So it’s the eve of the release of local sensation and Dresden Dolls vocalist/pianist Amanda Palmer’s solo debut album (produced by Ben Folds), and I’m sitting in her bric-a-brac-filled South End apartment drinking herbal tea. We’ve just taken a moment to notice a remarkable spider web forming in the open window of her kitchen; closer inspection reveals a spider in the center packaging up a helpless victim for a later lunch. I interrupt the moment to ask the obvious question:
Okay, so let's get the biz out of the way first: your new album is Who Killed Amanda Palmer?, and now it's like "Ooh, are the Dresden Dolls finished, what does this mean?" What do you think people will read from this?
I don't know what people want my answer to be. I think the fans probably want to hear that the band is going to go on forever and ever. And I think in some incarnation, it will. But Brian and I are also really happy doing our own projects right now, and we haven't nailed down what's going to come out after this.
Was this solo album intentional, or did it just sort of happen?
It all sort of happened, it started out as a much smaller thing, and originally this was going to take a matter of months.
When was this?
This was two years ago. I was going to record it in my apartment with a local engineer, and record it, master it, put it out, no press, no fanfare. And the collection of songs was different back then, it was this collection of piano ballads. And so that changed. Once Ben Folds got involved, it kind of morphed into this large project. Also, while that was happening, the band was evolving. Evolving and de-volving.
What do you mean "evolving"?
Well, I think that Brian and I were getting fundamentally burned on touring. We had been touring for I think pretty much five years non-stop. We were just getting burned on everything: the routine, each other. It's really, really hard to maintain a relationship like that when it's just two people.
Was there ever a turning point or an event where you thought "How can I keep doing this?"
There were a lot of those events. I mean, that's the sort of thing, when you're touring together, and you're constantly — I mean, Brian and I are very different, and —
Oh god, where do I start? We have so much in common, and so many differences, it was a constant roller coaster. We had incredible musical chemistry, wonderful personal bonds, but when our differences would appear and the emotional turmoil would get high, it would get really really high. And one of the fundamental things, for me, that was hardest, is that I wasn't used to dealing with relationships like that. Because usually if I was in a relationship like that with a boyfriend or a friend, and the kitchen got really hot, I would just take off and go "Oh, this relationship is too intense, there's too much conflict, it's not worth all this fighting, I'm just gonna go". But being in a band like this is like being married: you have to commit and work through your problems, but it was a lot of work. And I think Brian and I, as much as we love each other, got really exhausted by the constant work that the relationship took to maintain. And that's the thing that's so hard to understand is that we love playing music with each other, we love each other, we're great friends, but we're so relieved to be doing our own things.
It's like if you went to a marriage counselor, they'd tell you "You need to find new things to do..."
"You need a hobby now that the kids are out of the house!" My feeling is that Brian and I have such intense chemistry with each and we literally just love playing with each other so much that the chances of the band not playing again together are very slim. But I think it's going to take us a while to figure out what incarnation that might take.
How did the whole Ben Folds thing happen?
Ben Folds e-mailed me, out of the blue — he sent a message to the band, a fan mail basically, saying "Hey, I'm Ben Folds, I'm in Japan touring, I picked up both of your records, they're really incredible, I just want to wave and say I'm here." After I got over the initial shock of how flattering that was —
You were of course a fan of the album he did with William Shatner a few years ago, I take it.
Well, no! I didn't even know about that record. I was familiar with Ben in passing — I think I owned one of his records. I knew some of his other hits. But I was by no means a die-hard fan. And I think that was lucky, because if I had been a die-hard fan —