hola comrades -
greetings from Budapest where we played a killer show last night on a MOTHERFUCKIN BOAT. that’s right.
i’ll post some recent tour pics at bottom.
but to the crux – after the last slapdash interview with Kat from the voice, she MADE IT to the next round. this time, she’s interviewing me. she’s on the show again tonight if you want to tune in/vote/all that.
i love this game!!!!
So Amanda, I’ve been a fan of yours since I saw you and Brian as The Dresden Dolls at Lincoln Theater. Don’t remember the year (possibly 2004-5). You threw flowers at the audience. It was my first introduction to you, and I was a smitten kitten henceforth. I have always been entranced by the artistic troupes that seem to follow you wherever you go. I’ve never been in that environment. How did that all get started? Was it an organic thing that just happened? Did you seek these people out? Do tell.
funny, I was just talking about this on the bus with Die Roten Punkte, a band who’s opening up for me. here they are in milano (in a couch that’s like a home to them):
they perform on fringe theater circuits and live more in that theater world than they live in rock world…and they’re straddling the line playing in all these rock clubs with me. (they’re pretty fucking awesome, btw, give them a google). in the early days of the dresden dolls, it didn’t occur to me to do anything BUT invite all our crazy local art-friends to join in the proceedings. i’d already been running perfomrance-art based shows out of my art-collective-house, and we weren’t a normal rock band and never assumed we’d be one…our friends were all painters, actors, butoh dancers, filmmakers, and street performers…basically: artists of all types/shapes/sizes/styles.
BUT, i didn’t have very many musician friends, and not a single friend who was actually in a rock band. thusly, it made sense that when we were trying to make our shows EVENTS instead of just “come watch the dresden dolls” we invited all our freaky friends to do…whatever they wanted. and we quickly encouraged our fans to do the same, and we called the loose collective of all those performers The Brigade.
our early shows in boston and new york were all about lobby and street art, people making chalk drawings outside the venues, living statue’ing, bringing typewriters and handing out random poetry, craze burlesque dancers doing small acts in the unused coat rooms…that sort of thing.
people who’d never made art or performed before joined in on the fun because we encouraged people do weird shit even if they didn’t have any stage experience. i remember being so proud when a friend of mine who was an engineer and investment banker started doing performance art at our shows…using his origami skills. he just wore a tux, stood there, and made origami for people. he shone. it was thrilling, to be able to hand out the stage and the spotlight to people like a circus santa clause. and when we started touring, we did it though the internet and email, inviting any local performers who were fans to hop on stage with us or perform outside the venue.
i eventually stopped doing it, hoping it would take on a life of it’s own. and mostly, it has. people still come to our gigs all the time and busk…i recently accidentally adopted a punk marching band (perhaps contraption) who decided to follow us around on tour in europe to play before the show for audience donations. i saw them at glastonbury in a tent that served pizza, and asked if they’d come do their thing at our london show and one thing led to another.
it worked beautifully. you keep the door open and shit like that doesn’t stop happening. you just have to ask.
i think a lot of it stemmed out of my original desire not so much to be a musician, but to be a PART of something, a moment in history where it felt like art was changing the world a little, the way my heroes had in the 1920s in weimer and in the 1960s at woodstock. and since i went searching for the art scene i wanted in my early twenties and never found it, instead, we just created it ourselves.
“The Point of It All” is one of my favorite songs of yours. You were kind enough to briefly explain what it’s about. As a fellow songwriter, what is your typical process in writing a song? What is the longest space of time that you’ve gone without writing or attempting to write? Do you feel guilty when you don’t write? (I do).
