Sobriety and jewelled inlets: Mike Hadreas interviews

I’ve been trawling the interweb for interesting interviews with MH. In this one with David Renshaw from Drowned in Sound , he talks about the difficulties of enjoying yourself in bars when you don’t drink.

DiS: How are you finding being sober?
It makes socialising hard because I don’t know how to hang out or where to go and what to do really. I mean what do you do if you don’t drink?

DiS: Drink orange juice I think…
Yeah, I mean I’ve been out a few times you get sick of Diet Coke pretty quickly, let me tell you. Bars are a very different place when you’re sober, I don’t know how I spent 37 hours at a time in there. They’re boring as SHIT.

 I know too well what this is like, having given up for four years. All that cold liquid sloshing around inside you (without the warming effects of alcohol) leaves you thoroughly chilled (not in the good way), thoroughly bored and desperate to pee every two minutes. If you drink coffee, you’re completely wired after two cups. If you drink soft drinks, all the sugar has much the same effect. You feel like a hyperactive toddler surrounded by drunk adults. Also, many people have a hyper-inflated sense of how interesting or humorous they are when they are pissed. You soon start turning down the invites and staying at home.



A particularly good interview was conducted about a year ago by email between Ruth Saxelby from Dummy and MH. I particularly like this method of interviewing, where the object is to have a conversation, not to put the interviewee on the spot about what their songs mean/how troubled their past is, etc. It is actually about the interviewee and not about how clever the journo is as an interrogator. A few extracts below.  It’s well worth reading the whole thing….

Movies turn me in to a baby sometimes. I hesitate to even mention the specific film because it is so embarrassing, but after i saw it i spent a couple weeks randomly keeling over when i thought of certain scenes. It was very dramatic. One time i was even doing the dishes. I think that is the gayest thing i have ever done, remembering movie scenes and openly weeping while doing the goddamn dishes.

I work at a department store, making keys and mixing paint for the various white people that come in demanding keys and paint. This month they are really in to the employees giving 110 percent. Its written all over everything. And if you are interested the safety topic is “Cut Prevention”

I enjoy smoking a lot. Thats probably the only thing i do consistently that i enjoy.

I made a color called “Jeweled Inlet” for a dude the other day. My manager made a comment likening the phrase to her vagina. There is also “Baby Smile” which is a really unsettling yellow. One time these two old ladies hugged me in unison after I made them a gallon of paint. I forget the name of that one. They come in all the time and act like we haven’t hugged. But i shoot them a significant glance.

I walked by a grocery store clerk that was stalking cereal and one of the boxes fell. He said “Cereal, why are you so failure to me?” Really quietly and sweet. I loved that!


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Cheap Smells?

It’s funny, if a little confusing, that the domain name is for an American discount perfume website. We have a similar one in the UK market called
Still, it’s probably a good thing Mike Hadreas didn’t decide to call himself Cheap Smells. It doesn’t really have the right ring to it…

Spot the difference…

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Always my weakness, like a simple tune*

I first heard about Perfume Genius in mid-2010, when I read a short article in a free newspaper referring to the single, Mr Peterson. The piece described the song, in admiring terms, as a highly unlikely phenomenon – a sympathetic portrait of a paedophile. I thought: “O-o-o-ka-a-a-y, so how does that work?”

I was intrigued that anyone would dare to approach such an emotive and difficult subject in this way. Maybe it’s because I live in the UK, where a slathering pack of cretinous tabloid newspapers have whipped up such a frenzy of hate over the subject that anyone who doesn’t profess a desire to ‘kill all paedos’ is suspected of being one him- or her- self. Famously, a paediatrician was once driven out of his home by a vigilante mob, who daubed ‘PAEDO’ on his front door.

I was curious enough to tear the piece out of the newspaper and later check out Perfume Genius’s MySpace page. The lucidity of what I heard – the beautiful simplicity of Mike Hadreas’s arrangements, combined with his astonishing ability as a minimalist storyteller – impressed me greatly.

I must confess that I don’t listen to a huge amount of ‘popular’ music any more. It depresses me that so many of the artists I’ve loved have quickly abandoned what (for me) made them great – their raw honesty – in their haste to show off their new-found technical skills: “Look at us! We can now play the marimbas in 11/16 time!” Thank god the Sex Pistols, New York Dolls, Joy Division, Stooges, Nick Drake et al didn’t stick together (or live) long enough to make a post-ironic jazz-funk album. At least with Bach, Janá?ek, Pärt or Górecki, you are reasonably safe in the knowledge that there isn’t going to be a ‘humorous’ calypso middle-eight.

It’s admittedly frustrating for artists when their fans don’t want them to ‘grow’ and branch out in their work. It’s also frustrating for the fans when musicians they love no longer have anything relevant to say to them. Who knows what direction Hadreas will take Perfume Genius in? Let’s just hope his astonishing ear for a story, a haunting turn of phrase and a minimal but infuriatingly catchy tune long continues to serve him.

PS: If you are a shoe gazing miserabilist and proud of it (as you should be), and you’re tempted to dabble in the world of modern/contemporary ‘classical’ music, check out Górecki’s Third Symphony – the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. I was ridiculously excited to get tickets for the world premiere of Górecki’s next major work, his Fourth Symphony, in March 2010, but the composer became ill and it wasn’t finished in time. At the concert, they performed the Third Symphony instead, and it was incredible to witness it live, but I was still very disappointed. As I feared would happen, Górecki died on November 12 last year, leaving (to my knowledge) his last work unfinished. We may never know whether his Fourth Symphony had a post-ironic jazz-funk passage…

Flo, January 2011

 *Roxy Music, Mother of Pearl. It was on the tip of your brain, wasn’t it?

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