INTERVIEW: Amanda Palmer (USA), February 2009

Whether you love her or hate her, Amanda Palmer is a fantastic interviewee. Trust me, I’ve done it twice. We’re not like this (wraps index and middle finger together) but I’ve been a very interested and involved fan since around 2004. I remember seeing Girl Anachronism on rage; then rushing to my diary and writing The Dresden Dolls‘ name on every page so that I wouldn’t forget it.

Of course that kind of fire has died out – I don’t think I care about anything the way I cared about things in 2004. Still, I have all of her albums (both solo and with the Dolls) and I’ve always found her to be a unique and interesting figure in modern music. There’s certainly never a dull moment with her, regardless of whether you agree with her or not.

I remember being REALLY excited about this interview – at the time, I probably thought this was the best interview I had ever done. Apart from maybe the Adam Green one. You never forget your first. Looking back on it, I think I handled it pretty well. I’d change a few things now, but I was all of 18. I was just stoked to be talking to someone that wasn’t in my immediate family.

– DJY, April 2014

***

Amanda Palmer is tired. Exhausted, even. You can hardly blame her, given her excessive touring schedule and the almost shocking contrast of minimal break-time in-between them. What’s worse is the fact that, even in her free time, she is scheduled to speak to journalists about stuff she’s spoken about a million times before.

Even still, amidst the exhaustion there is quite obviously an introspective, chatty and friskily intelligent woman. She’s best known as the leading lady of the Dresden Dolls, but as of recent times a solo artist in her own regard. Last year saw her release, at long last, her debut solo album Who Killed Amanda Palmer?, produced by the one and only Ben Folds.

After in-depth tours of both the States and Europe, it’s time to bring WKAP to Australia, along with the Danger Ensemble, her performance troupe. And yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to celebrate. AFP (Amanda Fucking Palmer) will be visiting out fair shores to coincide with the annual Mardi Gras festival in Sydney.

“I’m a sucker for a good party,” Palmer confesses with a giggle. “I deliberately planned to be in Sydney for the Mardi Gras. I narrowly missed it in Sydney back in 2000; I wound up at the Adelaide Fringe instead and I never forgave myself. It’s a perfect time to be in the city with everybody getting their freak on and going nuts!”

Fear not, non-Sydney fans. Melbourne, a city Palmer herself has oft-described as beautiful, will also be getting its own distinctive visit. This one is going to be even more of a special, exclusive event – she is planning a slumber party.

“I’m taking a little vacation in Melbourne before my shows in Sydney and I wanted to do a really low-key show. So I came up with the idea of doing a free show by making people submit their dreams to be considered for admittance. We’re only letting in twenty people plus one guest each, and it should be REALLY fun.” Amanda also tells of a very special surprise for each of the lucky guest winners, but insisted it to be kept mum (Melburnians, get to it if you wish to find out!).

Despite not having visited our shores since very late 2007, fans here in Australia and the rest of the world have been able to keep in touch with Palmer via her intricately detailed and very interactive blog. Updated regularly, fans worldwide have read on as she discusses the finer points of her own life and the world around her. When questioned on the blog’s importance in regards to connection with the fans, Amanda is, in turn, lightening quick in praising it.

“I’ve grown really attached to it – I kind of rely on it,” she responds timidly. “It’s so amazing that I can have these really direct hits and connections with individual people that I just can’t have when I’m playing a show to 2500 of them. I can do it in the quiet of my own living room with a cup of tea and really sit down and listen to what people are saying and feeling and thinking… I’m a total ‘people junkie’ that way; I really, really like it.”

At the time of our interview, Amanda’s latest blog entry was entitled “On Abortion, Rape, Art and Humour.” It’s all about her latest single from WKAP – Oasis, the ironically upbeat number about a girl who got drunk, got raped and had an abortion. Next to every radio and music video station in the U.K. is refusing to play the song. Whilst one could theorise that Palmer knew the song’s lyrics would elicit some kind of outrage, she insists that she truly wasn’t expecting something of this level.

“I definitely assumed that conservative people wouldn’t like it, but I was really shocked to find out that they wouldn’t play the song,” she states, before adding, “especially things like NME and Kerrang!, who really pride themselves on being ‘edgy.'” Despite her very open frustrations, AFP is quick to look at the positives of her situation. “It brings up some really interesting points, at least,” she continues. “I was happy to write that blog and get people talking about the topic – I think it’s important.”

Amanda Palmer’s body of work is daring, funny, melancholy, theatrical and purposeful – but, most importantly, it is completely open to interpretation. “If someone was to take anything away from it,” begins Palmer, in reference to her music, “I would hope that they would just be inspired to follow their own desires and impulses; maybe be a little radically honest with themselves or with their situation.

“I’m starting to feel lately that it’s really important not to have a ‘message,’” she continues with a slight laugh. “Because I think people need to come up with their own. The minute you have a specific message that you’re preaching, then you close off possibilities for other people. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, because the Oasis thing was a good example. That song doesn’t really have a message, but it doesn’t really have to – sometimes it’s enough to say, ‘I got this idea and I sat down and I did it, and here it is.’ And the undercurrent in that is that so can you, y’know?”

