Equal parts piano siren, art agitator and punk-pop priestess, Amanda Palmer’s performance instincts have energized her band The Dresden Dolls’ gothic cabarets since 2001. But she has since decided to take a stab at a solo effort, and called upon everyone from David Lynch and Neil Gaiman to Ben Folds to help her formulate the ambitious Who Killed Amanda Palmer.
Palmer grew up in Massachusetts, graduated from Wesleyan, founded drama troupe Shadowbox Collective and even busked as a living statue in Harvard Square. Her street theater smarts came in handy once she teamed with drummer Brian Viglione and formed The Dresden Dolls, which churned out a series of full-lengths and EPs that further blurred the boundaries between art and music. Along the way, the duo regaled Radio City Music Hall and collaborated with the American Repertory Theatre, paving the way for Palmer’s solo mindmelds with the Boston Pops and Ben Folds, who produced and starred on her recently released debut effort after sending the Doll a love letter via email.
I caught up with Palmer to chat about Twin Peaks, Folds and Gaiman, performance art and why techno with ukelele from a Mac laptop totally blows.
I’m guessing by the title of your solo debut that you are a stone-cold Twin Peaks fan.
Amanda Palmer: I’m a massive fan of David Lynch and Twin Peaks. Blue Velvet was one of those wonderful revelations. When I saw it as a teenager, there was that wonderful feeling of, “Jeez, I’m not alone. Somebody else, making real movies, has just as beautifully warped an aesthetic as I do! Maybe this’ll work out after all.”
What was your favorite thing about it?
Amanda Palmer: The perfect stylization, which didn’t make things overly ironic or tacky. It was so incredibly untrue to life and yet so perfectly exposing at the same time. We all know that chicks living in the Northwest don’t hang out dancing in diners and wear skirts and sweaters with cone-shaped bras. But Lynch somehow got away with making it seem perfectly wonderful, instead of tasteless and sexist. He is a miracle man. I think television is such a magical medium and it makes me sad that not much else has ever achieved that level of artistry. Then again, I might not know, I haven’t really watched TV since 1988. But what I glimpse looks pretty bad. I saw the entire first season of Twin Peaks after the seasons were over when I was in my 20s. My step-brother had them on VHS, and I watched the whole first season over the course of four long nights.