Main photo: Daria Marchik
Jo Bligh of Bristol music night THORNY chats to anti-pop icon Peaches ahead of her show next month
“All I’ve ever said is that I want people to feel comfortable in their own bodies. A lot of organised religious and political platforms try to control [this]. To me, that leads to more problems with individuals figuring out who they are than me being open does.”
The first time I became aware of Peaches was, like many, having my ears penetrated by ‘Fuck the Pain Away’ from her groundbreaking 2000 debut The Teaches of Peaches. I’m now sat listening to the same song sixteen years after it was first released, and it’s just as relevant and outrageous as ever.
I’m anticipating speaking with a pioneering artist, whose music has paved the way for queer communities, empowering us to embrace what makes us different and use it to confront prejudice. I imagine it took perseverance to be heard, especially at a time when feminist thought didn’t have a place in mainstream culture like it does today. “It was challenging because [my music] was only successful to people who were into it. But it was still confusing because of the politics around it. In that way, people thought: ‘this is just a weird blip, and then she’ll go away’. But here I am now, still doing it.”
It wasn’t just public preconceptions that Peaches had to defy. Making her mark in the industry also brought its own challenges, resulting in her decision to reject label offers in favour of securing creative control over her work. “I wasn’t with a major label so nobody could tell me: ‘your image is wrong’ or ‘your music is wrong’. I self-produced the first album, and that encouraged me to not listen to anybody’s criticism that had to do with adhering to a standard.”
“In my eyes, when people ask me ‘what’s queer?’ I think, what isn’t queer?”
It’s these bold decisions made early on – which could’ve been career sacrifices at the time – that have enabled Peaches to achieve success her way, without being moulded into a female pop archetype. “On the first album, it was important for me not to sing too much, because I didn’t want to be seen as ‘the girl singer’. That was more like talk-speak because I wanted people to hear the music and the message of what I was doing.”
She’s calling me from Buenos Aires, amid a world tour in support of her sixth studio album, Rub. It’s another ridiculously provocative record, and I’m intrigued to know how she still manages to push boundaries at a time when we’re bombarded by – and arguably numbed to – sexually explicit imagery every day. “Now [that] people get it, I’m gonna go deeper. The videos for the title track and ‘Dick in the Air’ are very important to this album. They’re mostly self-directed, working with communities that I’m friends with and feel like are my people.”
And it’s those communities within which she’s always felt most at home. Last year, after performing at Berlin music festival YO! SISSY, she spent the rest of the weekend dancing in the crowds of other acts and chatting to punters. Her desire to be active and present with her audiences, and refusal to ditch DIY stages for the bigger paychecks, are a testament to her integrity but also prove her commitment to the community.
“In my eyes, when people ask me ‘what’s queer?’, I think, ‘what isn’t queer’? I don’t understand why people aren’t queer. I’m not saying be pansexual, I’m just saying be who you need to be and not anything else.”
“PEOPLE THOUGHT: ‘THIS IS JUST A WEIRD BLIP, AND THEN SHE’LL GO AWAY’. BUT HERE I AM NOW, STILL DOING IT.”
This is the underlying message of her music, as nicely condensed in the hook: “no matter how old, how young, how sick, I mean something”. Her overt lyrics and the driving rage felt in their delivery are a powerful repost to societal oppression. And this roaring creative fire is only further fuelled by misogynistic messages circling the media, often from the mouths of powerful figures running to become our leaders.
“If there was a man named Donald Trump who went around with his orange hand grabbing pussies, maybe I would make a video where I’m grabbing his crotch with my green hand and shoving tic-tacs down his nostrils. It’s very reactionary [to] whatever situations or absurdities are going on at the moment.”
Whether it takes stuffing Trump’s nostrils with mints or jumping inside a 60-foot inflatable penis (as she did at her London show earlier this year), this fearless femme icon has a clear message, and it’s unlikely that anything will stop her continuing to disseminate it.
THORNY returns to Exchange on 2nd Dec. Peaches’ latest album Rub Remixed is out now on I U SHE. She plays Trinity on 12th November. Check out ‘Sick in the Head’ below.