Most people know Peaches from her 2000 hit “F— the Pain Away.” But the 45-year-old electro-pop/performance artist hasn’t slowed down since, starring in a one-woman take on Jesus Christ Superstar and collaborating with everyone from Christina Aguilera to R.E.M. to Simian Mobile Disco. We caught up with the boundary-pushing musician Peaches (who took her stage name from a Nina Simone song: “At the end of the song she says ‘my name is Peaches,’ and I wanted her to be singing it to me”) before she drops by the ICA on July 25 for a DJ set-cum-live performance as part of their Wavelengths summer music series.
What can we expect from a Peaches performance?
I do a kind of performative DJ set, because I believe that DJ culture got lost in the way that, when electronic music first came out, it was very “stare at the knobs and turn them.” DJ-ing isn’t really so complicated, so you can add your own personality to it, and I prefer to always have a live element because, otherwise, why gather a large group of people for live music? So I will be singing too.
Saturday Night Live
No, I have to see that!
Yeah, I mean, mine is kind of an antithesis DJ set in the same way that, when I used to just play, like, one electronic machine, I would make sure that I was also being very performative. You know, to debunk the myth of like, ‘Oh, this is so different and difficult,’ or ‘I’m really hiding behind my stuff [equipment],’ you know?
Your music can be… provocative. Starting out, did you intend to push people’s buttons?
I didn’t. I was just saying things that I wanted to say directly, and it just pushed people’s buttons. People had very opposing ideas about what I was saying, and what I was doing, and all I was saying was what I thought wasn’t being said.
Speaking to that, you’ve long been something of an activist. What do you feel strongly about right now?
There’s still quite an inequality between the sexes, whether you like it or not. Just look at Dov Charney: I think it’s great that he’s being fired from American Apparel. And the issues with Terry Richardson. But I think it’s coming up, and that we should keep on that. But, also, we’ve got to watch out in terms of freedom of expression, and I don’t find that [Richardson’s art] to be freedom of expression—that’s nonconsensual activity. But we have to watch out that we’re not too conservative in the way art gets represented. In a way, we think we’re so much freer but it’s still quite conservative in a lot of ways. So we have to watch out.
New York Magazine
I just got it, so no. In a way, they’re kind of forgiving him?
Yeah, which sucks.
[interrupts] That’s not art. That’s nonconsensual and that’s just… obviously he’s got some problems and he tries to work them out on nonconsensual activity. That’s not art to me. That’s him having some f—ed up psychological problems. That’s clearly been talked about, with his relationship with his father and stuff like that, and maybe he could just get some help instead. And he’s not such a cool photographer anyway. Not really good pictures.
New York Mag
I know, but I need to read it.
I always say this, and it always sounds really hippie-dippie, but just be true to yourself and say what you really want to say, and not what you think you’re supposed to say.
You know what? That girl’s probably on a lot of drugs and who knows what she’s doing, so… [pauses] I mean, she’s just being a rock star. There’s no right or wrong way, it’s obviously gotten her press, and if that’s what she’s interested in … I don’t know what her interest is, I don’t know where her mind is at, I don’t know what her values are, really. I can’t tell.
I don’t know, does she even write any of it? I don’t know. I don’t really care, actually. I guess I’m supposed to, and you want an answer, but I don’t really care.
I just don’t find it interesting.
People like Deep Valley or White Lung. [Deep Valley] are, like, two girls. They’re kind of plain, just straight up rock music, kind of like a White Stripes setup. I like their lyrics a lot, and I like their energy.
People like Annie Sprinkle and Cindy Sherman. Free Kitten—Kim Gordon’s band with Julie Cafritz. PJ Harvey. Nina Simone.
Sure, Iggy Pop. The Cramps.
I don’t know, I’ve been pretty lucky, I’ve been able to collaborate with a lot of people that I really want. [pauses] I want to collaborate with Yolandi from Die Antwoord.
Did you see my response to that? I wrote on Facebook that she should not stop crowdsurfing, she should break fingers. Because I have—a lot. I’ve broken fingers, I’ve called people out, I’ve pulled them out onstage, I’ve had them kicked out of shows. And I think it’s important to take action right there.
No. And it’s not like I was telling her, ‘You’re wrong.’ I’m just saying, ‘Come on, keep doing it.’ I don’t want us to have to stop doing what we want to do. I want us to get rid of the idiots, or to call them out. And that’s our opportunity to do it.
Seriously? Before you f— up, work out your s–t.