We’ve Got A File On You: Peaches
We’ve Got A File On You features interviews in which artists share the stories behind the extracurricular activities that dot their careers: acting gigs, guest appearances, random internet ephemera, etc.
This past September marked the twentieth anniversary of The Teaches Of Peaches, the debut album by electronic music iconoclast Peaches. Two decades later, what’s perhaps most impressive is how fully formed the record sounds. Not only is it a bracingly futuristic take on dance music — songs draw on synth-punk, new wave, and club music — but her ability to mix sly humor and brash sexuality is dialed in from song one, the iconic “Fuck The Pain Away”: “Callin’ me, all the time like Blondie/ Check out my Chrissy behind/ It’s fine all of the time.”
In the years since The Teaches Of Peaches, Peaches (born Merrill Nisker in Toronto) has passed into the orbits of Iggy Pop, Yoko Ono, and R.E.M. She’s reimagined Jesus Christ Superstar as Peaches Christ Superstar and dabbled in visual art. When asked if she’s been able to be more or less creative in lockdown, Peaches is frank.
“I thrive on connection and moving — less creative, let’s just say,” she reflects. “Because I like to move and get ideas and here and there and go and be and bleh, bleh. I don’t sit still. So this is the longest I’ve ever sat still — ever — in, like, 20 years.”
Still, she’s stayed busy working on a new album and issuing singles, including the pulsating, insistent “Flip This,” as well as the recent “Pussy Mask.” The latter combines her inimitable political critique, ribald wordplay, and enveloping electro.
On a recent afternoon, Peaches checked in from Berlin to walk us through her catalog and other projects. Over Zoom, she was thorough and animated, at times imitating some of her co-conspirators (with remarkable vocal accuracy) while telling stories.
Merrill Nisker – Fancypants Hoodlum (1995)
It was funny going back and listening to the record because you could hear yourself figuring out your voice and what you wanted to do. It was very charming. What do you remember most from that time as a musician?
PEACHES: I had fallen into a folk band. I played acoustic guitar and I got a gig one night with a friend opening for somebody. And somehow the club was like, “Oh, could you play here every week?” It was kind of an iconic club where, like, the Barenaked Ladies would play every week, or there was another folk band that would play there, and they were looking for a new spot.
And it was funny, because we weren’t known at all. We had a crowd, and we weren’t even a band, but we had now this weekly gig. Another friend who had taught me guitar said, “I’m joining the band,” so there were three of us. We used to write songs together, and then after a year and a half, I was like, “I really don’t want to be a folk musician.” So Fancypants Hoodlum came out of that, where I was like “I want to be able to sing any way I want, I want to be able to play electric guitar.” It was just exploring.
I really like the cover of “Kung Fu Fighting.” I feel like in the ’90s, everybody had to do that. You had to have your ironic 70s cover.
PEACHES: [Laughs] That’s funny, I forgot about that.
Peaches & Gonzales Opening For Elastica In The US (2000)
My intro to you was when I saw you open for Elastica as Peaches & Gonzales in 2000 in America. Was that your first tour?
In Boston, actually. Because a friend of mine shaved your legs on stage.
PEACHES: That was…yeah. Boston. Me and Gonzales had this rule — it was such a bad rule — that we decided we’re never gonna repeat a song on the whole tour. Great way to start. So I think Boston may have been the beginning, so you probably got some good songs. [On later dates of the tour] it got really painful. But that’s right — I used to get my legs shaved at the beginning of the show.
So how many songs did you know, then? If you were not going to repeat…
PEACHES: I don’t know — we just made up songs. We were just making up stuff. And some nights, they were not having it.
How did it come about that you landed on that tour?
PEACHES: I just got a call from Justine Frischmann one day. I didn’t know her. And she was like [affects British accent]: “It’s Justine. You wanna come on tour?” So, yeah. She had heard “Lovertits.”
Where did you and Gonzales bond about music?
PEACHES: We bonded in Canada when I was doing Fancypants Hoodlum. I had actually no audience whatsoever — and, actually, all the audience of Mermaid Cafe, the folk band place, were, like, appalled that I would give up folk music and try this weird whatever I was doing.
I remember one Mermaid Cafe fan had a radio show and she invited me on, and she didn’t know what kind of music it was. I remember her face was like, “Ohhh, I don’t like this and now I have to interview her.” She was like, “You sound like Geddy Lee from Rush,” and she was really confused, I remember that. [Laughs] It was a really funny moment.
