Amanda Palmer is the Boston-based artist who was half of the “Brechtian Punk Cabaret” duo known as The Dresden Dolls that gave us such songs as “Coin Operated Boy” and “Girl Anachronism.” In 2008, she released her solo album Who Killed Amanda Palmer that was produced by Ben Folds. Her newest work, Amanda Palmer Performs the Songs of Radiohead on her Magical Ukulele, comes out on Tuesday, 20 July.
Later this year, Dark Horse Comics will be releasing a new graphic novel based on the characters that Amanda and Seattle musician Jason Webley created and toured with in support of their debut album, Evelyn Evelyn. The conjoined singing duo of Evelyn and Evelyn Neville are a set of “parapagus tripus dibrachius twins, sharing three legs, two arms, three lungs, two hearts and a single liver” and whose “unique musical style is inspired by their many eclectic influences – from 80s music to show tunes, Joy Division to the Andrews Sisters.” The entire project is a tongue-in-cheek work of art, rich with a myriad of details about the sisters’ backgrounds that provides source material for the upcoming graphic novelization.
I recently sat down with Amanda to find out more about the new album as well as to learn more about the inspiration for music’s most famous performing conjoined twin duo.
Will Given: How did the idea of performing as EVELYN EVELYN initially arise?
Amanda Palmer: You know, at the outset, we weren’t certain that we were going to tour, but it became more and more obvious that it simply MUST be done. How can you pass up the chance to drive all over Europe and America in a godforsaken van and get into a conjoined twin dress every night? So we did it. We’re nuts.
WG: Character is such an essential element of the EVELYN EVELYN project, what was your process like for developing their rich and colorful story?
AP: Mostly talking over long walks and Thai dinners. Friendship is a wonderfully fertile ground for true ridiculousness.
WG: Looking at some of the backlash and criticism that arose from EVELYN EVELYN, how do you as an artist respond to those who feel there exists boundaries in regard to the creation of art?
AP: There are no boundaries in the creation of art. There are no boundaries in the creation of ANYTHING. And if there are, don’t tell me about them. You’ll ruin it.
WG: Talk to me about the EVELYN EVELYN graphic novel that is coming out from Dark Horse. How did that come about and what can fans expect?
AP: That came about because I met up in Portland with Mike Richardson from Dark Horse a while back to talk about another project, and this came up as a silly idea. Ironically, the other project died on the vine, but the EVELYN book continued to live. They’re really incredible people, I’m very excited to be making something together with them.
WG: What is your creative process like? Walk me through how a project normally develops from its inception to bringing it to fruition for you.
AP: There is absolutely no normal. Every album I’ve made has had a completely different birth, childhood and maturing process. Some songs take years to write. Some take minutes. The second Dresden Dolls album took under three weeks to record and mix. My solo record took a year. I like that, though. I like that art is so completely anarchistic. The reason Jason and I made this project happen was mostly because we wanted to hang out together, because we’d become good friends. As two touring musicians, we didn’t have much other hope of getting to know each other well. Touring musicians don’t really vacation with each other. At least not my friends. They collaborate instead.
Radiohead and Ukuleles
WG: Your album of Radiohead covers releases this month. What surprised you the most as you delved into their catalogue and how did you decide on which tracks you were going to cover?
AP: People may be surprised by how I picked the songs. I already had two in my repertoire: “Creep” and “Fake Plastic Trees.” Those I just knew from the radio and loved. I’m super-familiar with OK Computer because it provided the soundtrack for my senior year at college, but I’m the sort of weirdo that gets obsessed with records and not so much with bands anymore. So I didn’t go hunting after the rest of Radiohead’s catalogue until much later, and even then I wouldn’t call myself an official fan. There were albums I owned but barely listened to when I sat down to make the ukulele record. I sat and sifted through every Radiohaed record in existence and listened for the strongest, simple songs. I’m a serious lyric person, I listen to lyrics first and everything else later. So I listened to the lyrics and thought: could I do this justice, singing it? And then I chose. I didn’t spend much time doing that… about an afternoon. I like percolating and then working fast. I used to cram a lot in school.
WG: What inspires you musically, artistically and personally?
AP: Me, You, and Everyone We Know.
WG: You do exceptionally well with social networking and staying in contact with your fan base through your blog. How have things like Twitter (@amandapalmer) changed your life?
AP: Twitter has changed EVERYTHING about how I function and travel. I ask for help constantly, and I like surprising people. Twitter is a godsend for the low-level touring musician. I use it to send people to my blog, to find out things about where I am, to find beds to sleep on, to find people who are nuts enough to take off work in London at lunch hour to come get flowers (http://blog.amandapalmer.net/post/746570992/chocolate-is-worth-its-weight-in-gold)
WG: Having started off as a busker myself, you quickly find that you encounter just about everything imaginable when you are performing on the street. What do you feel was the greatest lesson you learned about yourself from your busking experience?
AP: If I had to condense it down? Probably this: 1) Nobody has to care about you and 2) Take care of those who do.
WG: This year marks the 35th anniversary of the movie version of ROCKY HORROR. What character do you most relate to and why?
AP: Oh god, Frank. How could it be anybody else? He’s a slave to pleasure. As am I. Now excuse me while I go make a Mojito, it’s boiling here.
To celebrate the release of AMANDA PALMER PERFORMS THE POPULAR HITS OF RADIOHEAD ON HER MAGICAL UKULELE, Amanda will be holding a webcast luau themed party at http://PartyOnTheInternet.com/ on Tuesday, 20 July at 6pm EST.
To order the new album, as well as the debut album from the incomparable EVELYN EVELYN directly from Amanda, make sure and visit her online at http://www.amandapalmer.net/. You will be glad you did.