For indie electro-rap provocateur Peaches, known for her graphically sexual songs and wild stage show, a one-woman live presentation of “Jesus Christ Superstar” dubbed “Peaches Christ Superstar” might seem an unlikely endeavor. Nevertheless, that’s exactly the agenda for the Berlin-based Canadian’s six North American dates this December. Billboard got chronic pot-stirrer Peaches’ take on the intersection of art, religion and controversy.
What was the impetus for “Peaches Christ Superstar”?
A theater in Berlin asked me if I wanted to do a theater production. Right away I said I wanted to do “Peaches Christ Superstar” as a one-woman show. I’ve had this idea since I was about 14, when I used to listen to the “Jesus Christ Superstar” soundtrack and just act it out by myself. I never really entertained the idea as something that I would do in front of people until this theater asked me to do a production.
The German rights-holders initially canceled the premiere. What happened?
The German affiliates thought I was going to desecrate the original version, and they just stopped it in its tracks. That did not come from Andrew Lloyd Webber or Tim Rice. I was like, “That’s ridiculous. I’d like to write a press release.” The theater said, “That’s not really good form.” So I said, “Fine, I’ll just Twitter it.” I did that . . . then it got back to Tim Rice. He called them and said, “This is a lot of bad press. Why don’t you just let her do it?” I got permission to do a trial. They came to see it and loved it. We ended up doing a second run, and Sir Tim Rice himself showed up. I was totally crapping my pants over it, thinking about being 14 and singing it in my bedroom.
Does controversy help sell the show?
I think it could. The name — “Peaches Christ Superstar” — and the idea — “Really? She’s doing that?” It definitely has curiosity built into it, which is a good thing, because they come to see the performance and I deliver the goods. “Jesus Christ Superstar” was banned when it first came out, too, so controversy has been following it since the beginning.
How do you handle singing every role yourself?
The music actually lets you do that, and that’s what’s fantastic about it. I don’t have to dress up in different costumes to present the different characters. Jesus does the white-man metal voice, like [Deep Purple’s] Ian Gillan, who played him in the original production. And then there’s Judas, who has the soul voice, and there’s the sweet voice of Mary Magdalene. And there’s Pilate, who’s pompous, and there’s Herod, who’s completely campy. It’s all been laid out for you.
Why did you scale the whole thing down to just you at the microphone and Canadian keyboardist/producer Chilly Gonzales on piano?
A lot of people, especially from my generation, don’t like musicals because they feel so much has been put in there for no reason. I just wanted to express this music by stripping it down in the Peaches way-and I don’t mean by stripping down my clothes-to enhance how fantastic the music is. Usually in my own shows I’m running around like crazy, climbing on things, jumping on people. This is just standing still, and everything just comes from my voice.
Is it a religious experience?
It feels shamanistic… you give yourself over to this passion. For me it tells the story of how people misinterpret things, how one person’s good intentions turn into something larger that gets out of control. You may think that you’re just expressing yourself, and someone who doesn’t understand it or has a fear of what you’re doing-in the way that Judas was scared of what Jesus was doing-feels that you went too far. It happens so often with so many good ideas.