Interview – Peaches
June 30, 2009 § Leave a comment
Published: The Vine, May 5, 2009.
We’re all familiar enough with the Merrill Nisker brand by now. Since emerging from the Berlin electro underground in 2000 with landmark debut The Teaches of Peaches, the bush-flaunting Canadian electro-clash doyenne has negotiated a path between sophisticated gender-politics, abrasive electronics, pube-heavy shock tactics and party-starting sex-rap.
Her 2003 opus Fatherfucker – the cover of which featured Peach replete with Abraham Lincoln-styled beard – was a signpost record amongst a whole subset female artists re-imagining women’s sexuality in rap. Cue Angie Reed, Chicks on Speed and Avenue D. 2006’s Impeach My Bush, which featured a full band and contributions from the likes of Joan Jett and Beth Ditto, only drove home the point.
Brand new album I Feel Cream sees the pint-sized provocateur assume a very different guise. Sure, there’s plenty in the way of sex-rap and gender jamming, but the album – recorded with Simian Disco, long-term collaborator Gonzalez, Yo! Majesty’s Shunda K and others – breaks most ground in its moments of (gasp!) vulnerability. We talked to Peaches about politics, expanding her sound and growing old sexily.
Hey Peaches, how’re you doing?
Hey, good. How are you?
Yeah, Good. Where are you today?
At home in Berlin, which is great.
You’ve been on the road a lot lately, yeah?
Yeah, yeah, already and the tour for the record hasn’t even started. We just did a big show at the Royal Festival Hall in London.
Yeah, I had a flying rig. I flew!
Nice, is that a first?
Yeah (laughs), it’s definitely a first.
I missed your shows at Parklife. Are you still touring with a band?
Yeah, yeah, I’ve got a new band called Sweet Machine, which is like a German band. There’s this hot girl guitarist Saskia and two awesome guys and so now it’s like girl/guy even.
I ask because the new record really swings back towards the more electronic side of things again. It really isn’t a band record like Impeach My Bush.
It’s a complete dance band, yeah. There’s no guitars on it whatsoever. I mean, when I started out I just made electronic music for lack of having people to play with and thinking it would be easier to do it electronically. I was always part of the dance world in a way, but there was always that rock attitude, which I guess I ended up pioneering, which is amazing, because it was like indie, punk and dance music together and that was weird back then, but it’s the standard now. So with this one I just thought, ‘I’m going to going to fully go dance and have a dance album’, so I decided to have no guitars on this album and just kind of go for it.
It does kind of feel like you’ve tried to expand your electronic palette a bit more. ‘Serpentine’ and ‘More’ sort of have that classic Peaches vibe, but then ‘Talk to Me’ and especially ‘Lose You’ and the title track sort of add another flavour.
Well, I guess I made three albums that had a very specific sort of thing going on – like I said, pioneering that sound and also pioneering those kind of very direct lyrics – and I didn’t want that to be clouded by anything else. They were very direct and raw and stripped down, you know, and I didn’t want any of those elements to be hidden, so I made a very conscious effort not to really sing on any of that stuff. I thought that the minute I showed my voice, it would direct people toward the actual singing and take away from what I was really doing.
Because I made three albums in that way, I feel like I’ve definitely established myself in who I am and what I do, and that now I can do whatever I want and nobody can take it away from me. So you know, now I feel like I’m able to expand. It’s kind of like a secret weapon.
I can imagine that’s a bit of a relief in a sense, not having to hold as much of strict persona in every aspect of what you do.
Well now I can flip the script on that persona and it’s still part of the persona and say things like ‘This ain’t a Peaches show’, you know. So it’s exciting for me. It’s exciting to be so influential and established on the terms that I want to be established, you know. I’m not a pop star per se or whatever, which is totally great with me. That said, I don’t shy away form things like doing ads and whatever because I think I should be the mainstream, but without changing, you know.
How useful do you think music can be in affecting change?
I wish I could say there wasn’t a limitation but I think it goes in waves. There’s a tolerance and then it gets pulled back and that’s how pop works.
But I don’t know, I feel like people think I’m the ‘Preaches of Peaches’ sometimes, but it’s more like I’m just putting it out there. I’m not saying ‘Everybody, do this, don’t do that’, I’m saying ‘Let’s just do this also’. I think the misconception about me is that I’m trying to change things, but what I’m trying to do is expand. The only political thing on this record is that I’m showing my vulnerable side. For someone who is so outspoken and so strong in their image to then come up with something really tender is the real change.
Tell me about what brought you and Simian Mobile Disco together for this record.
Well, they did a remix of ‘Downtown’ for my last album and I really liked how they did that and I felt like that was a really good place to start. I’d been doing a lot of remixing for Ladyhawke and B-52s and I’d been DJing a lot and we were playing a lot of the same festivals, and I just thought that it would be good to work with some producers in that same world. I thought if I could enlist some producers to help me, I could focus on melody and song structure and things like that a little more.
Yeah sure. What about the lyrical direction of the record? There seems to be a kind of central theme of still being sexy as an older woman.
Yeah, yeah, there’s a lot of anti-ageism stuff like “lick my crows feet”.
I loved that line.
Yeah, also like on ‘Show Stopper’ there’s the line “Never mind my age, it’s like I’m breaking out of a cage”. ‘Mommy Complex’ is obviously about boys who want to have mommies rather than girlfriends and there’s a lot of like references to women like May West and Tina Turner and Grace Jones and stuff like that.
I’m just keeping it real – I don’t really care if people know I’m 42, unlike Goldfrapp who doesn’t want anybody to know she’s 42, which is just silly. That’s why I pointed that out onstage at Parklife. It’s just silly. There are so many older women that are visible and rocking in pop culture; it’s a new time for us. It’s not just like ‘Oh, they look old, get them away!’ or you know, ‘Botox them out!’ It’s just like ‘Whatever, I’m here, I’m botoxed, naked and I have creases in my face’ (laughs).
I hear you. Tell me a bit about working with Shunda K from Yo! Majesty.
Well she’s just amazing. I mean, we knew each other, we’d met a few times and it was just a no-brainer.
Her flow is pretty incredible.
And she gives a pretty damned entertaining interview too.
Yeah, like ‘God came down and made me a lesbian and a rapper’ (laughs). She’s great.
I don’t know, do you feel like while you might not directly influence her, your influence has perhaps allowed acts like Yo! Majesty to come through a little easier?
I mean, I think Yo! Majesty comes from quite a different place and I’m proud to be associated with them and I just think they’re fantastic. It’s just all about doing what you want and saying ‘Hey, look, mainstream, you’re pretty close-minded’ (laughs).‘Look, Disney, everyone makes mistakes’.
I Feel Cream is out now through XL/Remote Control