 

INTERVIEW: Adam Green (USA), November 2008

Although this was my second interview feature posted for FasterLouder, it actually turned out to be my first-ever interview. So there’s a piece of history here, kids! I was really, really nervous going into this one – not only was I doing my first interview, I was speaking to New York legend Adam Green. He was a pretty big deal for me back then, and to some extent he is now as well. I can still sing a stack of his songs off by heart, and I’ve always had a soft spot for his music.

So, did I have anything to worry about in retrospect? Not at all. Adam was, to this day, one of the most entertaining people I’ve ever spoken to. He’s naturally charismatic and eccentric, and it made for some absolutely killer quotes. The feature itself is a little choppy, but I’d develop my style over time – and this was as decent a start-off as any.

– DJY, July 2013

***

Some musicians are uncomfortable speaking to complete strangers about the music they have put their heart and soul into, and will often be a little rude or unfriendly. Not New York’s anti-folk poet laureate Adam Green, however. The second we are connected, I am welcomed by a very enthusiastic “Holy shit!”, followed by a very intimate detailing of the night before.

“I never get hungover – I don’t know why,” he explains as if speaking casually to a close friend. “But I feel like I’m in a state of euphoria as I walk around!” Green’s night involved going to a friend’s house and drinking at a fake bar that a friend had built within their house – an adventure that may seem out of the ordinary to most. Green enthuses, however, that he is “always looking for new things to be a part of”- a trait many musicians these days just can’t flaunt.

But there’s a lot more to Adam Green than his late-night antics. By day, Adam Green makes music. Great music, too. Since starting out with fellow oddball Kimya Dawson in the now-revered Moldy Peaches (yes, from the Juno soundtrack), Green has gone on to a low-key yet fruitful and entertaining solo career.

Earlier this year, his fifth solo album, Sixes and Sevens, was quietly launched to generally positive acclaim. The album is a collection of short, sweet and diverse pop music that he is decidedly proud of. “It’s been a long time coming,” he says of the record, his first since 2006’s Jacket Full of Danger. The first track on the album in particular, entitled Festival Song, is a bold and self-described “bombastic” artistic statement that derived, ironically, out of an uncomfortable fear.

“I never liked playing the festivals,” he explains. “I didn’t understand it. I was just someone who went to festivals – I used to get a lot of nerves before going on.” The solution? “I thought of making up a song up that I could open up at a festival with, and it would build up the show to be alright. That’s what the song started as.”

Another noticeable aspect of Festival Song is its starkly different vocals – light years away from Green’s distinctive liquored croon. “The more angry and lonely and defeated that I sang this motherfucking song, it just sounded shit-punk-better.” This led Adam to unconventionally sing the song worse with each and every recording. “I feel sort of like a vampire,” he muses in the most casual way one can say they feel like a vampire. “I’ve always wanted people to see me as more Goth, and they never do! I think people now know I wanna suck their fucking blood.”

A vivid imagination? Certainly – but anyone who has listened closely to Adam’s smart, abstract and often slightly ridiculous way with words in his music would expect nothing less. Ask him the tales of any of the characters featured in his songs, and you’ll receive a glowing, in-depth anecdote. Talk of Carolina (“her lips taste just like sunk ships/But her breasts taste just like breakfast”) brings up memories of the eponymous character of the song slinking around her apartment – “Like a cat”, he emphasises. He also tells of the abusive relationship between her and an unknown friend of his. “He perceived her soul to be made of farts and shit – it was just a piece of trash, and he told me so.”

Shifting talk to Emily (“Baby, when I get you on that Persian rug/That’s the kind of movie I’ve been dreaming of”) elicits an entirely different, far more upbeat response. “What a lovely, lovely woman she is,” he says happily. “She came to my concert once looking like Goldilocks!”

With such fascinatingly weird and wonderful stories to tell, it’s natural to be inquisitive of the driving forces behind the man’s lyrics. When it comes to his inspiration, however, Green blames not a musician, book or writer – but a voice in his head. A voice, he reveals, that has been getting him into a spot of trouble.

“I’ve been pissing off strangers lately,” he states matter-of-factly, claiming that not everyone “gets” him and his little lyric-inspiring voice. “It’s my own fault, I think. I always think people can understand where I’m coming from – but then I say something and it offends them, and before I know it they’re crying and their boyfriend wants to kick my arse. Some people just don’t like my tone.”

Certainly, Adam isn’t going to impress everyone in his travels. Having said that, he’s still certainly acquired quite a devoted cult fan-base for his particular brand of indie pop. One country in particular that has warmed to Green’s style, interestingly enough, is Germany. “I think, at first, it was just because of my good looks,” he says in regards to this unnatural phenomenon. “They’re probably so boring, that I just make a boring thing and they like it.”

Green’s touring schedule has taken him to various hot-spots around the globe for years, with his Australian visit finally on the horizon. The tour sees Green taking the best of both worlds – a high billing at Meredith Music Festival in December, and three far more intimate east coast shows. When asked which scale show he prefers, he confesses that he will just “go where he is told”. “If someone says I have to play a monkey cage in an Egyptian zoo… y’know, I’ll give it a shot.”

Certainly the semi-ironic boldness of this statement, the eccentricity of our conversation and the genuine lightning strike of brilliance that comes through the Adam Green discography is certain to culminate in these upcoming shows. The tour will surely intrigue many – including Green.

“Who’s Meredith, anyway?” he asks me.

“Is she cute?”