Published Oct 01, 2003She's a man-eater (and a woman-eater too), a high voltage electro-rock nympho on record and a gender-fucking sexual conduit on stage. From her leather-bound toes to her glossy pink hot pants up to her tightly curled mullet-top, Peaches screams sex, shouts rock'n'roll and drops hip-hop rhymes and booty anthems like one righteous bitch. She's an honest, equal opportunity entertainer, fucker and philosopher, but no matter how openly she bares the wilder side of her soul and the hairier bits of her flesh, no one sees Peaches the same way. She's either a walking porno or a frothy feminist, a "herm" hero, a woman, a man
"Whatever!" exclaims Peaches. "I did Brazilian interviews yesterday and they were like, Is it true that you are an ex-prostitute?' Then I'd do a French interview and they'd be like, Is it true you're a lesbian icon?' And then I'd talk to Americans, back to back, and one would say, You're an angry woman' and the next one would tell me, You're so funny!' Some people react like I'm completely politically incorrect, the furthest thing from cool, but all I'm talking about is equality. If we're saying motherfucker, let's say fatherfucker, if we're saying shake your tits and shake your asses, let's say shake your dicks."
Peaches is leading by example, turning hip-hop logic on its head with the pelvic commands, playful teases and raucous proclamations on her new record, Fatherfucker. And with its hard rock muscle, low-riding rap and throbbing electro beats, the album is bound to be embraced by the same international network of fans, critics, clubs and catwalks that lapped up her breakthrough record, The Teaches of Peaches. Attentive pupils will note that it's taken this skittle-diddling vixen three years to produce a sophomore album, but the sound and the persona of Peaches was a much longer time coming.
Hot For Teacher
"Do you know that I grew up around the corner from Rush?" asks the artist formerly known as Merrill Nisker, born in Toronto in 1968. "They scared the shit out of me when I was little. I used to play British Bulldog and Red Rover with Geddy Lee's brother while Rush were practicing in [Lee's] garage. They all looked like weird wizards."
Nisker may have tapped into the strange power of rock persona as a child, but it wasn't till her teens that a truly provocative Canadian idol rocked her world.
"Lyrically, I'm fucking following the path of [Rough Trade's] Carol Pope. God, she was such an inspiration for me."
In some of Nisker's first singing gigs at Toronto's L7 and Squeeze Ball nights, she would cover Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog" with the house back-up band, Big Sugar, playing guitar solos on flutes! as well as Rough Trade's best known tune, "High School Confidential."
"One night, Carol Pope was actually there, so I followed her around but she kept running away cause she thought I was some weird lesbian trying to pick her up. But I've read her biography now I know all about her and Dusty Springfield."
When she wasn't chasing her closeted idol or hitting the occasional open mic, Nisker dabbled in theatre direction and worked as a teacher. Recently, Peaches has been invited to lecture at the Contemporary Music Academy in Berlin, where her track "Stuff Me Up" is being taught to classical musicians as an example of a perfect pop song, and the University of Toronto's Queer Studies profs have added her lyrics to the curriculum. But in the 90s, Nisker developed an introductory arts program for three-to-six-year-olds, eventually teaching tykes at YMCAs and private schools. She took the opportunity to observe children's "natural spontaneity" and innate honesty, qualities she later employed as Peaches, in her own, adult way. Soon enough, the itch to explore and exploit her own talents had to be scratched.
"Dale Morningstar [from the Dinner is Ruined] is my guitar god," proclaims Peaches. "He was the coolest. Like, what the hell did I know about Sonic Youth and give a fuck? I saw Dale Morningstar play and that really made me wanna play electric guitar."
Nisker's first band, a folky duo called Mermaid Café, was quickly put out of its misery in favour of a jazz and punk-inflected indie rock act, Fancypants Hoodlum. Around 1995, she made a similar sound as simply Merrill Nisker and then, crucially, came the Shit, a highly-sexed, no wave rock quartet with Dominique Salole (later Mocky), Jason Beck (later Chilly Gonzales) and his girlfriend Sticky. After Beck and Sticky split and the Shit hit the fan, Beck and Nisker formed another short-lived band called Feedom with guitarist David Szigeti (later Taylor Savvy), playing epic, chainsaw riff-rock around Toronto's after hours scene.
