Talking with Peaches about the State of the World

It’s the beginning of the long Easter weekend, and thanks to fortunate coincidences, I find myself talking to Peaches via Zoom, while my kids are busy colouring Easter eggs and my husband is renovating the kitchen (he cut off one of his fingertips while doing so the other day, but that’s a whole other story). At the end of our 30 minutes conversation, I confess to her that I secretly pictured her hanging at the penis cross, as I saw her do a couple of years ago when she did her solo rendition of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s „Jesus Christ Superstar“ turning it into „Peaches Christ Superstar“. She laughs forgivingly and tells me that she used to do that show a lot around the Easter Holidays. Now Peaches isn’t doing any shows, just like the rest of us she is spending a lot of time in her apartment, keeping the creative juices flowing by writing a new album. She recently released her new single „Pussy Mask“ on Jack White’s label Third Man Records – time flew by so quickly, I didn’t even get to tell her how fucking cool that is. 

It’s been more than a year of pandemic restrictions now, and I hope Peaches will also forgive me that (not only, but partly due to that) I kind of became unable to play the mere question/answer game. So instead we engaged in quite a vivid conversation about the pandemic, the state of the world, jewish and catholic heritage, personal loss and, last but not least, hope for the future. 

You know, Good Friday is the day where you are not supposed to sing and dance. How befitting to be talking to you today! It’s a very nice rebellion against my catholic heritage. 

Oh, you grew up catholic? That’s amazing. 

Yeah, I grew up in rural Bavaria. Very catholic. 

In my jewish world we have Passover. It’s around the same time, it’s the last supper. What has been really interesting this year is because of Zoom and blabla, we got together, but we couldn’t do the traditional family dinner, where you go through the whole getting out of the Egyptian slavery and stuff. You sing all the songs, it’s super nationalistic. But this year we just hung out. Like: What are you guys up to? How are you feeling? So it was nice, just hanging out.

We’re doing the eggs stuff on Sunday with my kids.

How old are your kids?

My daughter is going to be 16 in summer and my son is 9. They are quite far apart, but they have a good connection. They like doing the kids stuff together.

That’s special. 

I have to say we are very blessed. Hardly any family drama, that’s a plus in a pandemic.

Do you have a partner?

Yes. I’ve been in a monogamous relationship for more than 18 years now. Something I had never planned. Maybe not even with a man. 

Right. But then it’s also like – whatever works is okay! It’s funny, in queer situations it’s sometimes frowned upon. And that is also not fair. I think queers should open up a little more. It’s not open. If you can be who you want to be, that’s fine! I think we have to look at nuances, that’s very important right now. Looking at individual situations and not taking it like a box: This is you, this is that… you know? I remember I was in a relationship with a cis male and I did a very high profile interview at that time and they were like „sooo, you’re with a cis male…“ (pulls a frown)

Wow, that’s weird.

Yeah.

You are in Berlin, right?

(looks around her apartment) Yeah, I think you can tell…

It does look very Berlin.

Where are you? 

In Berlin as well. 

It’s funny, in our building it’s couples together and always one or two daughters around eight years old. All of them (laughs). It’s funny, it’s all a bit the same.

Do you feel Berlin is a good place for you right now?

Yeah, I mean, it’s safe. I want a vaccine (laughs). So that’s a bit frustrating.

Last year when it all started, I felt happy to be in Germany. Right now I am not so sure about that.

Yeah, yeah, right!

It felt like we were doing really good in the beginning.

I think we were being a bit arrogant, weren’t we? Like: look at Italy, look at Spain… 

Did you experience any loss through the pandemic? You know, my Dad died of Covid, right at the beginning of April.

Really? Wow. Did he… how? I mean… wow… I’m so sorry. How did he get it?

My parents were in a nursing home. They both got it. My mother only had a mild fever for six weeks. My Dad died within a week

Wow. That’s really… that’s a lot. My father died of cancer in 2018. That went really fast too, I mean, not as fast as your Dad, but like two months. And my sister, who was three years older than me, she got cancer right at the beginning of COVID. It wasn’t COVID, but you also have the same sort of problems in terms of visiting, touching, loving… we were very lucky, my mother and I. My mother lives in Canada and my sister lived in New York. We got permission from the doctor to go over and spend some time before she died. It was rough. The funeral was very small, like for you too, I guess. 

What shocked me the most was that everything had to go so fast. The body needed to be picked up the next day, to either be buried right away or be cremated.

You know, the jewish tradition is like okay, let’s get it over with. It’s very fast. If you can bury them two days later, that’s what you do. And that’s what we did. But then you have a week of discussing and hanging out, which couldn’t happen. But we had a lot of Zoom memorials, which I thought was interesting because people actually listened a lot more. Because you could take your time. Like now it’s your turn and then it’s your turn. That was very healing.