So I didn’t have an audience, really, but I was enjoying Fancypants Hoodlum. Gonzales had a record deal; it was more like funk. He was not satisfied. Mocky, our friend, who does more awesome, jazzy [music], he was doing a hip-hop collective that he was dissatisfied with and another friend of ours, Sticky, was in a band that she was dissatisfied with. I didn’t know Mocky or Gonzales but I knew Sticky, and we all got together and jammed. I didn’t know them. We just smoked huge joints, and there were all these instruments there. I had never played drums or keyboards.
We just switched around, and started playing and singing, and it was like a revelation. It was so much fun. After that, we got together, and we were like “We’re a band. We need something to call ourselves.” And we were like, “We’re the shit.” So we called ourselves the Shit. That’s where we sort of met and bonded. And we all gave ourselves names, and I said I want to be Peaches because I want Nina Simone to be singing “PEEEEACHES!” I want her to sing that to me. So that’s where the name came from, it was for the Shit.
There is something, as an artist, when you’re just completely doing something that you don’t know about or is outside of your comfort zone that rewires your brain in such great ways.
PEACHES: Exactly. Yeah, you’ve got to remember to keep doing that over and over again. [Laughs] For me, that’s important and it also spawns new projects. So that’s where we met. The Shit happened also for like a year, and then, as I like to say, “The Shit turned to diarrhea.” [Laughs]
But everybody kind of moved away. I was still in Canada and I went to a music shop and I saw this strange instrument called the MC-505. And I was like, “What’s that?” and I just tested it out and it had a drum section and really cool, old-school drum sounds and bass sounds. And I was like, “Wow, I could be a whole band, since I don’t have a band anymore. This could be my band.” I bought it, and I just started making beats on it.
[Gonzales and I] met up in Europe in, like, ’98. He had this double CD player and I had my thing. It was 1998, and we’d be like [affects exaggerated eager voice] “We could come to your bar or club, and we can plug into your stereo system and make music for you.” [Laughs] We weren’t even singing; we were just making experimental music that way.
He stayed in Berlin, which is where we actually got a gig and interest from a little label. But I had to go home; I had a job. That’s when I went home and made Teaches Of Peaches, back in Canada with that instrument. We kept in contact a lot, and it was funny because we were performing, and we were having these similar experiences of really connecting with audiences in new ways. It was nice. We were like each other’s mentors and confidants in that new performance way.
That’s what I remember most — obviously, the show was a long time ago — but there was something so exuberant and anything goes about your show. And it was liberating. Most of the time when you go see shows, it’s all very rigid. That’s stuck with me all those years because it was so different than what I’d seen before.
PEACHES: Yeah. Yeah, it was definitely… definitely different. [Laughs] That’s what was fun for us. We really didn’t care if we were gonna sell an album. It was just like, “How can we experiment?” Also bringing people on stage and doing antics, that was very liberating.
The Hideous Man, A Film For Bella Freud’s Fashion Line, Directed By John Malkovich (2002)
PEACHES: Bella Freud saw me play at the End in London, a gig. Instead of doing a fashion show, she did a fashion film. She asked me to be part of it. Yeah. And it was with Anita Pallenberg and Skunk Anansie. It was really weird and fun, and such a cool idea. They took Gary Sinise’s poems about how ugly he was and how unacceptable he was as an actor when he moved, I guess, to LA? So John Malkovich had these poems, and together John Malkovich directed The Hideous Man and together with Bella Freud they turned them into speeches of like, a revolutionary feminist group, kind of like this style of French ’60s/’70s, and with Bella’s fashion.
It’s amazing to think that people would be doing 22-minute films for fashion.
PEACHES: Seems like something people are doing now because of the pandemic. They’re doing more film. I like Bella; she’s really cool. Such a crazy history. Her great-grandfather is, you know, Freud.
I couldn’t imagine growing up in a family like that. It would be so interesting.
PEACHES: I guess it just feels like family to her, right?
Exactly, it’s just normal.
PEACHES: But the best part of that experience was… John Malkovich was directing me, which I was just like, “What the hell is going on? This is insane.” And my shoelace was untied, and John Malkovich tied my shoelace. I was like [whispers in delight], “He’s tying my shoelace.”
Chicks On Speed – “We Don’t Play Guitars” (2003)
They were so brilliant the way they combined pop and electro. How did you end up on that song?
