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Dresden Dolls' Amanda Palmer Talks Tech, Teens, and Tweeting
by Leila Brillson — Jun 19th 2009 at 10:01AM

Amanda Palmer -- half of the virulently successful Dresden Dolls, equal parts blogger, YouTube-fanatic, and Twitter-community-organizer, and altogether musician extraordinaire -- allowed Switched to pick her brain on technology, music, and Tweeting on Friday nights.

Palmer, who is most famous for playing the piano (punk-cabaret style), has a rabid Twitter fan base, pens an exhaustive blog, and uses her Internet savvy to auction her sixth-grade breakup letters online. Aside from using interconnectivity to the fullest, she recently returned to her old high school, Lexington High in Boston, to collaborate with a former teacher and direct a student-filled play. The performance was based on Neutral Milk Hotel's baroque indie-rock album 'In the Aeroplane Over the Sea' -- an album she feels so strongly about, she jokingly asked a student unfamiliar with the record, "You must have it on that vast iPod of yours."

She doesn't like iPods, but she does read a lot. In fact, she just completed a work of her own, a photo diary entitled 'Who Killed Amanda Palmer,' in conjunction with comic book author Neil Gaiman and photographer Kyle Cassidy & Co. We've transcribed some of the interview's highlights, but are also hosting the 45-minute interview in its entirety. Palmer addresses her love for Avril Lavigne, the curse of the working musician, and why she can't listen to music anymore.

On why kids need to be bored:
"I don't want to sound like a luddite old-fart, [but] I kind of worry about the 'digital generation.' Kids today don't have the freedom to be bored. There is something really important about boredom, and how you choose to fill it. If I had had the Internet at age 14 or 15 and had been able to expose myself and connect with people that way, I don't know if I would have gone and messed around with the piano. Kids can definitely use the Internet creatively, but I think that there is something important about incubating on your own. I think boredom, space, time, and development need 'unconnectedness.' These kids are so connected, and they are never bored, because they don't need to be. I think that's dangerous. I think boredom is important."

How the Internet changed the way we listen:
"The role of music has changed so much, it's now on its head. Music, functionally, used to be about the same stuff over and over. The songs everybody knew and shared: this was the song for this occasion. It definitely was not about generating new music all the time -- and I'm talking way back in the day. There is something really important about familiar music. The way a lot of people look at music now is, "Well, I love that last week, but what is happening this week?" Fans might listen to a record once, decide they kind of like it, but it's in their iTunes with 30,000 other records, and they might not give it the time and repeated listening they would have given it 15 years ago, if they were a teenager on a limited budget and could only buy one CD that week, and that was the one they decided to buy."

On her fear of gear:
"I'm not so much of a gear person, which is interesting, because I could have been. When I was in high school I bought a Korg M1, a Fostex four-track, and an effects processor, and started four-tracking my own songs. My first tape was all me. Some of the music was sequenced with synths and a drum machine, and I had a Mac and I was starting to learn a very primitive form of ProTools called MasterFXPro. I was just learning the basics. I could play my Korg into the computer, quantize it, sequence it, lay tracks on top of it, four-track vocals on top of it. And then one day I decided to stop, because I had this fear that I was only going to have time to either be really good at the gear stuff or be a good songwriter. I feared I wasn't going to be able to do both."

On 'Losers On Friday Night At Home On The Computer' (her Twitter club):
"Loff-Nazi [how she pronounces it]! We just sold our 400th t-shirt! I made this joke, calling to order all of the losers at home on Friday night on their computers. Someone created a hash-tag and one thing led to another, and suddenly there were thousands of people joining in on the party. We made t-shirts in real time and sold them, and I made more money on those t-shirts than I've made on record royalties in the last three years! That's the ultimate metaphor for how things are structured nowadays. I'm completely pro-Twitter. Can't you tell?"

Why she doesn't like iPods:
"I see all these people wearing iPods and I just don't relate. What I love is the silence and reading a book. To me, that's the equivalent of relaxing. Putting on an iPod means my brain is working... when I come back from tour, I usually won't put music on for two or three days at all. When I start feeling normal again, I put on the same Cathode CD that I've heard probably six or seven hundred times. I know every note of it, and it's all my brain can handle. It's either that, or the Bach Cello Suites."