The video stream for this lecture can be watched here.
Controversial, talented and iconic, Peaches is an artist who comes around once in a while and shakes up the ground beneath them. Her avant-garde electronica and sexual fearlessness have made her a musical icon. Canadian born, her infamous live shows have become a thing of music industry legend. With an early music career in folk, she later joined forces with Chilly Gonzales, relocated from Toronto to Berlin, played one spontaneous over-the-top gig and got a record deal with independent label Kitty-Yo. The teaches of Peaches continue to influence pop culture, as her cult following has grown. She reflects on her performance art beginnings, how she thought she was doing theater, not music, and why it still seems it’s different for girls.
RBMA: It’s an absolute pleasure to welcome our next guest at the Red Bull Music Academy. I don’t know where to begin. She’s a singer, she’s a songwriter, she’s a performance artist, she’s a conceptual artist, she’s a theater writer, she’s a theater director, she’s released four albums, toured all over the world, and created a storm of awesomeness and controversy along the way. But most importantly, she’s an inspiration. Ladies and gentleman, give it up for Peaches.
How are you?
RBMA: I’ve got to say that it must be noted that you arrived in Madrid the night before last, you found yourself very ill yesterday, couldn’t make it here yesterday and missed out on Tony Visconti.
Peaches: Ah! It breaks my heart.
RBMA: I guess that kind of begs the question, I mean you tour a lot, and some people in this room are going to find themselves on that tour bus, on that brutal Australian tour. What happens when you have a massive tour, performing support for Marilyn Manson or whatever, and you can’t afford to get sick – what do you do to keep yourself well?
Peaches: Well, when you get a virus or something, there’s nothing you can do but sweat it out. Wendy O. Williams from The Plasmatics said that: “I won’t miss a show unless I’m in jail, or dead.” So I kind of adopted that as my philosophy too.
RBMA: Peaches, what we normally like to do, I mean, I'm sure a large proportion of people in this room are familiar with your music, but for those that aren’t we’re going to play something right now, and I think we’re going to begin with this, which is suitably apt, it’s just a short, sharp piece of what you’re all about, I guess. This is taken off your third album, Impeach My Bush and it’s a track called "Fuck Or Kill".
(music: Peaches – Fuck Or Kill)
RBMA: So there you go. I guess, over the course of the last ten years a lot of the world has got to know this woman called Peaches fairly well. But I would like to know a little bit more about this wonderful woman, Merrill Nisker, from Toronto. For you, growing up in Toronto, what were some of your earliest musical inspirations?
Peaches: Well, I have no musical training and I had no musical guidance as a small child and as a young adult, actually. I have a wonderful family but beside my brother listening to punk music and my sister listening to a lot of disco and funk music I just picked it up. I look back to see some of the music that was popular on the radio when I was seven, and I can still sing along to them, but I didn’t know it was music. The only creative outlet I had was that I understood theater – my family took me to see a lot of theater productions because we had a lot of family in New York, so we saw a lot of stuff like that. So I thought theater was what I wanted to do. I always sang, even when I was seven, embarrassingly enough, at family bar mitzvahs and stuff. I would be like: “Can I sing with that band?” And my parents were like: “Can you sing?” And I was like: “Yeah I think so!” And I’d have to audition with the bar mitzvah while they were eating and I would be singing – this is completely embarrassing – Barbra Streisand songs, and they’d be like: “Yeah, yeah, you can sing.” I’d have to sing at every family function from then on. And then when I was older, I was like: “Give me that electric guitar!” And I’d be singing Janis Joplin songs on my guitar and screaming, and stuff like that. But I didn’t really get that it was music, I thought that it was theater. I actually went to university to study theater, I wanted to be a theater director. And then I quickly learnt that I didn’t want to work with actors, I didn’t want to work with so many people, it was very stressful, and it all evolved from there. I started to play acoustic guitar and at the same time I had just graduated university. I never finished the directorial program, I dropped acid and dropped out of the program, but I still finished university and I started to take fine arts courses and quickly learned that everything was in little boxes, even creatively. Like, I took this course, which was multimedia, where it had visual artists and musicians and theater people, whatever you want to call them, and dancers, and we would all be put into groups and have to do creative projects. The teacher was a musician, he had an amazing glass orchestra where he would play glass with different levels of water. But he always favored the music students, and I wasn’t a music student and he would always say: “OK, if you’re a drama student you can dance, or you can draw a picture if you’re a dancer.” But then he’d always give musical parts for musicians or whatever, and I was so mad at him. I’d be like: “Excuse me, but I want to play all things.” It’s like: “Yes, I don’t know how to play music but I’d like to try that piano.” And I’d go inside the piano – I didn’t know anything about John Cage at this point – and I started plucking inside or moving the piano around, stuff like that. I even thought he was supposed to be an experimental kind of teacher. It was funny because I just wanted to make music in the same way that he thought that a visual artist should dance, or something like that. And whenever I’m in those situations I always question them, not just for the sake of questioning but because I really believe that if you have creativity you can transfer it to other things.
RBMA: I think one of the earliest stories which kind of gives people an idea of this incredibly creative Peaches to come was that you were doing work at daycare, and also started teaching in schools, and you were bored with the program that four- or five-year-old kids were learning so you reinvented it.
Peaches: Yeah, I needed a job, I’m sort of a late bloomer on everything. I was still living at home when I was in university, and then I had a relationship with a woman and then my mum was like: “Oh my god! You’re gay!” Or whatever. And then that’s how I left home, kind of, ‘Oh! I’m gay!’ And my girlfriend played - and this is really more typical things from the Barbra Streisand, moving on to the early ‘90s where the Indigo Girls had just come out and Melissa Etheridge, and you’re listening and you’re going: “They’re gay. They’re totally gay, but they don’t say it.” And I was playing acoustic guitar with my girlfriend and stuff like that. But first I was working in a daycare because I needed a job. The teachers were so apathetic, and the kids were just jumping on each other, and I just took about 20 of them and was like: “Let's go into another room,” and started playing acoustic guitar and telling them stories, and having them move around, and having them be creative. Sort of letting them be whatever they wanted to be, but with a structure of music sort of lulling them into this hypnotic state. The teachers walked in and were like: “Did you give these kids drugs? Why are they listening to you? What is going on?” And then the head of the department came by and she was like: “Wow, this is really cool, what are you doing?” I said: “I don’t really know! I’m just trying to make some sort of creative outlet for these kids. I was basing it on a lack of creative outlets for myself growing up, when I would be in a music class, which turned me off music totally, and they would be like: “Sing that note.” And I’d go: “Ah…” And they’d say: “No, next person!” And that would be that last time I got to sing a note. Or I would be in a theater play and they’d look at me and say: “OK, you’re going to be the bat, and you’re an ant.” And I’d say: “I don’t wanna be an ant. I want to be a lion.” So I made sure that these kids had their own outlet and this became really popular and I developed a programme, I became my own boss, and I’ve never actually worked for anybody since that little period. And for ten years I taught kids music and drama, and at the same time I was teaching myself music. So in the day I was seeing how kids were really being excited about having their own creativity and then I would work that out at night in my own sort of adult form.
RBMA: So you kind of mentioned it before, this time of the early ‘90s, and I’m not going to embarrass you by making you show the photos...
Peaches: Horrible photos!
RBMA: Mermaid Café was the name of the band. So what was this first foray of you being part of a band?