PEACHES: What was interesting about making Teaches Of Peaches is there was this zeitgeist going on with [these] kind of electroclash comrades who… none of us knew each other. I didn’t know who Chicks On Speed were. Of course I knew Bikini Kill, but I didn’t know Le Tigre. These were like sister bands and also at the forefront of a movement. I don’t know many musical movements that have women at the forefront like electroclash did. Whatever it lasted, like a few months.
But it turned into other things, like new rave and it turned into this and that. I will always believe that that was the inspiration for it. And Tracy + The Plastics and Miss Kittin. We didn’t know each other; it wasn’t like we were all a big group. But we were doing this kind of similar [thing], fucking with electronics and saying, “It’s not, like, rocket science, you don’t have to look down and up,” and you can be very performative with it and have a sense of humor and bring your voice to it too, and your anger and your energy and your politics.
I think in America, all those acts did get lumped together. I don’t know if you were all playing the same clubs, or the music was being played at the same clubs, but it made it seem like, everybody hangs out, everybody knows each other.
PEACHES: We did do a six-week tour together. And it was me, Chicks On Speed, and W.I.T. and Tracy + The Plastics.
Did it help or hurt to be associated with electroclash back then?
PEACHES: I hated it in the same way like, you know, nobody likes to be… Punk artists never wanted to call themselves punk artists. Nobody wants to be called whatever they want to be called, especially when it was very misunderstood in terms of, “Oh, these no-talent, blah blah blah.” I don’t know; whatever they called electroclash. I feel like I’m quite an anomaly. I’m put in the electroclash genre, but if you think about me now, I think of artists I could relate to… I don’t know. I feel like I’m an anomaly. I think it’s great. It’s the best thing to be.
I think what’s nice now is that people are starting to look back at that time and are seeing the deeper elements to it than maybe at the time. There are more women working in media and music journalism too, saying, “You know, hey, this was actually really important.”
PEACHES: Rewriting history.
PEACHES: But you did ask me about how did I get on “We Don’t Play Guitars.” I think they were writing the song and I lived up the street and they asked me to come play the guitar solo. Just go [makes discordant guitar noise]. And then of course they wanted me to do the video, which was so much fun, cause I got to fly, and I got to wear really long nails. I remember I said, “I just want to have really long nails.”
I could never do that. I would probably scratch my face because I’d forget I have them on.
PEACHES: It’s not easy. I don’t know how people do it.
“Kick It” Featuring Iggy Pop, Plus “Rock Show” And “Motor Inn” From Iggy Pop’s Skull Ring (2003)
How did you and Iggy cross paths?
PEACHES: [I’ve] always loved Iggy Pop. It was on the electroclash tour. I was in LA and they were doing the Shortlist Awards — I think one night [it was with] Cee Lo and Pharrell and Iggy Pop and the Hives, you know. Whatever. Somehow, I was like, “I want to go to that,” or something. I don’t know how I forced my way into there. I think I didn’t even know that Iggy Pop was there. And I’d never seen him play, and then I was like, “I’m gonna go find him backstage. I have to go tell him what he means to me.”
I saw him play that night, and then I went backstage. And he was sitting there in a chair and he was, kinda like, [in] post-show exhaustion. His girlfriend was there, and she’s like, “Oh my God — Iggy, this is Peaches!” She knew who I was. He was like, “Oh, hey, hi!” And I held his hand, and I don’t even know what I said. He was so emotional from performing and I was so emotional… We just kind of had this moment, kind of bonded and tears in our eyes. I was like, “It’s amazing!”
And then I said, “Oh, where do you live?” and he was like, “I live in Miami.” And I said, “Oh, I’m playing there in a few weeks. Why don’t you come to the show?” And he was like, “Well, let me get your number. Give me a call.” We exchanged numbers. I said, “I’ll put you on the guest list.” I put him on the guest list and he showed up two weeks later at my gig in Miami at — I think it was a Hungarian recreation center. It was, like, half-full. In the Hungarian center they had these round tables — like, these event tables. Iggy was sitting around one, so I jumped on the table. The table was moving, and he was looking at me with so much excitement, like “Oh my God! She’s a real performer!” And then after he was like, “Oh, that was so much fun.”
