Dresden Dolls

author PP date 09/08/06

It all started at a Halloween party, Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione fell in "rock love". This sparked Dresden Dolls, the duo band unfolding upon the world under the genre Punk Cabaret. They released their self-titled debut album on Palmer's own Eight Foot Records in the fall of 2003, but after signing with Roadrunner Records in 2004, the debut album has been re-released and followed by the DVD titled Paradise. The story continues, as the ambitious Amanda Palmer, accompanied by Brian Viglione, embark on a further conquest through their distinctive music, described and defined as Punk Cabaret.

RF.net: As Dresden Dolls is a new band in certain parts of the world this probably a much repeated question for you, but here it goes. For those who haven't visited your website, can you give us the Reader's Digest version of how you two came together and how did you end up calling your band Dresden Dolls?

I was throwing a Halloween party at my house/artists' collective, and Brian was dragged over by a mutual friend. I played a solo piano set at the end of the night and he was completely sold. I was looking for a drummer, he was looking for a band: we met. The Dresden Dolls were born a few weeks later.

I chose the name "The Dresden Dolls" because i loved the juxtaposition of the firebombed city and the delicate little doll...it just fit perfectly with the music.

RF.net: Roadrunner Records is best known with extreme music bands, especially metalcore bands. Your music and your style are very different from the general ones. What is the story behind signing with a label like Roadrunner Records?

They heard about us when I was running our own record label, Eight Foot records. It seems like they are actually looking to expand their current roster and try to sign new types of music, so we took the risk. They've been pretty wonderful so far, we don't have too many complaints. They are trying hard to come to terms with what it's like to work with a band that has such a strong vision, and of course there are conflicts between art and business, but we generally manage to work it out. I am learning every day more and more about striking that balance between what I had WANTED and PICTURED and what is actually realistic. You can always be a hard-core purist, but sometimes that doesn't actually serve the greater good.

RF.net: Despite the dreaming as a child of being on musicals, you are now playing in a two-person band. Is Dresden Dolls the band that you want to go on with or just a step for your music career? And what are the reasons of limiting the band to just two people? Is there a possibility that you will add guitarists or bassists to the band?

We actually had a guitarist and bassist for a few months, but we found it just wasn't necessary to get the fundamental point across. Less is always more if extra instruments are just adding clutter. I think the band is best as a two piece; it keeps the chemistry very intense and un-diluted. As far as the future goes, I never think about it. I just think about tonight and maybe tomorrow and next month if I'm feeling ambitious. There have been lots of instances where Brian and I have worked with other guest musicians when we play live, accordion, violin, etc....we just invite our friends up to play with us.

RF.net: Your music is defined as "punk cabaret", is that your definition or the record label?s or the press'? I haven't had the chance to watch you live, but thinking of Dresden Dolls being a 2 musician?s band and you?re playing the piano as well as doing the vocals, I think that must be hard to create a cabaret atmosphere on the stage. Do you have guest musicians or maybe dancers on stage? Hmm, ok, here is the main thing, tell me about your live shows, detailed please :)

Oh, you are wrong....two people can make a cabaret very easily. We try to include other people....actors, dancers, circus entertainers all come to the club and perform before our sets, but as soon as we take the stage it's usually very simple and very rock. But the club is the exciting part....people and performers from the town all come and congregate and perform and create living statues and dance and sing and make beautiful art....it's amazing. Lots of punk and lots of vintage and lots of burlesque. Brian and I have a very particular chemistry onstage that lots of people liken to two quarrelling lovers. There is a push and pull factor, a drama, that sparks and resolves within each song and within each show. The problem with that is that if we are having an off-night, with each other, it can turn into an off-night with the music. We feel like we've gipped a lot of fans, because they happened to see us live right after an argument and really only got the conflict and not the resolution. But that's part of it all. It's never perfect.

