These days, Berlin is crawling with foreign artists and musicians.
Drawn by the German capital’s lively nightlife and cheap rents, many come looking to stay a few months but discover they never want to go home.
But few have made it as big as Merrill Beth Nisker, the 44-year-old Canadian musician and performance artist better known by her stage name Peaches.
Since moving to Berlin 11 years ago, she has shocked and entertained fans around the world with her unique brand of raw, electronic-infused music and unabashed stage show.
Her decision to move to Germany was prompted by a trip in 1998 to see her friend, Canadian producer and musician Chilly Gonzales, in Berlin.
“I was visiting and I thought it had a great artistic feel,” she told The Local recently.
That summer, she played her first impromptu show in Berlin with Gonzales at an artsy performance space.
“I came home from this trip and wrote my first album. I sent it to a very small label I had met when I was there and they wanted to put out my music,” she said.
Her hit album “Teaches of Peaches” was subsequently released on Berlin record label Kitty-Yo in 2000 – the same year she moved permanently to Germany.
“It all just started growing organically,” she said.
With Berlin as her base, her career exploded and in just a few short years she was touring with Marilyn Manson and Queens of the Stone Age. Writing and producing her own music, she even collaborated with trash rock legend Iggy Pop on one track for her second album.
With international hype about Berlin being a cool place for artists spiking back then, she admits she was in the right place at the right time.
“It’s funny because the minute I moved to Berlin, London and New York City started to give me attention,” she said.
But instead being lured away by the brighter lights of another city, she has remained true to Berlin.
Peaches has offered her continuing support for the Berlin Festival, a still nascent attempt to bring a proper summer music festival to the German capital. And she has also started to become political engaged in her adopted hometown, recently performing at a protest against unpopular redevelopment work along a street with quirky shops and cafes in the city’s Prenzlauer Berg district.
“We hope to keep the street as it is – a promenade for the people and less about cars and parking spaces,” she told The Local, referring to the Stoppt K21 campaign for Kastanienallee.
Artistically, she remains as provocative as ever, performing this spring “Peaches Does Herself,” a stage show incorporating autobiographical details of her decade in Germany.
And as Berlin continues to attract more creative types, she is also helping bring new talent to the city. Whether it’s organizing shows for musicians from New York or letting Taiwanese artists crash on her couch, Peaches said there’s no reason to fear the growing influx of foreigners.
“Berlin is an international city now,” she said. “It’s giving this city new energy. The people who move here are excited about the city. The ones who move here are all artists, writers, musicians. How can that be bad?”
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