Peaches does herself

The queer superstar talks about her gloriously subversive dicks-and-tits rock opera

Arts+Culture Q+A
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We live in a world where appearing in public wearing a dick and tits – even if they’re fake – means everyone can judge you. The music has always been about sex, but the world right now has a hard time getting the joke. Instead, they just make you into one because they don’t understand that what they see and fear in you, is also in each and every one of them: a real 3D human who happens to have male and female qualities.

What’s a big dick without the balls?

Peaches has trouble living in such a world. She wants to shake her dick and her tits to acidic, arousing electro-rock and she wants you to join. How to accomplish this in a world so harsh? Today, New Yorkers are given the answer. Peaches premieres Peaches Does Herself, an electro rock-opera stage show about the creation and motivation of Peaches at the Quad Cinema in New York City. She starts from creating beats in her bedroom to navigating the world as a queer superstar, finding and then losing love along the way. She’ll be presenting at a couple of the screenings today, tomorrow and Sunday. Forget you ever learned the word normal. 

Dazed Digital: Why did you create Peaches Does Herself?

Peaches: Growing up, I wasn’t like, "I’m going to be a performer." A theater called HOW, the Hebbel Am Ufer Theater, approached me and I said I wanted to star in a one-woman show called Peaches Christ Superstar and sing the whole thing with a piano player. They’re like "Great, done. What else do you want to do?" I didn’t know what the fuck I was going to do. I was  thinking about my love for Tommy, the musical made by The Who. I saw that when I was quite young and I loved that there were no words whatsoever; it was all part of the music and it tells a story. I thought, "What if I told a story just through my music? What kind of story could I tell?"

DD: What’re the misconceptions?

Peaches: Well, it’s just what people say about me when I first came out; that I was so aggressive, "does she really have a dick". I was like, "What does that have to do with anything? Why do people see me that way?" I think they see me as masculine and not as a full 3D human being that has both male and female in them. I thought, OK, I’ll start it with how it really happened. It happened in bed making beats. And the story of the musician growing and having an ego, but then also a love story and then with the foil and everything. I thought it was a pretty concise story and a literal explosion of sort to become who you really need to be.

DD: That’s your birth as Peaches. But you were born Merrill Beth Nisker in Toronto. How did she grow up? I read that you went to Jewish day school.

Peaches: I had a really horrible experience in Jewish day school. I was not a particularly good student. The music education was really horrific; I’ll hate Mr. Merckle for the rest of my life. He would ask me to sing a solo and then I would sing and — "No! Next!" That’s not a way for a kid to grow. A lot of the teachers were horrible. My grade two teacher used to pull my ears and pull my hair and tell me I was stupid.

DD: So how did you grow out of that space? How did you change within it?

Peaches: I used to work in a day care and the teachers were incredibly apathetic. I was like, "This is like school all over again, but I’m a teacher now so I’m going to take control." I took the guitar and I used it to tell stories to the kids. I started giving workshops. At night I would do my own music and have my own growth from folk to experimental singing to whatever.

DD: What was it like when you first met Danni Daniels, the transsexual who appears in Peaches Does Herself?

Peaches: I was doing a show in London for Perez Hilton and Danni was there. I didn’t know him; he came up to me and said, "I lost my virginity in the back of a truck at 14 to your music and now I can shake my dick and my tits." I was like, "Oh my god! You’re probably the missing element." 

DD: In the movie, after you succeed at making a song in your bedroom, there’s a scene where the dancers are holding balls, like you “grew balls” and then fully became Peaches.

Peaches: I use a lot of iconography from my early videos and Super 8 movies. One is my movie "Diddle My Skittle" when I put two balls down my pants and walk around the neighborhood. I was referencing that and having a choreographer turn it into a Busby Berkeley kind of number and interpret it  – you know, like "Duhhhh huhuh boobs. Balls." Going with the dumbness of it, but also putting humor into sex and ourselves. It’s funny because when the fans engulf me and give me the boobs and the dick that they always want me to have, there’s no balls. Did you notice that? What’s a big dick without the balls?

DD: Do you ever feel like you’ve reached a ceiling because of what you say and how you express yourself as a woman? Do you feel a pushback?

Peaches: I think there’s a lot to explore still with women and aging. I want to reinterpret the idea of midlife crisis because I think that word is problematic. When you’re in your midlife why is it a crisis? If you want to reinvent yourself or explore, it’s the same as when you’re in your 20s. When you’re around 40 it’s like, "Where the fuck do I go from here?" Those people over 40, their kids are grown up. We shouldn’t just have to stop. There is a ceiling of cultural references; I want to break that and go to the next level.

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