— AN OFFICIAL PATRON-SUPPORTED RELEASE, JULY 27, 2017 —
this is a new video. for an old song. made (again, like “the clock at the back of the cage” video) by a collection of immensely talented australian artists who i am only too happy to shine a light on.
this is one of my favorite things about patreon: DOING TOTALLY BIZARRE AND IMPOSSIBLY BEAUTIFUL COLLABORATIONS THAT WOULD MAKE NO SENSE IN YE OLDE MUSIC INDUSTRY…but that make total sense to me.
YES, this song came out in 2012. YES, i’m really fucking excited it finally has a video. YES, yes, YES.
a little (ok, a lot of….ok, a fuckton of) background, before you watch this incredible video.
i haven’t given you guys an impassioned “future of music” speech for a while…..
“music videos” are an odd art form that we mustn’t take for granted: they could have just as easily not really existed, at least in the way we understand them now.
the “music video” concept was developed right along with the evolution of TV itself, and used as a way to promote an artist on old-fashioned boob tube fare. there are pre-MTV videos that were created by television weirdos who saw a wonderful emerging art form, see kate bush’s “wuthering heights” video, which is pre-MTV and kicked off a wider world of art-video-making. i googled but couldn’t dig out who financed it and why and how. and indeed: the money always had to come from somewhere, and, in general, pre-MTV, the money always came from the network (i.e. the BBC/Ed Sullivan types) or from the label, who decided it would probably be worth shelling out a few grand for crew, sets, lights and what have you in order to get the public to pay attention to the music.
then came MTV and everything changed.
i do. oh 1982. oh duran duran. oh bowie. oh prince. MTV changed my life. i’ve said it in a million interviews, but i grew up feeling that music was fundamentally theatrical and visual. i didn’t think of “thriller” as a song – i thought of it as an entire gesamtkunstwerk that included michael jackson, a song, costumes, and a whole lot of actors playing zombies. the video gave me a feeling that the song did not. one was not “better” than the other…they were simply TOGETHER, one work of art, one moment in time. i felt the same way about madonna and cyndi lauper. it wasn’t so much that i wanted their record albums…i wanted the soundtrack to the videos that invited me into their visual and theatrical world.
i sat for hours and hours, rotating bowls of cereal and ramen, staring up at the church of MTV and waiting to be invited into the screen, where i wanted to be.
i went to a Yes concert in 1992. (don’t judge?) and the only reason i went is because i wanted to see the people behind the “owner of a lonely heart” video (which i am happy to see, upon linking, has enjoyed as much popularity on youtube as it should). it was (and remains) one of my favorite videos of all time. i don’t even know what i think of the song. i love the whole moment – the song and the video as one. when i got into music, i wrote videos in my head for the songs i was writing. none of them would ever be realized (film is expensive) but it helped my creativity to be building a soundtrack for a film that might someday exist.
i became a professional musician RIGHT at the moment when MTV finally fell off a cliff. MTV was, in the 80s and 90s, a 24/7 infomercial for physical CDs, LPs and cassettes: a marked-up enough media product that, at the time, was a gazillion dollar industry. i never realized this growing up: that MTV only existed to advertise physical records, and that commercial radio only existed to advertise the same. it wasn’t until i entered the maw of the music industry that a lot of my idiot assumptions were blown open: i learned that radio and MTV were promotional machines, fed by the pockets of the huge labels. seriously…until my twenties i ACTUALLY THOUGHT that radio DJs just played the music “they liked”. and i thought that MTV VJs were just cool people in cool clothes flipping through the magically-made videos of the month trying to show us cool things. nowhere did it occur to me that literally everything was about marketing a single.
in the 1980s and 1990s, the industry hit peak WAHHHHOOOO$$$$$OO$$$$OO!!!!!!. poor suckers like me (and probably you) were spending upwards of $15-20 on a single album, and you either bought the whole album or you couldn’t hear the song that you wanted on demand. to put that in perspective for the young folk here, and so you know how easy you have it (*cue grumpy old person voice*) a new record in 1990 really did cost $15. if you adjust for inflation, that’s about $28. when was the last time you spent $28 on a record? exactly. they were different times.