Peaches: Well, like I said, I had a girlfriend who played acoustic guitar, and I did. We got this one gig at this place in Toronto called The Cabana Room, which was quite popular on weekdays for folk-rock musicians, and the last band who had a sort of residency on a Wednesday night there were the Barenaked Ladies. So we played there as Mermaid Café and all of a sudden a lot of people showed up, and we ended up having a weekly gig there. People would come to our shows, and there would be 14-year-old girls crying because we’d be singing these songs, and it was really like, ‘Oh, I’m a musician. Oh, I’m playing folk music, I don’t want to play folk music, what am I doing?’ So I quit that band and I knew two other musicians – one was an avant-garde jazz musician, and a funky bass player, and we formed Fancypants with them, which was just my vehicle to do whatever I wanted. They were quite good musicians, I didn’t know what I was doing, but I would make up songs anyway. Usually in my bed with a ukulele and a dictaphone and stuff like that, just sort of developing what I wanted to do. At the same time I was listening to PJ Harvey, who was just coming out, and I was getting into Sonic Youth and all that kind of music. And it would just develop on and on. I didn’t really know a lot of musicians back then, even though I went to see a lot of shows, it was more like: “Oh, wow! That band, cool!” And I made friends with another band called Spin The Susan who, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that movie, Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls, but they were in that movie. It was a girl band and we got to be friends, and to one of the girls, whose name was Sticky, I said: “Oh, I’d love to make a girl band with you.” And she was like: “Well, my next door neighbour is a musician and he’s really cool, and I have a crush on this guy and he’s a really good musician too.” And I was like: “No, I want a girl band, a GIRL band! Girls! Girls!” And she said: “You know, let’s just jam with them.” So she called over her next-door neighbour, who was Mocky - I don’t know if you know about him but he helped produce Feist albums, he’s quite an accomplished and incredible musician. And the friend that she had a crush on was Chilly Gonzales. So the first time that I’d ever talked to either of those guys was never, we just started jamming. What was pretty amazing, and I love this, was that we sort of all had secret crushes on each other, all of us, and instead of telling each other, we just started singing about it. We were all singing: “I wanna fuck you!” I think that was one of our songs, it was like: “Hey, I wanna fuck you!” It was really fun and it was also that little bit of not really telling each other about having crushes on each other. And also our idea was to be completely improvisational, or whatever we sang there, was what we were gonna do. I remember after the first jam, one of the first things Chilly Gonzales said to me was: “Wow, you play guitar like Joey Santiago from The Pixies.” And I was like: “First of all, oh my god, someone actually called me a guitarist, and then secondly, I loved Joey Santiago!” And then we started playing, and we were smoking a lot of pot, and they were like: “Yeah, hey, one of you play drums now, and one of you play keyboards!” And at that time I was like: “Keyboards are not cool for a rock band. Keyboards? No! Once you have keyboards in a band, you’re not a rock band.” That was my opinion, until I got into it. Then we called ourselves The Shit because we thought it would be really cool to be on stage and be like: “Yeah, we’re The Shit!” And then we all gave ourselves names. We were all not completely satisfied with the music we were making at the time. Mocky had more of a hip hop jazz band, and I had my Fancypants Hoodlum, and Sticky had Spin the Susan. So this was a really good way to break out of what we were doing. I became Peaches because I really loved that Nina Simone song where she says: “My name is Peaches,” and I wanted to sing that to me.
RBMA: It was kind of interesting because for me, growing up in New Zealand in the ‘90s, the most incredible music show I’d ever seen in my life was The New Music Show, which was around ‘94/’95. It was a show from Toronto, and for some random reason they played in New Zealand, and it would be religious viewing. It really painted this picture of Toronto at the time as this really incredible, happening scene. Do you remember that show?
Peaches: That show saved my life. It started before MTV, that’s for sure. What year did MTV start, 1982? So this was the first time I found out about The Ramones, it was the first time I found out about Nina Hagen. I found out about everybody through that show, it was an incredible show, for sure. And then they also had something like Rage, like they did in Australia at that time, where they’d play videos all night long, but before MTV. So I feel like Toronto had an advantage of getting influenced from both the UK and America, because in America you really didn’t get that as much, especially before MTV and things like that.
RBMA: I guess, the other thing to note with Toronto, is that as a city its always had this incredible multicultural melting pot, with the Afro-Caribbean culture, the African culture, the Indian culture, did that melting pot play an influence for you?
Peaches: Well yeah, it did. It’s funny because there was all of that but it was always underground, it was still the mainstream Canadian folk-rock, and that was God in Canada. I’m 45 now, and I remember being in grade seven and it just being all early hip hop and disco so I felt really lucky, because when you’re 12 and listening to that music, it’s really an amazing time. All the assisted living and the assisted housing around the neighbourhood and the African and Caribbean housing, and I was part of the Jewish community, and they would all be at the dances, all the African-Canadian and the Caribbean and they would all be booty dancing (laughs). The Freak had just come out, and they would all do The Freak. Do you know how to do The Freak? Should I show you? Do you want to do it with me?
RBMA: No, I can’t!
Peaches: Well, you need a partner for it. Alright, well I‘ll just explain. So your legs are here and their legs are there, and it’s all about how close you can get (enacts dance move). That kind of dance has been banned in America in the ‘90s, but this was the ‘70s, and all us Jewish girls would stand around, like: “How do you do that?” And we would start freaking with all of them and that’s how we would interact, and you knew you were doing good if you were freaking with the real freakers, it was pretty amazing.
RBMA: So at this time, you had this band called The Shit happening with Mocky, with Chilly Gonzales, and you mentioned that in this band you called yourself Peaches. When would you say that this solo artist known as Peaches really started to go up and you had this inkling that you wanted to do something alone?
Peaches: I think it started there, the name started there, and even Offering, a song from my second album, was written with Sticky, even before The Shit. So you know, there were the seedlings of that - and I think out of the four of us, I continued on with that sort of, ‘DIY-I’m-going-to-continue’ feeling. People started to move away, and I didn’t have anyone else to play with, and there was this new equipment that had been coming out. I had been getting into keyboards, and I went to the music store and I saw this machine and it was called the Roland MC-505. I was like: “Oh, what’s this machine?” And some awesome geek was like: “Oh, you can do this, and you can do this, blah blah, and totally sold me on it. I was like: “Wow, so you can be the drummer, you can be the bass player, you can be the keyboard player? OK, cool!” So I just bought it and it wasn’t an incredibly difficult machine, but it was great for me, it had like 700 Roland sounds and it was all new for me and I just started to make songs like I was a band.
RBMA: In terms of lyrical content, did you have an idea way back then of what you wanted to do with this project, of what you wanted Peaches to be saying?
Peaches: Well, I never actually thought that I would have a career in music, as I never thought that I would be teaching kids, and I never thought that I would be doing anything that I’m doing. I would just do it and it kind of worked out for me. In terms of the lyrical content, I started to play on this machine, and I was thinking of the riot grrrl movement and how it wasn’t around anymore and I didn’t understand why it was something that was just a trend and wasn’t there anymore. I started to think about all these old rock lyrics that I loved, that were completely from a man’s perspective, like even old blues songs, I always give this example: “Squeeze my lemon till the juice runs down my leg. I don’t have a lemon, I have Peaches, so I didn’t know why I was singing that – I wanted to build lyrics that related to me, that I thought, ‘If I just twist this stiff a little bit around, it would relate to me’. And that should be normal. So hip hop lyrics, I just spun it around a bit and came up with new sort of clichés, saying things like: “Diddle my skittle,” or: “Sucking on my titties.” I had this idea that everybody, guys and girls, gays and straights would want to sing: “Sucking my titties!” I think I thought that that would have been a big breakthrough, in my head. But I never really thought that anybody would really hear it.
RBMA: Shall we listen to that track now?
RBMA: So tell us about this track that we’re about to hear.
Peaches: Well, actually I have a little story for you, because the first time I ever played this track in its entirety was in a small club in Toronto, The Rivoli. I was opening for a friend of mine called Howie Beck, who plays kind of Elliott Smith-type music, so already it was quite different. When I was using the MC-505, I had things programmed, but I could always change it around and filter things or bring sounds in and out, and I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to say: “Fuck the pain away,” or if I wanted to say this or that. But at that particular gig I just sang the whole thing in an order. Then, at the end of my whole gig, the sound girl came up to me and was like: “Yeah, I recorded your whole set, I have it on cassette, if you give me five bucks I’ll give you the cassette.” I was like: “OK, cool! Cassette, yeah!” I went home and listened to it and I was like: “Oh my God! The vocal is so loud, the beat is way off. OK, I’ll put it on a demo with a bunch of other songs.” I played it to some people and they were like: “Wow! This is the shit, this is awesome, this is great.” I was like: “OK, I’ll just leave it.” So, the actual recording is from The Rivoli desk on a cassette from 1999, and you’ll hear in the background someone go ‘Woo!’ I’ve often got emails from people asking where that sample is from, but this is just a live recording. So that’s why it’s all hissy and stuff. But you know, if it ain't broke, don’t fix it.
