Merrill Beth Nisker (born 11 November 1966), better known by her stage name Peaches, is a Canadian electronic musician and performance artist.
Peaches in 2009
|Birth name||Merrill Beth Nisker|
|Born||November 11, 1966|
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
|Occupation(s)||Singer-songwriter, record producer, multi-instrumentalist, disc jockey, performance artist, actress, rapper|
|Instruments||Vocals, synthesizer, drum machine, guitar, keytar, laser harp, theremin, bass guitar|
|Labels||XL, Kitty-Yo, teenage USA|
|Associated acts||Chilly Gonzales, Feist, Mocky, JD Samson, Samantha Maloney, Radio Sloan, Iggy Pop, Mignon, Amanda Palmer|
Born in Ontario to a Jewish family, Peaches began her musical career in the 1990s as part of a folk trio, Mermaid Cafe. In 1995, she established a rock band, the Shit. That year she also released her first solo album, Fancypants Hoodlum. Moving to Berlin, Germany, it was here that she was signed to the Kitty-Yo label and released her second album, The Teaches of Peaches (2000). Touring as the opening act for bands like Marilyn Manson and Queens of the Stone Age, she subsequently released her third album, Fatherfucker (2003).
Her songs have been featured in movies such as Mean Girls, Waiting..., Jackass Number Two, My Little Eye, Drive Angry, and Lost in Translation. Her music has also been featured on television shows such as Lost Girl, The L Word, Ugly Betty, South Park, The Handmaid’s Tale, 30 Rock, True Blood, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, Letterkenny and has been used for the promotion of Dirt. Peaches performed guest vocals on Pink's album Try This, on the song "Oh My God"; on the Chicks on Speed album 99 Cents, on the song "We Don't Play Guitars"; on Christina Aguilera's 2010 album Bionic, on the song "My Girls" (which was produced and co-written with Le Tigre), and recently on Major Lazer's 2013 album Free the Universe on the song "Scare Me" featuring Timberlee.
Born Merrill Beth Nisker in 1966 in Toronto, Ontario, she attended a private Jewish school. Nisker was a class clown, who "wasn't particularly smart. I was interested in creative performance stuff, but that turned out to be difficult for me because it was all so structured," she told Kitty Empire of The Observer.
Her family was culturally Jewish, though they were not religious. Her grandparents immigrated to Canada from Poland; her paternal grandparents were from Ukraine. In an interview in URB magazine, she recounted how growing up she experienced antisemitism; on her walks home from school, students from a nearby Catholic school would throw stones at her and call her a "dirty Jew".
1990–99: Mermaid Cafe, Fancypants Hoodlum, the ShitEdit
During the early 1990s, Nisker was part of folk trio Mermaid Cafe. The name was taken from the Joni Mitchell song "Carey". She later released her first album, Fancypants Hoodlum, under the name Merrill Nisker in 1995, and subsequently developed the style and persona that would take her to international fame as Peaches. In 1995, she started the Shit, a noisy four-piece combo with Chilly Gonzales (a.k.a. Jason Beck), bassist Sticky (later of Weeping Tile and Music Maul), and Dominique Salole (a.k.a. Mocky). Their absurd, highly sexual rock music was a harbinger for what Nisker would become, as it was during this time that she adopted the Peaches name. The Peaches moniker was taken from the Nina Simone song "Four Women" where Simone screams at the end, "My name is Peaches!" In Toronto, before rising to fame, she lived above Come As You Are with fellow recording artist Feist. Feist worked the back of the stage at Peaches' shows, using a sock puppet and calling herself "Bitch Lap Lap". The two also toured together in England from 2000–2001, staying with Justine Frischmann of Elastica and M.I.A. M.I.A. went on to video document Peaches' 2000 US tour and made clothes for the musician, while Peaches inspired M.I.A. to use the Roland MC-505 in her own compositions.
2000–02: The Teaches of PeachesEdit
After creating a six-track EP, Lovertits, Peaches moved to Berlin, Germany. While visiting her old friend Jason Beck, who was enjoying modest European success as Chilly Gonzales in his new home base of Berlin, Peaches landed a one-night gig. On the merits of that show alone, Berlin's Kitty-Yo label signed her on the spot. The label offered her the chance to record a new album, The Teaches of Peaches, back home in Toronto, and the already-completed Lovertits EP was released in the summer of 2000. The full-length album The Teaches of Peaches, was released that Fall.
Nisker signed to a European contract with Sony following the release of The Teaches of Peaches. She later made a big-budget video for the song "Set It Off", in which she sat in a locker room as her pubic and armpit hair grew to Rapunzel length. Sony subsequently dropped her. "Now they want their money back," Peaches said.
In 2002, Peaches appeared in "Hideous Man", a short film directed by John Malkovich. The short was created as a showcase for clothing designed by Bella Freud, and featured the poetry of Gary Sinise.
