To a Berlin brothel and back in 24 hours to meet Peaches ahead of her Impeach My Bush album. (Dazed, June 2006)
Photography Deirdre O'Callaghan
Debbie Harry says she’s the bomb, Josh Homme begs to be on her albums, and male audiences are terrified of her – so what’s next for Peaches? “I formed a band,” she tells Rod Stanley
“Slapping your dicks all over the place, rubbing that shit all over your face” – Peaches, ‘Two Guys For Every Girl’
“You know, I think that hip hop is in its hair metal phase right now, where it ‘s just like ‘Girls Girls Girls’, ya know? So, with ‘ Two Guys for Every Girl’, I flipped that, but really, honestly, it’s because I love hip hop, and not just because like, ‘ Oh, wouldn’t it be funny if…? ‘ No, it’s because I wanna enjoy that kinda shit too.”
So, if the guys are over-represented, then you’re like, “Hold on, I want to do it my way as well”
“Exactly! Which always seems weird and abrasive to people, but why? It should be normal. Like ‘Tent in your Pants’, which is about a guy whose erection is so big in his pants that I’m going to sell tickets and have a big party in there. That came from Busta Rhymes’s ‘ Light Your Ass on Fire’, where he’s got that line, ‘Y’ass so big, just put the club in yo ass.’ So I’m like, ‘Wait a minute, y’ass so big in your pants…'”
And with that squelchy, sleazy hip hop groove, and like you’re trying to get muckier than Missy…
“No, I love her! I think Missy Elliott could out-dirty herself. I’ve heard some bootlegs she’s done that are way dirtier than you’ll ever hear. She did a remix of ‘Crazy in Love’ which is like, ‘Got me feeling so crazy right now, I’m like myah myah now stick it in my mouth’. She can go so hot, but that hardly gets heard.”
We should probably interrupt at this point to let you know that Peaches is back with a game-raising new album called, wonderfully, Impeach My Bush. And that we are currently sat in a small Italian restaurant in east Berlin, slurping down red wine and pasta at t he end of a long day in some crazy brothel that has somehow been procured for the photo shoot, while Peaches is keen to state that, quite simply, “It’s the best musical experience I have ever had.”
Impeach My Bush was recorded earlier this year at an LA mansion, which was stumbled upon by Janice, Peaches’s manager, when she was at a poolside party one weekend and discovered that it was the studio of Jeff Porcaro, drummer for American 80s pop-rock outfit Toto. One thing led to another (although hopefully no late-night renditions of “Rosanna”) and pretty soon, the Berlin-based Peaches found herself shacked up there, in “a five-bedroom house, with a heated swimming pool and a studio with 24-hour access. All to myself – I was the only one staying there,” she smiles.
It was also the first time that Peaches had worked with a co-producer, in this case Mickey Petralia, who has produced the likes of Beck, the Dandy Warhols and Eels. “I arrived on the first day and Mickey was listening to my demos and doing all these dance moves, and I knew right away that he was perfect for me, because I didn’t want a producer who was like,” and she affects a patronising male asshole voice, “‘This is how it is, because I’ve been around’.”
And with that, the recording sessions began in earnest. Actually, hold on… you’re in LA, and you’ve got a large mansion with a heated swimming pool all to yourself. What would you do first?
“The first weekend was this crazy Sunset Junction party where they close off all the streets in this Silverlake area that I was hanging out in. And the Eagles of Death Metal were playing, and the Suicide Girls were doing something, and then everyone came over and swam in my pool and we had a big party – it was really fun.”
The Eagles of Death Metal were playing, and the Suicide Girls were doing something, and then everyone came over and swam in my pool and we had a big party – it was really fun
“Then, another time, I was having a barbecue at mine with the Eagles, and Queens of the Stone Age, and then Josh brought over all his equipment and was just like, ‘Hey, I want to be on your album.’”
“And then – seriously – Joan Jett showed up and said, ‘I’m in LA, it’s my birthday, I wanna come hang out with you, what are you doing? And I was like, ‘I’m partying! Come on over.’”
Like, doesn’t that just always happen at your parties?
Josh contributes a caustic guitar line on a song called “Give ‘Er”, which Peaches explains is a Canadian phrase meaning to give it your all (Peaches is Canadian, if you’d forgotten). “He’d just come back in the middle of tour, because he had a nasty knee problem, so I rented him a wheelchair as a joke and told him he could only do his solo if he could get through the door of my studio in it.”
