Return to Amanda Palmer


Q&A: Margaret Cho and Amanda Palmer talk Perez Hilton, Radiohead and Broken Social Scene
Posted: March 24, 2009, 11:27 AM by Kelly Bergeron

It was a hot and sunny day in Austin when I met up with Dresden Doll Amanda Palmer, and comedian/musician, Margaret Cho. These two became acquainted a while back and seem to work well together as friends and collaborators. When I arrived at Magnolia Cafe on South Congress there was already a crowd huddled around the both of them. Seems that they are a magnet for much fan praise due to their honest, witty and blunt performances. Here's what they had to say about SXSW, how they met, and how Miley Cyrus needs to be nice to Radiohead.

Q: Is this your first time at SXSW?
Margaret: Yes, I've been here since Wednesday.

Q: Have you been able to take anything in yet?
Amanda (to Margaret): You were at my show.
M: Yes I was, it was amazing. I was trying to think, there were so many things. We got to do a song together, which I am so impressed with myself that I got to sing a song with Amanda Palmer!
A: She nailed it.
M: I was so excited, it was the best!

Q: Which song did you do?
M: It's a song that I wrote with Patty Griffin called "Hey Big Dog" and it's a duet between myself and my dog and Amanda played my dog. It was really beautiful.

Q: Does the dog speak? What are some of the things he says?
M: Yes, the dog speaks. He's afraid of wind. Well, the song's basically about human problems versus dog problems.
A: They're all problems.
M: But sometimes people have problems and sometimes dogs have problems. It's about the meeting of the problems.
A: The dog is supportive but firm. He tells her not to do drugs.
M: Yeah, don't do drugs and then I tell the dog not to pee on the rug. It's just about a meeting of minds. (Looks at Amanda) You are more cat-like.
A: I've always thought of myself as more feline.
M: I also think of you as more feline, but you also have an animal primal heart.
A: I feel more sloth-like. The gentleness of the sloth.
M: But more like a kitten.
A: Open to my environment and completely distracted.
M: Yeah! But really snowy paws.

Q: How was the show? Was it packed?
M: It was crazy-packed and it was beautiful to see her in a church.

Q: Was it at Central?
A: If that's the Presbyterian, then yeah.

Q: A religious experience?
A: That first song felt pretty religious. I sang the first song a cappella, an old school a cappella song. I love being in a venue where it's totally quiet and you can hear good acoustics, you can really hear yourself sing and your voice coming back at you. That can feel religious sometimes.
M: Your voice sounded so good, the whole place was wood. It just really resonates beautifully.

Q: Did it feel ironic being in a church?
A: Yeah, every time I said f**k, I felt bad.
M: My feeling is that God created all those words.
A: I didn't feel bad in a religious way, all of the church people were so kind and they were putting it on. It's like they are there giving us their space and we're sort of coming in... I felt like such an a**hole the whole time, any time I walk into a space like that and I'm doing my thing in somebody else's space, I just feel like such a slob.

Q: It seems like Austin wouldn't have that sort of stern, church-going mentality though.
A: They were awesome church people. I was just wondering what they were thinking the entire time.

Q: What can people expect when they go to each of your shows?
A: Pure awesomeness.
M: Hotness.
A: Lots of sex.
M: Intoxication. In a physical way but also in a spiritual way.
A: Intoxication of the body, mind and soul.

Q: What do you have lined up for SXSW?
M: I have a lot of shows tonight, tomorrow I'm doing the Perez Hilton party.

Q: He's doing a whole lineup with awesome divas, right? Are you going Amanda?
A: I'm actually done here and going to Houston. Fast and dirty.

Q: (To Margaret) Do you have a good relationship with Perez?
M: I'm a fan. I think he's wonderful. He's really supportive and he's really good with music, he has great taste.

Q: I saw him at Tori Amos' show last night, he introduced her and then I saw him at the side, mouthing the words to her songs.
A: I'm meeting her today and I'm totally scared s**tless. She's such an idea and when you meet someone who's been an idea in your brain, it's always interesting.

Q: So who do you try to emulate when you're up there, if anyone? Or do you just go from scratch?
A: I want to be like Prince.
M: I want to be like Wendy Melvoin, Prince's guitar player.
A: I want to be like Jesus.

Q: Margaret, you are now playing shows acoustically on your guitar, what made you decide to do that?
M: I feel that after being on tour a couple of years with the Dresden Dolls and different artists that there's so much power in playing with an instrument. Playing your own music and accompanying yourself is so amazing, so I wanted to do that, that was my project.

Q: You received a lot of support when you decided to do that?
M: I get lessons from everybody that I play with, you know, amazing guitarists give me lessons everyday. I'm really lucky that way.

Q: I heard that you wanted to join Broken Social Scene?
M: Yeah. I am actually in Broken Social Scene. I play the triangle.

Q: Is it official?
M: It's on my wiki page. I think it's also on their wiki page.
A: That's fantastic.
M: We can call Kevin Drew and ask him.
A: I want to be an honorary member of the Polyphonic Spree.

Q: I wanted to ask you if you felt that there has been a certain change coming with the new President or do you feel like it's going to be a slow progression?
M: I think things have changed already and I think it's very positive. I mean, there are things that need to recover like the economy but I think Obama's doing a smashing job!

Q: I heard that next month is Margaret Cho day in San Francisco.
M: It was only last year, I only got it for 2008. You have to do something else and they'll give you another day.

Q: You'll have to pitch an Amanda Palmer Day.
M: We'll have to do it in Boston.
A: No, I don't want to do it in Boston, I would do it in San Francisco.

Q: (To Margaret) How do you celebrate something like that? Do you just pop open some champagne?
M: I didn't do anything. I worked. But that's what I do everyday.

Q: Is there anybody else that you are looking forward to seeing over the next day here?
M: I'm looking forward to seeing Eugene Mirman tonight, who I love. I'm excited about that. Amanda did a ukulele set with John Wesley Harding yesterday.
A: It was an impromptu/waiting for Quincy Jones to be done his panel/ukulele blowout.
M: It was awesome. It was one of those amazing things that you would only see here. Some incredible artists just coming together and doing something totally unexpected and wild, it was really great.
A: I'm an instant fan.
M: I'm writing a song with him tomorrow. Pretty excited about that.

Q: How did you two actually meet? What was the reception like with each other?
M: I had been talking about the Dresden Dolls onstage, I loved them.
A: Someone told me.
M: I was name checking them all the time. I said "you guys have to get this record, it's so good. Amanda Palmer is so amazing, I love them." And so she heard about it and then asked me to come and do a show with them in London and then I came.
A: That's right, at the Roundhouse. Someone told me that someone was at Margaret's show at the Orpheum in Boston and said "you know, Margaret Cho gave you props on stage?" And I was *makes cheering sound* - I was already a fan. So it was one of those great things about the coming togetherness. We came together about a day later. Things like that happen fast, I love how easy it is to find people. She came and did a show in London with me but we didn't really get to actually hang out until the True Colors tour. Then we got to actually chill a little bit.
M: Yeah, sleeping on the bus together.
A: You know what my favourite moment of that tour was in all its surrealness? It was me and Margaret jogging together with each of us with different iPods on. We didn't talk, we just jogged at the same pace.
M: I really loved that, that was in Salt Lake City.
A: That's when you know when someone's actually your friend is when you can just hang out with them and be alone.

Q: It's 2009 and there are still a lot of women's issues. Do you find it difficult to go up there and present your routines/performances? Do you have people coming up to you after the show and express anger or anything? Can you give me any examples?
A: I get a lot of hugs. S**t tons of hugs.
M: A lot of crying.
A: A lot of really, really heavy stories.

Q: (To Amanda) Because you recently had a video come out that was not well-received by the networks.
A: Well, at least in the UK.

Q: You had to fight against that and a lot of people felt strongly, and wrote letters...
A: I think Margaret and I... I think it's one of the reasons why we resonate with each other so much, is that when you put yourself out there and you put your stories, your feelings and opinions, especially about personal stuff/sex stuff... the minute you put it out there, you're like the magnet to people and their own experiences because all of a sudden, you're like this vessel for confession.

Q: You should set up a confession booth at your shows.
A: (Turns to Margaret) I don't know how many times this has happened to you but someone has come up to you and said "I don't even know you, and I don't even know why I'm telling you this, and I haven't told anyone but..." and you just sit there going *makes shocked sound*.

Q: It's an important role to play. You don't want to be untouchable like the Britneys or Mileys.
A: Totally different planet.
M: And we don't want to destroy Radiohead.
A: Praise Radiohead.
M: Miley please don't destroy Radiohead.
A: What they're doing is different. What they're doing is not a good or bad thing, it's a totally different planet and purpose.