The Dresden Dolls
april 2004 - e-mail interview with Amanda Palmer (piano/vocals) by Barbara H and SEB WOOd
Barbara H: Hi! Can you introduce yourself ?
Amanda Palmer: Hello, I am Amanda Palmer. Songwriter and professional recovering narcissist. And co-founder of The Dresden Dolls.
BH: you've released your debut studio album by yourselves, was it an important decision ? i read that you had signed with a major, is it easier to deal with corporate businessmen after having released an album by yourselves ? why did you ultimately choose to sign on a major?
Amanda: We originally shopped the record around and were on the brink of releasing it with a small label in Boston, but good sense descended upon me and I realised we'd be much better off self-releasing and holding off for a better deal. It was impossibly hard work, kick-starting a label with no time and money, but we managed. We ultimately found a great distribution deal with a larger label, which is still in the offing. Why? Well...once you get to a certain level you have to make that choice, unless you have a ready-made team of music-business-oriented friends around you to slave away for no money while you build your career. Without that, staying DIY isn't practical after a point. As far as I can see so far, there haven't been any huge sacrifices. If I had gone into the process naive and unaware of how to run a label we would probably be getting robbed blind, so it certainly helped.
BH: Is your debut album going to be available worldwide anytime soon ?
AP: Yes...it's released in America on April 27th (2004) and will be imported to Europe. It's already available on our website, and anyone from Zimbabwe can order it if they so choose.
BH: you have also released a live album, "A is for Accident," which features songs that are not on "The Dresden Dolls", do you have a lot of songs left to record?
AP: Well, we do have a pretty big back-catalogue. I write a lot, but it's not all fantastic. There's plenty of terrible crap. We work on a few things at a time, let some things fall away, make changes. We certainly have enough for the next album, which could take at least another year to come out.
BH: your sound is quite refreshing, did it come naturally ?
AP: As natural as the day you were born, my love.
SEB WOOd: There's a song by The Fall called 'Dresden Dolls Backdrop' (Dresden dolls and nazi boys dance arm in arm to formless noise...). Are you named after this song ?? If so, have you been inspired by The Fall's post-punk eccentricity in say, their ballet 'I am Kurious Orange' ??
AP: I am a Fall fan, I got into them way back in High School (though they were sort of past their prime by then, that was in the mid-90's). But the name references several things at once....the Fall song, a VC Andrews novel, the porcelain figures themselves, and the firebombing, which everybody knows was a disaster of epic proportions.
SWd: The twisted cabaret aspect in a song such as 'Girl Anachronism' makes me think of the early Sparks albums (up to Kimono my House), Alex Harvey and even David Bowie. Have you been influenced by these artists who used to dress up on stage ??
AP: Oh, absolutely. I've still never heard the Sparks, but we get a lot of comparisons...I'll have to check that out....
SWd: You seem to use references often in your lyrics (the Doors in 'Perfect fit': Blur in 'Sex Change'). Are they true references or mockeries ??
AP: Oh, no, they're not mockeries at all. They are references, the subconscious thread that strings all art together. I like to think of them as quotes. I love doing it, I hope I never get sued.
SWd: You describe your music as 'Brechtian punk cabaret', which is quite bewildering. I've studied Brecht a lot and I can't see what's really brechtian in the Dresden Dolls. I've never seen you live though. Do you set up posters and catchphrases on stage ?? Do you consider that dressing up on stage makes your social double appear ?? Do you think your 'acting' is distanced (I didn't notice it in 'Girl Anachronism' video for instance) ?? Do you aim at encouraging your audience to criticize something or is it just a way to signify that your band is different ??
AP: Very good question. The honest answer is that the more correct title for us would be "Brecht/Weillian" but that just doesn't sound as good. It's both a reference to the style of music that Weill wrote while working with Brecht (both musically and lyrically, and working with the idea of being slightly painfully honest and making the audeince squirm a bit) and a nod to the illusion-stripping character of the live show. And that, young man, I will not explain much further. You will have to buy a ticket.
BH: In your songs there's often quite a bit of distance, and sometimes self-mockery, between you the singer and you the girl in the song, while still maintaining an high level of emotion. do you write in a state of emergency, or is it a slower and more complicated task ?
AP: It's all over the fucking place...but I do find the the best songs come in quick fits with no stopping for breath. Other songs, which can often take ten years to fully gestate and resemble "complete" never sound quite as cohesive. "Slide" was written in twenty minutes when I was 15. "Girl Anachronism" came in a few days when I was closer to 23.
BH: you just postponed the European tour, do you have any idea when it will happen ?
AP: Fall, if all goes as planned...
BH: what are the next plans for the band ?
AP: We're taking a rest for the next few months and doing a bit of touring int he states. I am currently trying to replace my dying piano with a living one so I can get back to writing in earnest. Then we'll be on tour all summer with almost no breaks....and fall will be Europe and the new album sessions.
"Was you ever bit by a dead bee ??"
It's possible that I didn't notice it.
what becomes of the broken hearted ??
They go to Morrisseyland.
who's got the crack ??
what's your favourite pick-up line ??
You are very good looking and I think I like you. Would you like to start a conversation that might lead to a relationship with me? (works every time)
if you could travel in time, where would you go and what would you do ??
I'd go to the sixties and hang out for a while. Anything farther away would be disorienting.
what is the meaning of life ??
what freaks the hell out of you ??
Tanning salons. Why?????
where's the party ??
New York City, baby.
if you could date any movie star (dead or alive) who would it be ??
Jack Nicholson, in the sixties while I'm there anyway....
what have you been dreaming about lately ??
Guns, strangely enough. And I'm a pacifist.
BH: THANK YOU!
AP : YOU'RE WELCOOOOOOOOOOOOME!
/may 15th 2004/