The queer icons meet us to talk about why meeting strangers just isn’t the same anymore and discuss the importance of remaining radical
There are a handful of magical videos on YouTube which encapsulate the chemistry shared between CHRISTEENE and Peaches. Individually, both have amassed filthy, beautiful portfolios of work intended to tear up and piss on any notion of normality; a common mission outlined recurrently throughout our three-way phone call. Together they laugh, make dirty jokes (“I’m drinking herbal tea – if you hear me gag, that’s why!” laughs Peaches) and fondly recall the memories they created on the 2015 ‘Rub’ tour, which CHRISTEENE says – after Peaches leaves – came at a pivotal time in her career.
“I don’t think I ever told her this, but my dancer, T-Gravel, and I were on tour in London and took a long walk one night,” recalls CHRISTEENE. “It was one of those talks you have with your creative friends about how you don’t know what the fuck will happen next. We sat down at the kitchen table and we were kind of in a mood; we were sinking into this mire. Just then, I got this text on my phone: ‘Hey yo CHRISTEENE, this is Peaches. Would you like to go on tour with me?’ He was sat there looking all sour puss, so I just turned and said, ‘We got it bitch!’”
From that moment onwards CHRISTEENE and Peaches have developed a strong bond, referring to each other as sisters. This kind of relationship is arguably more common within queer communities; because we’re so often ostracised, rejected or shamed, we have a tendency to cultivate and nurture close ties with like-minded allies.
This emphasis on community is prevalent in CHRISTEENE’s “Aktion Toilet” video, directed by long-time collaborator PJ Raval (the song was produced by Thomàs Suire). Premiered exclusively here on Dazed, the ethereal clip pays homage to the lost days of cruising and anonymous sex through depictions of “sacred cults of mystics and pervs.” It’s a formidable follow-up to last year’s incredible, NSFW ‘Butt Muscle’ and a tantalising glimpse at CHRISTEENE’s long-awaited debut album, slated for release in spring next year.
Through the conversational lens of this new work, the two cult icons candidly discuss queerness and creativity in the context of a world which continues to burn. Not only do they advocate for actual action, they discuss everything from censorship and chat shows to Tori Amos and the importance of never being fooled by neo-Nazi vegan cookery shows.
CHRISTEENE, can you start by telling us about ‘Aktion Toilet’?
CHRISTEENE: The idea came about a few years ago when I was talking to C-Baby, my dancer, about those old chat rooms where you could go online and find your particular flavour. It would be in the woods, or some Home Depot bathroom, but that’s not around now like it used to be. Apps have made it like a Sears catalogue: you flick through, play quick and then go home. So the spark of ‘Aktion Toilet’ was those hideaway places, but as I wrote it evolved into those places becoming more magical, otherworldly; the places you go not only to find people to fuck around with, but also to deal with the heavy shit that’s going on in the world right now. It might be a toilet, and there’s always action in it!
Peaches: The ‘action’ part of it is so key. That just doesn’t exist any more, right?
CHRISTEENE: Exactly! That whole pursuit, using your best skills to find the tricks and trade in the bathroom or the food court; to make that contact and ensure you could align with those people in those dangerous spaces.
Peaches: Yes! Things are getting so cleaned up and sanitised. There’s no dirty, nasty, enjoyable, real action or emotion. No real sweat, you know?
“Apps have made it like a Sears catalogue: you flick through, play quick and then go home” – CHRISTEENE
CHRISTEENE: Right. So many of us are like little tuna-fish caught in a strange net. Those of us who created those spaces are now dealing with these clean alternatives, but we’re still yearning for those dark, mysterious places. At the same time, you’re realising a bunch of queers are actually attaining rights – they’re getting normalised.
Peaches: There are so many statistics. There’s never been more trans visibility, but there’s also never been more abuse. Australia just decided on gay marriage, but what does that mean? How normal is that?! As performers, we – and I would say Mykki Blanco, too – can’t help but be these fucking nasty forces on stage. It’s pretty rare now, I would say the three of us are maybe more in line with queercore. We can’t be cleaned up! It doesn’t make sense either, because then it isn’t what it is. It’s funny that what we do has such shock value when, really, it’s just how we express ourselves.
CHRISTEENE: Exactly. We’re just beautiful creatures speaking that language, drilling through the walls of all the normality!
In the past, things have shifted radically when politics reaches a conservative tipping point. Do you both feel like you need to fuck things up now more than ever?
Peaches: This was pre-Trump, but two years ago I felt that. I feel my last work pushed it more than ever both musically and visually. It’s a weird time, because it’s not like there’s a music channel and you have to get the approval of whatever fuck-face is in charge. If you have an audience, your videos can be seen even if they aren’t watered down. Of course we’re going to get our work deleted from YouTube, but then you just put them on Vimeo!
