Exclusive: Amanda Palmer’s New Track, “In My Mind” and Interview
Interview by Roselle Chen
“It’s a beautiful fucking day in Boston,” says punk-cabaret performer Amanda Palmer from her home. She is best known as one half of The Dresden Dolls, and has a wildly-popular solo career, but she’s on the phone mainly to talk about her work with the David Lynch Foundation, a nonprofit group created by the surrealist director that teaches Transcendental Meditation to inner city youth, veterans, prisoners and the homeless. (Though she also gets into her music and her unorthodox relationship with her husband Neil Gaiman.)
The foundation’s newest venture is Download for Good, a 33-song compilation that features musicians including Arrested Development, Iggy Pop, Neon Trees and Tom Waits. (All proceeds go toward the foundation’s educational outreach programs.) Palmer’s contribution is called “In My Mind,” and it’s available as a free download, exclusively from West Coast Sound
What’s your viewpoint on meditation?
It’s certainly not all light and flowers. It’s about being present, to the moment, and that’s incredibly important when you’re an artist. You’re making and creating a lot of dark material. You need that access to mindfulness so that you don’t get thrown overboard.
I think one of the greatest gifts you can give to someone is just access to the possibility of freedom that you don’t have to be totally depressed and enslaved by your own environment.
How was it contributing a song to the David Lynch Foundation?
I’m really happy that David Lynch has such incredible “cred.” It would be all too obvious if someone like Sting were to come up with a compilation. You would just sort of expect it out of Sting. The fact that David Lynch is this beloved, dark cult filmmaker that’s planting the way towards meditation, and especially to young people and people who need it, is so admirable. It’s a fantastic place to put your energy, especially as an artist.
To me it underlines the connection between making darker, deeper, emotional art and the art of mindfulness, which is an important connection that not many people think about.
What’s David Lynch like in person?
He’s a friendly Midwestern filmmaker with a dark, seedy undercurrent. He’s a totally nice guy. I wouldn’t expect anything less from him. [I’m also] the kind of artist who’s had to shake the constant judgment of others, because I write really dark, intense music… I can empathize greatly with David Lynch, because although his art represents him as this twisted, seedy fuck, in the brief period that I met him he seems to be a totally kind and friendly, balanced individual. His book, Catching the Big Fish, resonated so strongly with what I believe about the creative process.
Why is the book important?
He gives it to you very straight- the connection between being present and being available to your own creative impulse. And once you feel it and you start to learn that, it’s an invaluable tool for an artist. You’re not at the mercy of your own process and you don’t have to sit around waiting for inspiration to strike you. Inspiration is actually just everywhere, and you need to be present and mindful enough to the moment to tune into it.
It applies to all things in life. I think to say that meditation is helpful to artists is true and it’s great but it’s also essentially helpful to any kind of process of just, life. What you’re doing in life: getting your work done, actually being in your relationships, not living out of fear but living out of real reaction to what the situation you’re faced with is. And I talk about all these things as if they’re separate, but they’re pretty much all the same. Meditating may open up your creative process but there’s probably no chance in hell it won’t also improve your relationships.
How’s life with your husband, writer Neil Gaiman?
We have a really creative relationship. We got married on New Year’s and have been married for about six months now. We don’t live together. We see each other when we can. We travel around, we chase each other around. And this is one of the weeks he’s come to visit me at my place in Boston. We’re creating this bizarre new relationship model from scratch because we’re basically two artists on the road all the time and we have to find a way to be together that’s real. We’re so in love with each other that it’s not too hard. And we don’t get sick of each other. People are constantly joking about it like, “Your marriage is so ideal. You never see each other,” so then we go, “It doesn’t get boring.” When we do see each other, we’re hyper aware of the fact that we really need to stay present otherwise the little time we have together, we’re just going to miss it.
What are your plans for your duo with Jason Webley, Evelyn Evelyn, as well as The Dresden Dolls and future tours to LA?
We’re not bringing Evelyn Evelyn to LA. I’m going to be playing with Jason, but we’re not bringing the twins. The twins are going to be resting in Washington after their traumatic European tour. Jason Webley and I are going to doing the El Rey. It may already be sold out because it went on sale a couple of days ago and the tickets were going really fast.
But in addition to the El Rey show, Neil and I are going to be announcing an LA show a few days later. We’re just looking for the right theater to do an evening with Neil and Amanda. And then after that, Neil and I are going to do a little tour of the West Coast and I’m going to hunker down and work on my next record.
There’s not going to be a whole lot of touring after that. There’s a chance that The Dresden Dolls might do a quick tour to Australia, but the Dolls probably won’t be back to the West Coast for a while. Chances are I’ll be back there with my new back-up band before we do another Dresden Dolls lap.