Merrill Beth Nisker, one-time teacher at a Toronto Hebrew school, took the late-nineties by storm when she became the influential and outrageous pop star slash performance artist known as Peaches.
She quickly moved from underground performances in Canada to touring the world and settled in Berlin, inspiring audiences – and a few folks who went on to be stars in their own rights after working with her, like MIA and Feist. She continues to blend dance-y electronic music with overt political commentary, particularly in matters of gender and sexuality.
Her newest project is “Peaches Does Herself.” It is at once a movie musical extravaganza, a concert film, an autobiographical biopic, and an artist’s statement examining the major themes of her last fifteen years of work.
Well known for her outlandishness, humor, and do-it-yourself work ethic, we posed some listener etiquette questions for her unique brand of advice – but we’re not saying you should can-can anybody’s banana out there.
Brendan Francis Newnam: You call this the anti music box musical? What do you mean by that?
Peaches: I was inspired by jukebox musicals I hate them.
Rico Gagliano: What are they? Jukebox musicals were the songs that already exist and people make them over.
Peaches: Exactly that’s what bothers me.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Like the Queen musical for instance.
Peaches: That’s a perfect example that I always use because Freddy Mercury is an incredible character and had an incredible life and you could have made a great story maybe about him or something that related to his world at least and then you know you would understand what the music is like, but it always has nothing to do with the music.
Like I saw the Queen musical “We Will Rock You” and I saw it in German so I don’t know if I understood everything, but basically it was like the world is coming to an end and we must find the magical guitar that will bring back life rock and roll. You know, why? So I thought.
Rico Gagliano: That wasn’t true? I thought that was a documentary.
Peaches: It was, but they put Queen music in it.
Rico Gagliano: It was crazy. So you decided to create an artistic narrative about your own fame and success as a musician.
Peaches: Yeah, and the misconceptions about what people have had about me and put them all together and confuse them even more.
Brendan Francis Newnam: You previously did do a musical you did a live one woman of Jesus Christ Superstar called of course Peaches Christ Super Star which I love.
Rico Gagliano: I think the pun alone is reason to do the musical.
Brendan Francis Newnam: But it was you and a pianist, very striped down. Here you are with this spectacle of a musical where there is a million people on stage where half are dressed as a bride and half dressed as a groom and there are all these costume changes throughout. Why this change of style?
Peaches: That’s a very good question and I appreciate that. The thing with Jesus Christ Superstar is that the productions have lost the meaning of the music, I wanted to bring it back especially for people my age, I grew up with it and I especially want to do it because of the music.
Music lovers who don’t like music who would enjoy that. With my production, it was a whole different thing, I did not want to stripe it down. I wanted to maximize it I wanted to put everything it. It was not revisiting the rock opera that you knew from an audio recording an that’s why you you loved it.
Rico Gagliano: So, basically you were like Jesus Christ didn’t deserve that treatment.
Peaches: Peaches has gotta get there and somebody else has to strip it away. Strip Peaches away.
Rico Gagliano: I want to get to our listeners questions on a second but I do have another question for you, when your music broke, it was considered really shocking and provocative. Now top 40 music is filled with frank talk about sex and gender.
Peaches: I don’t know about the gender so much
Rico Gagliano: A little bit Frank Ocean.
Peaches: Yes,you had Freddie Mercury back then, I guess it is not as thinly-veiled. I mean but you also had Rob Halford, you know. Gay Metal God
Rico Gagliano: From Judas Priest.
Peaches: Yeah, singing hell bound for leather you know.
Brendan Francis Newnam: But again, it was veiled people were shocked when he revealed that he was gay. Are you happy with the way that pop music deals with this stuff?
Peaches: Yeah I think that Nicki Minaj did a lot, her lyrics. I’ve heard in remixes Nicki respond to male rappers say shake your booty to the ground but then she’s telling them to shake their you know, banana.
Rico Gagliano: Our listeners have sent in some questions and they are not about shaking your bananas.
Peaches: I sure hope so.
The art of Defensive Dancing
Brendan Francis Newnam: Here is something form Elisabeth in Vermont, “I go out dancing with my friends a lot and guys try to dance up on us, what is the most polite way to say back off without saying back off? Please keep in mind that the music is usually too loud to say back off and be heard.”
Peaches: I would say start spaz-dancing like crazy start thrashing your arms around, make sure your friend is in on it and have a signal spaz dance. Then go for it.
That guy won’t be able to get on you. If he doesn’t get it there will be a part of the dance where you can start can, can dancing and the leg might touch a banana. Then, he’ll get the point so there’s a lot of level.
Rico Gagliano: So level one is spaz dance. Level two is assault.
Peaches: Assault, straight out assault because it is too loud in there. Blame it on the can, can.
RSVP: Bourbon-soaked Peaches
Brendan Francis Newnam: Steve in Washington writes, “Every year we throw a holiday party a particular friend says how much she is looking forward to it, she’s watching for the invitation, and every year she is a no show. At what point do you stop inviting somebody to a party that they say they want to go to but they never attend?”
Peaches: What’s the problem. Just send the invite. Is it an expense problem?
Brendan Francis Newnam: Is it a gold leaf invite?
Peaches: If it’s an expense problem, confront her, otherwise so what? I don’t see a problem.
Brendan Francis Newnam: From Steve’s point of view he is getting rejected year after year after year and how many times does he offer himself up to this friend for rejection?
Peaches: It’s a party. Steve, if she doesn’t show next year call me I’ll come to the party. If she does show up I’ll show up anyway.
Rico Gagliano: Then your party is gonna get really elaborate when Peaches shows up, costume changes.
Peaches: No I’m not performing, Steve.
Rico Gagliano: Just showing up.
Rico Gagliano: Normally we ask our etiquette guests to tell us the most amazing dinner they been to but coming up on Halloween, what was your most memorable Halloween costume?
Peaches: My most failed Halloween costume I was once the Karate Kid for Halloween and I had the post beaten up but pre-Karate Kid.
Rico Gagliano: Like green belt Karate Kid.
Peaches: After the Halloween scene he gets beaten up isn’t that what happens.
Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s right there’s a scene in that movie where he’s beaten up.
Peaches: I had a black eye, short hair, I thought I had like Ralph Macchio, nobody got it, everybody was like did you get into a fight before you got here?
Rico Gagliano: You were like wax on, wax off. Actually that’s almost like a Peaches song.
Peaches: Thank you, that’s good.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Peaches thank you for telling our audience how to behave. Peaches: Don’t behave, misbehave.