(music: Peaches – Fuck The Pain Away / applause)
I wanted to mention that something that is really awesome about this song is that the chorus doesn’t come in until almost three minutes, which is the thing that they say in a pop song is the worst thing you can do. You know, a chorus should come in right away; somehow the other hooks hook you in, but it’s funny, the chorus doesn’t come in for a while and then when it does it’s extremely long. Also, if you notice, after every eighth clap it’s completely phased, because I played it over the other one, but I didn’t know how to erase it, and it doesn’t start on the one. Nothing on The Teaches Of Peaches starts on the one because I just didn’t really get where the one was, actually. It’s funny because I’ve met so many producers who are like: “Oh, it’s so cool that you didn’t start on that one!” I remember that so many DJs were so upset because they really wanted to put "Lovertits" in their set but they were like: “We can’t mix it in, it’s not on the one, it’s like the timing’s wrong. We love that, but we can’t mix it in.” It’s really cool though, because those mistakes have really made a mark.
RBMA: Is it crazy to you, to think just what a life of its own that track took?
Peaches: Oh my god, it’s incredible.
RBMA: Lost In Translation, South Park…
Peaches: I don’t know if you know about South Park, but last year I got a request to use it in South Park, and I was like, “Yes, yes!” straight away – it’s my favourite show. It’s an incredible scene, it’s an episode called Butters Bottom Bitch and it’s about Butters, who is this incredibly naive character who becomes a pimp. He doesn’t even realise, he’s like: “(mimics the voice) I heard it’s called a pimp.” And so at the same time there’s this police officer who’s trying to figure out who this pimp is, and where the prostitution ring is coming from. So he dresses as a woman and he becomes this tranny-prostitute who totally goes overboard. He’s like having sex with men and then arresting them. So, then of course, the pinnacle moment is when the tranny-cop is like: “I’m going to find out where this ring is. I’m going to go to the fraternity house and get samples from all the students and they’re going to hire me as a prostitute.” So the tranny-cop goes to this frat-house, and he’s in a cake, and he jumps out of the cake to "Fuck The Pain Away" and I’m like (blows a kiss). Any moment on TV that went overboard in terms of gender or sexuality, they used my music, and "Fuck The Pain Away" and "Boys Wanna Be Her" were used so many times to represent this. I was watching 30 Rock. I love Tina Fey and I remember getting a request for it, and I totally forgot, and I’m watching on my computer and Tina Fey’s in this dentist office, and she’s trying to pick up this guy. So she calls herself on the phone so that the phone will ring because her ringtone is Fuck the Pain Away and I forgot and I was like: “Oh, shit, I think my iTunes just went on!” I didn’t even believe it, so it’s pretty cool.
RBMA: For you, there’s a certain amount of irony - I mean, you tell the story before about how you recorded, and you’ve worked in some of the biggest studios in the world, with some of the top producers, and yet this thing recorded to cassette is your biggest song.
Peaches: Also, "Boys Wanna Be Her", which was the first time I was like: “No! I’m going to write a girl anthem.” I love "Cherry Bomb" by The Runaways and I love Bikini Kill and I wanted my own but I want it to sound like AC/DC. So I had "Boys Wanna Be Her", which was used in Ugly Betty when there was a tranny who had a photoshoot, and in The L Word when Shane was modelling boys underwear. It’s cool.
RBMA: Can I ask you a little bit about the origins of the song in terms of the writing? Where did it come from?
Peaches: Which one?
RBMA: "Fuck The Pain Away".
Peaches: A lot of silly rapping with friends. It’s funny, this is really so random, but I was on an aeroplane and I was thinking about the Pat Benatar song when she says: “Breaking little hearts like you wanted me.” And I was like: “Sucking on my titties like you wanted me?” And that’s really how I came up with that, through a Pat Benatar song. Then I started referencing who I thought were really cool women, like Chrissie Hynde, so I said: “Check out my Chrissie behind.” Chrissie Hynde from The Pretenders who I thought had the coolest voice and really got me into dirty lyrics. There was this song called "Tattooed Love Boys" on the first album, and she has this line where she says: “I shot my mouth off and you showed me what that hole was for.” I was like: “What?! That’s amazing. Wow!” And then, of course, Debbie Harry from Blondie. So I said: “Call me all the time like Blondie.”
RBMA: In terms of those earlier female inspirations, who were some of your other ones?
Peaches: Wendy O. Williams, she had a band called The Plasmatics and she to me is the number one most incredible performer to have ever lived. Like I mentioned before, the only time she would ever miss a gig is if she was dead or in jail.
RBMA: She used to blow up TVs on stage and chainsaw guitars really early on, right?
Peaches: Yeah. There’s an incredible video of hers. Here it is, and I mean the music is quite wild, she’s quite rock but I’m just going to let that load up, maybe we can watch.
RBMA: Shall we come back to it?
RBMA: You mentioned before that you had a point where all your friends left you in Toronto, and there sort of seemed a point in time about 10 or 11 years ago where most of the notable musicians in the electronic world, all of a sudden, moved to Berlin.
Peaches: Well, yeah. It was before this sort of rush to Berlin, and it wasn’t like Berlin was a Mecca for me, or I even thought like, ‘Oh, you should go there, the ‘20s and all the burlesque, and the sexual innuendos and the electronic music’. No, I didn’t even think about that. So I took a summer vacation, and Gonzales’ father had a place in Paris, so he was like: “I’m gonna be in Paris.” So I was like: “Oh OK, I’ll meet you there, let’s go to Berlin.” And he was like: “No, I want to go to Amsterdam, I wanna smoke tons of weed.” So I was like: “OK, we’ll go to Amsterdam, then we’ll go to Berlin.” So I had to convince him to go to Berlin, and I took my MC-505 and he had – I don’t think they make it any more – these two CDJs, but it was one piece of equipment. It was really cool. We’d do improvisational ambient music together and just plug in where we could. This is before anyone had laptops, so it was like: “Yeah, you can plug it into your stereo system, it’s really cool.” And they were like: “Oh, wow! Cool, play in our bar, or our makeshift club.” And we played in Berlin and there was a record label called Kitty-Yo who saw us doing this and wanted to invite us to a festival, to which I was like: “Wow, how does that happen?” Chilly was like: “I’m staying?” And I was like: “I would love to stay but I have to go and teach kids for one more year, and then I’m gonna join you.” So I went home, and I was like: “Oh, I wanted to stay.” But I took my experience of Berlin and how it was so open to do what you wanted in these spaces that people had just been building up, and I started to write The Teaches Of Peaches in Toronto.
RBMA: So Kitty-Yo not just invited you to play at a festival, but they ended up signing you?
RBMA: Can you tell us a little about Kitty-Yo?
Peaches: Kitty-Yo was probably like, an eighth the size of this room, and they had a small label, were signing indie bands and doing small little indie runs, and they signed Gonzales. Then I, again with my cassette, sent them six songs, and they had listened to it and they had really liked it. They had passed it around to people and I had already been gaining popularity with other musicians there that I didn’t know yet. And then I went and did a show and it went quite well, and they signed me. Actually, I called them the next day and I was like: “What are you guys doing?” And they were like: “We’re drinking champagne.” I was like: “Really, why?” And they were like: “We just signed you.” And I was like: “Oh OK, save me a glass I’m coming over!” I think they signed me for 4.000 DM and that was my big deal!
