We were supposed to meet Mike Hadreas also known as Perfume Genius in Paris some weeks ago. Due to the current sanitary crisis, we decided to have an email Q&A prior to the release of his fifth record Set My Heart On Fire Immediately via Matador Records on May 15th. A new piece of work reflecting his life in L.A. and assembling together some very talented people such as Blake Mills, Jim Keltner, Pino Palladino and Matt Chamberlin. The album explores and subverts concepts of masculinity while introducing decidedly American musical influences. Throughout the album Mike plays with themes of love, sex and memory channelling popular music mythologies while irreverently authoring his very own.

Hello Mike, first of all, what’s your mood releasing your fifth record Set My Heart On Fire Immediately in such an atmosphere?

I cannot get a handle on my mood in general right now. But I wrote this record as a way to soothe that restless part of me, to be a companion during the discomfort. I hope it can do the same for other people.

After releasing No Shape in 2017, you moved to LA, did that move influenced your new work?

I’ve been outside more, be more social – I feel like I became more connected to the actual world. It’s easier to leave the house here since it’s so sunny all the time. The record I made is not sunny, but it is about other people and connection and leaving my very solitary dreamscape.

You produced this album with Blake Mills and got some amazing musicians like Jim Keltner and Matt Chamberlin on board. Were they a natural choice?

I intended to make the record with Blake from the start and left room for him while I was writing. Working with actual legends in the studio was a true blessing, it made it easy to get somewhere spiritually and technically satisfying very quickly. All you need to do is build the world for everyone to live in and once we are all there we can just fly.

On your press release, you said: “I wanted to feel more open, freer and spiritually wild”. What’s your perfect definition for an artist to be considered as spiritually free?

Getting back to an almost childlike choice-making process. Letting your thoughts come without questioning them, dropping them when you need to make room for another one that is bubbling up. Just running on instinct, but without losing all your history and the work you’ve done up until then. It’s hard to balance but liberating when you can.

I would define your music as powerful and evocative. How would you best describe your art in 2020?

I’m reaching for something better. It always starts very personally, but that is how I’ve learned that I can connect to everyone. I feel like if I can build a good world for myself and everyone I love to be in — it will help whoever is listening to get closer to that too.

This record explores and subverts concepts of masculinity and traditional roles, and introduces decidedly American musical influences. What were the main influences when making it?

I was thinking a lot about Elvis and these crooners that I grew up listening to. This sort of classic very traditional masculine way of singing and performing… how there is vulnerability inside of it but funneled through a sort of bravado and confidence at the same time. I wondered what my music would sound like if I came from that place if I inserted myself into this sort of classic and very foreign way of performing.

I feel your latest single ‘On The Floor’ to be the most poppy track of this album, how important for you was it to have this luminous sound?

I love pop music that can have you crying on the dance floor. I love when the music is bright and propulsive but without losing sadness or darker emotion in the lyric. It’s most cathartic to me when those two parallels can exist inside the song at the same time.

You’ve had a very muddy and poetic performance in the video, do you have any theory about what is natural beauty?

I am just satisfied being in the dirt right now. It feels like the right place to be. Something lyrical and physical, using your body or someone else’s as a portal. Using nature as a portal. Just channelling overwhelming feelings — things that feel important but are too abstract to figure out — into something hyper-present and simple and physical.

Talking about your latest single, you also directed the music video, as well as the previous one. Directing your own visuals was an important step in your career?

I just had a very clear vision and trusted myself to see it through. I knew where I wanted to take people and felt like I could steer.

I saw a YouTube comment saying that you need to direct a full film, are you planning to make something longer than simple music videos?

I have some ideas right now for a longer form project, I don’t want to share them yet in case they get away from me. But I can see the bodies, the light and a sort of emotional map.

You teamed up with French photographer Camille Vivier for visuals of this new era, and she recently worked on Christine and the Queens latest EP, how close to you feel to Vivier’s works?

There is a nostalgia to a lot of her work but you can never quite put your finger on a specific time or place. There is always something hazy and off, something alien. It has all the warmth of history but feels new and foreign. That appeals to me and suited this particular album a lot because I tried to approach the music in that same way.

Your longtime partner and musical collaborator Alan Wyffels seem to be still someone important in your art. Did working together on a new record strengthen your relation?

We’ve played every show together, he’s played on every album and been part of the writing process from the beginning. At the start, he mostly listened and accompanied, but now he is a more active part in the writing and choice-making. He wrote parts of these songs with me and an entire song for the dance piece with Kate Wallich we toured last year, which he also danced in. We come from different backgrounds musically and creatively but can harmonize well because we have the same dream.

And lastly, during this worldwide quarantine, what’s your daily routine? Any recommendations? Or any guilty pleasures?

I just try to get dressed like I am going to leave the house. Exercise, shower, do my hair and pick a fragrance for the day. Even if I just go back to bed after all that, it’s helpful. Just take care of yourself, make sure to check in with the people you love and eat something that makes you happy.

Watch On The Floor below:

Interview by Ivica Mamedy.