Electro queen Peaches – real name Merrill Beth Nisker – is heading back to the UK next month to unveil her directorial debut at the London leg of the Sundance Film Festival (25-28 April). As you might expect from an artist whose back catalogue includes Fatherfucker and Impeach My Bush, the Canadian is not screening some old road movie but a vivid new musical, humbly entitled Peaches Does Herself. With a gig to coincide with the UK premiere taking place at London’s Indigo venue in 26 April, the disco provocateur explains why she’s now taking on film.
How the devil are you?
“I’m good thank you.”
Your film Peaches Does Herself is set for its UK debut at Sundance, was film something you’ve been wanting to do for a while?
“No actually, and it was accidentally a film. What happened was I was approached by a really cool theatre owner in Berlin who he asked me if I wanted to do a production. What came flowing out of my voice was: I would like to do Jesus Christ Superstar as a one woman show! That was the first thing I thought of and he said: Great, done, what else do you want to do? So suddenly I was doing two things. I didn’t know what to do but as it was my tenth anniversary of being Peaches I wanted to find a way to celebrate. I wanted to make a narrative musical that related directly to me and what people think about my work. I wanted to do that as opposed to a jukebox music where they take the songs and concoct a ridiculous horrible story to get to the next song. I wanted to make musical cool. The other thing I wanted to do was that the narrative would be told by the music, there would be no extraneous dialogue. So in a sense it’s a rock opera.”
So there’s no talking of any kind?
“Yeah. So then I had to realise what the story would be, get some emotion in there and take further my ideas of gender and sex, all the things I’ve been working on, so I ended-up with a narrative that was semi autobiographical about a girl who wants to make music. A fairy godmother comes down and basically tells her to be more sexual in her music – basically she tells me to say Bitch in my songs! That opens up a world of possibilities: I gain more confidence then I’m enveloped by a load of dancers who turn me into what they thing I should be, which is a transsexual. I meet my meet match in the form a really gorgeous transgender, then get my heart broken and come out the other end and find out who I am. I had to insert my songs into all of that. It was interesting to reinterpret my songs without changing any of the lyrics so they would relate to the narrative. It filled itself in really, which was really exciting.”
Was it strange that your lyrics fitted in with the plot without needing changes?
“Yeah exactly! It was interesting that they worked as a narrative. I reworked some of the songs so they sound different, but I didn’t change a word!”
What were you like as film director?
“I was a god damn control freak all the way through! I wrote it, I directed it, I performed in it. It was going to just be a musical but we filmed it every night – we wanted to document it – and afterwards we realised it looked good so we decided to make a film out of it. It was an arduous task. We have 1500 different edits because it was shot across lots of different nights. Getting the continuity and colour correction right took months.”
So it really was a film by accident?
“I was the accidental filmmaker, but then I’ve been the accidental everything I’ve ever done. I never meant to have a music career. I never plan anything, so it’s pretty cool how it all ends up.”
What’s your poster quote then, fun for all the family?
“You know our catchphrase? Peaches Does Herself: The Anti-Jukebox musical which gave itself a sex change!”
You’re also staging a one-off gig around Sundance in London, what have got planned?
“I don’t know if you know Empress Stah, she’s a burlesque aerialist. I wrote a song for her recently for her act where she – I don’t know how to put this… she has a butt-plug and it shoots out a laser while she does an aerial act. I got inspired by that so I wrote a song called Light In Places, so we’re going to do that together at the show. Danni Daniels, who is prominent in my movie, a very beautiful transsexual – if you saw my show at Lovebox in 2010 when I had a broken ankle, it was Danni The Tranny who was wheeling me around – he’ll be there to perform too. It will definitely be quite a spectacle.”
Having made your directorial debut, do you have any other ambitions now in film?
“I’ve always been interested. I never thought music was the end, it’s a beginning for other art. It’s the most immediate art and you can build on that whether it’s film, theatre, dance, performance… Right now I’m working with Marie Losier, who did the movie The Ballad Of Genesis And Lady Jaye, about [artist] Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. She asked me a couple of years ago before I even knew about this film, so we’re working together right now on a film. It’s half-fiction, half-portrait, half-documentary, it’s all mixed up. She’s moved to Berlin to follow me around, she’s actually moved next door to be my stalker, so we’ll see what happens.”
Handy when your stalker has talent.
“Not bad!” [laughs]
Finally, looking ahead, do you have a new album on the way?
“I’m making music right now. I’ve got a new studio which is in an old public swimming pool. I have the sauna. I’m making music in the sauna!”
Does it work still?
“No, it’s a shame, but the wood is really nice.”