RBMA: (laughs) So at the time, did you ever think that you’d get a deal back in Canada or America or did that not even occur to you?
Peaches: Well, actually I did have an offer from a small label in Canada, but I was like: “Oh, I don’t really wanna do that.” Because I just knew the routine and I knew how Canadians saw me. I remember I had played a singer-songwriter night and everybody else was playing guitar and singing and I bought my 505, and I was playing and singing and being overtly sexual and everyone else was crying. And then this reviewer, who I thought always tells it like it is, wrote a review about the night and said that: “After Merrill Nisker’s hair-raising one-woman throw down, we got back to what music is.” And I was like: “Yes! I’ve made it!” (laughs) And I used that quote everywhere.
RBMA: That’s a good example, but what were people’s reactions to you, initially?
Peaches: They would sit in the back and they would be like (motions confusion). They wouldn’t leave, but they definitely didn’t have happy faces. But they weren’t leaving, so it was like this weird, ‘I think I like it, this is cool but weird’. I was really influenced at that time, after The Shit and Peaches, by Pan Sonic, I don’t know if you know them at all, they’re a Finnish band, and they made music that sounded like this…
(music: Pan Sonic – unknown)
I saw them play in Toronto, and I was like: “Wow, this is heavy metal.” And it’s funny, it sounds very kind of archaic in a way because you can do this on computers now, but they were before that, and they were building their own instruments and everybody in the audience was just like… (motions moshing) And I was like: “This is like a metal performance! I wanted to make music like them, and another reason why I wanted to go to Berlin is because there was this other band called Shizuo. I don’t know if you’ve heard of them… I have it somewhere. It’s also quite abrasive but also quite lo-fi for that time.
RBMA: At that time, did you feel like you were being controversial, or was it just normal for you, were you just telling it like it was?
Peaches: I did not feel controversial at all because I just wanted to say what I wanted to say, and say it directly. It started to really polarize people, people really hating me or people really like: “Yeah, respect, we need to hear this.” And then people were telling me how much I sounded like a band called Suicide and ESG, and I didn’t know either of those bands. Suicide is that "Born Free" song and M.I.A. uses a sample from that. So it was funny because I didn’t really know what I was doing, I was just trying to sound like Pan Sonic with Bikini Kill in it, or take something like Iggy Pop and put it with Salt-n-Pepa. And after I had made Teaches Of Peaches, 2manyDJs had come out with a song that was those two in particular.
RBMA: In terms of the timeline, where you packed up and you said no more to the school teaching, you decided to move to Berlin, you’re now living in Berlin, you’ve released a record on Kitty-Yo…
Peaches: Yes, I had sent them the record so even by the time I had got there, the record came out two weeks later and I had done a show that was packed, and somehow it had just caught on. There was no radio play, there was no video, there was no internet, there was nothing. It was literally word of mouth. I got to Kitty-Yo and they were just like: “Oh my God, we’re getting calls from Madonna’s Maverick label, Beastie Boys’ label called, Arthur Baker.” Elastica was calling, just by getting this little mail outs from this small little label. So there was no mass blast, it was just literally, word of mouth.
RBMA: Did it feel overwhelming at the time?
Peaches: It was just exciting, it was cool. Yeah. I really didn’t care because I was on Kitty-Yo. I was just gonna do my thing.
RBMA: One video that you did load up, I think is one of your Berlin shows?
Peaches: Yeah, one of my first Berlin shows coming up.
RBMA: And for you, I guess, aside from the music scene, what was it about Berlin that all of a sudden was a really appealing place to create music?
Peaches: It was just really open. OK, so this is one of my earlier shows.
(video: Peaches live in Berlin)
Bad underwear! Lack of fashion, there’s my machine in the background. I would just play it. And what I was saying before about seeing Pan Sonic and all these other bands was that they weren’t performing, they were playing music, but I wanted to show that it wasn’t completely rocket science to turn knobs, and even though it’s a skill, you can also have fun and be in the audience and have fun. So that’s what I was showing here.
RBMA: So, aside from the music, what was it about Berlin that made you say: “Yeah, I’m going to spend the next ten years of my life here,” which you did?
Peaches: I didn’t even know, now I have spent 11 years there. I think it’s just a good place to create because it’s not Paris or London or New York where it’s completely competitive or overwhelming all the time. Like I said, when I moved there, after two weeks I was already doing interviews and shows and touring constantly, and I’ve been touring ever since. It seemed like a good calm place to be.
RBMA: What happened off the back of that was, as you mentioned, all this touring, and still to this day. What was the point for you, aside from all these calls from, like, The Beastie Boys where you were like: “Wow, something is happening here?” I guess, the question here is that you mentioned earlier on that you never thought of yourself as a musician, it was more of a performance artist. What was the moment for you when you went: “You know what, maybe I am a musician?
Peaches: I felt like I had to tell myself I was a musician because it was important at that time that people saw me as a musician, or heard it from me that I was a musician, so that I could become a musician and become a part of musical circles. Instead of going: “Oh, I’m a performance artist, and them going: “Oh, alright. Well…” (motions a dismissive hand signal) So now I couldn’t give a fuck if people see me as a musician or performance artist or whatever, I feel so lucky to be able to be whatever I want, because I’ve taken it much further. I’ve taken it much further than music. Like, this look is totally normal (gestures to screen), one person on stage with a machine. At that time it was very weird, my machine and people wondering if I was really playing it, they didn’t understand what was going on. That night actually, my machine got very drunk and died and I had to get a new one, and that was the night before I went on tour with Elastica. But yeah, it was really strange. And for TV, they were like: “No, no, we can’t put you on American TV. We can’t just have somebody and a machine. But you know, they constantly have that with hip hop artists. I think it was also a gender thing, I think they didn’t really know what to do with this 33-year-old white Jewish suburban girl, with a machine. “I don’t know what to do with that.”
RBMA: One of the main points here is that the music industry has always lent itself to the notion that if you are a female and you are over 30, there is no hope in hell of you having a career, and your career didn’t start until after you were 30.
Peaches: Yeah, and it didn’t start with the help of any sort of media other than my own word of mouth. Funny thing, that.
RBMA: The other thing to note is that after going on tour with Elastica, you became really good friends with Justine from Elastica, and famously, Justine’s roommate was a very young M.I.A., or they were friends.
Peaches: Yeah, yeah, M.I.A. was on tour on tour also as a videographer, and she was like: “Oh, that’s a really cool machine. What is that machine?” And I was like: “It's so easy, if you wanna make music, use this machine.” And she got one.
RBMA: And she started making some music!
RBMA: The other thing is that at this time in Berlin, a musical box that a lot of journalists started to put people like yourself and Chicks On Speed into was this whole thing called electroclash. And I guess, without even realising it, you were right at the epicentre of it. How did that kind of feel, all of a sudden, being part of a musical movement?
Peaches: Well, I don’t think anybody that is in a movement likes to be part of a movement. Bob Dylan and Joan Baez did not like to be called protest songs and The Ramones did not like to be called punk rock, so at the time you just go: “I’m not that, I’m just me.” So that’s how I felt about that. Though, then I did go on a tour that was called the Electroclash Tour with Chicks On Speed and Tracy + the Plastics and things like that. It was an all-girl group and that was important for me, that it was all women and it wasn’t a ‘women’s tour’, but an electroclash tour, it wasn’t like ‘women on tour’.
RBMA: Shall we listen to something else from Teaches Of Peaches?
Peaches: Sure, what you wanna hear?
RBMA: What would you like to play to everyone?
Peaches: I would like to play this song.
(music: Peaches – Diddle My Skittle)
RBMA: What is this called by the way?
