Peaches, the shocktastic electro-artist and native of Toronto, is the star and creator of Peaches Does Herself . The semi-autobiographical “transsexual rock opera” enjoyed a 10-show run in her adopted home of Berlin, where it was filmed for a concert-documentary adaptation that was shown at last year’s TIFF and now opens at the Bloor Cinema on June 7. In town for the Toronto LGBT Film Festival (where the film also screened), Peaches spoke about musicals, Freddie Mercury and films that rock worlds.
Your film, Peaches Does Herself , has been described in a variety of different ways. But let’s talk about what it isn’t. Was the term “anti-jukebox musical” your term?
It is. I am a fan of musicals. I grew up with musicals. Most indie-snob music types and others whose taste in music I respect, don’t like musicals. There are obvious reasons for that. But there are musicals that I will love forever, such as West Side Story . Or movies such as Singing in the Rain and some others that I obviously wear on my sleeve – like Tommy or Rocky Horror Picture Show and Phantom of the Paradise . But take We Will Rock You , which is a jukebox musical. I don’t appreciate taking a band like Queen, where you have Freddie Mercury, who is an incredibly interesting character, and making him into a macho rock star even though he was totally gay.
And the music was used to support a narrative that had nothing to do with the songs themselves. They were co-opted, as was Freddie Mercury. Obviously your musical is different, with you in charge.
Well, nobody was going to do a jukebox musical on me. But I was approached by a theatre company in Berlin and I was fascinated with the idea of hearing my music in a conceptual way. I would do it myself and I would do it in a way that brought it back to the misconceptions about myself, and what I was trying to do and how my history evolved, loosely.
I’ve turned my history fantastical. But the story actually is connected to the music, which is why I call it an anti-jukebox musical.
And what misconceptions are you addressing?
I wasn’t 19 when I started Peaches. I was 32, and, quite frankly, at my sexual peak. I would get reviews like “Grandma, you’re scaring the kids.” So, with the musical, I telegraph that to Sandy Kane [the older comedienne and “Naked Cowgirl of Times Square”].
Or people would ask if Peaches was a guy or if she was a transsexual. There always had to be a back story. They couldn’t understand that I was just a normal girl saying how she felt.
And the striking she-male Danni Daniels as your full-frontal love interest?
Danni is the pansexual ideal beauty. So one of my songs is about the ultimate, which is to have everything. This wouldn’t be a third sex. It would be a fourth sex, where everybody was comfortable with it.
Do you think everybody will be comfortable with this film version of the musical? Or is it for your fans mostly?
I hope it translates beyond the fans. Yes, it’s a niche movie. It’s cult. But those are the type of movies that I found, growing up, that I was like “Wow, what world is this?” Something like [the 1982 avant-garde film] Liquid Sky really opened me up. So maybe my film can open up a world for someone else, in the same way Liquid Sky did for me.
Peaches Does Herself, June 7, 8 and 12. Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, 506 Bloor St. W., 416-637-3123.
This interview has been condensed and edited.