Music: The Dresden Dolls’ Amanda Palmer: The New Gay Interview
Last time I interviewed Amanda Palmer it was when her band The Dresden Dolls was set to play an acoustic show at the 6th and I Synagogue. Her show tonight at the 9:30 Club is a solo one, though, and I though it would be a disservice to both of us to ask her the same old questions.
So below the fold you can learn all about Palmer’s opinions on gay marriage, assimilation and her own bisexuality. You can also check out her melodramatic piano music on the mixtape I’ve included beneath the interview and on he new CD, Who Killed Amanda Palmer, which features a number of collaborations between herself and Ben Folds.
The New Gay Zack: The title of your album, “Who Killed Amanda Palmer,” seems a lot like a tagline from Twin Peaks. Is it a reference?
Amanda Palmer: Yeah, it is.
TNG: Is that purposeful way of linking yourself and Laura Palmer? Your character in the record has some things in common with her, including rape
AP: I wish I had some clever and profound answer for you, but I just thought it was some fantastic joke. That and a wonderful homage to a filmmaker I have a lot of respect for.
TNG: How was this solo album different than your work with the Dresden Dolls?
AP: The recording was really different, because it was an open-ended recording. The last [Dresden Dolls] record was ‘lets record this record in two weeks and mix it in a week,’ this one took me a better part of a year it. It was a much vaster process. There were a lot more people involved. I found as I was making the record,I not only had complete control, but that it was my control to give up if I wanted to. A lot of times I gave up the control to Ben Folds or to other. It felt really good handing over the reigns and to have the choice to hand over the reigns.
TNG: Since this record is so much a product of your work, its going to be a purer reflection of you. Are we seeing the real Amanda Palmer or is a theatrical effort where you’re singing from the point of view of different characters?
AP: Much like The Dresden Dolls, its both. If you know a little bit about me, which is not hard to find out, its not hard to tell where the line is between my personal confessions and my character portraits. Some of those are paintings of a younger Amanda Palmer, because I recorded songs at 31 that I wrote at 23. The record is an emotional time war. Certainly songs like “Runs in the Family” that I wrote at 23 or 22 are incredibly personal but they’re not me now.
TNG: Is this the kind of mix that shows up in a song like Oasis? It’s definitely a really tinkly, cheery songs about rape and abortion. How is it to write such a light song about such a serious topic?
AP: That was the point of it, really. My favorite art is usually the stuff that hangs out on the fence between the very light and very dark. There’s something really magical about music and art that allows you to combine those two things ways that aren’t generally combined in real life. It can shed an incredible light and perspective on certain things.
With “Oasis,” if you took the same lyrics and played it really slowly and played in a minor key and made it sound really mournful it wouldn’t mean anything. Somehow putting it in this ridiculous poppy little package makes it takes on more weight.
TNG: Do you think any of your subject matter has turned off or offended any potential fans or audience members?
AP: I don’t think I have. That’s the nice thing about being a very, very, very minor celebrity. You don’t need to worry about that shit.
TNG: What’s your live show like?
AP: I have four actors on stage with me from Australia and it is an awesome, fucked up surprising show. There is wonderful stuff happening the audience and on the balconies, really beautiful heartbreaking moments with the actors and some crazy silly shit and some dancing and lip-syncing. We tried to cover every base, mostly I just like surprising people.
TNG: Do you think your fan base right now is the same cross section of people the Dresden Dolls had?
AP: It’s the same cross section, but that’s because the record hasn’t been promoted outside the realm of the Dresden Dolls. But I’m working on that. I’m trying to get off my record label. This spring I’m putting out a book with Neil Gaiman and I’m going to relaunch the record to reach a little wider.
TNG: Is it frustrating that you put this out and its not being marketed properly?
AP: It is one of the most frustrating things that has ever happened to me. It is really hard.
TNG: What are you trying to do about it?
AP: I’m just trying to get myself dropped so I can wrest control back of the record and hopefully get it a fair shot before it’s been out for too long.
TNG: Good luck with it. Now, to give you some warning, this is the part of the interview where I ask you gay questions… just so you don’t wonder why I’ve shifted gears so suddenly. Do you have a lot of gay fans?
