“I never wanted to be an actress, or a visual artist, even though I was good at all those things,” explains multi-instrumentalist/artist Amanda Palmer and former frontwoman of the Dresden Dolls. “I wanted to be a rock star.”
In the 1980s, when Palmer was coming of age, there were all these rock musicians who were doing everything—writing, acting, directing. “I wanted a job where I could do all of that,” she explains.
Her performance career started out acting in community and school theater, at which time she met multi-instrumentalist Brian Viglione, with whom she formed The Dresdon Dolls. Palmer is best known for her work fronting the Dolls, a cabaret/punk act with whom she traveled the world many times over. Dolls shows were always multi-disciplinary experiences—incorporating visual art, acting and of course the band’s theatrical music. Last year the band went on an indefinite hiatus and Palmer released Who Killed Amanda Palmer, a solo album which saw her explore a number of different musical avenues.
The album’s name came from a fixation Palmer has for taking photos of herself playing dead in various unique situations. Many of such photos became the album art for the release, while the leftover photos help ed spawn the idea for the book. She then was put in contact with Newbery winning fantasy author Neil Gaiman, who it turned out was as much a fan of Palmer’s work as she was of his.
They formed a friendship via email and eventually she asked him to collaborate with her on the book. “We spent a beautiful week last August in Boston brainstorming ideas. Neil would hole up and write stories and read them to us. It was one of those collaborations that you always dream of,” she explains –the joy still evident in her voice. “It never felt like work, rather it just felt like a few idiotic kids coming up with silly ideas.”
One of the reasons Gaiman took on this project, was because he doesn’t like doing the same thing twice. “He had never written a little collection of short stories which had to match photos of dead girls,” she says. “And Neil loves doing things he’s never done before.” It is easy to see how these two artists got a long so well. "Much like Neil, I don’t like doing the same thing twice, I come up with many ideas, and like to keep things diverse, less I get bored.”
Palmer recently returned to her home in Boston to help direct an original musical combining the story of Anne Frank and Neutral Milk Hotel’s album, In The Aeroplane Over the Sea. While only a high school musical, it has become of the most high-profile musical projects of the year. “It always seemed to me that the world of rock had alot of compartments, to be a rock musician meant to be all things at once.” Something Palmer seems to have no problem doing.
Words by: TJ Olsen
Photo by: Beth Hommel