Amanda Palmer Talks Neil Gaiman Collaboration
The Dresden Dolls singer tells SPIN.com about working with the best-selling
author, her upcoming SPIN event, and turkey hash.
By Peter Gaston 05.29.09 3:11 PM
Amanda Palmer is a sharer.
The Dresden Doll/solo musician's life as an artist is an open book.
Check out the "short" history she's posted about the making
of her 2008 album, Who Killed Amanda Palmer. It's epic, divulging
every last detail, from the moment she nailed certain songs to photos
of places she slept, or made tea. And now, she's letting an audience
into an even darker, more personal place: her own death.
A photo book companion to
Palmer's album, also titled Who Killed Amanda Palmer, features
photographs of the singer in various imaginative death scenes. But Palmer
invited another artist to compile a written accompaniment for these
images: best-selling author Neil Gaiman, best known for the fantasy
On June 3, Palmer and Gaiman
-- who met through a mutual friend -- will bring that collaboration
to life, in person, at New York City's Housing Works Bookstore Cafe
for SPIN's second installment of Liner Notes, a special sold-out night
of literature and music that raises funds to support New Yorkers living
We chatted with Palmer about
how she and Gaiman began working together and what they have planned
(or, rather, don't have planned) for their performance.
How did the two of you get
the idea to collaborate on the photo book?
When I started working on the artwork for [2008's solo album Who
Killed Amanda Palmer], I was told by my label that I had no packaging
budget. Instead of complaining, I just decided to do a book instead
-- that way I could make it as long as I wanted. As I was thinking about
how to do the book, I wanted to get some text involved, and Neil struck
me like a lightening bolt one day, like, "Oh, fucking obvious,
ask Neil." Never expecting him to say yes, and he did, which floored
me, because he's so busy. I had assumed that I would just send Neil
some of the photos and he would type some stuff up and send it back
to me, but we had actually grown to like each other so much over email
that we wanted to hang out and work on it together. Neil came to my
place in Boston, and we just started piecing together parts of the book
-- he'd sit around and write stories and come with us to photo shoots,
and bit by bit it started to look like a book.
What did you learn from spending
Neil and I found that we had a lot in common. We felt like a lost brother
and sister. I had a really rough year while this book was being pieced
together, and Neil was a calm undercurrent who was there to help and
lend his expertise -- but he didn't meddle too much. I love how and
where he finds inspiration -- it's something I can understand.
Any inspiring moments you
We had this diner that we really loved down the street from me. They
have signs for their award winning turkey hash. By the end of breakfast
one morning, we had covertly set up a small photo shoot that we hoped
wouldn't make the diner people mad. It involved everyone at the table
looking suspicious, with me face-planted in the turkey hash, and Neil
just ever so slightly in the photo, backed out of frame. It's really
What interested you about
bringing your collaboration to a live audience?
I was watching footage [from the first Spin Liner Notes show] with Tegan
[Quin] and Augusten Burroughs, and I realized I'd feel more at home
in a bookstore than a rock club. It just seemed obvious that [Neil and
I] would do some stuff like this, and the fact that we got approached
for this was just perfect.
What have you and Neil been
working on for the event?
We're trying to get a projector so we can show huge versions of the
photos from the book. But Neil and I are unfortunately really similar
in the way that we don't plan, so we're really good at winging it. We
both love doing Q&A, so I think probably there'll be a handful of
songs, and Neil will read a handful of stories, and then we'll just
take questions. And I want to cover one of the songs that Tegan played
at the last event.
It's a secret! I can send her the footage and it'll be like a little
love note back to her.