We spoke with one of the world’s most out-there artist extraordinaires to find out the stories behind some of her more personal moments
She's a fascinating and outrageous cult figure, a performance artist and musician named Merrill Nisker, but otherwise known as Peaches. A champion of gender fluidity, sex positivity and transgressive pop, as well as the hitmaker behind that song that we've all screamed our lungs out to, “Fuck the Pain Away”.
Berlin-based photographer Holger Talinski hoped to illustrate the multi-faceted sides to the provocateur in What Else is in the Teaches of Peaches. Laid bare in an intimate set of photos captured between 2009 and 2014, alongside commentaries from Ellen Page, Yoko Ono and REM’s Michael Stipe, the new photo book shows Peaches at her most vulnerable – in moments with her best friends, her sister Suri, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, and determinedly performing on-stage with a broken ankle.
We see her as a daughter, a sister, a loyal friend, a Grace Jones fan, an international performer, and, most importantly, a real-life human being – something fans aren’t often privy to beyond her larger-than-life performance persona. So just what can we learn from the teaches of Peaches? We asked the polymath to annotate some of her most personal snaps, from the new release, below.
A BROKEN ANKLE
"I broke my ankle during a performance at a festival in Portugal. I broke it at the beginning of the show and with the sheer power of adrenaline, I did the whole show and then went to the hospital. Two days later I was scheduled to open for Grace Jones at Lovebox in London. There was no way in hell I was going to miss that. So the next day I flew, with my cast, to London. I lied and said that the cast had been on for two weeks so they would let me on the plane. I was alone. I got to the airport and a car was coming to pick me up. I saw an airport wheelchair and just claimed it. When the car showed up, I wheeled myself to him and told him that the chair was coming with and that I would return it in a few days when I was back at the same airport. My hair fashion designer friend Charlie Le Mindu and my production designer friend Alun Davis met me in Shoreditch. They pimped up my ride with pink spray paint and pink hair and off I went. Grace and I had a chance to hang out at the show and she signed my cast in red lipstick. This is me at home with the signed cast."
TATTOOS WITH SHANNA AND JOHN
"Shanna and John are very good friends of mine. In 2011, I spent a bunch of time in New York, especially to visit my sister. I rented a room in their flat and they would call me Dead Beat Dad because I only was there every other month for a week or so. I deemed Shanna my son and John my daughter. We lived out dysfunctional family dynamics. John would always say that is ‘so weird’ and he would draw out the Rs so it sounded like 'that is so weirrrd'. Now I live about half the year in LA with John and when Shanna came to visit we got ‘SO WEIRRRD’ inner lip tattoos as a symbol of that time."
IN THE HOTEL ROOM DOORWAY WHERE JANIS JOPLIN DIED
"We were staying at a semi-trashy hotel in Hollywood called the Highland Gardens. It had a main hotel section and ‘suites’ in the back surrounded by a swimming pool. Turns out that this was The Hollywood Landmark hotel in the 70s. It’s where Jimi Hendrix told Shep Gordon to manage Alice Cooper. Sadly, Janis Joplin died in room 105 of this hotel. The picture shows me lying down at the doorway of the actual room where she died.There were not many women at the forefront of the scene back then. She was quite special and really struggled with her role as a strong woman in rock. I did this act out of respect and love for her."
ME AND MY SISTER SURI
"This is a picture of me and my older sister Suri hanging out on the street where she lives in White Plains, New York. She was my rock growing up. Being the older sister, she gave me a glimpse of what life would be like three years from my age. When she turned 23, she was struck with a very aggressive case of Multiple Sclerosis. She has never looked back and is the strongest, most inspiring person in my life. I visit her as much as possible because I love her of course, and due to the MS, she has not been able to travel."
What Else is in the Teaches of Peaches is out now.