anyway: it was in the interest of the labels to promote the shit out of the bands who had the potential to sell thousands (or millions) of records, which is why you ended up with guns n roses videos that cost upwards of ONE MILLION DOLLARS. (see: november rain, which basically had the budget of a small hollywood film. and in general, who doesn’t want a nice reviewing of november rain replete with SLASH SOLO?).
blockbuster artists like lady gaga & miley cyrus, etc., in more recent times have mega-expensive videos (think bad romance) only because the label sits down, crunches the numbers, calculates risk, and decides that they’ll definitely make back their $350k video budget in actual album sales.
so, when i came on the scene in 2004 with the dresden dolls, i already had one video under my belt: we had borrowed $5k from a wealthy friend (ron nordin, amazing patron of the arts and early dolls patron) and handed the budget to michael pope, my incredible filmmaker friend, thinking that having a video (we were still unsigned and indie at the time) would help put us on the map and show people who were not at our concerts HOW AMAZING OUR BAND WAS. pope didn’t shoot on digital video, he shot with FILM. the video for girl anachronism is still one of my favorites, and it’s on my long list of things to do to get a better, less degraded copy of it onto youtube…right now it’s horrific to see a video of mine with over three million boast such shitty resolution. life is hard.
here’s a photo of me and michael pope on the set of “girl anachronism”….
(by the way, did you see the news that we are teaching a wesleyan university COURSE in ninja-filmmaking this fall? we are. It’s called “The Art of Doing: Creative Project Production and Making It Happen”.)
back to the point: the dresden dolls signed with our label, roadrunner records, in 2004. part of the contract is that they bought our first album (the self-titled “the dresden dolls”, which had cost us about $30k to record) and the “girl anachronism” video. our check for selling the album and video to the label outright was about $100k, and with it we bought a piano, a souped-up drum-kit, and we fully quit our jobs. then i started on the long road of what it meant to work with a major label … and to “speak” major label. most labels, and our label in particular, were in the beginning of an industry free-fall in 2004. people were starting to use napster and burn CDs, and most labels could see the ever-clearer writing on the wall. most labels were getting less and less risky in their choices and decisions. in 1998, when money was dripping from the sky and people were shelling out peak dollar for CDs, the labels were gambling on tons of bands, pumping massive dollars into records and video budgets, hoping for a hit, but not having to eat it too hard if a risk didn’t pan out. all of that changed when people started pirating and stopped buying CDs. the magic money went away. the only massive (or really ANY budgets) you’ll see for videos post 2005 usually have a non-risk artist or a strange story behind them (i.e. the artist decided to self-fund the video). you also get into product placement. the devil came calling with alluring video budgets: you could be a gaga-britney-sized star and still get your $500k budget, but the label – loath to take risks – was going to twist your arm to roll your hair up in a coke classic can or writhe around atop a honda prius.
the first video i made with a major label budget was “coin-operated boy“. i told them that we’d work with pope and nobody else, and they gave us a mind-blowing budget of $50k. again, we recorded on actual film, and, again, we shot the entire video IN OUR HOUSE using a ton of our own housemates, friends and resources.
the video went to various channels like RageTV in australia and MTV2, MTV’s attempt to continue to spin-actual-videos-sometimes-instead-of-just-reality-shows) and a few european video channels, but mostly it found life on our website, when people still went to websites.
when we were offered the tour opening up for Nine Inch Nails, we heard through the grapevine that trent reznor had seen our videos for “girl anachronism” and “coin-operated boy” and that’s what sold him. so despite the fact that the grand MTV era was over – it still felt like a useful enough exercise to create these videos…people would find them, they would find us, and hopefully the videos would and could stay part of the artistic palate even with the disappearance of MTV and video budgets. but we were going to have to get more and more creative about how to pay for this shit….