note: if it’s been a while since you’ve heard it, here’s “the point of it all”…and the music video…
oh god. you know, i try hard not to talk ABOUT songwriting too much because i feel like the more i talk about it the more i fuck with what seems to be a perfectly functional mysterious process, but…
the truth is, i spent a great deal of time in my teens and twenties carrying around a kind of catholic guilt about the songs i wouldn’t finish. i had a really masochistic relationship with songwriting – i felt like a constant failure because i couldn’t finish things i started, and i was full of ideas, so i was forever beating myself up. it took years and years (my twenties, mostly) to learn to just live with the fact that my discipline is built in, and i can’t fight it. i’m so much more disciplined at doing email, for instance, than i am at writing a song. and my assistant and manager will have a good laugh at that one, since i’m currently behind on all of my emails to them, and clearly behind my mac screen right now, happily typing away this interview with you instead (BAD AMANDA). but that’s the crux of it; i do whatever is INTERESTING to me at the moment and pray that the pieces will all eventually fit together. communicating with people is almost always more interesting to me than writing alone, so the internet has been a real fucking curse along with its social media blessings of connectedness.
as far as length goes…most (i’d daresay all) of my best songs were written in one or two short sittings, and knocked out super-quickly. but sometimes i’ll leave a song cooking for YEARS before i polish it off or use it’s component parts for writing fodder. there’s a song on the second dolls album called “necessary evil” that actually was written with an entirely different set of lyrics (it was originally titled “speech to text”) and i just wasn’t happy with it, but i loved the drive and the melody of it. so years after i wrote it, i revisited it, started fucking with it, changed one lyric, changed another lyric, and all of a sudden i had frankenstein’ed an entirely new song. and it was good enough to go on the record, so that’s something, but i do maintain you lose some magic when you keep repainting the same canvas. it gets thick and crusty. there’s a GREAT book of interviews i recommend you read by paul zollo called “songwriters on songwriting“. it’s a fascinating look into the heads of people like bob dylan, leonard cohen, and a bunch of other greats about their own weird idiosynchrocies and processes.
I absolutely loved your TED talk and I reference it constantly because I connect so much with the idea of the importance of being seen and seeing others, having felt invisible myself so often in life. I was particularly interested in your time as a living statue. What led you to take that up as a job? Boston and Raleigh are two very different scenes, although Raleigh has a quickly blossoming circus/burlesque crowd that I have recently been accepted into.
it was a slow process. i first saw TED when someone sent me a link to jill bolte taylor’s talk about having a stroke (if you haven’t seen it, for fucks sake bookmark it and watch it the next time you want to have your brain blown open) and i got to poking around the site and watching a lot of the talks and wondering: WHAT IS THIS THING? i had no idea there was an entire culture and history to TED (there is, and man is it complicated), i just knew i loved the content of the talks. a few years later my friend sxip shirey went and performed there and came back glowing with tales of a week that changed his life. and yet another year later, i played a show in london with thomas dolby, a childhood 80s hero of mine (i collected his records and you may know his as the guy being “she blinded me with science”). while we were chatting, thomas mentioned that he was involved with the TED people and helped curate the music and i shot my hand into the air and said “ME ME ME I WANT TO PLAY AT TED! and maybe i can do a TALK ABOUT SOMETHING!” and thomas took the idea back to the TED overlords. he followed up with an email asking me if i had any footage of me speaking in public and i thought “of course there is” and then quickly realized that was bullshit. i talk plenty on stage, i’ve done huge numbers of interviews and q&a type things at festivals, but i actually had never done a proper “talk”. so i did what anyone would do who needed footage of a talk: i booked a talk. i called my friends at the american rep theater at harvard, asked if i could use their stage, called my friend noah who had a decent camera, wrote a couple note cards and cobbled together a more-or-less-passable speech about street performing and how it relates to the way i view the business of music. (it’s HERE on the internet if you want to see it…it looks like what it is, a very very rough draft of the TED talk – with about 4,800,000 fewer views as of writing this…crazy.)
thomas shared it with the TED overlords but they passed on inviting me that year. then my kickstarter happened, and all the controversies that went along with it. that’s when they called. interestingly enough, i got the feeling that they wouldn’t have invited me if the whole kerfuffle about my use of volunteer musicians hadn’t happened. so in a way, those few months of pain (go read the blogs, it was a rough time) led to the TED talk, which led to a lot of happiness, and also led to the book deal i just signed. shit always sorts out.