RF.net: I really wonder about your song writing, how autobiographical your songs are and how much they are reflecting a persona that you have adopted in order to tell the story of the song? What mix is going on there? And don't you think that it is dangerous to be autobiographical in writing? I mean, your private life will be well known by the fans, everybody will examine every song...

That's fine, people always do this with artists. I think my writing is usually about 90% autobiographical. Everything is always exaggerated for the sake of the music, hyperbole rules. I have had to deal with everything from ex-boyfriends to my parents taking my songs to heart, but that's the nature of the beast. Like any good artist, I try to blur details and strike at the heart of the emotional truth, but sometimes it's the super-personal details that make a song brilliant, not the vague attempt at hiding.

RF.net: How is it like to be in a band with your boyfriend? As I know from your biography, you had a band with your ex-boyfriend Jonah and when the relationship died so did the music collaboration. I am sure that Dresden Dolls is a more professional band, but don't you think that there is a risk for Dresden Dolls to end with the same fate? And maybe you don't want to talk about it, but girl to girl, concerning your relationship with Brian, isn't it a little bit boring, I mean being on stage with Brian, touring with Brian, at home with Brian...?

Luckily, Brian is not my boyfriend. If he was, we'd be in serious trouble. But yes, we do sometimes get bored and sick of each other. We learn to live with it. A band is like a marriage, you are just forced to figure out how to work out your problems. We've known each other for so long that we've really learned to respect each other. There have been some really very hard times and the band has been on the precipice of disaster, but we always manager to come around.

RF.net: Let's talk about coin operated boy, this song is one of my favourites on the album and you have a very nice video for that. And boys can be really tiresome sometimes (or should I maybe say always?), a coin operated or a remote controlled boyfriend can be very useful, every girl needs one ;) But then again with a remote-controlled boyfriend maybe life would get very boring. (ok, hard to understand what girls want :) we?re complicated!) What do you think?

I think you understand this song very well, better than a lot of people (those, for instance, who think it's about a dildo). The idea behind the song is that the narrator is living in a diluted fantasy, but the purpose of the bridge in the song is that the cracks appear. The admission is apparent.

RF.net:I read in your biography that you started writing songs about drugs, boys and illusions of reality at the age of 9! Don't you think that writing all about that stuff at that age, is a little bit weird? Or should I say that I lived a very childish life when I was 9 years old?

I lived a very childish life too, but I had a very active imagination......I think most children have a capacity for creating art that is uncapturable at older ages, when too much reality has conquered the imagination. I'm pretty embarrassed by most of my early work, but there is a genuine desire to emote, without calculation, that shines through.

RF.net: While reading your biography, it attracts my attention that lots of piano teachers seduced you. And you know, whenever a woman succeeds at something, men start to gossip that she was able to succeed because she was a bitch/whore or something. They want to have women as an object and they can't stop seeing women as a sex object. I don't think that they have the right to talk about a woman as a bitch just because she succeeds at something! What do you think about their prejudice and their cruelty sometimes? (Just to let you know, I am not a feminist or something or I don't hate boys, I?ve just collected the things I don't like about them in one question hehe)

Well, women and men both have a very hard time with sexism. I see it going both ways all the time. As a powerful woman, or at least as the sort of woman who isn't afraid to ask for what she wants, I often come across people who are just dying to hate me. The people who claim to dislike me (or "my type") never actually take the time to meet me. If they did, they'd see that I'm not like that at all. It's like any other kind of stereotype. Silly.

My problem with feminism nowadays is that it can be too extreme. There is a difference between men and women, people shouldn't be denying that. They should be working with the facts.

RF.net: I read somewhere in an interview that you wanted to get someone to send out the press kit for you as opposed to you having to send them out yourself. And in another interview, I read that it's happened already :) Are there any dreams left for you as a musician and as Amanda Palmer?

Yes. I want to write the next great American Rock Opera in the tradition of Hair and The Wall and Tommy. Now, if I could only get some fucking time off...

RF.net: Thank you so much for your answers and for your time, Amanda! Any last comments?


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