Peaches will be joining us in the comments to answer your questions. Ask away.
Singer/rapper/songwriter/gender-fucking provocateur Peaches has released her first movie. It’s a twisted jukebox musical/concert film called Peaches Does Herself, and soon after I began my interview with her last week in the office of the film’s publicist, she proved how spot-on the title is. I asked her a question about being on the festival scene (Toronto and Seattle, among them) and she spoke for about five minutes straight, leaping from subject to subject in a stream-of-consciousness, without any need for my questions to fuel her. “And I’ll just go on talking...” she said, offering me an in (or an out, I guess, if I wanted to hang up my brain and let her fly completely solo). The woman has a lot to say.
“I want people to like musicals, because [they] could still have some danger and some fun controversy,” she explained. “Not musicals where everything’s so shiny and everything’s fine. Like taking Grey Gardens and making it a musical takes away the whole fuckin’ beauty of the documentary.” Like her music, Peaches Does Herself is a bit autobiographical (it charts her career trajectory starting with her as a bedroom beat-maker), a bit absurd (her character receives a sex change that leaves her wearing a giant fake penis, which eventually explodes). When I finally got a word in edgewise, Peaches and I discussed her overt sexuality, pop stars’ conscious artistry, and her status as an electroclash survivor.
Edited results of our discussion are below.
Gawker: I think it’s really fascinating and appropriate when a musician, especially a modern musician who grew up in the video age, uses film as a memoir. Madonna will never write a memoir as revealing and open as Truth or Dare, for example.
Peaches: Instead of saying, “I’m going to make something completely different,” I put everything in there. First half’s gonna be pussy, second half’s gonna be dick, let’s just say what it is. We’re gonna have representing from the ages, from the genders, and we’re gonna also reference, of course, Rocky Horror Picture Show, and also things like Busby Berkeley, which I loved. Or subverting things like those fifties musicals, which I love.
The way you discuss and bend gender reminds me of that of Genesis P-Orridge – it’s an art identity rather than a traditional gender identity. Is that interpretation correct? I don’t know what’s actually going on inside.
When I started to do music people were always like, “She’s so macho, what?” Or, “She’s so aggressive.” Or, “Does she really have a dick?” And I was just like, “What the fuck is wrong with people?” People’s reactions started to make me realize more how closed-minded and how immature people are. So I was just like, “This is ridiculous.” That’s why the first album is more like, sexual exploration for a person, and then the second album was more like, “Fuck you! I don’t give a fuck! Fuck you! Shake your dicks!” I’ve got the beard, it’s just like, “Yeah, let’s confront this, father-fuckers.”
Do you feel like you’ve suffered as a result of being as openly sexual as you are?
What do you mean, “suffer?”
I mean, have people given you unnecessary shit for expressing yourself in that way?
Good, I’ll take it. And I’ll turn it around. Take this shit. That’s what art is about. Art is ultimately about the discussion and about humans relating to each other. It goes deeper than the art. It’s relations. Art is nothing if [it] doesn’t make you feel or think. Some people are just like, “Yes. Beauty.” But those people have some real shit going on, they just need that beauty for a minute. I don’t doubt the importance of beauty, but whatever your beauty is might not be the same beauty. Humor, to me, is such a big part of it, too.
And it’s interesting to incorporate that with sex. That’s not done very often.
I mean, sex is fucking ridiculous. What is it? With the stick-it-in-the-hole or whatever. It’s like, come on, it’s hilarious. But it’s also – and I’ve said this a lot in interviews – how we negate our own bodies. Every insult we give each other is a part of our body. You’re an asshole? We all have an asshole. “You’re a dick.” “You cunt.” It’s all like, “Fuck you!” It’s bodily functions. Shit face. Piss off. Those are just us. The worst insults come from our bodies. It’s weird. You knee. You earwax.
It’s weird what people consider politeness, what people consider socially appropriate.
Yeah. I was on a radio show yesterday, and they were so afraid that I would say something scary. Because it’s a syndicated radio show. They were so afraid. So everything I said they were second-guessing. I was telling a joke about the pirate: “Arr, it’s drivin’ me nuts!” He’s got a steering wheel down his pants, “Arr, it’s drivin’ me nuts!” And so we can’t say “nuts”.
But part of your point is to say things people aren’t saying. So if they were saying it…
What would be next? If this was all out in the open, what could we really deal with?
...what would you do?
Maybe I… I don’t know. Go fishing. Learn how to gut fish, finally.
This movie arrives at a time when pop stars are throwing around the word “art” to describe their work more than ever.
I’m so happy I made it already.
Well, you’re coming at it from a different place.
Yeah, but still, it’s art. I never had the goal to be on the main stage at Coachella. I’ve embraced huge shows. And I’ve also been ready, if it goes bigger, to embrace that with whatever’s new, technologies and fun like that, but also doing Jesus Christ Superstar with just singing the whole thing myself [Peaches performed a one-woman version of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical in Berlin and elsewhere in 2010]. Or doing my own stories, a theatre piece. Or doing installation, or the Super 8 movies. It’s always been involved in art. But it’s so funny right now with the ”Picasso Baby.”
Katy Perry referred to herself as art recently.
I think Lady Gaga always called it that. And I think that was probably where the mainstream went like, “Oh, shit! We’d better call ourselves art, too!” I think it’s like the last white elitist frontier. So people are like, “I’m gonna get that!” Fashion was that.
What struck me is that the ones that I haven’t heard calling themselves art – Ke$ha, Miley Cyrus – are rapping, and it’s reminiscent of your work.
Oh yeah, well, Ke$ha, she’s been to my shows before.
Has she ever mentioned you as an influence?
I don’t think so, but she came to a show.
Does that bother you?
Nothing bothers [me]…I think it’s awesome. I loved it when Pink was doing the song about being with another woman and [she said], “I listen to a lot of your stuff and you should rap on it.” Christina Aguilera’s like, “I love Le Tigre, and I love you, so let's [collaborate]."
So you feel like you’ve gotten your due?
I don’t care about the due. Whatever the due do. It’s like, so what, you get your due? I don’t know what that means. It was like asking me if I suffered, it’s like, I think people are still interested. It’s gone beyond electroclash, even though people are still writing, “Electroclash icon…”
It’s in the first sentence of the Village Voice review.
Yeah, and it’s like, really? Electroclash was like two months and it’s gone…
Speaking of that review, it says “troubling” that you’re singing male pronouns to [trans porn performer Danii Daniels, who plays Peaches’ love interest in the film]…
I think that’s all part of it. That’s the song.
And it’s also fucking the genderfuck, right?
Yeah, and I think [the review] says that in the end. But yeah, that’s the song. It’s a typical disco song in the way that it’s written. What am I supposed to say, “Pretty…sh-boy…?” I wondered if I should change the lyrics, but then I figured no, that’s bringing attention to it. But good, have problems with it. Make a new musical. Or whatever.