Peaches talks tonight's performance of 'Peaches Christ Superstar,' her adaptation of a classic rock opera
A lot can happen to an artist’s development in 10 years. Just ask Peaches. Primarily regarded as the high priestess of electro-sex and bass-rattling nihilism, the 42-year-old electroclash provocateur is one of the last people you’d expect to star in a 1970s rock opera -- about Jesus Christ, no less. This year, the 10th anniversary of her seminal sophomore album, “The Teaches of Peaches,” the Toronto-born artist is continuing on a monumental departure -- “Peaches Christ Superstar” -- her one-woman rendition of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
Accompanied by the virtuosic piano skills of longtime collaborator Chilly Gonzales, Peaches delivers every song from the play without pause. This performance also inspired a similar project, “Peaches Does Herself,” a musical based on 24 of her own songs that ran in October.
After a controversial and critically acclaimed debut in Germany and a string of U.S. tour dates, “Peaches Christ” makes its stop in L.A. tonight at the Orpheum Theatre. In a recent phone conversation, the artist known for such songs as “... the Pain Away” and “I Feel Cream” talked about how her (metaphorically) stripped-down performance satisfies a childhood dream and a need for bold avenues to get her creative juices flowing.
How does the opportunity to perform "Jesus Christ Superstar" as a one-woman show challenge you as an artist?
When I was 15, I got a copy of it from a boyfriend and I thought it was really cool because it told a story without having acting in it. I liked that you could tell the whole story without having parts in between that get you to the next song. And I thought, ‘I wonder if I could possibly pull off doing the whole thing myself without any sense of irony or parody?' And on top of that, having people who know me as Peaches watching me doing the last days of Jesus’ life is a big risk for me.
It probably couldn’t be more opposite to what most people know you for.
It really wasn’t calculated. It’s not anything to do with religion or to be controversial. I’m just whole-heartedly doing it for the love of this rock opera. I haven’t changed any lyrics, I haven’t embellished anything. If anything, I find that I’m trying to embody what the voices in the music bring to it and build the characters from there.
Were there some aspects of just being a performer in this kind of show that were really hard to pull off onstage? Even as a solo artist, this kind of show must require a much different skill set.
At my shows, I’m running around all the time. There’s a lot of songs I do sing, and a some pop-rap and things like that. I’m swinging off banisters and jumping on people. This is more standing still and letting everything come out from my voice. You can imagine the first couple of times I did it, how terrifying it was to know that I have to stand still, deliver and memorize all that.
Describe the feelings you had performing "Peaches Christ Superstar" in Germany during your debut after the controversy surrounding the performance.
I was given a trial run in Germany, because why would they want to give a stage to someone who's not doing a huge production, and especially if it’s me with my reputation? But [they] came to the trial run and they really loved it. It was really apparent from the first performance that people got it and it was all good. Tim Rice actually attended a performance and flew out from London to Berlin.
How cool was that?
So cool, because he came backstage. And imagine you have one part in his musical, but then imagine having to do the whole thing. It was pretty petrifying, but amazing. It’s someone who I thought I’d never meet and a world I never thought I’d be in. He was very into it. So that’s nice.
Was your choice to work with Chilly Gonzales just an automatic decision for you, considering your history of collaboration and his skills as a pianist?
He and I have great musical chemistry anyway and he knew my normal approach to everything. It was a pretty big deal to do this whole thing myself. You have to think of certain things like harmonies and stuff, but not lose the essence and the energy of [the songs], and he understands that, plus, of course, his skill is amazing.
How do you feel both physically and emotionally after the performance?
Completely drained. I’ve been sleeping really well at night, let’s just say that. I have to be careful, you know? I love to smoke pot everyday and I can’t. With this, it’s so demanding, I have to be really careful and there’s a lot of sacrifices to make sure I do it justice. Because I don’t want people to think I’m doing a parody or that I’m gonna talk-rap through the whole thing.
What scenes or numbers are the most intense for you or the hardest to sing?
“Gethsemane.” That one is awesome and triumphant. I have to get my white man metal voice. Throw a little Bruce Dickinson in it. Then you have “Judas’ Death,” where you have to put your soul voice on, your rock-soul voice.
Has your experience with this show inspired any other upcoming music projects?
That’s how “Peaches Does Herself” came about. Because after the run there, I wanted to try something with my own songs. And I wanted to make it big and really fun. It’s interesting too because we did the [“Peaches Christ Superstar”] show in New York and people clapped for the songs. They knew the first chords and they started to cheer. It was like a real theater audience, which I’ve never had before.
Peaches and Gonzales perform "Peaches Christ Superstar" at 8 p.m. Friday at the Orpheum Theatre, 842 S. Broadway. Tickets are $30.
-- Nate Jackson
Photo: Peaches. Credit: Angel Ceballos.