AP: We definitely do, it’s been like that from the get-go. A lot of my friends are gay and I’m bi and it made sense from the very beginning of the band. It wasn’t even something we thought about…The music and my personality and the way I deal, my world view, it’s just something that makes sense to people who are queer. , at its fundamental the message of the Dresden Dolls and that I espouse is about fully being yourself no matter who the fuck you are.
When you run your career on the celebration of your own strangeness you are definitely going to attract people who feel like they’re on the fringe.
TNG: What were your reactions to the passing of Prop 8?
AP: I think it’s appalling. It is definitely bitter sweet to see Obama getting elected and prop 8 getting approved. I get the feeling it’s going to be one of those irritating struggles where people 50 years from now look back and think “What the fuck we
re those people thinking?”
But on the other hand,I’m not anti-marriage, but I’m definitely grossed out by how legal the institution of love has become and how warped that connection is. I’m not a real fan of what marriage tends to do to people and the situation it creates.
TNG: Like what?
AP: The whole thing is outmoded and really needs to be rethought. I don’t feel like playing catchup, which is what Prop 8 is. Gay marriage is definitely something that any gay couple fucking has the right to do, but at the same time I don’t understand why the system is set up in such a way where on the flip side you see and hear straight people talking about getting married for the tax breaks. Lets take a step back and figure out the fundamental problem is. With the divorce rate of 50% the whole approach is wrong. Maybe we need to evolve our view of marriage and relationships so we’re not working off an old model that’s not copacetic with the modern world.
TNG: Do you think its worth it for all the gay people to put on suits and try to look safe and normal in the name of gay marriage, or do you think we should still be able to act crazy or outrageous if we want to and still get our rights?
AP: That’s what it all comes down to, doesn’t it? The whole idea of gay marriage has a whiff of when black people were trying to pass. As gay people, as people who have relationships that are considered alternative, we’ve always been the cool ones. There is something frustrating about thinking that were asking to be invited to a party that’s not as cool. As long as shit is backwards were going to have to play catchup and get Prop 8 overturned, but it can’t be at the sacrifice of our individuality and our uniqueness. Then you’re really fundamentally fucking things up.
TNG: Then what’s the middle ground between gaining our rights and losing our uniqueness?
AP: That’s a really good question, I wish i had an answer for that. It’’s certainly something that I think about. I just hope that as a culture we can evolve into a space of total acceptance. It’s so possible, the potential for it is so apparent, and yet people have so many prejudices and blocks and fears getting in the way. I just hope that in my lifetime I see… people get their small, petty little attidudes that are preventing us all from reaching some higher place where it is really possible for people who are different to be OK with each other.
TNG: What’s your current relationship situation?
AP: I am currently undergoing one of the most brutal potential breakups I’ve ever had in my life
TNG: I’m sorry to hear that.
AP: You had to ask me today…. I’ve been in a relationship for seven months, we finally just hit that wall of total scariness. It’s really hard having a long distance relationship and even harder having one on the road. It’s really tough for me. I was single for five years and I changed a lot in that time. I got really used to being single and my life as it was and and my touring life. It’s really put a wrench in things. It’s torn my heart open. I’m insanely raw right now.
TNG: I’m sorry…
AP: No, don’t be sorry. It’s awesome. It’s life. It’s hard.
TNG: Not that it matters at all, but I’m sure a lot of our readers are wondering right now what the gender of the other person is.
AP: It’s a boy.
TNG: That’s OK, it happens.
AP: The fact that I’m bi is not a boon to the relationship. I’ve been faithful in this relationship and it’s brought up some weird questions about my own sexuality and what it is that I really want. Being bi is in some ways harder than being gay, you’re all over the place…. I don’t now, I’m kind of at a loss for words. It’s been a brutal one.
I have found that my view on relationships and sex is ever-evolving. I connect with so many people at my shows and online and with the people I work with. There’s so much pain, everyone is always going through some drama that’s really hard. I plugged myself out of that for a long time. If nothing else I’m reminded that, as human beings, we’re so romantic and so needy. We’re always trying to find answers and often find them through relationships and true love and each other. It’s the beautiful and terrible thing about us. TNG
First time here? See what we're all about... Get involved... Send us a tip!...