How much do you and Neil inspire each other? You are both fantastic writers. Has your writing process changed since you met him? Has his?
i think we’d probably both answer yes. neil has directly inspired some lines and a few songs (“the bed song” was inspired by a story he told me), but the indirect effect is impossible to measure. we edit each other’s writings…we read and email each other articles and short writings before we send them off to press; we know each other’s weak spots and we’re generally pretty gentle on one another. it’s important, i think, that neither of us were huge fans of each other before we met. i’d heard of him but never read anything he’d written, and he had a couple dresden dolls songs on his ipod but didn’t really know much about me or the band. so we’re able to help each other as equals, and we really do, at the best of times, inspire and support each other’s work. there’s also the help that we give each other with general decision-making. both of us are really distracted workaholics and it’s nice to have someone around to kick your ass and tell you to rest, take care of yourself, and say no to shit.
on the downside: i’ve barely written any songs since meeting neil. my free time in singlehood used to be spent generally alone and improvisationally, which was usually where the songs sprang to life, and now time off tour is spend trying to spend time with himself, usually in cramped spaces with no sonic/psychic privacy (which desperately need in order to write). this is about to change, we hope, because we finally found a place to live. i hope so. i need to get back to dumping songs out of my brain.
Ok, now I have to ask a “Voice”-related question, but I’m curious. If you could pick one song for me to perform on the show, what would that song be and why?
oooh, that’s hard. i think i’d like to see you sing “I WANNA DESTROY YOU” by the soft boys. it’s a vocally fantastic song and i think it’s one of the underrated hits of all time.
give it a listen.
and once again
GOOD LUCK GAL!!!!!
**The top 12 contestants on The Voice will perform their songs on Monday. Voting will start at the end of the show and will be conducted the same as last time (please note: Kat’s Voice Voting number has changed from 4 to 7). Song downloads count as votes ONLY during the voting period, so it’s important people don’t start downloading the song or voting until after the show. The contestants in the bottom 3 will have a chance to be saved on Tuesday night by people tweeting who they want saved within a 5 minute time frame. (I can send more info on that later). At this point, everyone on the show is crazy good, so voting is important and every single vote and download counts.
Ok, Amanda! I hope you are having an amazing time on the road. Funny enough, before we made this connection, I bought a beautiful autographed screen print flyer from your recent show in Tel Aviv. I have a degree in graphic design, and I appreciate when beautiful graphic art like that comes around.
Also, I don’t know if you saw anything about my original music, but here’s a video we made for my song, “Scream”": bit.ly/17quguB
XOXOXO YOU ARE THE BEST.
and there you go!
p.s. as promised, here are some tour photos from the last week or so, mostly from my instagram…
milan (photo via @allegrissima87):
also krakow (photo via @PMuzyczny):
cologne (photo by @DInderfurth)
shirt by @electroblake (he screens them himself). photo by @GeetaDayal:
jherek wanted to point out that hipsters do NOT ruin everything, because they make the best espresso.
he is, as usual, correct.
(BTW, if you want one of the shirts, the info is HERE)
“in berlin. by the wall. you were five foot ten inches tall.” thinking about lou reed. here we are:
also from that day – warning: heavy – a vine from the berlin wall, of the faces of people who lost their lives (shot, or fatally wounded).
p.p.s. yesterday was neil’s birthday. because i’m off on tour, me and the attendees of the london kickstarter house party (which took place at the legendary and quite literally underground fox & cutlass) made a video. warning: contains tits & dinosaurs.
huge thanks to @DannCasswell, @El_Prune, @AlexandraBecker, @LiabilityEden & all the party-people for putting this together.
i love our art family.
and i love my husband.
every day. but for his birthday, he got a video with tits and dinosaurs.