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Interview: Amanda Palmer

By DANIEL BROCKMAN  |  September 25, 2008

Did you think, before you did music, but you were in that whole world, did you think even then, "I'm not goth"?
You know, I have never delved into this in an interview, but I had a really heartbreaking experience when I was in my late teens, and I was just coming out of my hole — you know, I was really sort of an antisocial and isolated teenager. And I never had a social group, but in the distance I'd see groups of punks and groups of goths and I'd think, "Oh, they all look really cool and they must be really happy to all be with each other." And I assumed, because of the music I listened to, because I liked the Smiths and loved the Cure and x y and z, I assumed that if I met those people, and infiltrated their clan, we would like each other, and we would be friends, and they would be smart and intelligent and because they loved the Cure and I loved the Cure we would have this deep fucking bond. And I was sorely disappointed becuase I did that for a while and I sort of wore gothy clothes and tried to go to Man Ray and I never met a single person that I liked. And I sort of sat there feeling really fucking ripped off, because, to me, it looked like this sort of pre-packaged thing where you could find a set of friends because you have music in common, but all the people I met were kind of jerks and into the fashion of wearing these clothes, and it was just, it just didn't feel friendly, it didn't feel smart, it didn't feel artistic, it just felt lame. And so I didn't try that for very long, I sort of looked around, brushed myself off, went to take a shower, and said, "Obviously those aren't the people I want to be connected with or want to be associated with." Even though there would be individual people here and there who would be friendly or who I would like — as a whole, I looked at that set and I said, "No, that's definitely not me, I'm not one of them." And I felt sort of the same way about punks: I spent my obligatory summer hanging out in the pit [in Harvard Square] when I was sixteen with my fucking mohawk and my many earrings and my fucked up clothes and my middle finger out to everyone all day, chain smoking and pretending to be punk. And those people really weren't for me either: they were so negative and so bitchy and so whiny. A few of them were artistic and friendly, but I just found myself wandering through those years going, "Where are they? Where are the people like me? It's not these people — where are they?" And Brian and I used to talk about that all the time — he really felt the same way, and I think one of our main objectives in starting a band was, like, "Let's just gather us all up and get us all in one club, for fuck's sake. Like, we can't find us, so let's bring us together."

See, this is the lesson of '80s John Hughes movies: that there are those people, and that kids aren't really the stereotypes that outsiders think they are.
It really is true! And the people that buy into their own stereotypes just suck. People who really are hipsters, they're terrible!

You always just sort of think that they'll grow out of it.
You assume that. People who identify so strongly, like "I am goth, I listen to goth music, da da da, this is what I am," I'm always really suspicious of them, because sometimes there's something behind that, but often they're just really insecure. And especially the modern goth culture, like if I pick up a copy of Propaganda magazine or something, or I see some modern goth band, it feels very joyless, and that feels very antithetical to who I am, the music I make, the fans I have, and how I want to live my life, that I never want to touch it. And when someone calls me goth, I cringe, because I just don't want them to stick me in that pile, it just feels like it's such a bad fit. I think that it's upsetting to see — like these great bands like the Legendary Pink Dots, or Dead Can Dance, they just got literally picked up and plunked into this category, and seriously, that market is such a niche with such a low glass ceiling, that if you get stuck there, you're screwed.

Yeah, I'm usually shocked if a band that is described as "goth" is actually good. You know, like, someone will say, "Hey, Christian Death is this really great band," and you'll think "Really? But they're supposed to be goth!"
Death in June, for example, the music does not sound goth to me. There's definitely darkness in it, but you've got a guy playing an acoustic guitar singing in a major key!

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