Thursday, October 23, 2008

Amanda Palmer: The Well-Rounded Radio Interview

I will admit I was kind of turned off by the initial onslaught of publicity when The Dresden Dolls debuted here in Boston back in 2001 and 02. I hadn't heard much of the music, but whenever something gets too overexposed so far, I always tend to look the other way, so I'll chalk that up to why I hadn't known their work better.

But a few months back, I had the opportunity to interview Amanda Palmer of The Dresden Dolls for her collaboration with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. You can hear that interview here on iTunes. After listening to The Dresden Dolls albums, I dare say I began to get it.

For those who haven't heard their music, The Dresden Dolls are part rock, part cabaret, and generally pretty intense. The duo features Amanda Palmer on vocals, piano, harmonica, and ukelele and Brian Viglione on drums, percussion, guitar, and vocals.

Their influences seem to range from everything from Kurt Weill to punk rock to performance art to "Brechtian punk cabaret," as Palmer has called it. The Dresden Dolls catalogue includes their albums The Dresden Dolls (2003), Yes, Virginia (2006), and No, Virginia (2008).

Palmer's first solo album, Who Killed Amanda Palmer? was released by Road Runner Records in late September and co-produced by Ben Folds. The album is quite different from The Dresden Dolls, with both sparse songs featuring Palmer paired with vocals as well as lush, orchestral pieces that help push her songs to entirely new sonic tiers. Folds also plays piano on several songs as well.

Palmer has also worked on a Who Killed Amanda Palmer? book with Neil Gaiman, best known for The Sandman comic series, Stardust, and American Gods. The book will be released in November.

Palmer has also posted a series of music videos on her site for songs from the new album, which is a terrific idea in this era where music videos are all but dead on cable television, but while video is more popular than ever on the web. They are low-budget, but do the trick of letting you hear the music and get a bit of a preview of her live performances.

She's out on tour now in Europe and in November in the US; check for dates and details.

I met with Palmer in Boston's South End neighborhood just as she was starting rehearsals for her current tour to discuss:

* what lead her to starting work on solo material
* how she met Ben Folds and why she wanted to work with him
* how she is bringing the album to life on the road

Songs featured in the interview include:

1) Ampersand (Who Killed Amanda Palmer?) (in preview)
2) Leeds United (Who Killed Amanda Palmer?)
3) Runs in the Family (Who Killed Amanda Palmer?)
4) Girl Anachronism (The Dresden Dolls)
5) Astronaut: A Short History of Nearly Nothing (Who Killed Amanda Palmer?)
6) Have to Drive (Who Killed Amanda Palmer?)
7) Guitar Hero (Who Killed Amanda Palmer?)
8) Strength Through Music (Who Killed Amanda Palmer?)
9) Blake Says(Who Killed Amanda Palmer?)
10) What's the Use of Wond'rin? (Who Killed Amanda Palmer?)
11) Oasis (Who Killed Amanda Palmer?)
12) Another Year: A Short History of Almost Something (Who Killed Amanda Palmer?)
13) Leeds United (Who Killed Amanda Palmer?)

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