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Nine Songs

From heartbreak to empowerment, the avant-electro pioneer talks Kate Crudgington through the pivotal songs in her life

16 October 2020, 07:00 | Words by Kate Crudgington

With a music taste that’s galvanized by game changing rappers, ‘70s rock rebels and iconic songwriters, it’s no wonder Peaches has such an altruistic musical legacy of her own.

It’s been twenty years since the Canadian born, Berlin based musician released her seminal electroclash record The Teaches of Peaches, which blazed the trail for empowering, unapologetic electronic music. From her roots in folk-pop band Mermaid Cafe, to experimenting with her own sound under the moniker of Fancypants Hoodlum, Peaches - whose name is taken from the last line of Nina Simone’s song “Four Women” - is drawn to artists who go for the jugular.

“I like direct songs, whether they're emotional, whether they're dark, whether they're nasty,” she explains. “Poetry to me is more direct, I just like to feel it somewhere.”

That “somewhere” could be between the cracks of a broken heart while listening to Lauryn Hill, the tickling of a funny bone caused by Nicki Minaj’s savage lyricism, the celebration of a healthy libido courtesy of Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion, or the emotional devastation that comes with the loss of a parent, triggered by the sound of Roberta Flack’s voice.

Like some of the women she admires in her Nine Songs choices, Peaches has been slut-shamed or misunderstood throughout her career. She recognises the problematic formation of Joan Jett and Cherie Currie’s band The Runaways by abusive manager Kim Fowley, and while she adores the attention that the chart-topping success “WAP” received, she’s aware of the unwanted dose of conservative backlash that followed in its wake.

But, in true Peaches style, her love for these artists remains uncensored, which is more than can be said for her performance on Top Of The Pops in the early 2000s, which was deemed too racy to air. Her candid lyricism, her energetic sounds and her sensational celebration of the spectrum of female sexuality means Peaches’ artistic vision still has timeless, contemporary appeal.

“A lot of these songs are old songs because you know, I'm old,” she laughs. “They affected me when I was a certain age.” She gives succinct descriptions for each of her choices, which reveal how she’s deeply invested in artists who tenaciously communicate their ideas. It’s fascinating to speak to an artist who is so iconic and uncompromising, but for me there remains an eternal curiosity behind the lyric on her famous single “Fuck The Pain Away” - “What else is in the teaches of peaches?” - it feels like her Nine Songs give me some insight into that.

"Love Is A Stranger" by Eurythmics

“This song came out in 1983 when I was seventeen. I've recently rediscovered it and how beautiful the melody is. I realised the lyrics are so dark and quite direct, you know? But still poetic. I like that it doesn't shy away from reality.

“It's timeless, it doesn't feel like it came out in the ‘80s. I could see it being released now and being in line with everything else, I dunno, maybe I'm delusional. This song in particular was released before Eurythmics got really big and it has this vulnerability to it. The singing is beautiful, and the production is fantastic.

"Annie Lennox was such a role model to me when I was seventeen, and watching her explore her spectrum of performance was very impactful on me.”

"The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" by Roberta Flack

“When you're a kid and you're very young, you get obsessed with albums that your parents have, and this was one of the very first songs that really got to me when I was about five years old. This song was huge at the time (1972), I don't think I realised how big it was, I just kept hearing it all the time on the radio.

“It reminds me of my Father and his taste in music. He passed away a few years ago, and I remember when I went back to Canada for his passing, I heard this song on the radio and it hit me how much his taste in music had influenced me, and how I love to sing along with this song. It's very personal to me.”

"Cherry Bomb" by The Runaways

“It was fascinating how The Runaways were treated and how they were looked at, historically being looked at as sluts rather than being looked at as amazing rockers. To me, this song is the epitome of it.

“This track is problematic, because Kim Fowley - who kind of put The Runaways together - was quite abusive. But, in terms of authenticity, to me it was always about these four women, well, these underage girls. They were so powerhouse, giving strength and rawness to me, and it was a big deal. Cherie Curie was just nasty, and my love for Joan Jett and her stink face and her attitude has continued.”

"Let My People Go" by Diamanda Galás

“What I like about Diamanda Galás’ album The Singer and this song, is that it's grounded in music that you already know. I just love the way she reinterprets the devil in these songs. She has a seven-octave range. Her piano playing is so incredible and so in tune with what she's singing.

“The power, and the rawness is amazing. Her voice comes from a history of being a jazz musician and trying to make it as a woman in a jazz world with the abuse in that world, and how it led her to not give a fuck. She's quite out there.”

"Troy" by Sinéad O'Connor

“Sinead O Connor is power and vulnerability, and all the emotions at once. She tells a heartbreaking story in this song. It's all there, and it's just perfect.

“Whenever you see a hit - like her single "Nothing Compares 2 U" - there's usually one song under it that tells you more about the person. It's like it's a song that almost tells you too much about them, that is too much of them, so it can't make it to the mainstream.

“I'm amazed at a lot of people that I respect and love, and who love and respect her music, know her main song, but they've never heard "Troy". And when they listen to it, they're just like ‘Wow.’”

"Get Ur Freak On" by Missy Elliott

“I don’t remember where I first heard Missy Elliott - she just appeared in my life and never left. I'm just so happy that she exists, I probably listen to her more than anybody else when I'm thinking about music and image.

“I love the video for "Get Ur Freak On". It's pretty cool how when she sings “Silence when I spit it out, in your face / Open your mouth, give you a taste”, she spits and the guy in the video catches her spit in his mouth. To me, that was always a metaphor for jizzing into someone’s mouth. I feel like that was a turning point for that time, you know? That was in 2001. It's very symbolic in an empowering way.

“This song is also just cool, [it’s a bit] casual, but a bit mysterious, and you want to sing along.”

"WAP" by Cardi B feat. Megan Thee Stallion

“I'm just so happy when I hear this song. It's got so many amazing, stupid and incredibly intelligent wordplays.

"There's no filter. I love it, it's a Number One hit with no filter! It's just a feat of happiness and nastiness and everything I love. [The backlash online] is hilarious. Who even cares? It's a feat. And to do it now! It's great. "Wet Ass Pussy” is the name of the song!

“There's a lot to complain about with the internet and the modern age blah blah blah - but the good part is you can have a full on song like "Wet Ass Pussy" at the top of the charts and everyone knows what it's about, and is ready to go with it. We really need to remember to just have fun and be powerful. It wouldn't happen with a track that was called ‘Wait till You See My Dick.’”

"Did It On'em" by Nicki Minaj

“I will be sad for the rest of my life that Nicki Minaj and Cardi B can't get along. That's one thing. These women are markers in hip hop - like Missy Elliott - who changed the game. Nicki Minaj is a next, next, next level fucking hilarious and smart rapper. I love the wordplay in this song and the ease with which she does it.

“I wish I wrote this song. I think I was at a club in Berlin called SchwuZ when I first heard it. The whole vibe of the song, I was just in right away.”

"Ex-Factor" by Lauryn Hill

“This is just a heartbreaker. I can't not cry when I hear this, it's really raw. It has that Roberta Flack feeling for me. The first time I heard this I was going through an emotional breakup, so that’s probably why it is also compounded by that.

“The lyric “And when I try to walk away / You'd hurt yourself to make me stay,” it doesn’t even mean physically hurting yourself, it’s just emotional hurt. It’s how two people are so connected to each other, and then when you try to break up there’s just this hurt that makes you want to comfort them, but they’re also manipulating that hurt, because they want you to stay, or maybe you’re the one doing it. It gets me every time.”

Peaches' "Flip This" single is out now.
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