Peaches at 20: ‘Artists Have to Keep Doing What Artists Do’
If you’ve been following her faithfully (we have), it is seriously hard to believe that it’s been twenty years since Canadian folk singer Merrill Nisker undertook what was easily the wildest self-reinvention ever, suddenly becoming the artist we now know as Peaches. A new generation feminist and all around badass if ever, she was fiercely sexual, lyrically fearless, and musically unstoppable—getting quickly adopted by the short-lived but shining-brightly electroclash scene.
She subsequently and effortlessly moved beyond any manner of classification, though one can comfortably conclude that she is now as much a performance artist as a musical force. And she officially became a solider in the fight against American tyranny when her rousing 2006 “fight” song “Boys Wanna Be Her” was adopted as the theme for the new series Full Frontal With Samantha Bee in 2016. (It remains the most explosive intro to a television show ever.)
Peaches celebrated turning 20 late last year by producing a stage extravaganza titled There’s Only One Peach With a Hole in the Middle, with 40 odd musicians backing her in a tribute to gay-friendly ’70s variety shows (Liza, Bette), and costumes by hair designer Charlie Le Mindu. There was also her first solo art show, so very appropriately titled Whose Jizz is This?, at the Kunstverein in Hamburg.
Still living in Berlin, she spent some time in self-reflection during the recent corona quarantine, then got busy recording the fierce, kind of pissed off new single “Flip This,” and self-filming its cathartic accompanying video. Which, naturally, has costume changes and a light show.
We caught up with her for a cross-continental chat, and have to admit we were ridiculously excited to find out she’s very much “in demo land” with her first new album in five years.
Do you feel quarantine has been stifling—or has it particularly ignited your ability to be creatively fertile?
I am in better physical shape than I have ever been. I have been doing a lot of self-reflection, like I’m sure a lot of people have. It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions, and moments of creative bursts have come through hard.
Do you feel as if Berlin is one of the last great cities for cultivating “underground” culture?
It’s definitely still great for cultivating underground culture, but it’s of course changing. Next year is election year and a lot will change. Things are really normalizing here. Also corona has definitely had an effect on all cultural outlets and club culture. It’s the first time Berlin has had to shut down at night or follow necessary restrictions. But a big part of Berlin’s charm is its ease and freedom with cultural events mixed with nightlife—not sure what the long-term effects will be.
“Flip This” seems pissed off about a lot of things—what’s been your state of mind these days?
I just want to get real with how I feel, and how I can be active and aware.
Did the video act as a kind of catharsis for everything you were trying to get across in the song?
I do think the video worked really well, and also spoke to lockdown feelings and suppressed performance feelings.
It’s been five years since Rub came out—are you planning a new album?
Yes, totally deep in demo land. It’s actually good to have time after doing the Rub tour for two years, and then my first major art installation/sculpture project, Whose Jizz is This?, which took eight months in the making. And then There’s Only One Peach With The Hole in the Middle—my 20-year anniversary show with a cast of forty musicians and performers.
Other than you, Pussy Riot, a couple of others, most of the new music coming out right now seems entirely lacking in fire and ideology. How do you see the current music scene?
I wouldn’t say that. [Cardi B’s] “WAP” to me is a breakthrough song that is needed right now, and political in a whole different way. It’s got fire!
You’re Canadian—how do you feel right now, ethically/philosophically/socio-politically about Canada vs. The U.S. vs. Europe?
It’s actually all about how great it would be to live and experience New Zealand and Jacinda Ardern. The USA is so super complicated, broken, and charged right now. This is a much longer conversation. So much to dig into here. And Canada is being super careful, which I’m happy about, as my mom is quarantined alone. Europe seems to be getting it together. I have to say Berlin has been a very safe and sane place to experience corona; but we really don’t know what’s coming up, do we?
What do you think artists can do to kick back against the so many oppressors right now?
Artists have to keep doing what artists do. Be real. Be aware, and be bold.
Finally, did you love that “Boys Wanna Be Her” was chosen as the theme song for Full Frontal? And what do you think of the show?
Yes, I love Samantha and I watch the show. And when the theme music comes in I always forget that it’s “Boys Wanna” and it makes me smile because of the association. Canadians!