It would have been weird?
It would have been weird. But instead he came to me, like "Oh, I really respect you, I really like your music." I sort of went back and revisited his music, I bought more of his music, I got more familiar with his stuff, I got the William Shatner record — that blew me away, that really tipped me over the edge. When I heard that he produced that, I thought, "He obviously can produce a great record."
Did he have any Shatner stories?
His stories about William Shatner were all wonderful, he did a great imitation of Shatner. Ben was just incredible to work with, he was really really easy to work with, he was totally professional, there was no drama. And it was really nice to go into that work environment and — I also put a lot of faith in him. I went down there with a big pile of songs, plunked them on the table and said "I trust you". He took a lot of my songs that I really didn't have arrangements for, and he completely arranged them from top to bottom. I had faith that he would do the right thing. I would leave Nashville, come up to Boston, and sit behind my computer waiting for a mix, and he would send something up and just blow my mind. And for that I feel really lucky, I've had other creative projects where I naively walked in saying, "Oh, this is going to be great, no problems, it's all going to be awesome," and things would really not necessarily work out. But with Ben, he totally got me, he got it, he nailed all the songs.
It's interesting for me hearing you say that working with him had no drama; it would seem that for Dresden Dolls fans, the "drama" is part of what they want to imagine goes on during a recording. Do you think "going solo" has led you to pursue a more drama-free situation, artistically?
I've got to read you something! Hold on. [Gets up and rummages through other room] I was just reading this yesterday and, um — oh, here it is, [heads back into room holding book] it's David Lynch's new book —
Oh yeah, his book on TM [Transcendental Meditation]...
Yeah, but's not just about that, it's also about art, and . . . [thumbing through book] ummm . . . where'd it go . . . let's see . . . [continues thumbing] . . . umm . . . I'm going to have to start dog-earing these things . . . [still thumbing] . . . oh, I think it's here . . . Yes! Page eight, it says, "Anger and depression and sorrow are beautiful things in a story but they are like poison to the filmmaker or the artist. They are like a vice grip on creativity. If you're in that grip you can hardly get out of bed, much less experience the flow of creativity and ideas. You must have clarity to create, you must be able to catch ideas." And you know what, I was just in the UK doing a bunch of press, and a bunch of the journalists who came to me just assumed that I was this crazy person, like this psychotic fucked-up bitch. But they were really interested in that, and that was sort of their angle, like, "What's it like to be such a fucked-up person, Amanda Palmer?" And obviously, I was like, "Well, this is great that they listened to the record," and I guess I can see that, in the record you could pick up on lots of anger, lots of drama, lots of psychosis, whatever — but I always work on the assumption that if you're able to exorcise all that stuff through your art, that allows you to lived a balanced life as a person. And if you actually are really fucked-up and psychotic, then yes, you can make art, but it doesn't make it easier, and it doesn't necessarily make your art better. It's more about access. And one thing that's really frustrating, as a songwriter, is that, unlike maybe a filmmaker or a sculptor or a painter, people will immediately assume that your songs are you and that if your songs are, you know, depressed or angry or psychotic, that you must be angry or depressed or psychotic. And definitely in certain cases that's true with certain people. But I've always looked at it as the opposite: it's like, I'm actually able not to be fucked up and angry and psychotic because I get to write all the time.
I feel like people, in general, don't want to know that about artists.
They want the romance.
Right, it's like when I was a kid and I read some thing where Ozzy Osbourne was talking about how his favorite band was the Beatles, and I was like "What? He's not supposed to be listening to that!"
Like, he's supposed to be listening to nothing but satanic chants!