Interview with the queen of shock

Clash celebrates one of the most prolific women in music and a truly modern icon with a fashion special dedicated to the ultimate queen of shock, Peaches.

After ten years of high-octane, performance driven music making, Peaches certainly doesn’t look too bad. In fact, she looks pretty damn incredible, with her excruciatingly toned physique and pins to die for. The Canadian songstress certainly owes a fair part of her success to her aesthetic appeal.

Peaches has marketed herself from the outset as the self-styled queen of shock (with a good dose of humour thrown in for good measure), and has worn her crown with unwavering commitment for nearly a decade.

With five critically acclaimed studio albums and a vast array of singles and EPs under her studded belt, she is clearly a skilled chanteuse. Launching her career as the modest Merrill Nisker back in 1995 with debut ‘Fancypants Hoodlum’, her sexed-up alter-ego was then just a twinkle in young Merrill’s eye.

The electro-rock queen finally came into her own in 2000 when she released ‘The Teaches Of Peaches’ (an album known primarily for track ‘Fuck The Pain Away’) under her brand new moniker. And she has gone from strength to strength ever since: frightening boys, men and women alike with her sexually explicit lyrics and equally sexual stage shows.

Her ambiguous sexual identity is arguably a huge selling point. Preferring to hide in the “shadows of androgyny”, she says of her faltering gender identification, “I am most definitely a woman. But being a woman is a lot more than people want to say or what they know. It definitely means being powerful, strong and giving it your all, all of the time.”

And this was exactly what infamous stylist Johnny Blue Eyes had in mind when envisioning his shoot with the iconic singer. It was his undying respect for feisty, independent women that led him to work with her. So, how did the two personalities get on?

“Johnny Blue Eyes is definitely a character, that’s for sure,” laughs Peaches. “He had a vision of the shoot being like a rock and roll goddess odyssey type thing. You’ll see that I was completely topless at one point with gold leaf painted all over my body, which was based around that famous photo of The Slits. But Johnny had changed it slightly so that I was covered in gold instead of mud and I was wearing a Charlie Le Mindu hair skirt instead of a grass one. When people are having fun with what they do, it’s great, and you can’t help but get into it.”

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Peaches - Talk To Me

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And of course Peaches is a dab hand at dressing up. If you haven’t seen her in action yet, then make sure you do, for her outrageous live shows are a sight for sore eyes and truly unrivalled by few other female artists out there. Often revealing up to eight costumes during each show, Peaches tells me that she has to have them all worked out meticulously before going on stage and plans every single tour outfit in advance. “The costumes are all handmade and I strip them away as the show goes on,” she says. “But I work together with someone who can actually make the costumes and style me and know exactly what I’m looking for - last time it was Vaughan Alexander.”

But style and image aside, there is a lot more to Peaches than meets the eye. Momentarily interrupting our telephone conversation to order a ham and cheese sandwich in German (she has been living in Berlin for the past nine years), she begins telling me about her experience with the Harvard Lampoon.

“It’s the longest running satirical English language magazine and every year they honour somebody for their achievements and invite them to join the Harvard Lampoon Social Club,” she explains. “You have to do a public action of sorts, so I threw a public karaoke party outside and dressed up as Dorothy from The Wizard Of Oz. They take you into these secret chambers to do a speech and an initiation. It’s all very Dead Poets’ Society.”

There is widespread appreciation for her uniqueness that’s for sure. But her recent achievements do not end there. Speaking of her latest album, the James Ford produced ‘I Feel Cream’, she says, “It was my choice to collaborate and I chose producers that I wanted to get specific things from. But in some cases it was a surprise and in others it was exactly what I wanted. It was exciting for me to take what I have - my minimal and direct approach - and put it against what they had. With Soulwax the track was already written. It was a retro soul track and they know what they’re doing when it comes to mixing rock and electro, so they were the perfect choice.”

There is also series of music videos to accompany each album track. “We’re up to the sixth video now, which was released on New Year’s Day on my official blog,” she says. “I didn’t direct all the videos myself but I’d say that ninety percent of the time they start with a concept I have and then I either appoint collaborators, directors or myself.”

Sex, glamour and humour, Peaches definitely has it all. All hail Queen Peaches.

Words by April Welsh

Concept and Styling by Johnyyblueeyes
Assistants - Lauren Armes, Sonia Shahid, Vicki Carr and Camilla Felici
Fashion Direction: Rose Forde
Photographer: Nicolas Bourbaki
Assistant: Ben Ottewell
Hair: Charlie Le Mindu using Fudge
Make Up: Georgie Hamed using Mac, Chanel and Lancome


Watch some behind the scene footage from the shoot at Peaches blog HERE.

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