Apart from Sticky, who opted to front a Kingston-based metal band called Ass Machine, all members of the Shit and Feedom adopted pseudonyms and relocated to Europe around the turn of the millennium. Gonzales led the way to Germany and the Berlin-based label Kitty-Yo, a successful pattern soon followed by Peaches, and later by Taylor Savvy. Thus began Berlin's trendy "Canadian jackass crew," a handful of pseudo-egomaniacal horndogs mashing up performance art, smutty rock, profane rap and fast, cheap electronics.
In the case of Peaches, who took her moniker from a character in Nina Simone's song "Four Women," the weapon of choice was a Roland MC-505, which she calls her "MC5." The groovebox gave birth to the raw beats, pulsing rhythms and warped FX on The Teaches of Peaches, recorded in her hometown shortly before shuffling off to Germany. And since the move, she's only revisited Toronto on tour, most recently last May when she strutted her stuff at an upscale fundraiser for the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery.
"I did a show on top of the bar and all these Bay Street people were running away from me, so I chased them," says the Peach. "It was really funny. I kind of felt like SARS in concert."
Flow It, Show It, Long As God Can Grow It
It wasn't the first time Peaches got a cold Canadian reception. She never found the support she needed in T.O., and clearly feels more culturally, socially and economically at ease among the krauts, who, despite their well-known clean-freakiness, don't give a damn about "unwanted hair."
"'What's with the hair under your arms?' Why can we see your pubes?'" asks Peaches, mimicking her un-Deutsch inquisitors. "That's what people are focusing on? Fucking ridiculous."
One of her musical heroes even took issue with her short'n'curlies. When Peaches and Iggy Pop recorded "Kick It" the thumping Fatherfucker duet that includes the line "Some people don't like my crotch because it has fuzzy spots" Iggy told her that Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton had vetoed his suggestion to get Peaches on stage during the band's recent reunion tour after he perused the "crotch gallery" at www.peachesrocks.com.
"He said, No chick with that hairy pussy's gonna sing with the Stooges!'" says Peaches. "And Iggy apologised for him."
Such follicle fixations drove Peaches to sport a bushy black beard on Fatherfucker's cover, a "sweet picture," she says, and one that will further endear her to the world's "herms." It's a term she learned from a close friend, J.D. Sampson of Le Tigre, and it's not short for hermaphrodite (though Peaches has "hermaphrodite envy") but generally refers to gender-crossed gals gunning for "the fourth sex."
"The third sex is still fucked up," teaches Peaches. "Like the guy with half a penis and a vagina, the girl with a hairy face and really male hormones. That's gonna be the future cause we're gender-fucking ourselves. Check out what we're doing to our chicken, with steroids. Six-year-old kids are getting breasts! But the ideal is the fourth sex, when it's all normal. You got a dick and you got tits? Great! Let's go."
Peaches is down with herms and all four sexes, and she's quick to veer from "feminist traps," like the radical schools of separatism and gender rejection. As a single bisexual, she's a lover of men and women and the differences between them, especially when it comes to dicks and clits.
As an avid meat-eater, Peaches is riddled with wacky hormones, but the Fatherfucker beard isn't real (at least not yet). It's a remnant from the video for "Set It Off," a little special effects spectacle where Peaches sprouts a body-wide bush. It was her first high budget video, filmed during the brief period when she was signed to Sony in Germany, but American TV rejected it entirely and breaking Canadian cable was a struggle. But the new album's title has spawned a virtual censorama, so you won't be seeing Fatherfucker or any fuzzy Peach in Walmart or Best Buy.
"Good!" she says. "Those people censor culture, so fuck that, man. And you know what? I did four 13-hour days of press in America, but Rolling Stone said no, I have to wait for the "Women in Rock" issue. Fuck off!"