In 2003, Peaches released her second album Fatherfucker on XL/Kitty-Yo after years of touring and opening for artists like Marilyn Manson and Queens of the Stone Age. She once again wrote and programmed all of her album's music herself. The single "Kick It", which features Iggy Pop, was described by Peaches to Rolling Stone as "more about rock 'n' roll than sex."
For her album Fatherfucker, Peaches was nominated in the "Outstanding Music Artist" category for the 15th GLAAD Media Awards along with Rufus Wainwright, Meshell Ndegeocello, Junior Senior, and Bitch and Animal, but lost to Rufus Wainwright.
2006–08: Impeach My BushEdit
For her third album, 2006's Impeach My Bush, Peaches enlisted guest musicians Joan Jett, Greg Kurstin, Josh Homme, Samantha Maloney, Beth Ditto, Feist, Dave Catching, Brian O'Connor and Radio Sloan to perform on several of the tracks.
The Herms (short for hermaphrodites) were formed in spring 2006 as Peaches' live backing band. They played at both small and large venues with sex and sex-related themes as the "shock factor" for the audience. "Herms" is also a reference to 1970s duo Peaches & Herb and the blending of the words 'her' and 'him'. Peaches and Herms was the opening act for Nine Inch Nails and Bauhaus during the second half of their 2006 summer U.S. tour.
In August 2006, Peaches posed for an anti-seal culling advertisement campaign created by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) called "Fur is Dead". The advertisement featured an image of Peaches juxtaposed with an image of a baby seal being clubbed, with the words "Canada's Club Scene Sucks" printed over the image of Peaches.
Peaches was nominated for her album Impeach My Bush in the category "Outstanding Music Artist" at the 18th GLAAD Media Awards along with the Ditty Bops, Owen Pallett, Pet Shop Boys, and the Scissor Sisters, but lost to the Scissor Sisters.
2009–12: I Feel Cream and other workEdit
Her fourth album I Feel Cream, was released on May 4, 2009 in Europe, and May 5 in North America. The first single from the album is a double A-side of "Talk to Me" and "More". Peaches enlisted some of her contemporaries to co-produce a number of tracks including Simian Mobile Disco, Soulwax, Digitalism and Shapemod. Long time friend and collaborator Gonzales co-wrote some of the songs on I Feel Cream and Shunda K (the voice of Yo Majesty) featured on the track "Billionaire".
Peaches has been noted for her stage costumes and flamboyant sense of style. Her looks are often both nostalgic and futuristic; aggressive and glamorous; and push the limits of gender identity. Peaches and her band Sweet Machine wear costumes from a variety of designers but most notably she works closely with stylist/designer Vaughan Alexander, celebrity hairstylist Charlie Le Mindu, and young American fashion designer, John Renaud.
In 2010, Peaches and backing band Sweet Machine once again toured Australia performing at the sold out Big Day Out festivals and at a series of sideshows. Peaches was supported on this tour by Shunda K who performed their collaboration "Billionaire" at BDO festivals and at the sideshows, and was also the opening act at the sideshows along with Evil Beaver in Melbourne.
In March 2010, the copyright owners of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar denied Peaches permission to perform her one-woman version of it that she was planning to stage in Berlin. After receiving the attention of several media outlets, Peaches successfully negotiated with those rights-holders, and the musical was performed on March 25–27 at Berlin's HAU1. Gonzales accompanied Peaches on piano. Travis Jeppesen stated in his review for Artforum, "Not only did Peaches set it off, she managed to surprise us all by showing off an expansive vocal range, a musician's natural sensitivity to the dynamics of Andrew Lloyd Webber's score, and an emotive prowess that is rarely if ever displayed in her own, less holy, music."
Peaches appeared in a film called Ivory Tower, which also includes spots from Feist, Chilly Gonzales, Tiga and Gonzales' mother. Peaches stars as Marsha, a performance artist engaged to a man named Thaddeus (Tiga). Things get complicated when her ex, Hershall (Gonzales) comes back into her life. The movie is set in Toronto and was shot over 13 days in late Winter/early Spring 2010. It was co-written by Gonzales and Céline Sciamma (who directed/wrote Water Lilies), was directed by Adam Traynor and produced by Nicolas Kazarnia. Ivory Tower was given a limited theatrical release in August 2010.
In May 2010, Christina Aguilera announced that Peaches was among the collaborators on her fourth studio album Bionic. Peaches is featured on a track called "My Girls". The song was co-written and produced by Le Tigre.
On August 30, 2010, Peaches released a new single titled "Jonny". The single is part of a tribute series to Alan Vega from the band Suicide. Other musicians who have released tribute singles as part of the series include The Horrors, Primal Scream, Klaxons and Bruce Springsteen.
Peaches' song "Boys Wanna Be Her" is featured in an online teaser for the live action feature film Bad Kids Go to Hell (2012), based on the best selling graphic novel of the same name. It also serves as the theme music for the late-night television series Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. It was also featured in an episode of Orphan Black.
