Fireworks Magazine Online 39 - Amanda Palmer


Amanda Palmer is/was, (it’s still not totally clear), half of the duo the Dresden Dolls, and since releasing her first solo album ‘Who Killed Amanda Palmer’ her profile has risen considerably.  She is, first and foremost, a performer, rather than just a musician, which is reflected in all the offshoots that have come along with the album.  People are starting to catch on to this lady, and I was lucky enough to get to speak with her before her show at the Union Chapel in Islington in September.

So, I’ve seen the new DVD. When I first watched it, and I’ve seen all the ones you’ve put up on YouTube, I was thinking some of these are different to the ones I saw on YouTube.

“They wouldn’t be different edits but the quality was vastly different.”

I couldn’t believe it when you said not to buy it from Amazon and the likes, because you don’t get a penny out of it. How does that happen?

“Well that’s a classic major label thing where I’m ‘not recouped’ so until I recoup – which means they’d have to make back all the money they spent on the Dresden Dolls and all the money they’ve spent on me, before I see anything. The irony is even if I was recouped I would be getting a terrible royalty rate on things like this. I was very naive when I signed that record contract, that’s what it comes down to.”

It mystifies me that they’re not giving you support. There was a link for tickets for these shows on the net - £14 face price going for £150!

“And I’m broooooke!! [laughs]. Let’s scalp some tickets! Fuck’s not too late, haha!  But you know, that’s very typical – a lot of artists are scalping their own tickets nowadays. They don’t do it openly but it’s a fucking racket and a half, it’s so bad.”

Am I right in thinking you’re doing a free show tomorrow night?

“No. It’s £10, which is close to free. I like keeping it cheap [laughs]. I don’t mind being broke with all my fans – I kinda like it. I always had a huge amount of respect for Fugazi, who famously would only play $5 shows. They were just so politically minded, they didn’t want anyone not to be able to come.”

Are you doing ‘Please Drop Me’ tonight?

“[laughs] You know, I think that song was a time and a place and I did it for YouTube – I was, like, I’ll play this song once, I’ll get my message out to the label. This doesn’t need to become an Amanda Palmer staple, haha.”

Has it made any difference?

“No. I think they think I’m cute and annoying, when they see stuff like that.”

So what does it actually mean for the future? You’ve just done this album, and you’ve obviously got irons in the fire. So what does all this controversy mean for you now?

“It means that I feel incredibly unsettled in my life. I’m just kind of floating very blindly right now – I don’t really know what I’m doing next.  I’ve amassed a sizable debt on this project and this record, and these past few tours and I have a lot of available income and ways of making money that are blocked off to me because of the label, and since I’m not actively out touring and supporting this record right now, I’m not really making a lot of money. So it’s a weird time for me right now. I’m sort of looking around every day going like ‘What am I doing?’ But I feel like right now it’s kind of a waiting game and I’ve been locked into the waiting game since June and it’s just protracting and protracting, so it’s frustrating but also the past few months have been really healthy for me because I’ve finally let go of my resistance and allowed myself to bounce around and enjoy life a little more impulsively, and I’ve finally caught up a little bit emotionally, where I started to lag when I was on tour with the Dolls endlessly, and I’ve reconnected with friends and family that had just disintegrated, because after years and years on the road and you come through town enough times saying ‘I don’t have time to see you, I’m way too busy, I have to do press, I’ve gotta do shows etc’ the building blocks of your relationships start to turn to dust, and you have to stop, and actually spend real time repairing those relationships.”

Is it fair to say the ‘Who Killed Amanda Palmer’ project is bigger than the Dresden Dolls, because you’ve got all this, you had the book. I look at things and you have more people into your music than you did when you were doing the Dresden Dolls stuff.

“I think it’s all relative. To me, whatever I’m working on at the time is the biggest project of my life and I never really measure things one against the other. It’s funny, I can’t think of the Dresden Dolls as an entity. To me, it’s my band, my songs – it’s all me, and when Brian was a part of it he was a huge part of it, and it was all us. But it certainly doesn’t feel like part of the past – everything feels like it comes with me.  And it’s interesting – because it was all of my song-writing, I’m playing as many Dresden Dolls songs tonight as I am originals and covers. And none of it feels like back catalogue – everything feels like it part of the same menu.  The first Dresden Dolls record continues to outsell everything, and I’ve noticed when I look at my set-list, some of those songs live really stand the test of time: songs like ‘Destiny’, ‘Half Jack’ and ‘Coin Operated Boy’, and I love the second Dolls record – some of those songs are my favourite, but as live songs they haven’t persisted as much as that first album.”

As well as the album and the DVD that came out under the Who Killed Amanda Palmer heading, there is also a book, filled with elaborate photographs of yourself, killed in many different ways, and also stories written by your partner, well known author Neil Gaiman. So was that your concept, or was that Neil’s idea, after you two hooked up?

“It was my idea. It was originally sort of glorified album artwork because I was given no packaging budget from Roadrunner so I decided I would just put out an autonomous piece of album artwork and then the book grew and grew and grew and I invited Neil to write the stories, thinking that he would shoot me off an email with a couple of clever things, never knowing that we would get as involved as we did, nor knowing it would spawn a relationship either. So that was just one thing leading to another.”

So about this acting thing – you’ve been doing a short movie?

“Yeah, I just saw the rough cut today. It looked amazing.  It’s fun, I kind of got to play an alternate version of my old self – I play a bad living statue. It’s so great! I play the saddest, shittiest, loneliest little living statue. She’s just awful and no-one gives her any money and it’s a great, sort of bizarre love-triangle between two living statues and a lonely old guy. That will be airing on Sky Arts and there’s one silent film per day on the 12 days leading up to Christmas.”

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