I remember hearing the Peaches song "Fuck the Pain Away" for the first time in high school. It sounded like she was doing some kind of naughty slam poetry. At the time, I just thought of it as a beat-heavy song that I enjoyed as a background to running or dancing. Which was pretty much the mainstream perception, too: this song (along with Peaches's other tracks) was obscene, catchy, avant-garde electropop.
But the meaning behind it and the breadth of Peaches's work was so much deeper, which is something I learned as I got older. Her music is both sonically and lyrically dense. Throughout her musical career, the 47-year-old performer has always envisioned a world that promotes equality, that sees people beyond gender lines and expectations. She advocates (consensual) sex in all forms. Her artistry is something that's becoming more important today, especially in the midst of an election year.
Peaches (née Merrill Nisker) has always pushed boundaries, whether they're sexual or genre-based. While she is most widely known for her solo performances, she's also written a rock opera, produced a documentary based on that rock opera, and published a book of photography. Additionally, she's been an inspiration to some of the world's biggest pop stars over the years, like P!nk, Lady Gaga, and Christina Aguilera. Last fall, Peaches released her sixth studio album, Rub, which featured a very NSFW video for the album's title track; it depicted "hairy pussies," as Peaches put it. According to Peaches, the video for "Rub" wasn't meant to be pornographic: it was supposed to show an appreciation for all women's bodies.
She's long been a champion of female autonomy and artistry: her upcoming Rub remix album, due May 27, features only women, including musicians like Lauren Flax from CREEP, Maya Jane Coles, Austra's Maya Postepski, and her niece, musician Simonne Jones. I spoke with Peaches on International Women's Day about the need for a woman to have control over her body, Kesha's trial, and how her art isn't for the sake of shock value.
Ilana Kaplan: Your song "Boys Want to Be Her" is the theme to Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. How did you get involved with the show?
Peaches: She direct messaged me on Twitter saying, "I love you. I want to use this song." I was like, "What?" I think [the show] is a very important milestone for women in late-night television. Not only that: she's very funny, poignant, and super on point.
IK: You've always been known for making art with a message and doing so in a lot of extravagant ways. What do you have to say to people who think your art is just a performance and not genuine?
P: I actually haven't come across that, but maybe I'm just not reading the right implications. I've heard that only once, and it was from the "Rub" video. There was one comment that said, "She's just trying to get famous." I was like, "Really? A hairy pussy is trying to get me famous? OK." I actually feel lucky that I don't have that problem, and I also don't have the fame to go along with it, so it's not really an issue with me.
IK: Your fan base has remained loyal over the past several years. It was six years between Rub and your previous record. How have you sustained that loyalty?
P: Well, I did put out four albums consistently — every three years — and toured every two years in a ten-year period, so I feel like taking that break doesn't really damage it. It isn't like I didn't do any other projects. I made a rock-opera musical that went in the anti-jukebox genre. Instead of taking music from an artist and making a crappy story that has nothing to do with the artist, I decided to make it about me. I had a chance to go even more over the top, which is a funny statement by me.