CHRISTEENE: Exactly, and they have taken our shit off YouTube. Still, videos are that moment where we artists can craft this little diorama box of everything; it’s our chance to visually enhance someone’s experience of our art and push through the mire of whatever the fuck is going on out there. They’re delicate, thought-out moments for your audience to plug into. I’ve been thinking about uniforms too, how we decorate what we feel. We do that a lot, especially on stage. Last I heard, Mykki picked up a disco ball during a show and smashed it to the ground, which was beautiful. That energy is on stage, but videos are an extremely important weapon, too.
“It’s a weird time, because it’s not like there’s a music channel and you have to get the approval of whatever fuck-face is in charge...of course we’re going to get our work deleted from YouTube” – Peaches
Peaches: What me and my sister CHRISTEENE share in common is that we’re direct, unapologetic. I see videos sometimes and think, ‘This has NOTHING to do with your work!’ We go so hard on the lyrics and the video, so it’s funny to see people dip into trends. It’s not natural; it’s a phase, or it’s for one song.
CHRISTEENE: I was watching ‘Free Drink Ticket’ recently, and I remember just thinking, ‘Fuck, Peaches spent some time on this video!’ You see people dropping their boat into their trend canal, and they have fuck-tonnes of money but they make videos which have nothing to do with anything, whereas you – and I do, too – really pull in as much shit as you can to make what you’re wanting to make. My director, PJ Raval, and I, think of these crazy expensive looks, realise we can’t afford them and then just build it ourselves. It’s this beautiful, janky, heartfelt, home-made message, and I love that about both of our work – we can see the care that goes into it.
Peaches: And the butt muscle.
CHRISTEENE: And the butt muscle!
Queer spaces are closing – there’s a limit to how far we can push it if we can only thrive within those contexts.
Peaches: Right. But we’re still existing, and we have to stay visible. AKTION!
CHRISTEENE: Yes! My friends in Austin just took an old gas station, put black garbage bags on everything and started serving food and having these wild parties which stay open past legal hours. They’re like ‘fuck these bars, let’s make our own spaces’. That these weirdos are doing that in the heart of Texas proves that something is still cooking.
There is definitely that kind of resourcefulness inherent to queer communities, right?
Peaches: Completely. People need to take things into their own hands instead of just being Facebook activists or whatever! With that said – and I think this is important to say – everybody’s opinion is growing exponentially in every direction. Don’t be fooled by your little bubble. This may sound cynical but, as queer as you can get, you can get way more right-wing. Everything’s growing, and it’s confusing.
“Don’t be fooled by your little bubble. This may sound cynical but, as queer as you can get, you can get way more right-wing” – Peaches
Exactly, like the recent rise of the right-wing gays.
Peaches: That’s so true! The right-wing party in Germany is 14 per cent queer because they don’t want to be seen as different, they want to fit in. Isn’t that crazy?
CHRISTEENE: Are you serious?!
Peaches: Yeah, it’s getting really fucked-up. Jesus!
CHRISTEENE: There’s a lot of intentional confusion going on, which is why we all need to keep our anchors in each others’ shores and hold tight.
Peaches: Also, the new faces of white supremacy are trying to look more hipster. Again in Germany, there are these neo-nazi groups who have vegan cooking shows to lure people in!
It’s ironic that those groups often try to argue that somehow they’re the ones being marginalised…
Peaches: I know! Like some of the words Trump uses, I look and think, ‘Oh God, I’ve said those things!’ Not the fake facts and that shit, but him calling himself an outsider and flipping it is horrifying. Like Russia employed this ex avant-garde poet to teach Putin how to confuse people, you know? People have to know what’s going on.
CHRISTEENE: It’s some well-thought-out shit, and people need to be aware. I have a confession actually: I like Tori Amos! Her new album talks about humans as machines made up of these beautiful chemicals and shit; if we understand ourselves as these powerful machines, there’s this inspiration to make the best of that machine so that we can deal with these people, who are using our own language to divide and weaken us.
“If we understand ourselves as these powerful machines, there’s this inspiration to make the best of that machine so that we can deal with these people, who are using our own language to divide and weaken us” – CHRISTEENE
Peaches: Right. Also, has there ever been a time where you’ve performed and just considered, even for one second, that someone might just come in and shoot us up?
CHRISTEENE: Yes, because the more vocal we get and the more we reach people, the more we become a huge target. You realise that, by travelling and presenting your work, you’re attracting everyone to that space – good and bad.
Peaches: Your speech got banned! You go pretty hardcore on the speech.
CHRISTEENE: Yeah, my dancers hate me because I talk too much (laughs). They’ll be behind me doing their butt dance, and they just have to keep doing it until I stop! But I love when we find each other in those rooms, they’re so important; it’s not like going to a bar to drink – you’re hungry for those rooms. You do it too, Peachy. When we went on tour, there was such a beautiful cocktail of people and the shit coming from the stage was so strong. We weren’t just to slap something in your face, the work translated.
Peaches: And it was fun! It’s such a good feeling. We can be important, fun, dirty and nasty all at the same time. I just think we’re special sisters!
CHRISTEENE: I do, too!