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Peaches On Tour And In Control

"Like, last night, there was a guy who was twiddling his fingers at me, and was like: [puts on extremely creepy voice] 'I'm gonna put my fingers up your pussy,' y'know, during the show. And that actually made me angry, like, grrrrrrr, you know what I mean? I was dancing on the bar by that point, so I told him to get up on the bar, and pull down his pants, because I was going to shove the microphone up his ass."

Merrill Nisker, AKA Peaches, is on tour, and she's talking about being on tour, and about performing. And, so, like, then, we go back to the beginning, to give the back-story whose beginnings illuminate the road taken by Nisker, from Canadian schoolteacher to Eurotrash electro/rap sexpot.

"One of the first ever shows that I did, was opening a singer/songwriter night. Everyone else played acoustic guitar, and I brought my [Roland] 505 [drum machine]. I'm a singer/songwriter, that's my writing utensil, so I brought it. I went on first, and I got so slagged in the local paper, in Toronto. That was the first time I knew that I was doing something right. The writer just, like, couldn't deal with it at all," she recalls. "And, actually, the woman who did sound that night taped the version of 'Fuck The Pain Away' that I did, and that is the recording that's on my first album [The Teaches of Peaches]. It was just at this small club with a small P.A., too. I put that recording on a demo, and I thought people were gonna say, like, 'Oh, y'know, you need to do this, you're gonna have to change that'; but everyone was like 'That sounds really good,' so I was just like 'Oh, I'm gonna put it on the album then!'"

Where her transition from conceived concept to recording artist went pretty quick back in the back-in-the-day, it's been three long years since The Teaches of Peaches descended unto the pop-cultural world at large, charming audiences with a rudimentary marriage of drum-machine beats and pottymouth rhymes that reminded of the early days of Schoolly D. Only this Peaches was — courtesy of her sex-centric rhymes — less some pantomimed tough-guy and more a feminist-with-her-tits-out. Her new, second record, Fatherfucker, is — despite these three years — pushing the same barrow as her first, with some tracks cultivating a sense of minimalism in their punched-in/thunk'd-out 505 beats.

See, in those three years, Peaches hasn't been locked up in a studio striving for crossover or reinvention, or whatever. Rather, she's been doing it old-fashioned "band expands fan-base"-style, spending her time taking her exuberant neo-rock 'n' roll girlie show out on the road for people to see. Sure, some of the b'tween-album delay has been with rock-biz machinations — she signed, strangely, with Sony, only to wrangle her way out of the deal when they released a single, but then sat for, like, forever on their proposed re-release of The Teaches of Peaches, and she eventually ended up on XL — but most of these years have found her almost constantly touring.

Fielding this promotional conversation, she's touring, of course, is in the midst of playing a set of dates in the States in which she plays every night, is in Vermont, actually, walking through a Wal-Mart buying fancy underwear, and DVDs to play in the tour bus. Just a mere mention of her mode of transport gets Nisker excited. "I have my own big bus this time! And a professional driver! He's 28!

"It's so great that we don't have to drive," she continues. "Because that's really the big drag when you're on tour: Whoever's driving is really burnt out all the time, because it's so stressful. So, it's really cool. I can't believe our driver's 28! Driving this big nightliner. I thought we'd have some 50-year-old guy with a big beer/potbelly, y'know? And he's so psyched. He's like 'I rarely take out bands that I'm into!' I mean, he's 28, he's a totally cool guy. He usually takes a lot of Christian bands around. And there's this Christian message on the bus, something about 'the egoless protector,' which is really funny. And the bus used to belong to the Dixie Chicks. So, it's pretty funny the whole way round."

Then, she turns her talk to how much she loves the whole touring party, like some cash-cow cum matriarch whose music allows her to assemble an army of acquaintances to make her on-the-road rock 'n' roll experience a blast. "We have a great opening band, Electrocute from Berlin, and a really cool crew, too; a guitar tech, and my tour manager who's an old friend of mine, and my soundwoman. They're all friends of mine, but they're working professionally. I mean, I can't believe I get to employ all my friends. It's so fun."

Whilst Nisker — especially when taking her tenth interview of the day, on a short break in freakin' Vermont, of all places — talks of how hard touring can be, she's adamant that she loves the grind (matron), that she has a work ethic, and that, like her longtime partner-in-performative-crime Chilly Gonzales, she's a hard-working entertainer. On the road, in the States, she says, every night is different, and every other night there's something amiss, and sometimes that's the crowd. But none of this fazes Peaches. "When I'm playing live, I just try to turn around every circumstance. Sometimes you show up and there's shitty sound, or you show up and no one — including the people at the venue — seems to know who you are, or sometimes you show up and there're thousands of people there. I really find that exciting that it's different every time, because you've gotta apply what you know, and that really shows off a performance, if you don't have the 'I can't do the show without my green mic-stand! I refuse to go on!,' y'know? It's like, whatever, you've just gotta go with what's there and make the best of it."

And, so, then, from that, Nisker starts recalling what's been going on in the tour she's in the midst of. "I was on stage the other night and these two girls jumped up on stage with me, and, hey, this is America, so I said 'let's play MTV Music Awards!,' and so I strutted along like Madonna and gave a big fat kiss to each one of them. It was really fun," she coos. "Last night, I was climbing up pipes on the side of the stage. The night before this girl said 'I'll give you something to stuff up!,' came on stage, and pulled up her skirt. I had a towel on, and, so, when she went to pull up her skirt, I went down to meet her as kind of a joke, and discovered she had no underwear on. Every night I've been doing 'Fuck the Pain Away' karaoke, where people come up on stage on sing along. So I've had a big cast of characters coming up and doing that."

And Peaches loves that escalating involvement from fans. This is obvious in her dreams for what her fanbase will become. "I want it to soon be like 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show.' I want people to throw food at me when I tell them I'm hungry, I want 'Fuck the Pain Away' karaoke people to be ready to go, y'know, I want it to be a cult live show in the way that 'Rocky Horror' was a cult movie. By the end of the European tour, I started to get some of that; you could tell that people had been to other places and were following the tour." — Anthony Carew [Wednesday, November 19, 2003]

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