Peaches: This is called "Diddle My Skittle". I want to mention that all the songs on the first two albums are produced by me, and the first album, there’s only eight tracks to use. As I mentioned I did not have a Mac or any other computer – I was not an early computer geek or anything, I had an ADAT machine, you know, video tape, I had a Mackie 16 channel mixer and I had them on a keyboard stand. My friends were always like: “That’s gonna fall, that’s gonna fall!” And I had them set up in my bedroom by my bed so I could record from my bed, and that was a big deal, like: “Yeah, I can record from my bed.” Now, of course you can record from your bed but back then it was a big concept to me. So yeah, that’s all from an ADAT machine’s recordings. And the only time I had somebody else singing back-ups was on this song, and that was Feist, going: “Little dittle.” I was like: “I need an extra voice,” because I couldn't do overdubs.
RBMA: So did you find yourself becoming a little geekier with your tech stuff and your studio stuff?
Peaches: Yeah, I try but I’m a really bad geek. As much as I want to be a geek I don’t have the attention span and I’m extroverted, stuff like that. I have managed to set up a few studios, actually. Grayson used one of my studios when he was in Berlin and needed a place to record before it was treated or anything, and I was like: “Yeah, I got a studio.” This cold room, I shoved him in with a bad PA. But I’ve managed to set up a lot of equipment, I have a lot of gear now. I actually took over Jamie Liddell’s old studio and I inherited his Jupiter, and I bought his MS-10 and I bought his format modulating system and I have them all set up, all at once so that I can just play. And with Ableton now I can just use it and play whatever and it’s constantly going. If I have jam sessions, people can play but it will always be in their own tracks. I also have an electronic drum kit, but all the drums will be separate with all the Midi’s so you can change whatever sounds and stuff like that.
RBMA: Going back to what we were talking about before about the lyrical side of things, when the album came out globally, and the first thing that would be documented was the lyrical content and the nature of the lyrics. We were talking earlier over lunch about how a lot of the music from the ‘70s and ‘80s wasn’t even very metaphorical, it was really filthy!
Peaches: No, no, we were talking about Rod Stewart, where he was like: “Don’t say a word, my virgin child / Upstairs by the nightstand / Spread your wings and let me come inside.” It was like: “Really? OK!”
Peaches: But also, I said that they probably don’t even realise, but they were one of the first bands who had ever sampled. They go: “You can hear Mr Young sing about it…” And then you hear: “Southern man.” And I’m like: “Wow! They don’t even know that they’re sample geniuses (laughs).”
RBMA: So I guess the question is, like, things of a sexual nature well, of a filthy sexual nature…
Peaches: Have always been around. And are completely at the top of pop music.
RBMA: I mean, you went for a straightforward approach, but were you surprised at everyone getting so shocked about it?
Peaches: Of course! Yeah, and I was shocked at them being shocked. I just wanted to say things directly and I think something that I always mention is that the mainstream does not include everybody, which is really ridiculous. It just includes a mainstream, kind of traditional path because we all need to find out who we are and find our path, and if you look to the mainstream, then you’re going to have a lot of problems understanding who you are. Because 99% of the time you’re not really going to be included in your own sort of way that you want to express yourself. Also, popular music has always been linked to sexuality. I mean, rock ‘n’ roll means, like ‘rock’ and ‘roll’ - it’s about having sex in the back seat in the car, you know, ‘rock and roll’. So this whole, ‘Peaches –sexually explicit lyrics!’ is just ridiculous. I couldn’t believe it. There’s a band that I also found out about after, when I was reading this book called She’s A Rebel about women in rock music, and there’s this band from the ‘80s called Bitches With Problems and people didn’t like them, but they were probably the most progressive girl hip hop and this is why. This is going to be really bassy.
RBMA: What is this song called?
Peaches: I call it "Eat My Pussy Right", I don’t even think it’s called that!
(music: Bitches With Problems – Teach Em)
If this ain’t explicit, I don’t know what is. I love the guy here.
So that’s some ‘80s girl hip hop. There’s this idea that comes from late or early feminists, kind of: “Say no to everything.” Which brings me to my second album, because I was like: “No, say yes to everything, including: say yes to calling people ‘fatherfuckers’, if people are going to call people ‘motherfuckers’.” So, to bring attention to things in the mainstream I wanted to go more hardcore, so that’s what I did with my Fatherfucker album.
RBMA: We were talking before about notions of lyrics of a sexual nature, what would you say is your take on themes of a sexual nature? Like, in what way does sex influence your writing?
Peaches: Well, I think that you need to be inspired and I think that sexual feelings can inspire you too.
RBMA: So Fatherfucker, all of a sudden a lot rockier…
Peaches: I don’t know if people like to call it rockier, because there were a couple of live songs on there, and I did a duet with Iggy Pop. So that was the main single because Iggy Pop was in it. So yeah, there are rockier songs, but there are also way more hardcore songs like "Shake Your Dicks", because there’s a million songs like ‘Shake your booty’ or ‘Shake your tits’. And I was like: “Why are there no songs about shake your dick? I mean, it’s hanging, you know?” (laughter) I remember being in Brazil and that album had just come out and I was invited by DJ Marlboro, who does booty music there, to be on his radio show. And I was in the studio with five guys just being like, ‘Yeah, DJ Marlboro, and there’s like, booty dancers and they’re slapping their ass’. So I call my dancers over and I’m like: “OK, when I play my songs, dance for me.” And they’re like: “Yeah, yes!” And they were so excited. So then I made all the guys line up and I was performing "Shake Your Dicks" and I was like: “I’m not going to play anything and I’m going to stop radio right now unless you guys shake your dicks. Enough of these booty dancers, I want to see you shake your dicks.” And part of it was that they didn’t really understand English, and they were all looking at each other, like, what’s this woman doing? And then one guy just starts going, (motions shaking) and I was like, “Yeah! That’s what I’m talking about!”
RBMA: So the Fatherfucker album came out on XL, right? You went from being on this very small German label to all of a sudden being on a very cool label. How did that XL thing come about?
Peaches: I was in Australia on The Big Day Out tour, and Prodigy were on this tour and The White Stripes and Basement Jaxx, and they had all gone back to XL in the UK and said: “You gotta know about Peaches.” And it was cool because it was on a rock side and on a dance side, they sent an A&R guy over, and I was playing in Paris in a restaurant where they moved the tables and they decided to have a little party, and the sound was so goddamn awful that I had stagedived into the audience and was like: “Take me to the sound booth.” And I got there and I was like: “Turn the bass down,” etc., etc., and telling them how to do my sound while people were holding me up. So XL said: “That’s cool, we’re gonna sign you.”
RBMA: And then also Sony Music came knocking as well…
Peaches: Ah, that was before…
RBMA: But that didn’t last too long, did it?
Peaches: No. OK, so Kitty-Yo had decided to sign a deal for a remix for the song "Set It Off" and there were some remixes made and one of the remixes was by Tobi Neumann. And there was going to be a video, and I thought that this was a really good chance for me to do this video that I had always wanted to do, about me growing hair, because when I first started playing I was wearing these little pink shorts. Like, my pants would come off and I would be wearing these little shorts and people would be pointing and taking pictures, and I was like: “What?” And it was because they saw little hairs and people were really shocked by that. I also thought that was really ridiculous, like: “Hair grows there, what do you want? I’m sorry I didn’t have time to shave, I don’t really care, blah blah blah.” So then I started thinking about hair and also how if it is on your eyelashes or long on your head as a woman, then it’s beautiful, but if it’s under your arms or on your legs then its ugly. Anyway, I wanted to make this video of me dancing and growing hair and with eyelashes so that everybody would be like: “Oh, she’s getting prettier.” And then, all of a sudden, there would be hair growing everywhere, and then it gets really like, ill. So then I picked a director who made beautiful pictures but he was definitely cheesy. I knew he was cheesy, and I was like: “Great! My vision with a cheesy guy, that will be really cool.” And it was also before everybody had their own little video cameras and stuff like that, so I was like: “Great, I’ll have it high quality.” I mean, now you can do it yourself with a Canon 70, or whatever. But then I realized that their aesthetic was so different from mine, and also the people who had signed me at Sony had switched to different departments, so nobody really cared about me. They didn’t understand, they didn’t know what to do with me. So then the day comes when I’m with the director. Well, there were two directors, and one of them was gay, and they had all these models at my shoot, and I was like: “I want my friends.” So I had my rough friends there, and they had models. The models were doing ecstasy, my friends were drinking whatever they could find in the bar that we were filming in, and they had one girl who worked at the label as a kind of ‘representative lesbian’ attacking some girls, so they would have these lesbian scenes, because you know, that’s always good for dance tracks (rolls eyes). I was like: “OK, well, if you’re gonna have that then I want to have two guys kissing and making out.” And the director, who was gay, was like: “No, no, no, TV don’t have that? I don’t believe this.” And then, 16 months later that Christina Aguilera video came out, "Beautiful", and there was two guys kissing and it was this whole big huge thing, and I was like: “Idiot, this could have been you!” But yeah, that was the only time I actually did a video that wasn’t under my control, or worked with Sony, and I wanted it to work with Sony, because then I thought, ‘Yeah, I can sell more Teaches Of Peaches’. But I didn’t know that actually what they do is bury the album while they try to do the single. So they buried my album for eight months, and when I signed to XL, the condition was: “Bring back the Teaches Of Peaches.” So it had a re-release in 2002 because I wanted to bring that album back that was buried away.
