For Perfume Genius’ Mike Hadreas, casting a porn star in his new video wasn’t a choice surrounding shock-value; it had more to do with a sensitive/masculine dichotomy. “People don’t think that you can be masculine and strong at the same time and I feel like being vulnerable is being more of a man,” he tells Hive. So Hadreas, whose heart-staggering piano ballads can feel fragile and delicate, set out to challenge ideas of masculinity in his music video for “Hood,” a single from his upcoming album Put Your Back N 2 It. Initially banned from YouTube in its promo version for “promoting sexually mature themes,” the video sees the 30-year old in a half-naked embrace with veteran porn star Arpad Miklos. Like Hadreas’ sense of humor, it wavers between solemn and playful but never approaches the mundane. Perfume Genius recounted working with Arpad, his favorite episode of Intervention, and sharing a shuttle ride in Spain with Odd Future.
How did you get in contact with Arpad Miklos?
I wanted someone really huge and stereotypically masculine so it would be clear that it was a “man” to everyone else showing tenderness towards another man. My management were having a hard time finding a bodybuilder that was willing to to put makeup on me and brush my hair so they reached out to Arpad because he’s an actor.
How familiar were you with him before the video?
I wasn’t familiar at all and my friends think I’m full of shit but I don’t tend to watch professional porn. I watch amateur, not-so-well-lighted porn. Arpad’s porn is way too classy for me, I think.
He’s going to have a whole new fan base now.
I heard that some straight indie dudes recognized him on the subway and I love that it happened, that they know who Arpad is. They should know who he is.
It seems like you guys were really connecting on screen.
I wasn’t expecting that kind of intensity when I was watching the playback. I really resisted it because I’m not comfortable connecting with people in general — even though that’s what I’m always trying to do. The video is about that, and it happened while we were making it. [Arpad and I] cracked up a lot. I would go into a room and get all dolled up and come out like, “Okay, I’m ready,” pointing at things. I showed off my Janet Jackson pose. It was pretty fun but I was also dead serious.
How humorous did you intend for the video to be?
Humor and seriousness are really close together for me. I was watching Intervention yesterday and there’s this scene that I was hysterically laughing at but the day before I might have been in tears about it. Things that are funny to me come from the same place [as sadness]. Some people need things to be 100%. I don’t believe that’s necessary. Things can be funny and sweet and serious [at the same time], multi-tiered like a wedding cake.
Do you watch Intervention regularly?
Oh yeah, I’ve seen almost every episode. I have my favorites. Have you seen “Where are my babies?” This alcoholic [Sylvia] was outside on the patio and just screaming, “Where are my babies?” over and over. I also love the girl that inhales duster. She is not playing a game at all. I’m also crying the whole time at every single episode.
The worst ones are when people ultimately refuse the help.
It happens all of the time. The likelihood of someone getting sober and staying sober is pretty slim.
“I do worry that people won’t listen to my music because I’m a homo, but I’m not writing music for people who aren’t smart enough to relate to my songs. My songs are kind of universal.”
Speaking of being sober, do you feel like you’re in a pretty stable place for the foreseeable future?
No, but when I think that is when things start to get kind of dangerous. If I think I’m healed then I’m not actively trying to be aware of [my choices]. I really want to be able to do music and take the opportunities that I have. I wouldn’t if I was wasted. I would stay sober even if my music was gone.
Where did you get the idea to do the Freddy Krueger scene in the video?
I just really like Freddy Krueger. I’ve always been really scared of him but also obsessed with him at the same time.
Are you a big fan of horror movies?
I watch horror movies almost exclusively and I have a really strong stomach because of it. I almost had to turn off the French movie Martyrs. My boyfriend [Alan] stormed out of the room and we got into a big fight about it. It was serious, too, because he thought I was really sick for watching it. I can’t recommend it to anyone but I stayed up and finished it after he went to bed.
Was your boyfriend helping out behind the scenes at the video shoot?
No, he had to work so I flew out to New York for two nights to shoot it. I didn’t want to make him uncomfortable — even though I was uncomfortable — so I tried to involve him as much as I could in the casting. It’s not a normal situation when your boyfriend flies across the country to make a movie with a porn star.
Did he have any doubts?
I’m sure that he did but he knew they weren’t going to happen. It’d be different if the video was sexual but it isn’t. I wanted the video to be sweet.
How much do you want your sexual orientation to be a part of the conversation surrounding your music?
I want to talk about it but also have it not be a big deal at the same time. If I didn’t talk about it that would be shameful or disrespectful, and I can be a little defensive about [my sexual orientation]. Growing up, it wasn’t something I was proud of. I didn’t have opportunities to be proud of it or know that I could be until I was older. A lot of people told me there was something wrong with me. I do worry that people won’t listen to my music because I’m a homo, but I’m not writing music for people who aren’t smart enough to relate to my songs. My songs are kind of universal. I don’t think you have to be screaming to get your message across.
That reminds me, I read that you don’t like Odd Future.
I do not. I was in a shuttle to the airport with them after we played Primavera and it was five in the morning, they weren’t performing, and we were just on a fucking shuttle, so you’d think that they’d shut the fuck up but they wouldn’t. They were making rape jokes, gay jokes, acting like children. They were playing Xbox, cussing out the Xbox and each other. Someone recorded what was happening on a headset and they loved it. I haven’t listened to their music but, if they are just pretending, it didn’t seem like a fucking joke when they were doing it 24-7. Steve Albini wrote about that shuttle ride and said if you’re an asshole making music that’s different than if being an asshole is an act. There’s a million other jokes that don’t have rape in them. When the kids outside of the food court at the mall don’t get the gay joke, they’re going to kick my ass.
Put Your Back N 2 It is out February 21 on Matador Records. Watch the original trailer featuring Arpad Miklos below: