On a music networking site there’s a picture of Peaches, innocuous except for a dildo head peeping out from the folds of her shirt. Underneath someone has commented, witheringly, “she would!” Damn right she would.
It’s been 9 years since The Teaches of Peaches heralded the arrival of Merill Nisker on the then burgeoning electroclash scene. Over the past decade she’s made quite a name for herself – projecting radical representations of sex and gender identity through gritty electro-pop and incendiary live shows. With a new album, I Feel Cream, due out in May [you can currently stream it in full over at XLR8R], we caught up with the woman who thinks nothing of donning a strap-on onstage or making art installations out of hair.
What have you been doing since Impeach My Bush?
“I did some art installations for the Canadian Biennale. I collected all the items that people have thrown onstage and laid them out on the carpet – there was like bras, shirts and lots of stuff, it was 8 feet long and four feet high! I made a whole cave of it and you could go inside and see all the items, and the whole top was hair. It was cool.”
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve had thrown at you onstage?
“The grossest thing was a used pad.”
Nice. So tell us about the new album, it’s more accessible than anything you’ve done before.
“I’ve made three hardcore albums, I just thought I’d expand a little and collaborate with people so I could work more on melody, structure, songwriting and see what came up.”
Production duties are shared with Simian Mobile Disco and Soulwax; what was the process there?
“With Soulwax, the song had been written but something wasn’t working: the drums with the bassline. They changed something and it worked, then we flew ideas back and forth. Simian was more like I was in their studio for a few weeks and we were putting things together from scratch.”
There are moments when this album showcases a warmer side to you. Have you mellowed?
“No, but I feel like I should show people that I can sing. It was more a case of having variety and realising that I am who I am. I was doing a lot of remixes and I realised that if I was making it for someone else I would do it differently. If I’m doing it differently for them, why can’t I bring that into my own? I was also doing a lot of DJing.”
I saw you DJ at the Amersham Arms last year…
“THAT WAS WHEN I GOT MY HAIR DYED ON STAGE!”
What was that about?
“It was just fun. I always like to have some sort of performance element so my friend Charlie was hiding under the DJ booth. It was fun because it was the kind of set where people weren’t drunk at the beginning but at the end they were and going, ‘Was your hair blonde when you started?!'”
On ‘Serpentine’, you reference electroclash…
“I reference myself, it’s a big self-referential song. I really like the rap on that.”
Is it surprising how history has judged electroclash?
“Well it was judged right away. The minute it came out it was backlashed so I didn’t really care. I was like ‘ew, electroclash, whatever the name sucks’ but now that I think about it, it’s all electroclash. Nu rave is electroclash. Nu rave got a longer shelf life than electroclash did.”
I wonder if that was because electroclash was quite closely aligned with the queer world?
“Yeah it was more performative. They were like ‘weirdos!’ and it went away. Bring back the queer! Queer the mainstream.”
What do you think of the sudden influx of women with synthesisers?
“Let’s hope it doesn’t go the way of electroclash. Because whenever they put girls into a category it will be there for a month or two – look at the 90s and riot grrl. Whenever girls are involved people get way too excited and don’t know what to do with it.”
Your image challenges a restrictive idea of beauty…
“…And also of age.”
Do you find people respond aggressively?
“Ha! Well apparently to a lot of people I look like a 50 year old tranny. I mean you just find out where people’s prejudices lie. When you put something different out there people would say you were setting yourself up for a lot of controversy, but I invite it because I’m curious to see where the mainstream is.”
How old are you?
“I’m 42. There’s so many strong, older women that are so part of the mainstream now that you can’t just judge them on their mainstream objectified beauty or age. Madonna is 50 and she has a better figure than any 18 year old I know. Or people like Tilda Swinton or Cate Blanchett – you’re going to watch them grow old and you’re going to want to see what they do. I mean what are you gonna do? There’s so many of us you won’t be able to go ‘she’s old!’. You look at a guy and think that’s cool, so start saying that about women cos it’s true.”
Do you worry that by raising these issues you’ve hindered your chances of mainstream success?
“No. I’m really happy about it. I feel like a pioneer in a way, I feel like an advocate for queer culture. I feel like as a woman producer I’ve inspired people to do that. I feel like I’ve done a lot, I have quite a legacy I’m pretty proud of.”