INTERVIEW: Amanda Palmer (USA), February 2011

Another double-up – which is a surprising rarity in the history of my interviews. She was quite nice the last time; very gentle and could tell that I was a fan, even if I was a little over-excited and ham-fisted in my interviewing. This time around, I pretty much let Palmer take the driver’s seat, only occasionally guiding the conversation. I think that’s what you’ve got to do with someone like her. It’s not much of a structured interview process – she’ll take the ball and run like hell with it. I kind of love her for it.

– DJY, October 2014


She might have been the one to pen and sing the lyric “You don’t want to hear about my good day” all those years ago, but when you’ve had a good a day as Amanda Palmer has, you’d be mad not to want to hear about it. “Okay! So…” begins Palmer with a deep breath. “Why was my day so awesome? Well, first of all, I played an incredible fucking show in Newcastle last night. It was out-of-control fantastic, one of those sublime electric gigs where we turned that bar into some kind of crazed palace. Then, we slept in the venue because it turns out they had a bunch of Futons in the office – we were going to stay with fans, but then we figured we should just crash there.”

“We woke up, and this place – the Great Northern – it had this amazing ballroom on the second floor, which could probably fit like a thousand people. The boyfriend of one of my opening acts texted me in the morning and said “We have to do a video in that ballroom before you leave.” My train was leaving in half an hour, but I was like “Holy fuck, you’re right!” So we put off the train for two hours, he ran over and we made this spontaneous music video for In My Mind from my Australian record [ Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under ]!” Surely this day couldn’t get any better? Oh, it does: “When I got to Sydney, I was on hold to do a chat with The Doctor at Triple J. I listened to his interview with Nick Cave, and he asked about my cover of The Ship Song …and Nick Cave said it was beautiful!”

You can’t blame Palmer for being in heavens-high spirits after that kind of day, now, can you? It’s all part and parcel for whenever AFP (the F is for Fucking, naturally) visits our fair country, and it’s the way it has been since she first started touring here as a part of The Dresden Dolls. “Everytime I come to Australia, awesome things happen,” she says with a laugh. “That’s why I keep coming back!” It’s probably the reason why Palmer’s latest album – a collection of mostly-original material recorded entirely within Australia and New Zealand – doesn’t really come as too great a surprise. It’s a long lasting, passionate and very much mutual love affair.

“I’m a very spontaneous, very messy person,” confesses Palmer, “and I have made an art of improvising my way through life. That seems to be something that Australians really appreciate. There’s just something about Australia and Amanda Palmer that resonates really perfectly in this embrace of the improvisational, do-it-yourself way of life.”

As nice and as smooth-running as things can be for Amanda, it doesn’t quite always go to plan. Just a few weeks ago, Palmer played at the Sydney Opera House for the third time in three years in what was described as an “Australia Day Spectacular.” It was Palmer’s biggest Opera House show to date, starring her friends The Jane Austen Argument, Michelangelo and The Black Sea Gentlemen, Meow Meow and Palmer’s husband, author Neil Gaiman. From various reports, as well as a few unhappy reviews amidst the blogosphere, the show was a bit of a shambles. Palmer is asked to clarify exactly what happened.

“We were going to have a rehearsal the day of our show,” she begins. “It turned into this messy soundcheck with a lot of problems, so we were really under-rehearsed. Then the setlist was written at the last minute, and during the show I accidentally skipped ahead five songs. I realised it two songs in and then had to backtrack and figure out how I was going to get everyone on and off-stage when I needed them for the songs. It turned into a classic disorganised rockshow, and naturally I’m telling everyone about it as it’s happening. Shows like that happen to me all the time…but they don’t happen at the fucking Sydney Opera House!”

“I’ve been talking with so many of the fans since it happened,” she continues. “And even more importantly, I’ve been talking to people who weren’t fans who were there – who got dragged by a friend, or their kids, or because of work. Nobody hated the show, which is a relief, but it still scares the shit out of me. I wonder: why am I capable of getting away with this? I guess maybe people found it refreshing that, in a venue like that, something got completely improvised right in front of them. When you know you’re getting something completely fucked-up and special, that’s where the blanket of forgiveness falls hard.”

This craziness continues to be adored by a swelling cult fanbase upon each and every visit, and one day it may well get to the point where AFP simply doesn’t leave. Not that we’d be complaining, of course – it’d be bloody un-Australian to not make her feel at home, wouldn’t it?

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