Germans eat up Peaches & Chili

KIERAN GRANT

, Last Updated: 12:50 AM ET

Peaches and Chili Gonzales are, in their own words, "liquid."

The Toronto natives have become hitmakers in Britain and Germany, icons-in-the-making in France and Spain, and, apparently, favourite acts of Elastica's Justine Frischmann, who hand-picked them to open her group's North American tour. It rolls into the Guvernment tomorrow.

"You can't become anything in Canada unless you leave Canada," says Peaches, a.k.a. Merrill Nisker, over the phone from a Minneapolis tour stop earlier this week.

The punk-funk artists also play Ted's Wrecking Yard Saturday as part of a CD release show for their longtime collaborators Daddy Szigeti and Leslie Feist.

"We've still got that insecurity problem: We can't make our own star unless someone else thinks so," says Peaches. "In Europe, I told everyone I was sexy and now I'm becoming a sex symbol."

Such strength of will is a prime mover in the Peaches/Gonzales universe.

The last time we saw Gonzales, he was better known as Son, the funk-pop maestro who lit out for more promising European ports two years ago after an abortive two-album career with Warner Music Canada.

After a stay in Paris, he relocated to Berlin and "invented" Chili Gonzales, a medallion wearing hip-hop MC and self-proclaimed "only one-eyed Jewish rapper in Berlin." He speaks no German. Last time I checked, he had two eyes.

"I was actually quite confused and still smarting from my Canadian experience when I left Toronto," says Gonzales, whose real name is Jason Beck.

"Gradually, over six months, I started over again. I became an entertainer. I stopped being a musician. Musicians who are trapped behind their computer screens, no matter how much they think they like it, know they're trapped. When you hear them, you can hear them looking at their screen. When you hear our music, you picture us sweating in your face."

He describes his on-stage alter-ego as a musical supervillain.

"I'm smart enough not to put all of myself into Chili Gonzales," he says. "I just take the parts that are fun, the negative things, like my megalomania, my jealousy and ambition. It's easier for him to handle it."

The MC eventually signed with German underground imprint Kitty-Yo and released his debut Ueber Alles album.

His friend Peaches, who'd recently re-invented herself as a minimalist-funk diva on the Toronto club scene, paid him a visit in Berlin last winter and was promptly snapped up by Kitty-Yo.

Gonzales has landed on European charts with his song Let's Groove Again, and was recently the subject of a two-page spread in British glossy The Face. Peaches' upcoming full-length, Teaches Of Peaches, gets a favourable shake in the current issue of Q.

But really, it's all about "freaking people's minds," Gonzales says. "I just held a press conference at the National Press Centre in Germany, where I announced that I'm running for president of the Berlin underground against (DJ and Atari Teenage Riot mastermind) Alec Empire. I'm trying to convince all the musicians to be entertainers, to act like wrestlers and get their fingernails dirty.

"Europe seems like a crazy playground. They have so much respect for the artist and are willing to play along, to get liquid."


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