Ever since her provocative 2000 single “Fuck the Pain Away,” electronic musician and performance artist Peaches has been challenging gender norms, promoting sex positivity and pushing boundaries with her over-the-top style. Now, a new book of photography by Holger Talinski, capturing the singer in public and private settings over the last five years, is offering a behind-the-scenes look at her life. We chatted with Peaches about the new project, her upcoming album, RUB, and how American pop culture seems to be catching up with her work. You can catch her in conversation with Lorraine Ali in Bryant Park on June 10 as part of the Word for Word author series, just one of the cool things coming to the midtown park this summer.
What Else Is in the Teaches of Peaches? was a six-year undertaking, which is pretty crazy. How involved were you in the process?
I was very involved. I didn’t know Holger Talinski before. He just asked if he could come and take pictures at a show one day. He was a very calm, chill guy who didn’t get in the way. We didn’t have any expectations. So after the shoot, I said I liked how he was unobtrusive and the photos were good so we continued. He said, “Listen, if you’re like sleeping or hanging out with your mother or smoking a joint or going to the movies, call me. Any situation, I’d like to be there.”
How did you decide what photos to include in the book?
He always sent me the photos after every session. He looked at it more from a technical standpoint and I always looked at what hits you emotionally. Because he’s German. [Laughs] We eventually came an understanding of what a good photograph for both of us would be.
Some of the photos show you sleeping backstage or in other private moments. Were you ever surprised by some of Talinski’s shots?
No, not at all. We tried not to direct it. Everything in the book was really spontaneous. The only photo we set up was one with Annie Sprinkle. She used to be a porn star in the ‘70s but then became a photographer for Playboy and Hustler and started doing feminist porn. She’s really inspiring to me and I wanted her in the book.
Another artist featured in the book is Yoko Ono. How did that collaboration come about?
I did a lot of work with Yoko on her 80th birthday. She came to Berlin and asked me to be a part of the Plastic Ono Band where I got to sing my favorite Yoko Ono song. Then she asked me to do Cut Piece. It’s a 50-year-old performance piece and it’s still so powerful. You sit completely still while the audience comes up and cuts pieces of clothing off you and the audience goes crazy with their reactions. It’s an incredible experience.
With the amount of time you spend abroad in places like Berlin, do you still find yourself engaged with American politics and culture?
Yeah, for sure. Pop culture is sort of a trickle-down of all the shit we’re dealing with and how we express it and for a lot of people their first intro into bigger issues and problems. I like to start from the outside in.
Are there any things in pop culture right now that are fascinating you? Did you see Vanity Fair’s cover of Caitlyn Jenner today?
Yeah, I just saw it! It’s so insanely airbrushed but amazing. Which is all part of it. [Laughs] The work and stuff I’ve always been talking about is really in the forefront right now. Shows like Transparent…I think a lot of people that started producing work the same time as me are not exactly in positions of power but in positions of trying to change things. And older women who are just saying, fuck it. Like Meryl Streep, who’s like, “I’m starting a screenwriting program for women over 40.” People are just taking control. This weekend, I just made a video for a song off my new album, RUB, where it was an all-women cast and crew in the desert, there were 40 of us. It was amazing.
What’s the concept behind that video?
The song is basically like, "Jodorowsky body performance porn all-women video." It’s going to be amazing! You won’t be able to watch it on YouTube. It’s very exciting. I’m doing a video for every song on the album. I’m about to go shoot another one today.
Wow! Are you releasing all of them at once?
I’m trying, we’ll see. I’m not doing a Beyoncé. I did a Beyoncé before Beyoncé with all the videos for my last album, but we’ll see. They’ll be ready when they’re ready and they’re going to be amazing.
See Peaches in conversation at Bryant Park’s Word for Word author series at the Bryant Park Outdoor Reading Room, 42nd St between Fifth and Sixth Aves. June 10 12:30–1:45pm; free. Or at Word Brooklyn, 126 Franklin St. June 9 7pm; free. (Seats available for reservation)