when our second record rolled around, i learned the hard way about how brutal the major label system could be.
with “girl anachronism” and “coin-operated boy”, i’d basically sat down and dreamed up the treatment/script, and then floated the script by michael pope to see what was financially feasible. he and i would then work together to make something amazing that actually worked with the budget and the locations and equipment we had on hand.
i’d always dreamed of making a video for every song i wrote, mostly because coming up with a meaning-extending theatrical and visual backdrop for the songs always seemed like the most delicious part of being a musician. i would always look at boring “band plays in a room with a lamp” videos for beautifully interesting songs and be really sad for the artists. but…budget. and also, not every band wants to get theatrical. i always appreciated The Cure for being the sort of band that would get into a closet. (i just went to search for a youtube link, and it appears that the famous “cure in a closet” video isn’t online : ( ….)
anyway: the “single” that the label chose from our second album, Yes, Virginia, was the song “sing”…and they gave us a modest video budget. we handed it, again, to michael pope, and he and i sat down and wrote the treatment, which included going out to our fanbase from footage shot in their home territory….you can see the official version here and the “director/band cut” here, which was basically an alternate (and our preferred) cut using a different approach.
this is one of my favorite moments/stills from the shoot:
and then things got weird…
“sing” was beloved by the fans but radio stations didn’t hear a hit, and it didn’t receive much radio play. we were two or three weeks into touring the album, and the sales were going down, not up (see my TED talk for more on that). the label waffled around and then decided to make “backstabber” a second single, to give the album another shot at achieving glory. they gave me and pope a budget (if memory serves, it was $30-50k or so) and we got to work on the treatment and starting looking for nightclubs/lofts in boston where we could shoot. pope started getting the crew together.
a week or two later, the label pulled the budget. they simply decided that spending the money on the video was not going to result in enough “yes, virginia” album sales to merit spending the $30-50k.
“but” i said, “we’ve already done all the art-work! we’ve set the dates and written the treatment and hired people and and and….”
the label gave, as we say, zero shits. i’ll never forget the actual words spoken by one of the label dudes in defense of their decision to pull out, which were: “sorry, amanda, we’re the big bad label, and that’s our job.” i was like, what am i, TWELVE?
me being me, and pope being pope (who was on tour with the dresden dolls at the time for shits and giggles and to film our tour hijinx), we decided the next day to simply film our own super-ridiculous-low-budget video from the road. the band paid for it out of pocket, and the label just shrugged.
after that, i was pretty much done with the label and their shitty approach to money and art (the final chapter of my epic battle with the label, which was the release of my first solo record, Who Killed Amanda Palmer, should be saved for another day before i bore you to tears), and i fled the system. and as soon as i was indie, a new dilemma faced me.
why make videos? how and with what money? how much money to spend on a video? when is it worth it to make a video?
videos cost money. videos never “make” money. so every video is a calculated loss-leader. a promotional cost. a marketing ploy. an advertisement for the song.
loss-leader. a promotional cost. a marketing ploy. an advertisement for the song.
i had no idea how to approach what was worth what, really, but i knew i didn’t want to stop making videos, so i just started shooting in the dark.
my first post-label release was my radiohead-ukulele covers record (aptly titled, Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead on Her Magical Ukulele), and i decided to work with an animator on the song “no surprises”. i picked a friend who was a video-maker (ryan heller, who i’d been playing music with during the phase when his band, Aberdeen City, was my back-up band for a hot second), and a pal of his used a cool rotoscope technique.
the fanbase continued to be awesome and do fun videos and projects of their own, which always delighted (and still delights) me. i’m the opposite of some other bands out there who would pull any fan-made videos off youtube citing theft: i WANT people to take the music and make More Things…to me, that’s the point. there’s a brazilian fan-made video for the dresden dolls song “the kill” (off our weird third album No, Virginia) which has racked up a million and a half views on youtube, which is MORE than the “official” band video from that same record, “night reconnaissance”, which actually stars the band and was made (again) on the cheap in my hometown with michael pope and a motley crew. it just goes to show. whatever works.
