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 whokilledamandapalmer.com 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?)

Sunday, October 05, 2008

San Serac: The Well-Rounded Radio Interview


Thinking back on it, I'm not exactly sure how or when I found out about San Serac, but I know I came across his Myspace page and I kept going back to hear his music, which is not something I do too often on Myspace.

I then sought out and bought his third CD, Professional, and found his music to be at an interesting intersection between David Bowie, disco, and electronic dance music. Thankfully, the album did not disappoint.

Nat Rabb works under the name San Serac, an artist who plays synthesizer, percussion, guitar, electronic saxophone, electronic drums, and sings. Rabb grew up in Baltimore and played in several post-punk bands including Candy Machine and INK. He now lives and works in the Boston area.

San Serac's music reveals his love of music of Roxy Music, Midnight Star, David Bowie, Maurice Fulton, Talking Heads, Shalamar, and Prince. The music touches on electronic funk, house, disco, garage, quiet storm, and freestyle. I love the fact that he's pushing the boundaries of what styles fit or belong together; not since Talking Heads' Remain in Light or Prince's Sign o' the Times have I listened to a record again and again and been rewarded each time. Frankly, I can't wait for San Serac's next release to see where he takes us next.

To date, San Serac has released three albums: Human Savagery is a Slippery Slope (2000), Ice Age (2004), and Professional (2006). He's currently working on his next release. San Serac has also remixed a number of other artists’ music, including Faunts, Misty Roses, My Favorite, Ova Looven, Shout Out Out Out Out, Tranzistors, Wilderness, and others. I've included a few of these remixes in the show. San Serac also toured with Junior Boys in 2007.

With Johnny Dark, San Serac has also released an album on September 23rd under the outfit Stereo Image and they will performing in Ontario, Canada in late October. Check their Myspace page for details. San Serac will also be touring in November and December 2008 in the US with Wilderness.

I met with San Serac in May in Somerville, Massachusetts to discuss:
* how he writes and records his albums—essentially all by himself
* what the gestation period is like for his own creations
* how the changes in the music business are effecting how he manages his own career

Photo: Drew Jarrett

Music featured in the show includes:

1) San Serac: Professional (Professional) (in preview)
2) San Serac: Fairlight (Professional)
3) San Serac: Love Tactics (Professional)
4) INK: Alger Hiss
5) INK: Real Life in the Deco
6) San Serac: Market Research (it's Time to Shop) (Ice Age)
7) San Serac: Astonishing Murders (Ice Age)
8) San Serac: What Price Revenge (Ice Age)
9) San Serac: Nihilistic Love (Professional)
10) San Serac: Sunlight in Electric Wires (Ice Age)
11) San Serac: You, Assassin (Ice Age)
12) San Serac: Tyrant (Professional)
13) San Serac: The Black Monolith (Professional)
14) San Serac: That Obscure Object of Desire (Professional)
15) San Serac: Command Shift Sexy (Professional)
16) Faunts: Instantly Dubbed (San Serac Mix)
17) Stereo Image: Dark Chapter (S/T)
18) Stereo Image: Exposure (S/T)
19) Stereo Image: Pack Moves (S/T)
20) Shout Out Out Out Out: In the End It's Your Friends (San Serac Mix)
21) Stereo Image: Red Nights (S/T)
22) Stereo Image: Your Collapsed State (S/T)
23) San Serac: Friends

San Serac recommends Maurice Fulton, Daft Punk, Faux Fox, Shout Out Out Out Out, and A Certain Ratio.