RBMA: And the relationship you have now with XL is where have you ever had to do anything that you didn’t want to do?
Peaches: No, they were quite excited about Fatherfucker, the album title and all that. But the US office was quite horrified, they were like: “We can’t do anything with this. What are we supposed to do? I remember I presented the album to them, and I was saying: “And the name of the album is… Fatherfucker!” And they were all like (motions faces dropping).
RBMA: Shall we listen to something off the album now?
Peaches: Sure, what do you want to listen to?
RBMA: I think maybe the track with Iggy?
Peaches: I wanna mention that if you want to watch that video, I had so many crap treatments for this video, and I was like: “There’s no way I’m taking a crap treatment. I want it to be me and Iggy, we’re this crime-fighting duo that are so sick of each other but so good at our job that we’re just fighting zombies and we’re just like, yelling at each other, and we kill a zombie and get back to yelling.”
(music: Peaches feat. Iggy Pop – Kick It / applause)
Thank you. This is one of those moments in my musical career that blew my mind, when Iggy Pop called me on my phone and I didn’t answer. And there was a message on my machine, like: “Hey, it’s Iggy. I still have it recorded.” And he was making an album and he wanted to cover one of my songs called "Rock Show", which he did, and he finally got me on the phone and he said: “I want to cover your song "Rock Show".” And I said: “Awesome. Actually I’m making a new album, can you be on my album? And he was like: “Yeah, yeah, sure, why don’t you just write it and I’ll do it.” And I was like: “OK!” So I wrote this song, sort of tongue-in-cheek about making fun of myself, and being excited about his lyrics, and making fun of each other through our lyrics, and stuff like that. I went to Miami where he lives and recorded him and it was quite an insane experience to have Iggy Pop in the vocal booth asking me how he should do these vocals. It was so cool. It was really amazing.
RBMA: Was the studio in his house?
Peaches: No, it was at Hit Factory, and I remember Missy Elliott’s green Lamborghini was outside. I didn’t get to meet her, but I was like: “Oh my god, that’s it! She’s over there with that Lamborghini.”
RBMA: You had a pretty interesting way of recreating that song on stage.
Peaches: Yeah, I couldn’t have Iggy Pop there, and again, I have so many stories of pre-technology. I started my show with Super 8, and I had seven videos from my first album all made on Super 8, and they would all project at the same time and stuff like that. Before you had this easy way of using technology, like you have now, I would bring out a screen and then I videoed Iggy Pop doing his part, and then I’d sing to that. That later on became an art project where it was a live karaoke / videoke thing, where you could either be me or Iggy Pop, and either one would appear and you could sing along to it. We did that in galleries and things like that.
RBMA: Around this sort of time as well, the shows started getting bigger and you started touring the world doing support slots for really massive stadium-size rock acts like Queens Of The Stone Age, Marilyn Manson. How crazy was that experience?
Peaches: It was pretty crazy because nobody likes an opening band. Especially Marilyn Manson fans. I want to show you this one little clip, I hope you can understand what’s going on here, it’s very small. It’s in Madrid, when the whole time the crowd was chanting: “Man-son, Man-son, around whatever I was doing. So, they are constantly throwing things at me and that’s me videoing myself.
(video: Peaches live in Madrid)
Yeah, I really had a good time, saying things like: “You’re not black sheep, you’re sheep in black,” and things like that. The point for me is, like I played in Paris, and there were 10.000 people and they were hawking loogies on me.
RBMA: Was it kind of like, the more anger you get the more it makes you want to do bigger kinds of things?
Peaches: Yeah, with that, when they were hawking loogies at me and stuff like that, I was like: “I’m not leaving the stage. It was just important for me to win, I was like: “I’m gonna win this. If I leave now, they win, if I stay I totally win.” So I remember in London, they were throwing bottles at me. They were plastic bottles, but they were throwing them at me. I started it, I knew they wanted to throw bottles me, so I threw a bottle. Tons of bottles kept being thrown at me. My dad was a professional pitcher, so I’m like, pegging people off with bottles and telling them: “You throw like girls!” You know, saying all the stuff. And then at the end of the show I had taken the empty water-cooler bottle from the catering, and I was like: “Oh yeah? I got the biggest bottle!” And I just went like this (motions swinging bottle around her head) and threw it into the audience. It’s funny, because there was 10.000 people everywhere we went, and even if 10%, 20% of them liked me, it made my audience larger than it was at the time. I have so many people all around Europe that have seen those shows and they’re like: “You came on stage, and we thought maybe it was the beginning, and Manson had a little midget on stage and that’s how the show started.” I started my set with my Joan Jett sample, “I don’t give a fuck.” I came out there like: “I don’t give a fuck!” - screaming at them and they were like: “Oh yeah, this must be the beginning of the Manson show.” And then it would go on and they would be like: “Oh my god, who is this bitch? I hate her.” Or you would see some people who were like: “Yeah! Yeah!” So I think I really polarized the night. I learned a lot, that you just have to keep going, and it was really hard. I remember Queens Of The Stone Age got guys in Middle America who would turn their backs – it was really 90% guys – they would turn their backs to me, and then I would jump in the audience and go like: “I’m over here!” Things like that. Then Queens Of The Stone Age would come out, and Nick Oliveri, who was still in the band then, would be wearing my things that said, ‘Fuck the pain away’, and would be like: “Yeah, shake your dicks, and confuse the audience totally.” So a lot of the bands liked to have to sort of shake up their audience, too.
RBMA: Did it ever go wrong though? In terms of yourself or people on stage getting injured?
Peaches: Oh, I injured people! At Manson shows I had no problem injuring people. I’m sure if I was more famous I would have got a lot of lawsuits. But I would go into the audience and you’d just hear ‘bmph, bmph’! And it would be the sound of me hitting people with my microphone over the head, like: “Fuck off!” And then Manson would be: “Good job!” And pat me on the head.
RBMA: Let’s talk a bit about your live show because one thing that’s always been a constant as you’ve evolved as an artist, is embracing technology with your live show. To give people an idea, we have some great videos here, but you know, lasers, harps…
Peaches: Yeah, I mean from that video screen, I mean it seems so normal now, so many people use it now, when they can’t get the vocalist, and you see them in the video, but this was really before all that. Three years ago I decided to have this blinking pussy light that I wanted to be 120bpm, or whatever, and I remember Christina Aguilera came to one of my shows and was like: “Can you do a guest rap on one of my songs?” And I was like: “Yeah, great, yeah!” And then when her album comes out, she’s on the Grammy’s, all the lights go out, and she’s got a god damn pussy light blinking!
RBMA: This is the history of your life!
Peaches: Yeah, the history of my life is doing it for 1.000 people and then everybody else doing it for a million (laughs).
RBMA: So right now we’re going to watch something from this live show?