for Theatre Is Evil, my massive kickstarter record (and one of the biggest financial learning curves of my career), i went full-force and spent lavishly, since i figured that the album was going to sell gazillions of copies: how could it not?? 25,000 people had pre-ordered it! it was the best record of my career! it had THE BED SONG!! i was wrong. it sold very few copies, and i was left having made three pretty expensive videos, all of which i’m still incredibly proud of, ESPECIALLY the video for “the bed song“, which i still consider a theatrical/casting/directing/filming coup of michael mcquilken’s, and the video for “want it back” (also an artistic/animation/directing coup for jim batt….which took three days of getting painted on and lying still while my nipples collapsed.
i dropped about $50k each of my magical kickstarter money (which was quickly dwindling) on videos for “do it with a rockstar“, which was epic indeed….and for ”the killing type“, in a bucket-list move, i hired tim pope, the very director whose MTV videos for The Cure i’d worshiped as a kid. many meetings were had, many costumes were bought, much blood had to be purchased and cleaned up. there was a huge crew – i’d never seen a video shoot so immense and professional. the video came out beautifully, and, above all, felt like a real, true, theatrical version of the song in my head.
but still, i found (and find) myself wondering: was this worth it? it cost $50k, and it has a few million youtube hits, but did it help me find my audience? what if it had cost $20k? what if i had spent $70k? what if i had just set up a fantastic stage and one camera and recorded the band playing it live? (it’s one of my true regrets that there isn’t more phenomenal footage of The Grand Theft Orchestra playing the whole album when we were at peak awesome on tour).
what to do? how to do it? why to spend? when’s it worth it?
then came patreon.
for the past two years, i have had to completely retrain my brain to understand that i now live in a universe where videos can actually MAKE money. like CDs and LPs of yore, i can look at videos NOT as a marketing tool but actually as a viable art form in themselves.
not a commercial, not an advertisement: an artwork.
i’ve released a few video projects since kicking off the patreon, notably using “smile” from Theatre Is Evil to preserve as a backdrop for my crazy pregnant-statue performance, working with several different animators – see “the clock at the back of the cage”, “beyond the beach”, “vincent black lightning” and “behind the trees” (which wasn’t so much a music video as a mini-film…and again, i never could have funded that without the patreon – funding or profit for weird animated shit like that just DOESN’T EXIST).
so: now that i have a patreon budget (currently floating somewhere in the tens of thousands of dollars once my staff and office and insurance and food and and etc etc etc etc life are paid for) i can actually LOOK AT VIDEOS as a viable way of making an income.
bonus points if the video is shared and loved and has any kind of viral life which brings a new audience into the fold, but that’s secondary.
what i’m most interested in, right now, is making the art i want to make, with the people i want to work with, and without thinking about much else.
i’m still kind of staggering in disbelief that this is actually becoming possible – and it is possible because 11,000+ of you are taking the mystery plunge with me.
there are no promises, there are no expectations, there is no path except the one i’m wandering along, blind.
as i like saying lately, especially to people who insult my use of crowdfunding or subscription:
i’m not an art factory. i’m an artist.
the path is the destination, and my patrons are lighting it.
with that impassioned speech over….i present to you GROWN MAN CRY, and here’s a little background.
“grown man cry” is one of my favorites from Theatre Is Evil, and i was especially thrilled with the mega-late-80s/early 90s production (i ripped a page right out of “disintegration” and “violator” to get those guitar and synth sounds). i’ve always wanted a video to match, so i contacted my wonderful long-time collaborator steven mitchell wright and asked him if he’d like to do a wide-open video collaboration with me, and asked him to choose/create/script/direct the song that spoke to him, i was pretty thrilled that this was the song he chose.
and so now, a video it shall have. this is the kind of thing that only patreon can make happen, because if i’d approached a record label about making a video for a song that came out five years ago, they’d look at me like i was on crack.
this is what the future of my art feels like, a wider-open palate of work not based on album cycles, fourth quarters, and bottom lines, but on inspiration, ideas, spontaneity, and freedom.
thank you, thank you, every one of you, for making this future possible.
i am grateful (as are all of the artists, filmmakers, actors, lighting designers, etc.) from the bottom of my heart for your willingness to light our path.
and more words from our esteemed director, steven mitchell wright….
