Features - Interviews

Nothing Happens in a Vacuum: An Interview with Amanda Palmer


Amanda Palmer chats with Rebecca Kennedy about her upcoming Dublin show, the Irish 8th Amendment Referendum and more

Amanda Fucking Palmer has never shied from creating music and art that challenges pervasive structures of gender roles, identity, insecurity and self – actualization. Cutting her teeth as a performance artist- the musician spent her early 20’s posing as an eight-foot-tall “living statue”, dressed as in a thrift store bridal gown, blowing kisses or handing out roses for dollars – Palmer learnt crucial lessons on the role of the artist, the music business and pre- Kickstarter crowd sourcing. As one half of The Dresden Dolls, a ‘Brechtain Punk’ band that seamlessly blended heavy-handedness of punk with the overwrought drama of cabaret, Palmer championed a uniquely strange, romantic sound that earned her a devoted following and statue as a cult icon. In her solo ventures, which encompasses two studio albums and a handful of side-projects, Palmer’s artistry developed into an arresting & quirky sound; the dominant characteristic being shamelessly camp & histrionic melodies that often disguise the dark under-belly of her lyricism.

Palmer has never been shy about speaking her mind and living on the outskirts of “polite” society, so the Kickstarter fiasco was not the first nor last time the musician has found herself in a swarm on controversy. Usually, said controversy is the result of issue without context, like the Daily Mail’s 2013 publication of photo’s of singer’s Glastonbury set, where her boob escaped her bra. Palmer’s response was a tongue in cheek song titled ‘Dear Daily Mail,’ where the singer points out that if the tabloid had been at all familiar with her public persona & stage performances, they would have known that Palmer’s breasts make much applauded appearances at her live shows. Speaking of shows, Palmer is thrilled at the prospect of performing at her concert in The National Concert Hall, as she knows the date follows in the wake of a crucial time in Irish political history. ‘My Irish fans are so great. And I’m so excited to play straight after the referendum so I can either celebrate or commiserate with the audience.’

An outspoken Feminist, Palmer had much to say on Ireland’s upcoming Referendum, which will take place on May 25, to discover if the Irish public will support the removing constitutional ban on abortion. ‘The right to choose what to do with your body are how safe you are to make that choice is so important because it informs how you feel about everything else,’ said Palmer, ‘If the Repeal the 8th movement passes in the referendum, it will be a positive progression towards a more egalitarian society.’


Palmer also offered her take on the state of American politics and roll-back of American Women’s reproductive rights. ‘State by state, the right to choose being removed,’ said Palmer.  The New York Times recently reported that the White House plans to issue new guidelines for Title X, the only federal program dedicated to paying for birth control. The new rule is expected to require a “physical as well as financial separation” between entities that receive Title X funds and those that provide abortions. The new rule is the latest battle in Republicans’ years-long war to end Planned Parenthood’s public funding. Despite the on-going attack on women’s right’s by the Trump administration, Palmer is hopeful that what we bare witness to now, may only be the death-rattle of the status quo. ‘As progress marches on, all these groups of older guys start popping up saying ‘Don’t take me power away.’ When all the alt-right stuff starts emerge, we can only hope that it’s the oozing sore left when a tumour is removed. It’s weird because since this guy rose to power, I’ve never felt more kinship with other women because this guy is a threat to our very humanity. If history has taught us anything it’s that, we as women, have to remain vigilant,’ said Palmer, ‘We can’t expect anyone to do it for us. In all this, I have to figure out how I can be honest as an artist.’

Honesty, and to some extent brutal honesty, is the back-bone of Palmer’s songwriting. It’s her calling card, and the most flagged reason as to why her legion of fans are eagerly awaiting the new album that Palmer has teased across her social media platforms. It’s been six year’s since the release of Palmer’s last solo album, Theatre is Evil, an album that spawned from the artist’s 2012 Kickstarter campaign. Since then, the singer has built up a ‘well of songs,’ and it will be interesting to see how the reactive nature of this artist digests the perils of politics in her homeland and her tumultuous personal life. ‘It’s been a crazy few years for me; I’ve had one miscarriage, two abortions, I’ve given birth and I lost my best friend. I’ve had nearly every major reproductive issue the female experience can offer. I have to talk about it; because that’s your job as an artist. You can’t just compartmentalize, you know? Nothing happens in a vacuum,’ said the singer, ‘It’s been a traumatic six years; Donald Trump was elected and inaugurated and since then, I’ve been less and less interested in not telling the truth. There’s a few songs that focus on the election because it’s impossible to escape. You can’t just separate politics from your emotional landscape.’ The Massachusettsan singer promises that the album, which is due to be released next year, will be packed with songs that are ‘very dramatic and very emotional.’

To Palmer, it’s clear that the role of the artist as one of truth-teller, consuming and creating; taking in news & experience to dissect them, analyze them and add rich, rich color. So, how does the singer/song-writer feel about her position as an artist, ‘‘It’s an honour, the fact that I get to get up every morning and do my musician job as a real “job”, is amazing,’ said the singer, ‘I never take that for granted and I never feel entitled to anything because if I was born in another, less free part of the world, none of what I’ve done with my career would be allowed.’ The singer also had an announcement to make regarding the revival of her first creative endeavor, ‘The Dresden Dolls are coming to the UK to do some shows around Halloween shows. After all the personal song writing that going into the album (it’s like 99% done) it’s great to take The Dolls on the road because it’s such a different, crazy sound.’ Rebecca Kennedy

Amanda Palmer will perform at The National Concert Hall in Dublin on May 28

Photo by Michael Murchie