Such behaviour might seem a little bit familiar, until you remember that Peaches and Queens of the Stone Age are far from strangers, having previously toured together, a pairing that proved a little bit too does-not-compute for a large part of the Queens’ male audience. When Peaches was playing, they would turn backwards so they didn’t even have to look at her. In response, Peaches would leap into the crowd and sing with her back to them. And then for moral support, Josh and Nick Oliveri would come on stage and shout, “Hey boys, shake yer dicks!”
“And Nick would be wearing nothing but my little string ‘Fuck the Pain Away’ underwear. They were really cool.”
Joan Jett pitching up on the record wasn’t a complete coincidence, either. Peaches has been known to use parts of The Runaways’ “Born To Be Bad” in her live show, and jacked one of her songs for the opening track of Fatherfucker.
“It was basically a pisstake on sampling, because I’d never sampled before, so I just took a chunk of ‘Bad Reputation’ and screamed ‘I don’t give a fuck’ over it. And her whole office was like, ‘Oh, Joan’s gonna hate this, and we’re gonna ask for a lot of money, and blah blah blah’. And she said, “Oh, that’s exactly what I wanted to say in this song, but I didn’t have a chance to, you’re the next step ahead of what I would have said…’”
During the LA sessions, Peaches would dress up in a gold bikini whenever anyone turned up. “For Joan, I’d stick my ass on the studio glass while she was singing, and I’d go-go dance around her while she was trying to record. And she really quite liked that.”
Her other guest, long-time friend Feist, was given a silver bikini to wear. “She’s also on ‘Give ‘Er’, just doing the backups, but was on another song, ‘Natural Aphrodisiac’, that was written for Kelis. I wrote it with her, and I think I gave her the flu, and walked into the studio glass and my nose was bleeding – so, it was kind of a catastrophe. It’s still a great song, I don’t know who wants it…”
Peaches is also a fan of Beth Ditto, whose striking vocals have been responsible for so much of the attention that has been coming the way of her band The Gossip, and who lends a hand on ‘Two Guys For Every Girl’. “I totally love her soul singing,” Peaches says, simply. “It’s fucking brilliant.”
“To me, they’re all stars, like my friends from Vancouver, Stinkmitt, who I always say are too hardcore for everybody. We did a song together called “Fan Etiquette” that didn’t make it on the album, which I’m so sad about. They have this song called “Tubes Tied”, which is about getting your tubes tied so you can sleep with more guys, and a song called “Crime Scene”, about getting your period on people’s white couches and stuff.”
“Pissed in your pimp cup, drink up” – Peaches, “Stick it to the Pimp”
Impeach My Bush will catch a lot of people by surprise who felt that they might have this Peaches character pegged – it’s still largely structured around that dirty, raw, minimal bass-and-drums electro groove, but there’s now live drums, guitars and synths fleshing the sound out. Peaches is now putting together a live band to take on the road, and in typical fashion, will be diving straight in at the deep end, with her first gigs lined up across the US with grizzled industrial stalwarts Nine Inch Nails, and recently exhumed goth behemoths Bauhaus. (“I opened for Marilyn Manson, and nothing could be more hardcore than getting spit on, like hawked on, by thousands of alcoholic goth kids every night,” she reasons. “He’s a really intelligent guy but his fans are knuckleheads.”)
“Samantha Maloney is going to be playing drums. And J.D. Sampson from Le Tigre is gonna play guitar and keyboards, and Radio Sloan who also played in Courtney Love’s band. So, I basically stole Courtney’s band…oh well.”
“It’s been six years of just me, playing guitar or keyboards or my little beat machine. It’s amazing how far I’ve taken it considering how minimal a setup it is, and I can play comfortably to 5000 people. But it’s a big challenge for me to push myself forward.”
Are you looking to reach a new crowd? “I don’t have a problem with more people liking me.”
“I’d rather fuck who I want than kill who I am told to” – Peaches, “Fuck or Kill”
If sexual politics have always been high on the list of Peaches’ lyrical concerns, then US foreign policy had yet to make it up there on her clit-rubbing, dick-slapping, tittie-sucking agenda. But opening track “Fuck or Kill”, with its “Impeach my bush / Impeach Bush” chorus, makes it pretty clear what she thinks about God’s cowboy with his finger on the trigger, despite clocking in at a zesty 52 seconds.
