If you’re even vaguely familiar with Peaches’ music — her breakout hit “Fuck the Pain Away” being perhaps the best example — you already have an idea of what a musical based on the Canadian singer’s life might be like: Not safe for work, yes, of course, but also dazzling in a manic, drug-induced kind of way. The semi-autobiographical journey, which Peaches describes as “fuckin’ fun shit,” follows the singer’s route to becoming a gender-bending rock star with more than a few exploding penises, trans porn stars, and spandex-clad backup dancers along the way. With the help of a cast and crew of over 40 people and 20 songs from her previous albums, Peaches was able to act as writer, director, and star.
The plot is far from concrete and contains no dialogue, allowing (or forcing) the viewers to give into their own imaginations in order to make sense of the show. One second, a 65-year-old stripper, Sandy Kane, is sticking lit matches into her nipples, and the next, you are witnessing a dance number by fully suited-up spandex figures. Not to mention porn star Danni Daniels is in the nude for most of her time on screen.
Peaches wasn’t looking to make a film when she was approached by Berlin’s Hebbel am Ufer Theater to produce a musical. After 10 live performances and nearly 1,500 cuts, a movie was pulled together. The feature-length film production of Peaches Does Herself premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last year.
How long did it take to actually make the film?
Peaches: Well, the filming actually was done during the whole run. It was only about five performances, and we filmed them all thinking we would just document it. We just filmed it, and then we saw it could be a movie! Between shows in the afternoons, people would have to come in early and we would do close-ups and people would kind of hate me, but, you know, they’ll probably like me better in the end because you don’t want it to look like a weird high school performance.
And there was a live audience at all times?
Peaches: Live audience all the time, except some of the close-ups. We only had, like, an hour on two different days, so maybe two hours to do like, “OK, next scene,” just to do close-ups and stuff. All the other times there was an audience in which we — I keep saying we, but I mean me — changed to bring it back down to, taking it out of the theater and bringing it back down to element. That human element with exploding penises and going out to the street.
Porn star Danni Daniels, who is naked for most of the film, plays your love interest in the show. How did you two end up working together?
Peaches: I met Danni at a show in London, and Danni came up to me and said, “I lost my virginity in the back of a truck when I was 14 to your music and now I can shake my dick and my tits.” It was funny because two weeks later I had broken my ankle, and then I had to do these big shows. Actually, it was the next day after I broke my ankle — this is 2010 — so I was like, “Yeah, wheelchair show,” so I stole a wheelchair from the London airport and we spray-painted it pink and put pink hair on it. I was like, “Danni should be my nurse, like wheeling me around on stage,” so she was enjoying being part of the show. Later on it seemed natural — “Oh yeah, the musical.” You know, it all just kind of came [together].
The show has zero dialogue and is strung along with music from your albums. Was it hard to select which songs to include?
Peaches: I remember thinking, Fuck it … I just created this whole new burlesque performance art with my aesthetic and my politics and my fun — and mine! So I was like, let’s do it. I made a narrative. It was really exciting. It was like a challenge.
I didn’t want to write new songs either, it was a challenge. I was like, “No, I want to use those songs and reinvent them” in answer to, like, jukebox musicals that take songs from one artist and then make this one insipid story, string it along with that dialogue — so I’m like, “Fuck dialogue.” I was thinking about, like, Tommy, and also Jesus Christ Superstar, and the rock-opera style that is telling a story through the music, and can I do this?
Sixty-five-year-old Sandy Kane plays a sort of fairy godmother in the film. How was it working with her?
Peaches: She had — you can’t really direct her. That’s just how she is. I don’t know if you know about her at all, but she’s in Times Square and she’s the naked cowgirl. That’s her show. She does that shit. I was just like, that’s what she does, I’m gonna put her in there.
I knew she would never be able to memorize my songs, so I told her, “OK, on ‘Double A Triple X,’ just make up the words in between.” She made up the words and they were way more dirty than I would ever say — like sick shit — and I was like, wow. You know so she’s outdoing me on the sick level. That says something, I don’t know what.
When people leave the theater from watching your film, what do you hope they take away?
Peaches: I hope they have a fuckin’ awesome time. I hope they think it’s cool and fun and they don’t go, like, “That was fuckin’ weird.” You know, I hope they can handle it. I hope they can handle my ideas about aging and my ideas about sexuality and gender.
People will take different things away from my music. You know, people have thought that I’m completely, like, hardcore feminist angry; some people think I’m a comedian; some people think I’m only interested in, like, heterosexual porn. It’s amazing what people can come up with.