Amanda Palmer is an American performer who first rose to prominence as the lead singer, pianist, and lyricist/composer of the duo The Dresden Dolls. She has had a successful solo career, is also one-half of the duo Evelyn Evelyn, and is the lead singer and songwriter of Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra.
1. So why make records?
Funny enough, I’ve been telling people that I’m not going to make traditional “records” anymore, as the moment seems to have passed. I’ve been clutching to the concept of my eighties vinyl and tape (and then my nineties CD) collection for too long. However, if you take the concept of a “record” back to it’s more literal sense: a “record” of an event, you get into an exciting new realm of thinking. A record is a file, a THING, a record is a captured moment. Why make those? Well – as a songwriter that’s the world I grew up in, the art that turned me on was all those “records” of other people’s moments. I try not to take for granted that a lot of my time was spent with headphones on listening to snippets of people’s recorded moments. I mean, it’s a pretty bizarre concept when you pull back and think about it.
Not being a visual artist, I see musicians as having two or three totally different jobs: writers, “record-ers” and performers, and the “record” part of things is our way of concretizing what we’ve made…not only so we can leave our audience with a physical ear-connection or love letter but also so we can monetize our making. Sorry if this is coming out like college-speak. I’ve been making a show at Bard [College] and everyone here speaks college and I’ve had to personally strike the word “rhetoric” out of my vocabulary.
2. Can recordmaking be a politically and/or socially significant art form?
Oh fuck yes. Music and recordings have grassrooted-ly connected so many souls into action over the years.
3. Why do you think so few women are recordmakers and audioworkers?
I think it’s a chicken-and-egg situation, sometimes. do women not want to be audioworkers inherently or is it just too much of a pain in the ass to break into the field of work since it’s dominated by men? It’s not that much fun to hang out in a traditionally all-guys club, because there’s just so much more bullshit to deal with. I spoke about this issue at length in an interview i did last year: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=guBk0WFnuEE
4. What do you imagine recordmaking will be like in 100 years?
Oh my god: it really depends on what devices we’ve got. I can’t imagine people will stop making records of moments. we’ve been doing it since the dawn of time, since cave painting.
5. If you could change one thing about the field of recordmaking, what would you change?
Hmmmm. I think we have a lot of built-in prejudice about LENGTH. you know: “songs are three to five minutes”, etc… I wish people had more plastic ideas about what audio and record-taking and record-making could mean, without getting caught up in the “this now must be defined as experimental or outsider”. Why not songs that are 16 minutes or 16 seconds long? why not films that are actually songs? why not books that veer into blogs into forums into videos when they end? Why not podcasts that are actually albums? we have the technology to mash and mesh but we’re still convinced that a book is a book and a CD is a CD. this has got to end eventually.
6. What was the last record you heard that truly blew your mind or touched your heart? How so?
I will admit it with no shame: i fucking love Lorde’s record. i just love the songwriting and production style – it speaks straight to my eighties heart and deep-rooted synth language – and her vocals, ggaaaahhhh. I listened to that record on repeat while writing my book last year and it didn’t get old. it’s also fantastic driving music. aside from that: i haven’t been really moved by a lot of new music. i remember listening to “fevers and mirrors” by bright eyes when it first came out and thinking Holy Fuck i want to listen to this again. Most things I don’t want to listen to again. That’s my measuring stick, and almost nothing passes. Generally I just listen to NPR and, when i’m writing, Bach cello suites.
7. What is your greatest fear when making a record?
That it won’t sound like what i hear in my head.
8. What is your greatest joy when making a record?
Then i allow myself to keep something imperfect and it grows on me, like a diamond-studded tumor.