Interview: Amanda Palmer

By DANIEL BROCKMAN  |  September 25, 2008

Yeah, I can hear that. The vocals are different, lots of double-tracked parts.
Yeah, and it's not as screamy and poundy. It's a little more, for lack of a better term, more grown-up. When you realize that you don't need to be scream to be heard and you just back up and speak quietly and go "I have something to say, if you feel like listening, then that's great," instead of "Fuck!  I've got this problem!" you know? That's the evolution that hopefully— one of the things that I always fear is that i'm going to wind up one of those terribly boring adult contemporary artists where they music gets really bland and your life is suburban and it's not fucking interesting and you don't have anything to talk about and this doesn't relate to me, and I listen to artists who get into their '40s and '50s, and i'm terrified of that. But then you hear other artists, like Tom Waits, or David Bowie, or Björk, people who just don't go down that road at all, that just keep creating. And I think that gets back to that idea of access: as long as you can access power and drama and sadness and depression and anger, even if you're living in your little cottage in Ibiza with your nine servants and your boat — fucking right on!  That's actually all that it's about, that you can say something interesting to me.

Okay, so earlier you referred to yourself as an '80s girl. But! Here's the deal: so I saw you at the Harborlights show a few months ago —
The Death Cab show?

Yeah, and you opened with Radiohead's "Creep," and you did Neutral Milk Hotel's "Two-Headed Boy," and you named your new album Who Killed Amanda Palmer? which is a Twin Peaks reference, and you worked with Ben Folds, and you have Radiohead's The Bends sitting over there on that table, and I was just wondering what is the significance of the early/mid-'90s to you and your aesthetic?
Okay, I have to embarrassingly admit that I missed most of the 90's [holds up The Bends CD]. I didn't buy this record until two years ago. My shameful secret is that I didn't know who Kurt Cobain was when he died. I was out of the loop because I was locked up in my own little bubble of music that my strange circle of friends and my older boyfriend was turning me on to. My favorite bands back then were the Legendary Pink Dots, and Coil, and Current 93, and the Swans, and Nick Cave. And when I went into a record store, that's all I looked at. I didn't listen to the radio. Ever. I just wasn't a radio listener. I didn't watch TV. I wasn't hanging out in public places, I was always wearing my Walkman, so my mixtapes and my record collection were my only input. And so, you know, I remember seeing people's t-shirts, and I'd be like, "Oh, Nirvana, I wonder what that is. Pearl Jam, what a stupid band name." Sort of absorbing it vaguely. When I started sort of slowing down and letting other music seep in, someone played me OK Computer when I was 20 years old and I thought, "Wow, there's music like this, this is incredible!" and I listened to that record, but just that record, for like six months. And it didn't even occur to me to go out and buy other Radiohead records, I was just like, "I'm just happy with this one."  And then gradually, like I picked up Nevermind and I was like "Oh, this is a really good record," and I bought a Pearl Jam CD and I was like, "Oh I hate this, this is terrible." And I bought a Hole record and I was like, "Uh, I kind of like this song, kind of hate these songs." And I got into it way after the fact. But that's also kind of nice because the things that stood the test of time that I hear people talking about now, those are the ones that I cherry pick. Brian was really instrumental in turning me on to a lot of '90s bands that I had no knowledge of. You know, the music that I'm sentimental about and romantic about is the '80s, and I'll never be able to feel nostalgic about '90s music because I just wasn't there when it was happening, it wasn't the soundtrack of my life like it was to other people. But if you throw on a Depeche Mode CD from 1987, or a Cure album from 1985, I get all weepy.

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Related: Boston music news: August 10, 2007, All dolled up, All Dolled up, More more >
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