I've Got Something to Put In You
Peaches isn't happy about being relegated to a ghetto, especially a ghetto that favours superstars and bimbos who make vacuous pop music. Last year, Rolling Stone printed an angry letter from Joan Jett about their "Women in Rock" issue, and though the letter turned out to have been penned by someone else, Jett later said she agreed with every point. Funny, then, that Fatherfucker blasts off with "I Don't Give A," a track that wraps "Fuck. Shit. Fuck. Shit," around looped samples from Jett's classic "Bad Reputation," as if the two rocking wenches were teaming up against the music rag establishment. But it's all a coincidence, and not a response to anything in particular, just a loud rumination on Peaches' perceived lack of etiquette. Of course, in her eyes, most of today's mainstream hip-hop dudes and "Women in Rock" are much more deserving of a bad reputation than little old her.
"You look at Britney Spears' video for Slave 4 U' and it's, like, gang rape. And she's not singing about that shit. Same with Jennifer Lopez, she's always getting wet and you see her nipples and ass, but it's just totally manipulative sensationalism. If you're gonna give out images like that, you'd better have the lyrics to back it up. I give it directly, but for some reason it's acceptable to do it visually, but not lyrically. Isn't that the opposite of music?"
In a hilarious twist, Britney Spears recently asked Peaches to co-write songs for her next album, and she declined for two reasons: Spears made the faux pas of requesting the service through her "people" ("Björk asked me to go on tour. Björk, not her manager," says Peaches); and, with few exceptions, the mainstream market doesn't take kindly to women who talk the talk, so Peaches knew her sexy speak would be watered down. Historically, women with openly voracious libidos have been viewed as either a) witches, b) hysterics, c) sluts or d) manly, and even today, over and above the beard and stache accessories, many people perceive Peaches as masculine due to her horniness.
"Would anybody ever ask 50 Cent why he's into having sex and not making love? Would anyone wonder why Biggie Smalls [aka Notorious B.I.G.] said, in his song called Dreams of Fucking an R&B Bitch' that he wants to remind Tina Turner of Ike by slapping her? Nobody questions them and, in a way, that's another example of ghettoising, like He's a dirty black rapper, he can say that, not a white Jewish girl'."
Peaches feels the rappers' pain, particularly because they're way behind the times in "the objectification game." Prince got it right, as a sexually explicit, explicitly heterosexual, hairy man who bared his midriff and butt cheeks, where most of today's boys just look bulky.
"On Fatherfucker, I'm really including guys, partly cause I feel sorry for the hip-hop dudes. They're all dressed in tons of big baggy clothes and the girls are in little bikinis all around them they need to objectify themselves more."
And love yourself, and love your brother. Peaches believes that everyone is inherently bisexual, but she notes with sadness that most men fall into the straight line too fast.
"Choosing a man or a woman isn't the point, it's just that these strict rules are stupid. Every woman I know has kissed a woman, but not every guy I know has kissed a guy, and I think they need to. It just helps you find out who you are. I mean, I only realised pussy licking was okay once I licked a pussy."
Kissing is one thing (pussy licking is another), but few would argue that getting action in the back section is fairly unfathomable for many guys, and this is yet another area where Peaches would like to assist, as detailed in her song "Back It Up, Boy." After all, as she sings it, "Don't you know it's supposed to feel better for boys?"
"Blues and hip-hop artists always say I'm a back door man' Back it up, baby' Back that ass up,' but the big joke is that their G-spot is in their ass! And it's amazing, of the 250 interviews I've done recently, I would say 80 percent of the guys I talked to don't even know they have a G-spot, they don't know where it is, and when I explain the biology, they laugh like they think I'm kidding!"
