genius Discusses New LP
John Freeman , February 13th, 2012 11:00

The Return of the Professional Moper: Mike Hadreas of Perfume Genius discusses the making of his new album Put Your Back N 2 It.

Back in 2010, a debut album entitled Learning by Perfume Genius laid bare the tortured psyche of its creator, Mike Hadreas. His hymnal, confessional ballads were stunningly simple and deeply affecting. Having since signed to the formidable Matador label in America, the Seattle-based singer-songwriter is now set to release a follow-up album, Put Your Back N 2 It. Recorded in a full studio under the nurturing gaze of producer Drew Morgan, the new set of songs are cleaner, sharper while still possessing a shimmering window into Hadreas’ soul. When we catch up with Mike he is starting a press tour of Europe. Apparently, Perfume Genius is “big in Belgium” which seems to delight him. Hadreas is wearing a voluminous fake fur coat, so we sit out in the winter air and chat about Put Your Back N 2 It. The juiciest scoop we get is that he watched 104 episodes of Xena - Warrior Princess while making the album. And, yes, he did keep count.

Did you initially have a specific idea of how you wanted your new album to sound?

Mike Hadreas: Originally, yeah, but nothing happened from that. I was gonna make the ‘best album ever’ and it will be ‘really cool’ and ‘people are gonna love it’ and then nothing came out. I got all worried and self-conscious and anxious and I just gave up, pretty much. I realised that I was just gonna make what I was gonna make and pay attention to things I’ve always paid attention to, and throw away anything that came from a fake place.

How different was the writing process compared to that for Learning?

MH: For Learning it was a little different as I was isolated at my mom's and that was really all I was doing. Now, I live with my partner and I have friends that come over. So, my life is fuller even if I spend most of it in my apartment.

For the first time, you recorded the album in a studio – how was the experience?

MH: Well, for the first album things came from mistakes I made and just really weird experiments I’d do when no one was there, that I would never want anyone to see. I was scared I wouldn’t be able to do that in the studio, and that with people watching me I would hold back. I made sure that all the people I worked with were very understanding.

You worked with producer Drew Morgan. What made you choose him?

MH: I originally wrote to John Parrish and he was doing something else, so he suggested Drew. Drew wrote to me and was very excited and, you know, excitement is good. He was deadly serious and very sweet.

The new songs sound more hopeful than many of those on Learning. Was that a deliberate choice?

MH: What’s weird is that I was a lot happier writing that first album; it was the happiest I had been for a long time. But, on this album it all caught up with me. I realised I had to be a responsible adult. I still felt like such a baby. I was depressed and saddened but I wanted to make sure I didn’t write from any of that at all.

It sounds like you succeeded.

MH: Yeah, but between the hopeful songs there was some pretty dreary stuff.

Is the title a nod towards Prince-style text-speak?

MH: And a little bit of a Sinead O'Connor thing too. ‘Nothing Compares 2 U was Prince’s, but her version is probably one of my favourite songs.

Do you feel like music is your career now?

MH: Yeah, it feels like a career. It has given me purpose and I have never felt like that before. It is a little weird because I am home a lot, and when I am at home I just mope around and stuff. I definitely could be a professional moper. I’m really good at it.

Is there anything bad about your new career?

MH: Whatever downsides you think there may be are just bullshit. I cannot think of one downside. I’m very convinced that I am not cool and I kind of love that about myself. There’s going to be no swagger in anything I do.

Have you begun to think about how a third album might sound?

MH: It always ends up being the exact opposite of what I thought it might be. For a weird reason I was gonna make a depressing dance album. So, who knows? I’m glad I don't have to think about it for a while.

Put Your Back In 2 It is available via Organs/Turnstile from 20th February.