Genius no stranger to controversy
Genius no stranger to controversy

Seattle-based singer/songwriter Mike Hadreas, better known as Perfume Genius, doesn't take long to bring up his sexuality in our 15-minute interview. Not that he's overt about it; he just talks freely from the outset.

"I'm in Rochester, New York," he begins. "Upstate, visiting my boyfriend's family. It's really pretty wholesome up here . . ."

He laughs as he trails off, indicating that "wholesome" isn't something he's entirely comfortable with. You wouldn't imagine it either, given his lyrics, which traverse characters doing porn to raise money for loved ones' operations, incestuous grandfathers and, most affectingly, the idea of two gay men being comfortable holding one another's hand walking down the street, on the transcendental All Waters.

It's comforting knowing, perhaps due to the success Hadreas has enjoyed across two confronting and excellent records - 2010's Learning and last year's Put Your Back N2 It - and perhaps a bit of personal growth in between, that the man who so eloquently laid his fears bare on All Waters is also at ease with his sexuality.

Hadreas is no stranger to controversy. The video for his single Hood was deemed "non-family safe" by YouTube in America. The crime? Depicting two men without their shirts in a non-sexual embrace.

"It was bizarre," Hadreas says. "I was surprised that something so sweet was seen as inappropriate. If anything I thought that people would just roll their eyes and think it was too corny.

"And it made me angry but a lot more people saw it, so I know that made my publicist happy. It really has the opposite effect of what it's trying to do.

"If people tell me that I'm too gay or something, it just makes me want to do something even more insane next time. I mean, they have no idea how family inappropriate I can get.

"I don't want to do everything as an act of rebellion either. But I can't help get a little rebellious when things like that happen.

"At least some people were upset about it. That's pretty cool, when I got that email saying it was inappropriate I wasn't expecting other people to speak up and say that's not right. I mean, I'm sure 10 years ago nobody would be outraged. It's pretty awesome."

For his first Perth performance, mid-afternoon in Laneway's Spiegeltent, Perfume Genius will expand to a three-piece band.

"I have a drummer (Eric Corson) who's coming and my boyfriend Alan (Wyffels) plays synths and does harmonies with me," Hadreas says. "Before it was just me and Alan so it was very simple, but now it's like a show, I guess."


The West Australian

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