Peaches may be funny, but she knows her anatomy. She gets off on getting it out in the open and talking the talk to gage "where people are at" with their sexual mores. As long as they've made music, women have been writing response songs, but Peaches is a comeback queen who makes her own statements, because she challenges society's hang-ups with words and pictures, because she's made a second album that's as good, if not better than her first, because she's outlived and surpassed "electroclash," and because she can take it and dish it right back out.
"When I was on tour with Queens of the Stone Age, this guy was yelling, You suck!' and I'm like, Yeah, I swallow too,' and I saw his friend saying, Heh heh, she caught ya, buddy.' I got them on my side, which is really cool."
At another stop on that same tour, Peaches jumped into the audience and found herself duplicating that classic Iggy Pop pose, when he stood up in the crowd, his feet held up by fans, pointing straight ahead for a few seconds before smearing peanut butter on his chest. "I was thinking, Oh my God, I'm doing the Iggy, I gotta just point my finger, maybe someone will pass me the peanut butter!" says Peaches. "So I pointed and I looked down, cause I had to see who was holding me up, and it was these old biker men and these cool dyke chicks and I brought those guys together. I'm really about being inclusive, it's true. I guess it's just my Canadian politeness."
Are You With Peaches?
The Cream of the Collaborative Crop
Chilly Gonzales (born Jason Beck)
This sleazy MC and self-styled "President of the Berlin Underground" teamed up with Peaches in the late 90s in Toronto bands the Shit and Feedom. Since their 2000 joint single, "Red Leather," they've made cameos on nearly all of each others' releases and many shows. Gonzo's fourth album for Kitty-Yo is pending.
Taylor Savvy (born David Szigeti)
Sharp suits, synths and guitars are his tools, sleazin' and teasin' are his only rules. This Berlin-via-Toronto entertainer played with Peaches in Feedom and later dropped backup vocals and guitar on both her albums. Peaches lent her charms to "Boys & Girls," a down'n'dirty duet from his 2002 Kitty-Yo debut, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bitch Lap-Lap / Puta Rica / Feist (born Leslie Feist)
She's By Divine Right's ex-guitarist, a solo singer-songwriter and member of Broken Social Scene, but as Bitch Lap-lap and occasionally Puta Rica, she's been part of the Peaches show since they were roommates back in Toronto. She also sang on Peaches' "Diddle My Skittle," and the duo covered "Sexy Dancer" for the 2001 tribute album, If I Was Prince. Feist's sophomore solo album is out in January on Arts & Crafts.
Louie Austen (born Alois Luef)
This 57-year-old, would-be Rat Packer is another Kitty-Yo phenomenon, an Austrian-born, American-trained crooner set to dirty, funky beats by producers Patrick Puslinger and Mario Neugebauer. Louie and the gang's brand new album is Easy Love, but their debut LP, 2001's Only Tonight!, featured Peaches on the über-raunchy duet, "Grab My Shaft!"
John Malkovich (born John Malkovich)
Last year, Peaches was part of the ensemble cast in The Hideous Man, a short film directed by Malkovich, based on poems by Gary Sinise, and showcasing the clothes of UK designer Bella Freud (Sigmund's granddaughter). "The best part," says Peaches, "was when one of my shoes came undone and Malkovich bent down and tied it up. I think I'm gonna call my autobiography: John Malkovich Tied My Shoe, Boy George Sniffed My Underwear."
Iggy Pop (born James Osterberg)
From Detroit, this Stooges singer, legendary proto-punk and fucked-up rocker makes for a highly dramatic Behind the Music, but with the recent Stooges reunion, a brand new album (Skull Ring) and Peaches duet ("Kick It"), Iggy's rockin' the Freedom 55. "He's totally hot!" says Peaches. "He was wearing really tight pants and I could see his huge, long dick through it but we're both professionals!"
Pink (born Alecia Moore)
This pop star beat out Britney (figuratively, that is), scoring a Peaches cameo with a personal e-mail that said, "Tell me to fuck off if you don't like me, but I've been a fan for three years you've gotta be on my track!" With a characteristically saucy rap intro, Peaches gets the party started on "Oh My God," a song from Pink's impending album.