I received a message from him a few months later like [imitates Iggy’s voice] “Heyyyyy, it’s Iggy. I’m making an album, and I want to do your song ‘Rock Show.'” So he just wanted to cover it and make it a duet. So we did. And so I called him back and I said, “Hey, I’m actually making a new album too. Can I write a song for us?” I don’t even know how I got the gall to say that, but I did. And he was like, “Yeah! Sure! Write us a song! Yeah, sure!” And then I wrote “Kick It.”
And then I went to Miami and recorded it with him. And Missy Elliott’s green Lamborghini — I think it’s the real thing, someone told me it was hers — was sitting outside the Hit Factory where we went. And I was like, [gasps]. But I never saw her. Maybe she didn’t have a green Lamborghini, maybe somebody was just telling me lies. But it was amazing.
Out of any car, that seems like something she would have.
PEACHES: Yeah! And then it was funny, because when we were recording “Kick It,” then Iggy’s like “Oh, I’m still looking for another song for my album.” And — okay, now I’m gonna go way back. During the time when the Shit stopped being the Shit, I started a new instrumental band with Gonzales. Before Gonzales moved away. It was Gonzales and another friend, Taylor Savvy. The three of us had an instrumental band called Feedom — so freedom but no “r.”
We would play one rock riff. [Makes rock riff noise] Or whatever it was for, like, 10 minutes and it would evolve. It was kind of like how house music evolves. With open hi-hat, closed hi-hat, different distortions and stuff. So I would play bass and Taylor Savvy would play lap steel through a distortion pedal and Gonzales would play drums. We loved this band. I think we opened for Nashville Pussy once or something. We made a promise to ourselves never to have a singer unless it was Diamanda Galas or Iggy Pop.
So — go back to when we’re recording “Kick It” and he’s like, “Oh, do you have any other songs?” And I’m like, “Yeah, I’ve got this instrumental track by my band Feedom.” And he did “Motor Inn,” which became another song we did together with the instrumental from Feedom.
That’s playing the long game right there. He’s such an inspiring performer. I don’t know how he does it. His physicality… It’s fantastic
PEACHES: And then his crooner side is so beautiful too and the album he did with Queens Of The Stone Age, with Josh, is just really beautiful. He did a night for some TV show in France where he did duets, like crooner duets. I was part of that too, which was really fun.
Pink Featuring Peaches, “Oh My God” (2003) / Christina Aguilera, “My Girls” (Produced By Le Tigre) (2010)
You were on Pink’s record, Try This. That’s always been my favorite Pink record, and I think that’s the outlier in her catalog.
PEACHES: Yeah, Pink was exploring her sexuality, or deciding to explore it, on the album, and just wanted me to… She was like, “Your record is part of this whole exploration.” She was so humble; she was so sweet.
She has that reputation even now.
PEACHES: Oh my God, that new song she did with her daughter? It’s so beautiful. She’s great.
What other artists are inspired by your music? Is there anybody that stands out?
PEACHES: Yeah that’s how I got to know Elliot Page. He was at my concert when he was, like, 16, and I spit blood on his arm. He said he didn’t wash his arm for, like, a week.
Christina Aguilera, we did a track together during the time of “Dirrty.” Or Avril Lavigne, who was obsessed with “I’m The Kinda Bitch.” Britney Spears — friends who worked with her in the studio, they said, “Make a track, kind of like Peaches,” and she’d be like [whispers in Britney-esque voice] “I love Peaches.” I don’t know — it’s amazing because, of course, they’re mostly referring to Teaches Of Peaches and “Fuck The Pain Away,” which never had radio play. YouTube didn’t exist. The internet was not what it is today. It was really like word of mouth, just slipped through the cracks and couldn’t help but be influential.
And it’s funny because you mentioned all those pop artists: Especially after Teaches Of Peaches there were so many interesting pop sounds in that decade, especially made by women. Like Circus and Blackout by Britney, and Christina Aguilera’s Bionic.
PEACHES: Oh my God, Blackout is my favorite Britney album. [Laughs]
Thank you! It’s so good.
PEACHES: It’s so good! I was like, “Oh, God, why didn’t she ask me to write on this album? This is great.”
I think Bionic is also being reclaimed a little bit. I don’t think people understood the record at the time, and I think people are realizing, “Wow, this is really interesting and groundbreaking.” Did you get on there because of Christina then, or was it the Le Tigre connection?
PEACHES: No — Christina came to my show. She was like, “Could you be on my album?” And, yeah.
