Fragile, exuberant and gender fluid, the 30-something from Seattle proudly throws his Perfume Genius character into the arrogant face of Trump’s lawlessly pseudo virile America. This genius of flamboyant queer pop loves a bit of blusher. He wears gold roller blades and lipstick in his video for Fool and a corset in his shoot for Numéro magazine. Neither a youth marked by violence and homophobic incidents, nor his former addictions, are a secret. He is not a star despite that; he is a star because of it. “Everything I’ve been through,” he told us during his stay, “made me an outsider. And there is something magical about being an outsider; it’s an injunction to invent oneself far from the beaten track.”
“There is something magical about being an outsider”
Shirt and short GUCCI, coat CHANEL, socks FALKE, shoes CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTIN.
Obviously Perfume Genius isn’t yet Beyoncé or Bowie (with whom he shares a strange vocal beauty and assumed art of identity fluidity) but his last album Too Bright, released in 2014, established him as the herald of a sensitive glam music. Pitchfork, the American music website, declared it one of their albums of the year. His track Queen ended up on the sound track of the cult series Mr. Robot, and its video has clocked up several million views on YouTube. It’s not quite global glory, but enough, “to not have to queue anymore,” laughs the American.
No Shape is his best album yet, the most eclectic, euphoric, sexy, sensitive, explosive, febrile, exciting and alive.
Glory is wisely waiting in the wings for Mike Hadreas’s newest opus. No Shape is his best album yet, the most eclectic, euphoric, sexy, sensitive, explosive, febrile, exciting and alive. An immense pop record. “I’ve got more confident. I felt able to go beyond the simplicity of those early piano-vocal compositions.” In it Mike Hadreas evokes the galactic travels of Bowie and his avatar Ziggy Stardust, the dark guitars of The Jesus and Mary Chain, the sweaty sexuality of Prince and Sade, the folky intimacy of Devendra Banhart, the digital flights of M83, and the heart-breaking emotion of Kate Bush, Anthony and the Johnsons and Sigur Rós…
Coat DRIES VAN NOTEN, shirt VIVIENNE WESTWOOD.
And yet the young American sketches out the contours of a contemporary musical territory of his own, reacting violently to his era. His music unfolds like a triumphant march for a mixed race, queer and generous America. “It’s thanks to challenges I’ve had to deal with that I learnt compassion,” he explains with the shyness that characterises him in private. “I write for everyone who needs reassuring lyrics. So they know they’re not alone. I sing what I would have liked to have heard when I was young.”
His music unfolds like a triumphant march for a mixed race, queer and generous America.
A successful attempt to break free of any restraints, his album No Shape also sounds like an invitation to rediscover an idealised childhood. “That moment when you still have faith in your instinct, when the opinions of others haven’t yet become a prison... When I was little I just danced all the time and would just twirl all over the place. I wanted to find that way of being again. But my childhood, in the 1980's, was also movies like The NeverEnding Story and Legend. Epic fairy tales with incredible darkness. Those imaginary worlds have infused this album.”
No Shape from Perfume Genius (Matador Records/Beggars), available.
Perfume Genius will be in We Love Green Festival, 11th june.
Stylist assistant: Gaëlle Geay. Hair and make-up: Anne-Laure Farez from Trends'Studio Beauty.