“That was originally a song that was trying to take itself too seriously. And I’m political without tons of politics, you know? But I was asked to play this ‘Bring the Troops Home’ benefit in New York, which was really high profile. I got to introduce Chuck D, and DMC was there, and people like Rufus Wainwright, Devandra Bernhard and Steve Earle, who is amazing. Michael Stipe told me he did the concert because me and Chuck D were involved, which blew my mind, because I wanted to do it because Chuck D was involved! It was cool ‘cause Chuck came up to me and was like [passable impression of Chuck’s booming voice] “I know all about you and your fatherfucker!” To hear Chuck D say “fatherfucker” was a thing in itself! I wrote “Fuck Or Kill” for that event.”
Chuck D came up to me and was like, “I know all about you and your fatherfucker!”
Peaches felt relaxed enough on this album to even co-write a couple of songs for the first time, in this case with local keyboard wizard Greg Kurstin, who has appeared on albums by the likes of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. “Yeah, ‘Tent in your Pants’ and ‘Downtown’ – he would make the beat and say, ‘I want this kind of stuff’… I’ve never done that before. What took us a day would have taken me three weeks.”
“He’s got the weirdest, most amazing stories,” she adds. “He was once Marlon Brando’s piano player, wearing a dress the whole time. He’d play whatever he wanted him to play.”
Peaches says that the first few months were terrible, just staring at teardrops on a blank page. But with the arrival of Samantha Maloney, things began to start taking shape – it’s sad that it’s even an issue, she explains, but it did help that Samantha was a girl making beats as well, “so it’s not like some guy is going to take over my stuff.” Secure as an artist, she felt that she could open up and invite people in to be part of what she wanted to do. Before this album, you get the distinct impression, it would have been a brave man or woman who came between Peaches and her MC-505.
Her live band will not stop her from doing the club thing. “I actually have a whole new career of Las Vegas-style DJing with dancers and jumping up, doing the occasional live song,” she laughs. “I like to go right into the next song, but I won’t match the beat. I’m always happy when I get to a point where I play Wolfmother or Early Man or something. People wanna hear that in the end, but they just don’t know that they do! You know, I live in Berlin, and you have these nights of music and no lyrics, and you’re like, “somebody say something, please!” But I do really like hard electro, I really appreciate what Justice are doing.”
Peaches still lives in Berlin but has also started renting an apartment in LA, with Senior from Junior Senior, and says that while she stays away from Hollywood, there’s great madness to be had there. She likes to go rollerskating around her Mexican neighbourhood to weird bars and demodé clubs, looking for those forgotten musicians who did it for the right reasons. Debbie Harry recently publicly proclaimed Peaches “the bomb”, and Iggy Pop, Josh Homme and Joan Jett have all appeared on her albums. So, where does it go from here, and what gives her the passion to keep doing what she does?
“So many people write to me about coming out to my music, and that’s a really hard thing for people to do. And there are a lot of people just feeling inspired to go forward in something that they wouldn’t have done, which is amazing. Just recently, this woman wrote to me, she’d never done anything in her life, she was completely depressed, she’d never made any money and she had a real problem that she couldn’t talk about, and she saw me play live… and something gave her this thing, and she’s come out with it, she’s now fighting to have a real life.”
Peaches is now in the position of that person she used to look up to. “I feel like I have something musically to say, and I feel like I have something lyrically to say. And I feel that when I was growing up, it was very important to get inspiration from people that I looked up to, and I was modelled by doing it. And in a way, a lot of people come to me with that now. I don’t feel responsible at all, but it’s really great to feel that coming back.”
When I was growing up, it was very important to get inspiration from people that I looked up to… And in a way, a lot of people come to me with that now
The night closes with a discussion of “Rock the Shocker”, a slinky electro beat with lyrics about a sexual technique that’s apparently popular in America but less well-known elsewhere. “Yeah, it’s two in the pink, one in the stink,” explains Peaches, helpfully waving her hand in an explanatory hand gesture over the dinner table. This is Berlin, where people are impossible to shock, and our neighbouring diners don’t even blink. “It’s also a really nice hand gesture – I might get gold jewellery made of it, like gang signs. Look, you also need the thumb… for the little button, ya know?” And she cracks up, laughing.
Have you ever had to explain that to anyone else? “Only in England.”
Originally published in Dazed & Confused, June 2006.