What was it like working with her?
PEACHES: I sent it in, so we didn’t get to work together. But she came to the show and made sure we were connecting.
Remixing Tone Loc’s “Wild Thing” (2007) And The B-52s’ “Funplex” (2008)
You remixed Tone Lōc’s “Wild Thing” in 2007. How did that come about?
PEACHES: That came about more from the Delicious Vinyl angle. They asked me to do a remix of “Wild Thing,” and I of course wanted to give my little spin on it. And it was funny, because then we did a video together, me and Tone Lōc. We played it live in LA. And it was funny, cuz I refer to being in a sauna, I think it was, and calling his genitalia “Little Ricky,” and that was kind of a reference — Rick was the guy from Delicious Vinyl, so I was just putting his name in there. But I remember Tone Lōc, he turned to me and said, [gruff voice] “Never call it little.” It was just funny.
It’s interesting when you’re trying to put a flip on it and the original artist is there and willing to perform with you. We had fun together. It was fun, because I brought a whole crew of crazy amazing dancers with me and he was like, “What’s going on? This is awesome!”
Do you have a favorite remix you’ve done over the years?
PEACHES: I like Daft Punk “Technologic.” I had fun working on it, and I worked so much on it.
I like your remix of the B-52s’ “Funplex.” I think that’s an extremely underrated album.
PEACHES: Awww. Yeah, I had a great time working on that. Cindy and Kate are such incredible singers. They’re so incredible. If you look at this old footage from, I think it’s Saturday Night Live… It’s just really raw but so good. Those songs are incredible, the really early songs. I think that’s also an influence when I think of electronics, I didn’t want to think of it as so soundscape-y and big. I wanted to think of it like raw instruments in the way like B-52s would sound.
I know that SNL performance. You watch that now and you can see why so many people had their minds blown seeing that. It’s so deliberate and the song unfolds, and it is like a piece of acting art. It’s really wonderful.
PEACHES: Also the way they give tribute to Yoko and validate Yoko’s singing. Because that was also so foreign to people and [assumes a sarcastic voice] “What is she doing?” The best clip ever is John Lennon and Chuck Berry singing whatever they were singing, and then Yoko’s playing bongos and you just see her look around. They’re singing and bro-ing down, and she takes the microphone that’s down by her bongos and she brings it to her mouth and just starts [makes Ono-esque screeching singing].
Then Chuck Berry’s like, “What is that banshee sound?” It’s like, “Yup — sorry dudes. You’ve just been intervened.” You watch it now, you would get it. But then it was just like, they did not understand what was going on at that moment. She was just saying, “Not today! Not today, Satan! Not bro-ing down today. Nope. I’m here too.”
Commentator In Life On The Road With Mr. And Mrs. Brown (2009) And A Tale Of James Brown (2016)
You’ve been a talking head in a couple of James Brown documentaries. What was your introduction to his music?
PEACHES: I can’t even remember. Aren’t we all just born hearing James Brown? [Laughs] I was playing a lot with male performer roles, like spitting blood like KISS and Ozzy Osbourne, and I had this cape that was made for me. It was a XXX cape I wear in the “We Don’t Play Guitars” video. A lot of times I would do the “I can’t take it anymore” — and you know how they always put the cape on James Brown, and he would [be like] “You can do it! You can do it!” I would do “I can’t take it,” and I would take the cape off and that’s when I would puke. It was just using these performative elements that were very strong and very male.
Performing Yoko Ono’s “Cut Piece” At London’s Meltdown Festival And “Yes, I’m A Witch” With Plastic Ono Band At Yoko Ono’s 80th Birthday Party (2013)
PEACHES: That was a huge moment for me. Yoko asked me to recreate her “Cut Piece.”
How do you approach something like that?
PEACHES: [Laughs] That is mind-blowing. That piece is more than 50 years old. It is still more relevant than half the shit that was done then. It’s such a comment on relationships between audience and performer and trust and all those things. She told me, “You can do it any way you want. You’re on stage; there’s a pair of scissors; and people can cut the clothes off you.” You know? She said, “People have done it different ways. They’ve talked to people. I’ve sat very still.” And I was like, “I’m gonna totally sit still and do this.” Which is something I don’t do. I don’t stand still, and I don’t keep my mouth shut. So this was the most terrifying thing for me, to be completely passive in front of an audience, but it being this sort of trust, you know?