Peaches: Yeah, so the last band I worked with was a Berlin band that I really love, they’re really good friends of mine and they are called Sweet Machine and one of the members of Sweet Machine, Connor Rapp, he is my geek saviour.
(video: Peaches & Sweet Machine)
So this is a song we did. Everything that we’re playing is hooked to lasers, so when I’m pressing that bass, it’s making all that go. I wanted to play you something so here you go. So we had this Doepfer rod and we put an L-panel on it so that every time I would touch it, it would light up. And those are the laser harps, we had three sets of them.
RBMA: Can you break down how the laser harps are working?
Peaches: First, I’m going to tell you about the Doepfer rod, which is what I’m playing. So now you see it’s not lit up, but here we go, so wherever I’m playing it, it’s kind of like a rhythm controller. Also we had it hooked up to the laser in the back, so whenever I would play a high sound, it would be a more compressed circle of lasers and then the lower notes would go there. Also, you can see two laser harps, and everything here is played live, and it’s all controlled by the Midi sounds that we wanna use, but with the laser harps you can either make them filter controls, or you can make them the sounds, or whatever. I’ll just let you watch for a bit, the sound is horrible because I made the TV station give it to me before it was done. You can see that it gets larger when the notes get higher, the lasers at the back. And, of course, I’m not the first one to ever use a laser harp, but when Jean Michel Jarre used them in the ‘80s, I don’t know how much you could really do with them. But now you can, you can play everything on them. I was part of the Creator project with Vice, and they actually asked me what my dream would be to do, and I said that I would love to have a band of laser harps. There’s a guy in Berlin that makes these, he built them himself, he’s called Laserman. There’s three of them, they’re like Ikea lamps, you can just step on them and they’re really cool, I love how they’re virtually there or they’re not.
RBMA: So people are seeing this here and thinking, ‘Oh, I wouldn’t mind that for my live show’. What’s it going to set you back?
Peaches: A lot. They cost probably like $9,000 for each one – and now we’re all playing them. Sorry about the sound! I knew my music would lend well to it, because I try to use as little slaps as possible to make the maximum sound, so everything could actually be played there. There is a drummer there, too, if you can see. And it just looks damn cool, I didn’t have to run around and jump on people like I usually do. You also have to watch out for other lights, because any other lights can also set it off, so we had to work really hard to see where the lights go. One of them is going crazy.
RBMA: So how long ago was that show?
Peaches: That was last year.
RBMA: We’re going to open up to questions very soon, but another thing we should talk about is further into your performance art, over the last year or so…
Peaches: I gave myself a few presents because I had a 10-year anniversary, so one of the them was the complete, ultimate, live show experience. And since I live in Berlin, and there was a festival called the Berlin Festival that I was involved in, I could. And all the heavy tech wizards I knew lived in Berlin, plus my van, and I had been touring for two years so we wanted to do the ultimate show, so that’s what we did. And the other present I gave myself is that I reworked 28 of my songs into an opera. I say an opera because I wanted it to tell a story through my songs and not through a jukebox musical, where you have a bunch of music that you really like from Queen, or whatever, and you have a really crap story that has nothing to do with the music, so I developed a story.
RBMA: What is the story about?
Peaches: It’s a mythical history of me and it was also taking into account all of the things that people have said about me and all the myths, like: “Oh, I think she’s hermaphrodite” / “I think she has a dick” / “I think she’s a guy.” You know, all that sort of stuff. And there’s other people who do that now. So I wanted to do a mythical history using my songs to tell the story of me, but on an augmented level. So this is a scene where my fans want me to be more than I am, so they give me dick and tits, so then I meet a real tranny and I fall in love with a tranny. We’ve done it in a sort of ‘50s musical style for this track, where I’m singing my track, "I Feel Cream". And we use the half-man, half-woman, and there’s some real full-frontal nudity here, kids, and this is my take on a romantic love scene. So this is what I’m into right now, doing that. Also, I’ll just show you some of the beginning when I become Peaches. At the very beginning I’m actually with my 505 there, singing with my old hair and I got this big pussy bed behind me and all these dancers come out of the pussy bed and then I turn into Peaches. And they all end up looking like me, and then my ex-lover comes in singing Lovertits and they’re all my own songs. It all uses the imagery which relates to me and instruments that I’ve used.
RBMA: So you performed in Berlin, and also America?
Peaches: This? No, this we only performed in Berlin because it’s such a huge production.
RBMA: Will you tour it, though?
Peaches: I would love to tour it – maybe Red Bull Music Academy would like to sponsor this fantastic production, because it’s quite expensive.
RBMA: For you, it seems like this side of things is kind of going back to your roots a little bit.
Peaches: Yeah, it was really funny because now here I am doing a complete theater piece. But it was amazing to use all my music experiences to bring it back to that.
RBMA: Also was that last year, Peaches Christ Superstar?
Peaches: That was before this, this is more like the rock part, this is the more theory part. Peaches Christ Superstar was when I took the whole Jesus Christ Superstar, and I performed it all myself, every single part. With no sets or anything, just Chilly Gonzales on piano playing the whole orchestration.
RBMA: Were there a few controversies with that?
Peaches: Yeah, Andrew Lloyd Webber didn’t like the art idea of that because it wasn’t, like, making ten million dollars a show. Basically, it was about money.
RBMA: Did you get a letter from his lawyers?
Peaches: Yes, basically I got a ‘cease and desist’ so I’m not allowed to do that for two years, but I have a feeling that they’re never going to let us. But, if you happen to be in Paris at a club called Silencio, where it’s a private club, you might see it there sometime.
RBMA: One of the questions I was gonna ask you in terms of the production side of things was, for someone who’s produced your own music for the bulk of your life, tell me about your last album.
Peaches: Yeah, that last album, I decided that I didn’t want to produce, I wanna collaborate with people.
RBMA: Why was that?
Peaches: Well, you know, it’s time to learn more about production, and also to just expand. I’ve always said that you have to do the opposite of what you are, and for me it was giving up a little bit, and collaborating, and singing some vulnerable songs and stuff like that. I’m really happy with the results, some of it was a really big challenge, working with a lot of different producers, but I ended up producing some tracks myself. I really like the album.
RBMA: From that experience, what was one of the greatest things that you learnt? Like, what were your wow! / eureka moments?
Peaches: Well, the MS-20 is God, that’s my answer.
RBMA: And I guess the last thing that I wanted to ask you before we throw it over to the audience is that, well, you’ve been on this crazy rollercoaster ride for nearly two decades now. What are the greatest lessons that you’ve learned yourself which you could share with a bunch of people who are, quite possibly, about to be on their own rollercoaster?
Peaches: Just go with it, and don’t get off, even if you’re sick and green and puking, keep on it. And keep your vision, you never know when it’s going to hit, but you know you’re always going to make music, and that’s what you love, and that’s why you do it, hopefully. So whatever crazy ideas you have, do them. Keep doing them.
RBMA: Has anybody got any questions?
Participant: I was just wondering, with all the conflict that you talked about, coming up against audiences and people viewing your work as controversial, and so on, were there ever points for you where you felt like it was too much to handle? Or did you have things that helped you to work, like support from friends and family or whatever?
Peaches: Yeah, and even from fans. I mean, I’m putting myself out there in what I’m saying and also I like to have moments where there’s no more audience and no more stage. So there was a time actually when I played All Tomorrow’s Parties, and I was riding on someone’s shoulders, eating a hot dog, singing, as you do, and someone tried to put their hand in a place where it shouldn’t go, and I tried to grab him, and he ran. It was the only time I got on stage and I was like: “That is wrong, that’s not what I’m about.” And then I got on stage and Genesis P-Orridge was there and just gave me such good advice and support, and it really helped, because I was just like: “What?!” I mean, I can take a lot, I can take Manson-alcoholic spit on me, but that was a lot more. You have to really let it roll off your back, even if it’s not really rolling off your back. Sometimes, you’ll be on stage and you really don’t want to be there at all, but for me it’s harder not to give the energy, not to give the full force – it’s much harder for me to give half.
