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Dangerous Doll
Amanda Palmer, best known as one half of Boston's cabaret sensation the Dresden Dolls, crowd-surfed off the stage at this year's Coachella festival to talk with Advocate.com about her new art project.
By Neal Broverman
An Advocate.com exclusive posted April 27, 2009

Advocate.com: Are your performances usually so interactive?
Oh yeah. Festivals are a little weird because it's not my fan base, so I don’t know if they’re gonna actually bring it, but they were good… There was enough of them out there who were believers.

Do you like playing festivals?
They can be more fun if you’re in the right mood and have the right energy. It's probably the same way for the fans and the press -- it's like, if you’re a little worn down and you just need to focus, it’s a terrible place to be. But if you’re full of energy and you get the right slot and the right crowd, then it can be explosive and it can be better than a headlining show. But usually I feel festivals are commercials for yourself. You kind of go out there and go, T his is what I do. If you like it, come and see a real show.

But there’s also something about the festival vibe, especially in Europe, where people are just committed to being insane. You don’t really feel that at Coachella -- it’s a much more sedated crowd, but it's cool, and the way the festival is run is way more civilized. This is pretty clean, and they take pretty good care of their artists. They know what they’re doing.

Is it more freeing to be a solo artist, or is it different?
Both. It's way more freeing, but that’s obvious. It's like I can do whatever I want, I’m not part of a democracy, I’m a one-woman dictatorship. I miss Brian. And there's a very concrete negative part of being solo -- especially in a festival where you’re competing with sound. Drums are very useful, because they drown a lot of things out. So sometimes I miss the power, especially the loudness of the drums. When I’m totally solo I miss having an ally on stage, and it's part of the reason I love touring with [cello player] Zoe or other musicians -- it's like, there’s a loop that happens when you have more than one musician onstage. It turns more into a conversation, which I like.

What are you listening to these days?
You know, I don’t listen to much music. And I was really guilty and ashamed about that for a while, and I just started admitting that to people. I’ve turned kind of back into a 7-year-old, where I find a record that I really like and I just kind of listen to that for four or five months. But if you took a look at my life, when would I listen to music? I’m always either in transit or on the phone, or at a show or backstage. It's like, I don’t have the life for it. I also find myself liking less and less music, but I think that’s all just because I’m getting sensitive to it, and I love listening to my old records. I kind of feel like an asshole for saying it, but it's just so true.

And music, when it becomes work; you know when you get handed 15 CDs a day being told, "Listen to this," and then there’s a stack of music like nine miles high and the minute I have that moment, all I really want is silence, and I take that silence for myself. So I just stopped feeling guilty about it. But that being said, I really love Tegan and Sara’s record [The Con]. I heard that and I didn’t expect to like it 'cause I thought it was going be sort of lesbian folk music, and I put it on and was like, "ohhh, ohhhh!" They’re making good music, with fucking lyrics I love, and production. So I just sort of publicize them to everyone I know. And I felt the same way when I heard St. Vincent’s record. I was like, Something to be excited about.

Are there other things you're inspired by?
People. The good ones. I’ve realized that at the end of the day the key is to keep good company and work with the right people and to make no compromises with that, and not be like, "Well, the person’s kind of an asshole, but…" I just don’t do that anymore. Fuck anyone who’s bad; start running in the other direction. I only recently started doing that. And really only began measuring things, and what I do and where I go, and who I spend my time with. Everything else has sort of locked into place since I’ve decided to do that. I love every moment of my life now because I don’t spend any of it around the wrong people.

Your fans have a really personal relationship with you. What kind of kinship do you feel for them?
Über-kinship. I get really bugged out when I meet bands who don’t like their fans. And they don’t want to go out and meet them and get to know them. And I’m like wow, "But you live with them. You play for them. You are there in a room with them. If you don’t like them, how miserable must your life be." In general, they’re awesome people, and I feel really taken care of by them. And every one of them I look at, I feel grateful towards because they’re making it possible for me to do everything. In the direct and indirect sense, this last tour I did was basically fan-run. They housed us, they fed us. They bought the tickets, they bought the shirts. I almost had no promo support from my label, and I just went out and did it. And I was like, I’m gonna fall, and you gotta catch me. And they have your back.

Tell me about your upcoming photo book, Who Killed Amanda Palmer?
The book is going on sale [last Sunday]. A lot like the record, it grew out from nothing. It started out as an overflow of album artwork and no packaging budget. And then it turned into a giant book with dozens of photographers, and I got Neil Gaiman [author of The Sandman and Coraline] involved, and I asked him to write some text. And he met me and spent a week at my house, and we just had fun with it. We got a photographer and took photos. It was a total art fantasy that you would dream about. We were just having so much fun with each other. And we sort of fell in love in a crazy art-life way. We realized we had so much in common having worked on that project, and we stayed in touch and now we’re inseparable.