2012: New music and Peaches Does HerselfEdit
It was announced in 2012 that a semi-biographical musical/concert film would be premièred at the Toronto Film Festival, utilising 22 songs from her back catalog and backed by Peaches' band the Sweet Machine.
Peaches Does Herself premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 13, 2012.
On October 2, 2012, Peaches released her new single "Burst!" as a digital single backed with several remixes.
2015–present: What Else Is In the Teaches of Peaches and RubEdit
Photographer Holger Talinski collaborated with Peaches on a book of photographs, What Else Is In the Teaches of Peaches, released on June 2, 2015. The book, published by Akashic Books, also includes text written by Peaches, R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe, artist and singer Yoko Ono and actress Ellen Page.
Peaches' sixth studio album, RUB, was released September 25, 2015. It was produced by Vice Cooler with Peaches in her Los Angeles garage. In June 2015 it was announced to contain guest vocal appearances by Kim Gordon, Feist, and Simonne Jones.
An unused track from the RUB sessions titled "Bodyline" was released by Adult Swim on July 20, 2015. The Vice Cooler-produced track features Nick Zinner on guitar and was described as "a heavy, chugging guitar line over which Peaches half raps, half sings a high-octane space jam."  In May 2016, Peaches appeared in a fourth-season episode of the Canadian TV series Orphan Black as herself, performing "Bodyline" in a club. She performed "Boys Wanna Be Her" at the Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on April 29, 2017.
Gender identity is one theme of Peaches' music, often playing with traditional notions of gender roles representation. Her lyrics and live shows consciously blur the distinction between male and female; for example, she appears on the cover of her album Fatherfucker with a full beard. When asked if she had chosen the title for shock value, she commented:
Why do we call our mothers motherfuckers? Why do we stub our toe and say, "Aww motherfucker!"? What is a motherfucker? ... We use it in our everyday language, and it's such an insanely intense word. I'm not one to shy away from these obscene terms that we actually have in our mainstream. Motherfucker is a very mainstream word. But if we're going to use motherfucker, why don't we use fatherfucker? I'm just trying to be even.
Age has been another theme of Peaches' music in recent years. The lyrics from several songs from her 2009 album I Feel Cream tackle the issue of age, including Trick or Treat ("you lick my crow's feet"), Show Stopper ("Never mind my age, it's like we're breaking out of a cage") and Mommy Complex. Peaches has criticized ageism directed against her, telling the New York Daily News that "I'm going to make aging cool".
|2001||Chromezone XXX||Herself||Super-8 bike porn that Peaches directed and starred in|
|2002||Hideous Man||Beat Poet||Part of ensemble for short film collaboration with John Malkovich and Bella Freud|
|2009||Life on the Road with Mr. and Mrs. Brown||Herself||Documentary film about James Brown and Tomi Rae Brown|
|2010||Ivory Tower||Marsha Thirteen||Plays performance artist in collaboration with Gonzales, Feist and Tiga|
|2012||Peaches Does Herself||Herself||Musical film about Peaches' life and career. Debuted at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival and went on to play at the 2012 Festival du nouveau cinéma, the 2013 Sundance London Festival and the 2013 Locarno International Film Festival, where Peaches was a member of the official Jury.|
|2004||Clash of Cultures||Herself||TV documentary about the electroclash music scene|
|2004||Sex 'n' Pop||Herself||1 episode, TV mini-series|
|2004||Durch die Nacht mit...||Herself||1 episode alongside Heike Makatsch and Marilyn Manson, TV documentary series|
|2005||The L Word||Herself||1 episode|
|2006||Current TV||Herself||Episodes unknown|
|2006||Flight of the Conchords: A Texan Odyssey||Herself||TV documentary aired in New Zealand|
|2006–2007||The Henry Rollins Show||Herself||2 episodes in 2006 and 2007|
|2008||What Perez Sez||Herself||1 episode|
|2009||Last Call with Carson Daly||Herself||2 episodes|
|2009||House of Venus Show||Herself||1 episode|
|2009||Canal+ Album de la Semaine||Herself||1 episode|
|2010||Q TV||Herself||1 episode|
|2010||Subterranean||Herself||Host for 1 episode|
|2016||Orphan Black||Herself||1 episode|
Awards and nominationsEdit
|GLAAD Media Awards|
|2004||Outstanding Music Artist||Music & Theater||Fatherfucker||Nominated|
|2007||Outstanding Music Artist||Music & Theater||Impeach My Bush||Nominated|
|2007||Best Make-up||Music Video||Boys Wanna Be Her||Nominated|
|UK Music Video Awards|
|2009||Best Styling||Music Video||Talk to Me||Nominated|
|Independent Music Awards|
|2010||Electronic Artist of the Year||Dance/Electronica||—||Won|
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