Q&A with Amanda Palmer


MC: Do you feel yourself in the vanguard of self-determined artists?

Palmer: I believe there are thousands of musicians like me working underground, connecting with their fans, signing after shows, hugging everybody and keeping it real. The music business has never been interested in that. Why would they be? They’ve been on their own clock, in their own world, on their own time. The music business got so wildly bloated and out of control with people in offices making these decisions that a lot of these points got missed.

MC: Is your audience well-heeled or do you consider them relentlessly faithful?

Palmer: What’s the difference? I think they’re all over the place. I have fans who are dirt fucking poor and read every tweet and every blog post, and can barely afford to download a five-dollar package, but they are ever faithful and they tirelessly promote me. I have fans who vaguely stay up-to-date with what I’m doing but generally support me, and they’re happy to each give me 50 one-thousand-dollar donations to do the book. It’s all over the place.

"The music business has been so fucking out to lunch for so long about some fundamental truths. But a lot of musicians haven’t been. They understand the basics of making good music, and if you make it available to people they will help you."

MC: You have been out here for a long time, comparatively speaking. And the concept of creating art with music is something you also explored with the Dresden Dolls, for example when you created The Dresden Dolls Companionwith a book and DVD included. How has your fan base changed over the past 10 years?

Palmer: I think my fan base and Amanda Palmer supporters have evolved as much as I have. There was definitely an era of early Dresden Dolls where our fan based was teenaged and “angsty.” Even back then the best thing about the Dresden Dolls was that at our shows you’d see this ripped 16-year-old Goth kid pierced from his toes to his eyeballs next to a college professor in his 50s in a tweed suit, and both of them looked totally at home at the show. The only areas of humanity we don’t attract are the basic mainstream music fans. That’s fine with me. I’m very happy to collect everyone else.

MC: We note that you are not sitting on your million dollars and planning a party: you state on your website that there are extensive expenses in manufacturing the art books, staging the various events, hiring personnel, and of course paying taxes. We quote, and we leave your inventive syntax intact, “…in no fucking case scenario do i get a check for $1,000,000 and laugh my way to the bank, then book a private jet to ibiza where a limo filled with hookers and blow will be waiting to escort me to a slamming nightclub called ‘la uno percento’ where i then spend my time contemplating my handsome nose job in the darkened mirrored bathrooms (probably weeping).”

But clearly you have struck a very personal nerve across a wide demographic willing to support you. Have the Dresden Dolls fans followed your evolution as a ukulele player, as Amanda “Fucking” Palmer and now as an art and crowd-funding goddess?

Palmer: As I have evolved as a human being and a songwriter there are definitely fans who have dropped off and moved into other places. But there are fans who have evolved and stayed with me. The girl who was 20 when I was 26 and was struggling in college and dealing with issues with her parents and totally relating to the early Dresden Dolls music is now in her late 20s as I’m in my middle 30s. And she’s struggling with different questions in her life, how to be an authentic person and be kind to herself. So the stuff I’m writing now is resonating with her. We’re going on parallel journeys and the soundtrack has morphed.

MC: You tour extensively, both as a solo artist, and of course when you were showcasing the “Brechtian Punk Cabaret” of the Dresden Dolls. As you’ve indicated, playing live is an enormous part of appealing to fans. 

Palmer: The Internet makes a lot of things possible. Seeing things on YouTube can foster a connection and turn people on. I may be old-fashioned, but I don’t think there will ever be a replacement for an artist performing in a room for people and talking to them in real time. It takes us back to the basics: art and human beings. We get together and we have a catharsis, and that takes us back to day one. People like getting together and experiencing life and emotion. They use music and theater as tools, and the artist is the mouthpiece, but it’s about the collective experience

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