Oh my. What a year.

Yeah. What a year… 

But speaking about time – the last time I met you was when you were doing „Peaches Does Herself“ at Hau here in Berlin. I looked it up and then realized it was ten years ago, for the ten years anniversary of „The Teaches of Peaches“. And now it’s been another ten years! 

Yeah! For the 20 years anniversary I did the „Only One Peach“-show. I’m so lucky that I got to do that! It was a cast and crew of 40 people. We did London, we did Denmark, we did Hamburg where it started and then Berlin, we did the last five days leading up to 2020. It was almost like a blessing. Like we knew something was going to happen. We talk about it a lot, and everybody in the group today is just like wow… what a memory! 

That’s crazy.

It was pretty crazy. And then in February we were reviving it because I was part of the Stuttgart State Theatre, it was the first time where they had a collaboration between the departments of ballet, opera and theatre. We did the seven deadly sins, about capitalism and I was the main anchor of the show. We started again in February, we did rehearsals again, reminding ourselves what to do, and then we did one show and then it was like – okay! And now… I’ve never been in one place for the last twenty years for more than like two months. 

How are you coping with it?

Oh, I’m completely traumatized. I’m not processing it yet. I don’t think about doing the shows and I don’t go like oh, I’d rather do this or that… I just love attention. And it’s hard to get that attention (laughs). And then you look back and you’re like well, why don’t I just perform in front of the mirror, do a show for myself or whatever… but I never did, so…

It’s interesting, how artists are coping with it differently. For example last year I talked to Roísín Murphy, and she said she almost gets the same joy by just performing to herself in the bedroom. 

She’s amazing! She’s really good that way. I don’t know. Maybe it’s about being jewish? I have a lot of guilt (laughs). Maybe that stops me. I am writing a new album. When I started I was like: what am I going to write about? Dancing and closeness – is that relevant? What are the topics, what is important, what are people thinking about? I am trying to go through a lot of self care and self understanding. 

Isn’t it super hard these days to find a point to start from? When I look at myself, I should be having more time for myself than ever, but when I sit down and try to write, I feel so dumb. And I am not even an artist.

I think it’s processing, you know? 

But then on the other hand I feel unable to just distract myself. I feel like I have to do something purposeful and meaningful all the time, which probably creates a lot of pressure. I feel like I can’t waste my time.

I can totally waste my time. I watch a lot of dumb shows. 

I secretly sense it’s probably healthy.

Yeah. I’ve done a lot of self care, I really went deep into what are my sort of issues, because I had time. But sometimes you just have to let it go.

So how is it going in terms of creativeness? You just dropped your new song „Pussy Mask“. 

Like I said, I was writing for the album. I did „Flip This“, which was a little more serious, about understanding positions, about how to be an ally, how to be sensitive and how to remember your whiteness and not make it about you. That was important. And also understanding the Corona situation. Making everything yourself or in one place. Making the lyrics, making the music and then turning it into a performance for yourself. With „Pussy Mask“ it was more about taking the situation that is so real and so absurd and having a way to let people understand it. We all know the situation, now let’s have a little fun. But in a way that it’s not making fun of it. „Listen to Fauci!“ You know, but not preaching. Some people do, some people don’t. This is the biggest infectious disease expert and people are like: „yeah, but do we really need to wear a mask?“ And then of course really putting a wrench in it with Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing, who was the tipping point for laws that are pro abortion, for all the good things. Now, in America trans teenagers are not being allowed to play on sports teams, which could save their lives. Only few of them are getting proper medical care. These are the things we have to look at. 

So if you look at the state of the world now – what gives you hope?

The people who are fighting. Who are trying to bring awareness. Everything is moving exponentially in every direction. There is more conservatism, there is more liberalism, there is more awareness, more intersectionality. But then there is also more misunderstanding. 

I feel like when I look at my daughter, at her generation, and also at some students in their early twenties I work with… I really trust the kids. 

Yeah! There is a whole new level of awareness with them. 

I read this somewhere: It’s the younger generation that has to change the world. We, the older ones, might have the wisdom, but we are too restrained by our habits.

And that’s the whole thing! We have to understand our habits and also internally better ourselves and our habits and on an external level the habits of our collectiveness. And it’s also really sad when you have something collective, this collective disease, everybody is susceptible to it. So that brings us together. But we can’t find a way to come together. 

(There is a moment of silence.)

I hate to do this but…

We have to go, I know! 

It was very nice talking to you. 

It was very nice talking to you too! You know what I will regret for the rest of my life? That I didn’t go to one of your end of the year shows because it was the end of the year and I was too fucking tired. I will never do that again!

Yeah, it’s funny, right? We won’t leave anything out ever again.