Interview: Amanda Palmer

By DANIEL BROCKMAN  |  September 25, 2008

Okay, so you were into Nick Cave and the Legendary Pink Dots and the Swans and the Cure; and yet when the Dresden Dolls came out, you had a pretty certain aesthetic but at the same time you defined yourself as "Brechtian punk cabaret," in part to avoid being labeled the "g" word; so tell me, what is it about "goth" that is so divisive?
You know what's really interesting about that question is the bands that you just mentioned: The Legendary Pink Dots, the Swans, Nick Cave, they all would have cringed at being called "goth."

Wouldn't they? But there's a code there, and we all know! We can read the code!
Yeah, but even Bauhaus: I did an interview with Peter Murphy and we bonded over our hatred of being called goth: and this is the dude who opened up Coachella by swinging onstage as a vampire bat, and he was like, "Hmph! It's not goth, it's art!" Because there really are bands who want to be goth, and especially nowadays: there's like, I dunno, Marilyn Manson, Switchblade Symphony—

I'm going to guess that Marilyn Manson wouldn't want to be called goth either. I could see him not self-identifying.
He might not. But it's sort of like — nowadays, it's like calling a band "emo."  It's actually is a genre, but no one wants to be in it.

Did you think, before you did music, but you were in that whole world, did you think even then, "I'm not goth"?
You know, I have never delved into this in an interview, but I had a really heartbreaking experience when I was in my late teens, and I was just coming out of my hole — you know, I was really sort of an antisocial and isolated teenager. And I never had a social group, but in the distance I'd see groups of punks and groups of goths and I'd think, "Oh, they all look really cool and they must be really happy to all be with each other." And I assumed, because of the music I listened to, because I liked the Smiths and loved the Cure and x y and z, I assumed that if I met those people, and infiltrated their clan, we would like each other, and we would be friends, and they would be smart and intelligent and because they loved the Cure and I loved the Cure we would have this deep fucking bond. And I was sorely disappointed becuase I did that for a while and I sort of wore gothy clothes and tried to go to Man Ray and I never met a single person that I liked. And I sort of sat there feeling really fucking ripped off, because, to me, it looked like this sort of pre-packaged thing where you could find a set of friends because you have music in common, but all the people I met were kind of jerks and into the fashion of wearing these clothes, and it was just, it just didn't feel friendly, it didn't feel smart, it didn't feel artistic, it just felt lame. And so I didn't try that for very long, I sort of looked around, brushed myself off, went to take a shower, and said, "Obviously those aren't the people I want to be connected with or want to be associated with." Even though there would be individual people here and there who would be friendly or who I would like — as a whole, I looked at that set and I said, "No, that's definitely not me, I'm not one of them." And I felt sort of the same way about punks: I spent my obligatory summer hanging out in the pit [in Harvard Square] when I was sixteen with my fucking mohawk and my many earrings and my fucked up clothes and my middle finger out to everyone all day, chain smoking and pretending to be punk. And those people really weren't for me either: they were so negative and so bitchy and so whiny. A few of them were artistic and friendly, but I just found myself wandering through those years going, "Where are they? Where are the people like me? It's not these people — where are they?" And Brian and I used to talk about that all the time — he really felt the same way, and I think one of our main objectives in starting a band was, like, "Let's just gather us all up and get us all in one club, for fuck's sake. Like, we can't find us, so let's bring us together."

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