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Interview: Amanda Palmer

By DANIEL BROCKMAN  |  September 25, 2008

Okay, so earlier you referred to yourself as an '80s girl. But! Here's the deal: so I saw you at the Harborlights show a few months ago —
The Death Cab show?

Yeah, and you opened with Radiohead's "Creep," and you did Neutral Milk Hotel's "Two-Headed Boy," and you named your new album Who Killed Amanda Palmer? which is a Twin Peaks reference, and you worked with Ben Folds, and you have Radiohead's The Bends sitting over there on that table, and I was just wondering what is the significance of the early/mid-'90s to you and your aesthetic?
Okay, I have to embarrassingly admit that I missed most of the 90's [holds up The Bends CD]. I didn't buy this record until two years ago. My shameful secret is that I didn't know who Kurt Cobain was when he died. I was out of the loop because I was locked up in my own little bubble of music that my strange circle of friends and my older boyfriend was turning me on to. My favorite bands back then were the Legendary Pink Dots, and Coil, and Current 93, and the Swans, and Nick Cave. And when I went into a record store, that's all I looked at. I didn't listen to the radio. Ever. I just wasn't a radio listener. I didn't watch TV. I wasn't hanging out in public places, I was always wearing my Walkman, so my mixtapes and my record collection were my only input. And so, you know, I remember seeing people's t-shirts, and I'd be like, "Oh, Nirvana, I wonder what that is. Pearl Jam, what a stupid band name." Sort of absorbing it vaguely. When I started sort of slowing down and letting other music seep in, someone played me OK Computer when I was 20 years old and I thought, "Wow, there's music like this, this is incredible!" and I listened to that record, but just that record, for like six months. And it didn't even occur to me to go out and buy other Radiohead records, I was just like, "I'm just happy with this one."  And then gradually, like I picked up Nevermind and I was like "Oh, this is a really good record," and I bought a Pearl Jam CD and I was like, "Oh I hate this, this is terrible." And I bought a Hole record and I was like, "Uh, I kind of like this song, kind of hate these songs." And I got into it way after the fact. But that's also kind of nice because the things that stood the test of time that I hear people talking about now, those are the ones that I cherry pick. Brian was really instrumental in turning me on to a lot of '90s bands that I had no knowledge of. You know, the music that I'm sentimental about and romantic about is the '80s, and I'll never be able to feel nostalgic about '90s music because I just wasn't there when it was happening, it wasn't the soundtrack of my life like it was to other people. But if you throw on a Depeche Mode CD from 1987, or a Cure album from 1985, I get all weepy.

Okay, so you were into Nick Cave and the Legendary Pink Dots and the Swans and the Cure; and yet when the Dresden Dolls came out, you had a pretty certain aesthetic but at the same time you defined yourself as "Brechtian punk cabaret," in part to avoid being labeled the "g" word; so tell me, what is it about "goth" that is so divisive?
You know what's really interesting about that question is the bands that you just mentioned: The Legendary Pink Dots, the Swans, Nick Cave, they all would have cringed at being called "goth."

Wouldn't they? But there's a code there, and we all know! We can read the code!
Yeah, but even Bauhaus: I did an interview with Peter Murphy and we bonded over our hatred of being called goth: and this is the dude who opened up Coachella by swinging onstage as a vampire bat, and he was like, "Hmph! It's not goth, it's art!" Because there really are bands who want to be goth, and especially nowadays: there's like, I dunno, Marilyn Manson, Switchblade Symphony—

I'm going to guess that Marilyn Manson wouldn't want to be called goth either. I could see him not self-identifying.
He might not. But it's sort of like — nowadays, it's like calling a band "emo."  It's actually is a genre, but no one wants to be in it.

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  Topics: Music Features , Entertainment, Depeche Mode, Nick Cave,  More more >
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