Perfume Genius and Kate Wallich On Dogs, Dance, and Peanut Butter
The Sun Still Burns Here, which opened last week at New York City’s Joyce Theater, is the moody brainchild of indie pop musician Mike Hadreas (known as Perfume Genius) and choreographer Kate Wallich. Hadreas brings the dark, sensual world of Perfume Genius to the stage in this production, and the result is an eerie, underwater world of rippling fabrics and slow-motion movement. Hadreas, waifish and writhing, lies atop a piano as a constellation of dancers—members of Wallich’s Seattle-based dance group YC—alternatively fall together in semi-erotic knots and disperse into their own micro-universes. This gestural performance is set against a backdrop of the musician’s angst-filled, ephemeral vocals and dissonant instrumentals. The effect is disconcerting and disorienting—and that’s exactly what Wallich and Hadreas had in mind. “We talked a lot about portals. We talked a lot about transcendence. I sent Mike all these Cy Twombly crazy vomit paintings full of color for inspiration,” Wallich says. For Hadreas, the collaboration is an opportunity to stretch into new creative spheres: “All I wanted was to crawl around on my knees for two hours.”
A conversation with Hadreas and Wallich is as impressionistic and immersive as the production itself. Last week, the pair took a break from rehearsals to answer some questions for us, lifted straight from Glenn O’Brien’s legendary 1977 interview with Andy Warhol.
MARA VEITCH: What was your first work of art?
MIKE HADREAS: My mom had a drawing I made of her as a nurse. She’s not a nurse, but I drew my mom as a nurse, with, like, a nurse hat. Nurse mom.
KATE WALLICH: [Laughs] I know his mom now, so I love that image.
VEITCH: I’ll ask you the next one, Kate. What did you do for fun when you were a teenager?
WALLICH: Literally my whole life was dance.
HADREAS: Don’t say dance though, Kate.
WALLICH: I want to. Can’t it be dance? I went to boarding school for dance, and class would end at like 6:00. I was that freak who would run back to the studio and put my headphones on and make dances. That’s what I did for fun.
VEITCH: Mike, what do you do in the morning?
HADREAS: What do I do in the morning? Well, I will tell you. I go to bed sometimes so that I can wake up and eat. I don’t know. I think a lot about peanut butter.
VEITCH: Is peanut butter what it’s all about?
WALLICH: He loves peanut butter.
HADREAS: Yeah, especially lately. Thirty percent of me right now is peanut butter, or at least thoughts of peanut butter-eating. If I wake up, I eat peanut butter.
VEITCH: Okay, great. I won’t ask you any other questions about that. Kate, what happens when you get drunk?
WALLICH: Can the answers be dark?
VEITCH: If you like.
WALLICH: Well, I haven’t had a drink in five months and I’m kind of into that right now because when I do get drunk, I get really mean, and I like to slam my body into walls.
HADREAS: So now we do that in like a safe, nice way.
WALLICH: [Laughs] Now we do that together. On stage.
VEITCH: Mike, do you sleep alone?
HADREAS: No. I sleep with my boyfriend, Alan.
VEITCH: Do you have an alarm clock?
HADREAS: It’s Alan.
VEITCH: Kate, do you think gay people are more creative than straight people?
HADREAS: I love Kate answering this question.
WALLICH: I want to think about it for a second. I think that there’s something about queerness that does make people more creative. I consider myself to be queer, and I think that there’s a lot of potential in that. So, I think probably yes.
VEITCH: Mike, do you think Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone?
HADREAS: I don’t care.
VEITCH: What do you notice first about a woman?
HADREAS: About a woman? I don’t think I could answer that in general for anybody. I guess their energy, how the energy pokes out. Kate, do you know what I mean?
WALLICH: I’m all about spheres, so, yes, I do agree with you.
HADREAS: We love a sphere on a man or a woman.
VEITCH: Kate, do you believe in marriage?
WALLICH: I mean, I know that marriage exists.
HADREAS: Just leave that. That’s the best answer.
VEITCH: Kate, do you ever hate anybody?
WALLICH: Yeah, and I know it’s not good. I feel… a lot. All the time. Sometimes that is hate, and I feel not good about that, but that’s why I go to therapy. So, yes I sometimes hate, but I also seek help.
VEITCH: Mike, do you think there should be any censorship?
HADREAS: Yeah. I do for like hate speech, threats. Fuck it. I don’t give a fuck. Yeah, censor it. Like ship them … Ship it …
VEITCH: Okay Kate, how much time do you spend on the phone every day?
WALLICH: I thought a lot. But I checked in Settings it turns out that yesterday I only spent three and a half hours on my phone.
HADREAS: Maybe you’re just of your phone, but not on your phone.
WALLICH: I am of my phone.
VEITCH: Mike, do you think rich people are different from poor people?
HADREAS: I have noticed that rich people have their own brand of crazy. They’re just wild. Rich-people crazy is just sort of edgeless… They don’t have any bumpers. You know what I mean?
VEITCH: I’ve never heard it put that way.
HADREAS: I can act crazy, but if I don’t pay rent, then I gotta figure that out. That’s a bumper. Rent is a bumper.
WALLICH: I want to be rich, though.
WALLICH: I said I want to be rich, though.
HADREAS: Oh yeah. Me, too.
VEITCH: Mike, do you believe in flying saucers?
HADREAS: Yeah. And I really hope that I’m alive to meet the aliens.
HADREAS: Yeah. If they want to meet one person, I want it to be me. I will take that on. I’m into it. I might just leave, though. Really what I want to do is leave.
VEITCH: Do you think people should live in outer space?
WALLICH: He likes space.
HADREAS: I love space, but I don’t want there to be buildings. I want to just float and be quiet.
VEITCH: What are three great dog names?
HADREAS: My dog’s named Wanda. I think that’s a really good dog name. I have always liked the idea of a dog named Melissa.
VEITCH: Just like a nasty, judgmental dog?
HADREAS: I like that that’s where you went with Melissa. Also Jackie. Like a fucking deranged Shih Tzu named Jackie.
VEITCH: This is good.
HADREAS: Yeah. Delete the other ones. I don’t even want three. Just write “deranged Shih Tzu Jackie” three times.