Whether it's on movie soundtracks for cult gold like Mean Girls or Lost In Translation, or while touring with artists like Marilyn Manson and Queens of the Stone Age, Peaches – AKA Merrill Beth Nisker – has always managed to stay provocative and timeless. For the last 20 years, the Canadian has been screwing common notions of gender identity and sexuality, covered in hot pink lycra, outlandish make-up or some kind of complex shiny gold arrangement.
It was my birthday the day of this interview, and after saying "congrats" we got down to some very important chat about bowel movements.
VICE: When was the last time you said "no" to something relating to your career?
Peaches: Like two days ago it was my big chance to star in a Broadway musical and I said no. I’m kidding. I’d do that, hell yeah.
What would your specialist subject on Mastermind be?
I think I know more about 70s pop music than anything. I just know all the lyrics and all the people and facts and all this stuff. And cheesy power ballads – that’s gonna be my expertise. I’m a fucking genius at them at karaoke. Like Celine Dion and "Total Eclipse of the Heart", all of that.
When do you dislike yourself the most?
When I don't have a quick answer for questions which should be easy [laughs]. In the mornings. It’s hard to get up and be like 'good morning, I love life'. I’m pretty consistently hard on myself in general. Not down on myself, but push myself through stuff. If you’re hard on yourself in your life you never think you're doing enough, and then you're down on yourself for not doing a lot, but you’re doing a lot.
Do you have that with performances?
Nah, the show is done and I know it was good, but I pushed myself to get there. It's just where I am in the cycle of the show – at the start of a whole new album it’ll happen again.
When do you think you were in your sexual prime?
I’d say, like, my mid-thirties. I was just horny as fuck. Twenties is bullshit – you don't know. How old are you, Hannah, birthday girl?
Just wait, just wait.
Is it to do with confidence or just desire?
I think it's just physiological and biological, plus confidence builds into you I guess.
What would your parents prefer you to have chosen as a career?
They would have preferred me to be Barbra Streisand. She's just the quintessential Jewish woman, you know. They probably didn't want me to be anything else, actually. They love what I do. I think they're just happy that I did what I did, because they didn't think I'd do anything. I wasn’t very good at school. I liked science and I liked theatre. I wanted to do musicals and we had a lot of serious theatre. We had a lot of intense group programmes and we’d do [William] Gibson plays and Jean-Paul Sartre.
Did you think you might go into that?
I was definitely into it – I wanted to be a theatre director. I went to theatre school for directing, but I didn't want to work with actors or big institutions. When you're in a theatre there’s just too much pressure of all the things you have to do. Then I found music, where I could be my own director, writer and actor. And connect with people in a better way. I just found music and performance.
What was your worst phase?
I think there was a time in early high school where I dressed like a hippy and I’d wear a lot of purple and green. For years I couldn't wear either of those colours. My hair was just brown, curly, fuzzy, long. I was smoking a lot of marijuana and I was playing a lot of acoustic guitar with friends.
How many books have you actually read and finished in the past year? Don’t lie.
[Laughs] Only like three. One was a Grace Jones biography, and I read I Love Dick. I wish I read more, but I read before bed and fall asleep and then wake up and don’t even remember where I was at.
How did you feel about I Love Dick? I loved it but I wouldn’t read it if you’re feeling strange about your current relationship.
Yeah, it’s a pretty weird book. Did you watch the TV show? It’s a whole different thing and I liked it a lot. It’s based on the letters she sends. I read the book after watching that.
When in your life have you been truly overcome with fear?
When I felt the first earthquake when I was in LA. There is nothing you can do. You can’t run away from it and you can’t even put your feet down. You can't even feel grounded and it freaked me out. It was three years ago, maybe five.
Are you generally a fearless person?
I'm fearless, I have no fear. No, everybody's fearful. It's about how you deal with it. You can’t deal with an earthquake.
How do you deal with fear?
You just have to face it and go through it to figure whether it’s fear and if it's really something or if it’s in your imagination. Does it exist? Is it something you can change? Is it something else? Usually it doesn't even exist. It's just in your mind. Your mind is a powerful enabler, you know?
I do. What’s the nicest thing you own?
My suitcase. It just moves really well. I love that suitcase. I just touch it and it rolls. It’s black, unfortunately. I don't want it to be black, but it was a present and that person got it in black. I wanted it to be… rose gold.
Do you buy yourself a lot of nice things or are you frugal?
I’m not frugal, but I definitely just don't really buy a lot of things. I’m of the Vivienne Westwood school of just getting something really good and wearing the shit out of it.
No pointless crap.
Not lots of pointless crap. I get given a lot of pointless crap, and I feel like I have to keep it, and it's the most pointless crap.
What would be your last meal?
I’d just eat macaroni and cheese, the really shitty kind. And shitty hotdogs. It would just make me so fat and ill. All that food that you love but you don't eat, because then half an hour later I would feel disgusting and I would want to die anyway. It's like glue in your ass.
Glue in your ass?
Yeah, that macaroni and cheese makes you so constipated you might as well stick glue in your ass.
Yeah, I suppose you’re right. What film or TV show makes you cry?
I like crying a lot at Drag Race when anybody gets booted off the show. It’s very emotional.
What memory from school stands out more than any other?
I just remember the time that this girl was wearing a Girl Scout uniform and sat on the teacher.
Sat on them?
Sat on her.
In a sexy way?
No, like "shut up, teacher". I think she was getting told off. She used to wear the Girl Scouts uniform every Friday because she had Girls Scouts after. She was the, like, toughest girl, so it was weird that she’d be wearing this outfit. Anyway.
Where did you go on your first friends holiday, and what did you do?
I went to Quebec City on a skiing holiday when I was about 15. You could take a bus from where I lived in Toronto for like eight hours to get there. It was just me and two friends, and we’d put wine in little decanter things and we’d drink it while we were skiing, and we went to this really weird wet T-shirt contest and wet willy contest. We saw Kiss in the lobby.
That’s cool. What’s the grossest injury or illness you’ve ever had?
Haemorrhoids. Isn't it everybody’s? I've had it once, and the thing is, I didn't know what was going on so I literally took a picture of my ass from my phone, and I looked at it and I saw that it was haemorrhoids, and it was disgusting.
If you had to give up sex or kissing what would it be?
What kind of question is that? Anyone under 25 will give up kissing and do sex, and all the older people will say kissing. I’ll pick kissing, but I don't like the question, it’s not fair. We should have both.