Toronto’s favourite pandrogynous provocateur on anti-jukebox musicals, giving the people what they want, and how South Park made her proud.
She will rock you, but not in a We Will Rock You kind of way.
From her days as a member of the early-’90s folk ensemble Mermaid Café to her current status as an outré pop star, Toronto-bred, Berlin-based provocateur Peaches has built up an intricate public persona. Her new film, Peaches Does Herself, loosely tells the story of the performer’s rise from making Casio beats in her bedroom to international stardom, through 22 of her most iconic songs. The theatre-turned-film project gave the performer a chance to confront—and/or confirm—people’s preconceived notions about the Peaches mythology. “In the beginning, I thought, ‘I won’t make it so overtly sexual, [all full of] dicks and tits,’” says Peaches during a recent interview in Toronto shortly before the Peaches Does Herself screening at the Inside Out film festival. “And then I thought, ‘No. I’m going completely over the top with everything, and I’ll give people what they want to see from me, as well as what I want to express.” As you might expect, though Peaches is a self-proclaimed musical lover, Peaches Does Herself isn’t exactly Mirvish-friendly. “I’m not a fan of jukebox musicals. If you take someone like Freddie Mercury, you have a fascinating character with an incredible life but [in the musical, they chose] to fill the script with inane dialogue about the world needing an electric guitar to stop robots from taking over,” she says. “So I thought it would be interesting, conceptually, to make an anti-jukebox musical that actually relates to the person whose music it is. And since I didn’t think anybody would do it about me any time soon, I figured it would be more conceptual to do it myself.”
Idol hands are the devil’s playthings.
From Gaga to Ke$ha, many of music’s reigning pop tarts have borrowed from Peaches’s electroclash playbook. While the performer is happy to have inspired a generation of musicians, she’s careful to note that she owes a lot to the righteous babes who came before her. In Peaches Does Herself, Peaches’s wide-ranging influences—from Joni Mitchell’s jazz-folk stylings to punk princess Wendy O. Williams’s brazen onstage sexuality—are amalgamated in the form of middle-aged N.Y.C. stripper/street performer/radio personality Sandy Kane (a.k.a. “The Naked Cowgirl”), who guides the burgeoning artist on her musical journey. But like so many sensei-student relationships, rivalry rears its head. In this case, the two come to blows over their mutual affection for the film’s stunning muse character, played by transgender pornstar/ballerina/horticulturist Danni Daniels. Offscreen, however, it was Peaches who provided Daniels with divine inspiration. “He said he lost his virginity in the back of a car to my music when he was 14, and now he can shake his dick and his tits,” she says, referencing her single “Shake Yer Dix.”
Her music rarely gets lost in translation.
While Peaches Does Herself is the artist’s first stab at film directing, it’s certainly not the first time her music has been featured onscreen. From Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray’s Japanese strip-club field trip in Lost in Translation to the raucous high-school Halloween party hosted by a bunnytailed Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls, Peaches’s songs have cropped up all over the place. In general, she says, she appreciates that her tunes generally start playing when characters get up to some twisted hijinks. But four foulmouthed cartoon kids from Colorado provided Peaches with one of her favourite soundtrack credits: “[During] one of the most subversive scenes ever, even for South Park, they used my music when a transvestite cop jumps out of a cake to have sex with a whole frat house. That was a proud moment for me.”
She’s coming to a theatre near you…again!
Now that Peaches has had the chance to direct herself onscreen, two other filmmakers will have the chance to, er, do her. She’s currently working on another project, but this time, she’s more of the subject than the overseer. The film is by Marie Losier, the experimental filmmaker and director behind the documentary The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, about the artist and performer Genesis P-Orridge and his creative and romantic other half. “[Marie’s] been following and filming me,” says Peaches. “She filmed a bit of L’Orfeo”—the 15th-century Italian opera Peaches recently performed in Berlin—“and me at home with my family. I have another film project coming up with Caroline Sascha Cogez, who used to be Lars von Trier’s assistant.” Fingers crossed for a Peaches Criterion box set.
Peaches Does Herself opens on June 7 at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, 506 Bloor St. W., 416-637-3123, bloorcinema.com.