Heaven Heaven scent scent

Per­fume Ge­nius, aka Mike Hadreas, knows all about dark­ness, but he’s reach­ing to the light on his new al­bum, writes

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music -

IN A WAY, Mike Hadreas’s moniker, Per­fume Ge­nius, is an apt one. In the same way per­fume-mak­ers cre­ate scents that com­prise top, mid­dle and bass notes, Hadreas’s mu­sic has an im­me­di­ate im­pact, an im­mer­sive en­joy­ment, and, fi­nally, a lin­ger­ing legacy His 2010 de­but, Learn­ing, was wrought from a dev­as­tat­ing pe­riod that had, af­ter some years, led to a cri­sis. Upon re­lo­cat­ing for a time to Everett, Washington, to stay with his mother, Hadreas be­gan to un­furl the roots of that dark­ness, which were based in abuse, and com­pounded by drug and al­co­hol ad­dic­tion. He cre­ated a deeply af­fect­ing record; and though he mainly used pi­ano, re­verb and his del­i­cate vo­cal, it con­tained as­ton­ish­ing depth.

As­ton­ish­ing is a word that of­ten comes to mind in as­so­ci­a­tion with Hadreas, not only the raw lyrics and over­whelm­ing at­mos­phere of Learn­ing, but also his sur­vival. And if Learn­ing was about ex­plor­ing haunt­ing sit­u­a­tions (poignantly on Mr Peter­son), his soon-to-be-re­leased sec­ond record, Put Ur Back N 2 It, is surely about chal­leng­ing the de­spair, and “out­haunt­ing” ghosts (“there is still grace in this” he sings on the ti­tle song), though he recog­nises that re­cov­ery per­haps never has an end­point.

“Get­ting bet­ter is as con­fus­ing some­times as be­ing bad,” he says. “I thought when my cir­cum­stances got bet­ter, and I cut out so many un­healthy things that I would be set, but there is still a lot of learn­ing I have to do. You can only ap­pre­ci­ate the good when you have been to the other side. I have a lot more ex­pe­ri­ence be­ing un­healthy, so I feel like a kid right now.” He de­scribes things at present as “pretty good”, and Put Ur Back N 2 It re­flects this, with its ex­panded sound, tak­ing us from feel­ings of melan­choly, re­call­ing low hym­nals ( All Wa­ters), to a place of sub­tle buoy­ancy ( Hood, Dark Parts).

“I wanted to step up, be­cause that is what I want to do in gen­eral. I was scared that go­ing into a stu­dio and work­ing with a pro­ducer and en­gi­neer would get very ‘busi­nessy’, but they [An­drew Mor­gan, and John Good­man­son] were very hippy with me. We talked about the mean­ing be­hind the songs, how I wanted to keep it sim­ple. It is what I would do at home, but a lit­tle more warm and full. My pro­ducer also plays the cello, and I had him play on the record, and our en­gi­neer played the gui­tar. I didn’t know them that well, but I felt I could keep it a lit­tle more fam­ily style.”

A stronger be­lief in him­self is also part of the rich­ness on the record, an ac­cep­tance that it is im­por­tant to find your own com­pany as sat­is­fy­ing as other peo­ple’s.

“That is very true, but it is not my in­stinct. Part of me be­ing hap­pier is to re­alise how “not unique” my prob­lems are. I con­vinced my­self for so long that I needed to fix things on my own, that it was the only way I could get bet­ter, but once I started lis­ten­ing more, and feel­ing more a part of things, then I also started to feel okay by my­self. I al­ways felt that be­ing in­de­pen­dent meant I had to be in con­trol all the time, but 90 per cent of things are com­pletely out of our con­trol.”

This was cer­tainly the case when a 16-sec­ond pro­mo­tional video clip for Put Ur Back N 2 It was re­jected by Youtube be­cause of its “adult” con­tent. (It showed Hadreas in an em­brace with gay porn star Ar­pad Mik­los.)

We talk about the idea of mu­sic as nour­ish­ing, and I men­tion that Hood, like so much of his work, seems about the redemptive qual­ity in be­ing able to be vul­ner­a­ble.

“It’s true, and it’s not a very hip in­ten­tion, or cool, but I just re­ally wanted to com­fort. I want to com­fort me, and my friends and fam­ily. It is some­what spir­i­tual in tone – that’s how I get to it, some­times.”

He also gets “there” through am­bi­ent beauty ( Float­ing Spit), and Edna St Vin­cent Mil­lay’s po­etry, which he set to mu­sic on the ma­jes­tic, pi­ano-led Dirge.

We talk about other things he loves: The In­no­cence Mis­sion, This Mor­tal Coil’s cover of Tim Buck­ley’s Song to the Siren, danc­ing around the pit at Los Campesinos con­certs, and his “dream” col­lab­o­ra­tor David Lynch (whose work with Badala­menti deeply in­flu­ences Awol Ma­rine). I tell him they share a com­pul­sion to tell the truth, mov­ing around sen­ti­men­tal­ity and bro­ken­ness nat­u­rally. He is so mod­est, he hardly ac­cepts the com­par­i­son, in­stead re­count­ing the “trans­port­ing” na­ture of the Twin Peaks sound­track, which is an­other word that dances across his own work, mov­ing lightly.

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