People stole my shoes. This girl just came up, looked at me, and grabbed my shoe and ran out of the auditorium. Someone cut my hair. People were demanding I talk to them like, “Come on, Peaches. Come on. I just wanna ask you something.” Things like that. I sat there for 90 minutes. And they were just like, cutting. I had this Oleg Cassini vintage outfit that I loved, and it was all beaded. And I was like, “Say goodbye.” I’m just gonna let it go. I wanted to hear the beads fall too.
Yeah, it was terrifying. There I am, completely naked on stage, which I also don’t do. But Yoko came on stage, put a ring on my finger, kissed my hand. I was just like, “What the hell is going on?” [Laughs] I don’t even think she was going to do that; it was just she was moved by the way I had performed the piece. Then she said to me, “That was the loudest performance you’ve ever done.” She’s so cool.
What did you learn about yourself as a performer from doing that?
PEACHES: The power of silence. The power of being present. Just being present. The power of being present without performing presence. The power of just being, not doing. You know?
Ninety minutes. That is such a long time.
PEACHES: It was cold. It got nippy. [Laughs] When she turned 80, I was part of the Plastic Ono Band. She came and performed in Berlin and I was the only one asked to do a song with the Plastic Ono Band. It was like, “Pick your favorite Yoko song and let’s do it.” So I did “I’m A Witch” with her. There I am on stage, singing with her, and she is talking to me while I’m singing, going, “You are a powerful witch!” Telling me, giving me encouragement, being like, “Wow, you sound good!” ‘Cause she doesn’t give a shit. She just does what she wants.
R.E.M. – “Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter” (2011)
Did you know Michael Stipe via visual art?
Did he say, “Hey, I have this song, I want you to sing on it”?
PEACHES: Yeah, yeah. [Michael] was spending time in Berlin. We had met — you know, it might have also been on the electroclash tour, because he would have had the connection to Vancouver. So we were hanging out. Through the years, we had gotten together a lot.
R.E.M. over the years — they love the Stooges too, and they have done some punkier songs. But that song was like a punctuation mark. That’s always been one of my favorite songs on the record. You’re just letting loose, I love it.
PEACHES: It was fun and we did it at Hansa Studios, the Berlin studio where Bowie recorded, so that was fun.
Did they give you any direction, or was it just like, “Go for it!”?
PEACHES: Michael kind of knew what he wanted. It was actually a little outside my comfort zone, which was cool.
Cover Of Rough Trade’s “High School Confidential” (1995) / Carole Pope – “Lesbians In The Forest” (2014) / Transparent Episode “Man On The Land” (2015)
On your very first record in 1995 you covered Rough Trade’s “High School Confidential.” I grew up in Ohio, so Canadian rock was…
PEACHES: Oh, so you knew about Rough Trade?
PEACHES: Woooooow. Patty Schemel, she knows Rough Trade, from Rochester, New York. Isn’t it crazy that that was a radio hit? “It makes me cream my jeans/ When she’s coming my way.” They didn’t realize that it needed to be censored ’til later on. When it first came out, there were no beeps on it.
I don’t know if you saw the Transparent episode I was in. It’s called “Man On The Land,” it’s kind of supposed to be like the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. I think I’m the band at the beginning. Joey wanted me to do “Fuck The Pain Away” as an acoustic number. I was like, “Well, my biggest influence is Carole Pope from Rough Trade and she has this song called ‘Lesbians In The Forest‘ that I rap on, which is directly related to what this episode is about.” She’s like, “Okay, let’s do that song.”
So we did “Lesbians In The Forest.” It was a band with me and Carole Pope and my friend Lex, and Patty Schemel played drums. It was great to be asked to do a rap on that song and then to get to do it on Transparent and put it in the context of what everybody was talking about with Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.
Did you get to see Rough Trade or Carole in concert, then?
PEACHES: Yeah, yeah, of course. I saw Rough Trade open for David Bowie on the Glass Spider tour.
That’s amazing. And that tour was very polarizing for him, I think.
PEACHES: Yeah. That was when he had the Hamlet skull with him.
First Solo Art Exhibition, “Whose Jizz Is This?,” At The Kunstverein In Hamburg, Germany (2019)
You had your first solo art exhibition in 2019. I wanted to talk about that. What are your artistic takeaways from that?
