Cabaret-rocker washes off her past through song

By Andres Miguel

Amanda Palmer’s first solo effort, Who Killed Amanda Palmer, could have very easily been… Amanda Palmer’s first solo effort, Who Killed Amanda Palmer, could have very easily been recorded in her bedroom over the course of a few months. Luckily, that possibility was eradicated when Palmer, the female half of dark, cabaret-pop duo The Dresden Dolls, received a fortuitous piece of fanmail from none other than Ben Folds. ‘The project really blossomed when Ben got involved as a producer,’ said Palmer. ‘When Planet Ben and Planet Amanda collide, there’s a supernova. I ended up traveling all around the world, and it took over a year and a half to complete. It became the opposite of what it started out as.’ The highly acclaimed resulting album is a combination of original works and older songs written (and occasionally even performed) while Palmer was touring as one-half of the The Dresden Dolls. One song in particular, ‘Runs in the Family,’ is more than 10 years old ‘mdash; Palmer, however, sees this tension between new and old as vital to the record. ‘I think it’s important to revisit that old material, to grapple with those demons,’ said Palmer. ‘I argued with Ben about the immaturity in those old songs, and some critics agree, but I think my 22-year-old version is just as legitimate as the 32-year-old.’ There is, however, a strong secondary dimension to Who Killed Amanda Palmer ‘mdash; one that Palmer is following up on by releasing a companion book in the near future. Included in the book will be writings by Neil Gaiman (of ‘Sandman’ and ‘Stardust’ fame), who also did a piece for the back cover of the album that solidifies the mythos of the ‘murdered’ Amanda Palmer. However, Palmer emphasizes that there is no defined concept behind the album. ‘If anything, the album’s concept is me killing off old versions of myself, since it spans over 10 years of songwriting,’ said Palmer. ‘I definitely didn’t approach this as a concept record, since a lot of the album’s production was unexpected, so I think it’s important not to read too much into the album.’ The album tour ‘mdash; which visits Mr. Small’s Theatre this Thanksgiving weekend on Saturday ‘mdash; departs significantly from the character of The Dresden Dolls shows, according to Palmer. While featuring a large number of performers for a solo tour, including four Australian performers that have been ‘blowing people’s minds,’ the essential difference between the shows is more within the execution. ‘Dresden Dolls [shows] were fundamentally about me and Brian [Viglione] playing off each other and responding to each other, while this is more of a fully realized theatrical show ‘mdash; things being manifested on stage instead of being suggested,’ said Palmer. ‘The beauty of The Dresden Dolls was simplicity, and this is all about surprise.’ As for the future of The Dresden Dolls, Palmer says that she and Viglione have instituted a wait-and-see policy. ‘We really love playing music together, but we also got to a point where we burned each other out. We’re both really happy doing what we’re doing right now,’ said Palmer.