Tasting sweet success with Peaches

The Local’s series “Making it in Germany” presents Peaches, a Canadian musician and performance artist who has rocked Berlin like few others. She spoke with Nadja Sayej.

Tasting sweet success with Peaches
Photo: Peaches

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?”

Know someone who’s “made it” in Germany? Email us at: [email protected]

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EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.