Participant: You were talking earlier about how you translated your being a woman into the lyrics. I’m curious about the musical part of your songs, because it’s not the typical femininity, but I think your music is very feminine. How do you translate your being a woman into music?
Peaches: Because I make it (laughs).
Participant: Yeah, but I mean the beat, and the harmonies, etc…
Peaches: Well, I think for me, I don’t know if it was being a woman, but especially when I started there was a lot of over-produced house, and deep house and all that kind of music, and I didn’t relate to it at all. I was like, a punk-rock kid making electro music, and I was like: “I’m going to use the bass sound that I like, I don’t need to try and find like, five bass sounds to try and make it a good bass sound. If that’s not a good bass sound, then I’m not going to use it. And I’m going to play a riff on a keyboard, and if that riff makes me go ‘Fuck yeah!’, then that’s my riff, and if not, then move on.” So it was more like, I don’t know if it’s me being a woman or my punk aesthetic, or my lack of musical skills, but if it’s getting me off, or I love it, then I’ll keep it; if not, then move on. It’s actually something that Iggy Pop said to me, when we were recording. He said: “Listen, I’m going to try and do that track, and if I don’t get it in, like, half an hour, then I don’t get it, alright?” But he got it, so it’s alright. But it’s true, and I was like: “Yeah, yeah, that’s how I feel about stuff.” If it doesn’t happen, then move on.
Participant: I think sometimes there’s a tendency for female producers who also sing to be caught in such a way that they end up just singing for another producer to make the music, and I wonder if that’s something you’ve seen as well? And if using the 505 is not just an aesthetic musical decision, but some sort of decision to retain control, because it was your thing that you could make music on?
Peaches: Well, definitely control was a huge issue. Like I said, on my last album, I Feel Cream, I wanted to always have control, even if it wasn’t the best decision sometimes. And I just finished producing a band called Go Chic – they were a Taiwanese girl band, and I saw that, especially thanks to the girl in the band that makes the beats, that I wanted to reach a new level of production. For instance, she’d bring a demo, and I’d be like: “I know the perfect person who can make those sounds really punch out at you if you want it to be produced. If you don’t, you can do it yourself, and that’s fine.” I don’t know if you know Siriusmo? We just gave him the tracks, and we were like: “Just make these fatter.” He didn’t change the arrangement, he didn’t change anything, he just took those sounds and made them with his magic, because that’s what he does, he spends 24 hours a day in a studio. And I brought them back to her, and Sonya, the girl who makes the beats, was like: “I don’t know if it’s mine anymore!” I was like: “Well, these are your songs, and you wrote them. Is this what you want?” I remember having that feeling of not knowing whether I wanted to give up control, and it’s more of a decision, because she was like: “Is that even my sound anymore?” It’s more of a decision if you want it to sound like you or you want it to sound a certain way and you wanna get there, or if you feel like, ‘No, I’m a woman, I’m a producer, it needs to be like sounding this way’. I don’t know, it’s an aesthetic decision that you have to come up with. I don’t think I really answered the question.
Participant: Have you noticed in your music career, or the whole time of your music practice, have you noticed an increase in women participating in electronic music?
Peaches: It’s nice to see that there are a lot of women here – I don’t know how many of you make electronic music or that kind of music – but I think it’s still a boys’ club, isn’t it? It’s still a boys’ club. Like, this year there was that DJ magazine, it’s like the most prominent DJ magazine in America and the readers choose the top 100 best DJs of the year, and there was not one female on there. I scanned, thinking like, ‘Oh, that could be a girl’, and checked on Wikipedia to see if it was, before I wrote the Twitter that said: “DJ Mag can eat a dick with their list.” And they tweeted back like: “It’s not us, it’s the readers.” Well, what are you feeding the readers? Who are you highlighting? There are so many female DJs, and DJ culture is so big right now. That’s what I’m doing right now, I’m DJing a lot, and again, I find it really funny that DJs feel like they have to stay behind the decks, like it’s some kind of rocket science, like, mixing is really… well, once you get it you get it, and if you know it you’re doing it, you’re doing it and it’s fine. You can also have a good time and perform, so I’m not just trying to be a DJ, I’m trying to go the extra mile, and DJ and MC, all myself, again, sort of like bringing back the roots of what I did with Peaches and the 505.
Participant: Then to expand upon that idea, do you think that the ratio of male to female in the music industry has to do with media?
Peaches: I don’t have the answers, I’m just going to do what I do and say what I say and try and change it any way I can, by being a DJ, by being a producer.
RBMA: How much do you feel like the landscape’s changed from when Teaches Of Peaches came out, and people were shocked by this and that?
Peaches: It was amazing how it turned up everywhere. That’s amazing to me, how I was so influential, and it was funny because major record labels would not touch me, but people would go in for meetings, and they’d be like: “Be more like this girl Peaches.” And then they’d play my tracks: “…but not too much, just be a little bit like that.” So even though they wouldn’t touch me, they wanted people to be more like that. There are major stars that came to my shows and before they were who they were, would say that: “Oh yeah, I’m really into what you’re doing, and you’re really influential.” A lot of the time it was the popstars, like Avril Lavigne and Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears and Kelis, like, when they were going from their ‘girl-pop’ to sexual power, they always cite Peaches as an influence and it always amazes me.
RBMA: And Christina got you on a record in the end?
Peaches: Yeah, she got me rapping on a Le Tigre-produced track.
Participant: That’s kind of funny that you brought it up, because that’s what I wanted to talk about, actually. You mentioned that you’re an influencer and an innovator, and I definitely agree. I wanted to know about how you felt about what you were just talking about. You influenced all these artists that are there, or wherever they are in their career, and how they influence American culture, and probably even Canadian culture. How do you feel about not being acknowledged in your country, and in Toronto for all the great things that you’ve accomplished?
Peaches: It’s hard to say, I mean, I have read Toronto Life magazine, and they were like: “Five top people for Mayor of Toronto, and I was included. I was actually in Toronto last year and found out from a reader’s board that I actually won electronic musician of the year. They didn’t even invite me. I was told: “Last night you were given an award!” So I don’t know, it’s kind of there, and not there, but I know who I am, it’s fine. To be invited here, and to share this with you guys is awesome and to be able to do whatever I want and take it beyond music, like I say, I don’t know.
Participant: Well, I think you should put a movie out next.
Peaches: (laughs) Hear, hear.
Participant: You were talking earlier about how shocked people were about your lyrics early on, and I found it interesting that you mentioned that you were in Brazil with DJ Marlboro.
Peaches: Are you from Brazil?
Participant: Yeah, I don’t know if you’re too familiar with Brazilian funk, but the lyrics that we heard here today are actually pretty soft compared to Brazilian funk at its finest.
Peaches: I know that! And I don’t think that my lyrics are completely shocking.
Participant: I agree, I agree. I guess my question is, when you’re writing obscene lyrics do you feel like you have to have a point? Because I feel like much of this that we heard today had a point. Whereas in Brazilian funk I feel like it doesn’t have one most of the time.
Peaches: Yes, I do, but if I was in an interview, sometimes I would say: “Nah, I don’t have a point, because I want people to be able to dance and sing along with it first, and then go like: ‘Oh! What am I singing along with?’” That’s cool. I mean, I think it should be music first, and catchy first and then people think about it after, but I definitely have a point. I remember hearing that Busta Rhymes song where he says something like: “Your ass is so big we’re gonna put the club in your ass.” So I was like: “Alright, I’m gonna write a song called "Tent In Your Pants", you know? ‘The tent’s so big in your pants / Can I bring my friends for a dance? / Can I sell those tickets advance / An immense gig up in your pants.’” So you know, stuff like that. It always has a point but I always wanted to be fun and some people find me really angry, which I find really funny, and some people find me to be too jokey. So it’s amazing how polarized everything is, what I do, which to me, makes it art.
RBMA: Ladies and gentleman, let’s give it up for Peaches.