Grown Man Cryeth
Many people will know that Amanda and I have been working together in varied capacities on and off since 2006. In 2007, (10 years ago!) my company, The Danger Ensemble was born – on the stage of the Spiegeltent in Edinburgh with a group of amazing performers, all working on other things at Fringe (including Peta Ward who is in this video) – we had jammed on and played with a heap of Amanda’s solo stuff including a number of tracks from Who Killed Amanda Palmer which was yet to be released. It was urgent, it was punk, it was irreverent and playful. Amanda and I found a great connection and she was always willing to support my experimentation. This lead to many many other things – playing with Pop Orchestras and touring the world with the WKAP tour, working on Cabaret at the American Repertory Theater, driving across Australia in tiny-tiny vans, sleeping in bloody (literally, bloody) artist communes, many more tents and meeting and learning from hundreds of artists all over the world – all sorts of adventures that have informed me and the history of The Danger Ensemble since.
Back in 2016 – Amanda and I had been talking via email about a video project – lives got busy and emails buried – that’s fine we’ll connect again in the future – I think both of us have the kind of lives where we understand how each other live and have a deep enough relationship to accept that when we connect it’s real but it’s often also work and when things can happen – they will.
Cut forward to 2017 and Amanda was about to tour in Australia and we were chatting about possibly collaborating on her local gigs but the timing was wrong – the exact time Amanda was going to be here was when we were in Tech and Production week for our version of Macbeth – this 80s influenced dark-pop aesthetic show – so Amanda and I didn’t even get to see each other when she was here but that lead to us reigniting the conversation regarding a video project.
I have a weird relationship to video – I am NOT a filmmaker and I don’t want to be a filmmaker but I’m really interested in creating theatrical experiences that can last and live outside of a theatre. If I were to make film I’d want to be like Peter Greenaway via Todd Haynes having a baby with Derek Jarman – highly theatrical – not pretending to be real life in anyway. So I said to Amanda what if the team that was working on Macbeth jammed together on using the show as stimulus to create something for ‘Grown Man Cry’ using the theatre, using the costumes and using the lighting? and THAT’s what we did. Working with Brisbane-based Andy Green (a film, video, editing all-rounder super star) – we got in the theatre and shot this over two days with some pick ups and there is some footage from a show with a live audience in there too.
It’s an interesting transfer – we played with what happened if things remain theatrical in size – how does it work when an actor is playing an emotion the size they need to in a big theatre when the camera is inches from their face? What happens when you take a scene from a theatre (where you control time through bodies in space and lighting) and add a camera into that mix – what happens to time and perspective when you completely control the eye of the audience with the camera?
The result is a music video that I think is really interesting in form – it doesn’t follow a strict narrative arc but it also doesn’t follow the very pretty but largely nonsensical party format that a lot of music videos do at the moment. It is not trying to tell the story of Macbeth – but if you know the story you’ll find different things in the video from those who do not. It was also not attempting to literally comment on the lyric content of the song. I wanted to create a theatrical-video experience that worked with the song but allowed the song to comment on or argue with the video content. Andy and I back and forthed on things – Amanda gave us notes and made changes – it is a collaboration and like everything we do as a company and I think everything Amanda does wholeheartedly, relentlessly: it is an experiment.
We live in a world where this is less and less common and less and less supported – we live in a world where we like something or we scroll past it – metaphor is dying and provocation is a dirty word – we MUST continue to experiment and make things that aren’t easily digested, works that make you stop or experiences that make you question or allow you feel deeply in ways that a single emoticon cannot express – not just consume and keep scrolling.