PEACHES: I wanted to answer the question of “Could my art be interesting if I wasn’t the center of it?” Because I’m always very the center of all my art. So I talked about the emancipation of Fleshies, and I wanted to help them explore their emancipation through the way I did, which was through performance and exploration. And also explore my way of art without using any art context.
There were like 14 scenes and there were sculptures and it was very interactive. There were 14 channels of speakers everywhere. Each speaker was related to an installation, so I got to use music in a different way. It wasn’t like a two-channel speaker. I made sculptures, I made fountains, and also music in a different way with the 14 channels. But I did it in sort of theatrical three scenes. So the sounds and lighting would propel you around. Sometimes the lights would be off in certain sections, and at the end of each scene, these Fleshies would sing to you about their struggles.
But it was incredible to understand all the things that I could do that I never thought. I would make little models of what I wanted and have them made bigger or animatronics. Just anything I could dream up to fit in with this. It was highly narrative, but that was also a way for me to use many different mixed mediums and film and experimental ways of showing film and using mapping. Just trying out everything, but making it a full experience.
What did you learn from it?
PEACHES: Just that you can go beyond whatever you wanna dream up and whatever you wanna, like, rack your brain about. It really pushed my limits and pushed my buttons and I think it also pushed the limits of the gallery. They were not used to this sound and light. I also wanted to not use any art symbols, I didn’t want to hang anything on the wall. Nothing was hung. No podiums from art practice reviews. Anything that was used in art context to hold the art was not used. I used stage risers, or just banners hanging and things like that. It was like an anomaly creation. I really took it far, did the most. It’s waiting in a container to come to a town near you. [Laughs]
New Version Of Amanda Shires’ “Our Problem” With Cyndi Lauper, Valerie June, K. Flay, Nona Hendyrx, And Linda Perry (2021)
How did that come about you were on the track?
PEACHES: We all make very different music, but we’re very like minds. I mean, it’s just talking about absurdities. How can there still be abortion laws that are not made with women in mind? And individuals’ own rights to their own bodies? [It’s] still an amazing, horrific thing that’s happening in 2021. The same way that it’s horrific that trans teens are not being allowed on sports teams in their schools. And if teachers and parents are allies, they’re going to be sanctioned as allies. It’s depressing how the patriarchy keeps holding on, just keeps holding on until the last death happens.
I mean, I feel a lot of anger. And it’s like, what do you do with that anger? It’s hard.
PEACHES: Yeah. It’s also hard when you’re angry and you’re not the status quo. Then when you’re angry it’s like, “You’re getting too angry. Whoa, hold on there, sister.” You know? Something like that. We all know about the angry woman or hysterical, or how it’s seen. You have to find a way through, and I always find humor — not as a way to deflect, but humor as a way in. If you’re angry, and you’re going like this [makes stop gesture], it’s gonna shut a lot of people out. But if you put humor, people settle in a bit. That’s always been my approach.
“Pussy Mask” (2021)
PEACHES: I was being creative and writing for my new album. Which was difficult, because then you were just like “What am I writing about? Is this relevant? Will I ever get to do this?” It was hard not to fall into despair at the beginning of it. When you’re just like… [makes nervous sound and laughs] Some songs I’ve written are quite deep, heartfelt, or quite full of despair, which I came by honestly, you know?
There’d be rounds of writing for the album. Then in the last round, I loosened up a little more, and I wrote this line about, like, “Oh, pussy squirts so much, it’s gotta wear two masks” or something like that. And I was like, “You know what? This line. This is it. This is gonna be my gateway to getting me through and getting me back into it.” I thought, “This line is not just a line in a song in an album that’s gonna come out in a year. I need to make this the central focus of a song and put it out right now.”
I just kept writing and enjoying writing. It was around the time of election, and then it was Senate decisions and then it was insurrection. And also RGB dying. It was just a lot going on, and I was like, “Okay, yeah, I wanna deal with all these things, too, but I want to put my spin on it.” I don’t want people to forget about stuff, but I want us to have a gateway to at least be less stressed.
I think a lot of people are struggling with: “I’m in lockdown, am I going to make a pandemic record? But do I really want to do that?””
PEACHES: It was funny, I had a lot of pandemic lines. Like I always felt my hands were getting older than my body because you were washing them so much they were getting dried out. Things like that. Just also being more aware of — not that I was not aware — but of course more aware of intersectional feminism and white privilege. Everything coming at all of us at once.