Today, Peaches Does Herself, the electro-rock opera stage show from iconic musician and performance artist Peaches, premieres at the Quad Cinema in New York City. Known for her provocative gender-bending shows, Peaches has been instrumental in building a more inclusive mainstream and sexually progressive environment. The film recounts the mythical history of Peaches and follows her journey from bedroom musician-wannabe to rock star.
Despite focusing on the musical pioneer, Peaches Does Herself is incredibly relatable in building the protagonist from small-time to superstar, along with all the important details in between. The music is catchy, dense with insight, and over all, wonderful. It's been a while since I've seen a musical of this caliber done so well. After watching the movie, I got to talk to Peaches, one-on-one, talking about the performer’s influences and making the stage-show and then the film.
You’re a highly influential figure today through your music and your performances. Specifically, you’ve pioneered a way for a more textured mainstream. What are your influences are in regards to Peaches Does Herself?
One of the first movies I ever saw was Phantom of the Paradise by Brian de Palma. It was a musical based on Phantom of the Opera, but more of a rock-opera, about a singer-songwriter who gets his music stolen by his colleague, [is framed and sent to prison, but somehow escapes and haunts the Paradise music hall]. It’s told in a really gory, gritty way—in the way that 70's movies were done. I loved that. Also the musical, Tommy, a rock-opera, with a story told just through the music. There was no talking. There were a bunch of hit songs like Pinball Wizard with Elton John. They used music in a really cool way. These were before music videos, so storytelling wasn’t experienced this way in music.
Now, when you see things like Rock of Ages, it’s just so clean and devoid of a soul. It takes something like We Will Rock You—with Freddie Mercury, the incredible gay icon and one of the greatest voices of our time, and it creates this hideous story that goes like, “We have lost music! We must find the secret guitar hidden behind the walls so we don’t become into a boring world of computer people!” Can’t the story be about Freddie? It just loses all the soul. That’s what I was thinking of: the nuances of the narrative.
Also, when I was growing up, my mother loved musicals; we used to watch them all the time on Broadway. I’m also influenced by punk and rock and electro music, but there are so many people from those worlds who hate musicals. They’re like, “Musicals suck!” Of course, there’s TheRocky Horror Picture Show. It was a big deal when I was little. I loved how interactive it was and I loved Sweet Transvestite! The music was incredible, and that’s what mattered to me.
So, how did you use those influences for your production?
The dialogue is what was difficult for me, so I just used the structure of a rock-opera to tell a narrative. I wanted to take the classic storyline: a girl, a person, whoever, who wants to be a star. There’s always that, ‘You’re gonna make it, baby!’ That moment when something hits, and you know you got it. So, in my case, it’s an old stripper-comedian descending in a pussy spaceship telling me, ‘Say ‘bitch!’ Be more sexual or whatever. The person takes this realization and becomes a star, but it becomes too much or it’s an ego thing. My audience thinks I should be this complete hermaphrodite with breasts and a big penis—but no balls, actually. [Laughs] What’s a big dick without any balls? But, yeah I become that. On the other hand, I kind of look like a clown. That’s not real. Then we discover the real beauty of it in Dannii Daniels. So the character falls in love and gets her heartbroken by the foil. That’s like a normal story. A person journeys to become a king or defeat the king. There’s something like only seven storylines in the history of the world.
What was the biggest challenge with making the stage-production and then the film?
Having a stage production [on film] was ridiculous because theatre lights are so horrible. I was wearing this gold costume that would glow off everybody. It was a horrible choice for the movie. Luckily, we had a great color corrector. We had to go in and make all the edits after filming. There’s something like 1,500 edits. Then, there was the case when Dannii got new tattoos, and we had to make sure those didn’t show.
Where did you find the stripper-comedian, Sandy Kane?
She’s from New York. She’s actually the Naked Cowgirl at Times Square. That’s just how she is. I didn’t direct her really. I knew that if I gave her my song AA XXX, I knew she wouldn’t be able to memorize the words. I told her to do her own thing, and she got this whole revelation about rapping. She improv’d the whole song—made it a whole lot dirtier.
Peaches Does Herself opens today (October 18th, 2013) at the Quad Cinema.