AND as we swiftly approach August – we are running headlong at the 10 year birthday of the company – I’m SO glad as a part of that celebration we can share this with Amanda and with YOU – Amanda’s audience, both of which are a huge part of our history: formative and profound.. and hopefully a part of our future.
that’s it, lovers. ENJOY IT.
for any of you IN AUSTRALIA…the danger ensemble’s remount of The Hamlet Apocalypse is coming up in brisbane next month at the judith wright centre, august 9 – 19, 2017. if you’re in town… GO! tickets and more info HERE: www.dangerensemble.com/tickets
more more more:
if you want to get your fix of the song, you can download the original Theatre Is Evil version here, it’s up for free/pay-what-you-want on bandcamp along with the whole album (just enter $0 when you click download):
AND as a bonus from the vaults, here is the solo piano demo i recorded in 2007 (also up for free/pay-what-you-want on bandcamp):
(tis quite fascinating to hear the difference between the original demo and the “piano is evil” version)…
a final THANK YOU to all of the patrons (11,400 of you) who made this project possible, and THANK YOU to all the artists who worked so hard to make this such a feat. and extra-special thanks to steven mitchell wright for diving in with unbridled passion (as usual)…and to my team for working hard to birth this into the world.
and please take special-extra pleasure, as patrons, knowing that we collectively pumped some dough into the weirdo australian theater-art economy! for real: your patronage put these people to work….GO US:
Directed and Designed by Steven Mitchell Wright
Shot and Edited by Andy Green
Costumes by Arnavaz Lindsay and Steven Mitchell Wright
Lighting by Ben Hughes
Featuring : Chris Beckey, Joshua Brandon, Nicole Harvey, Jack Hutchison, Thomas Hutchins, Jo Loth, Cienda McNamara, Elle Mickel, Shynae Ryder, Lucinda Shaw, Peta Ward and Bridget Webb
Assistant Director : Damian Tatum
Stage/Set Management : Jeremy Gordon and Tamika McDonald
Assistant Camera Operator: Dion Smith-Phasey
Associate Producer: Bri Zammit
Executive Producer: Eloise Grace
Special thanks to Simon Tate and Katie Fletcher.
we are standing
on the threshold
of a decent conversation when i can hear the door slam
i know the face you’re making
and i really want to talk to you
i really really wanted to but once you get your mind made up
there is no getting through to you
for a while it was touching for a while it was chal- lenging
before it became typical and now it really
to see a grown man cry to see a grown man cry
i’m lying on the sofa and the radio is blaring
and i’m scanning through the stations as the boys declare their feelings
but it doesn’t
feel like feelings
it feels like
they’re pretending it’s like they
just want blowjobs and they know these songs will get them
and i really want to talk to you
i really really wanted to but i have learned my les- son now
and you’re not the one i’m turning to
and for a while it was touching
for a while it was chal- lenging
before it got habitual and now it really
to see a grown man cry to see a grown man cry
i was the rst to warn you i lay myself before you
i was the rst to warn you i put myself before you
we are standing on the corner
and you’re throwing down the gauntlet
it is not a life decision we just need
to pick a restaurant
after all this i should know you
well enough not to get into it
i should learn but I’m an idiot
you only want an argument
and for a while it was touching
it was almost even com- forting
before it became typical and now it really
is not interesting
to see a grown man cry to see a grown man cry to see a grown man
throw a temper t
to see a grown man
cross his arms
and sit as if the
whole wide world would end if he was not a part of it
but at the same time
with no con dence
the consequence he’s having on the ones he loves because he thinks
he makes no difference
we are standing
on the threshold
of a decent conversation when i can hear the door slam i know the face you’re making and i really want to talk to you i really really wanted to
but this time i am giving up
i am simply giving up on you
LOVE AND ONWARDS
p.s. if you haven’t joined the patreon, good god, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? join here for as little as $1 a thing and support our art directly!