Amanda Palmer Is Comfortable Wearing Her Own Blood

Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra. Photo: Shervin Lainez

If you didn’t already know about Amanda Palmer’s new album — Theatre Is Evil, her third solo release since semi-leaving the Dresden Dolls — then you probably have no idea who Amanda Palmer is. And how exactly do you explain Amanda Palmer to the uninitiated? I’ve tried, and trust me, it’s an exercise in futility. “She’s like the indie Lady Gaga, but for adults, and the music is better, and she’s married to the comic book author Neil Gaiman, which makes her like the Princess Diana for nerds, but she’s weird in ways that aren’t just appealing to 16-year-old gay guys.” Nobody has ever become a fan of Amanda Palmer because of my clumsy explanations.

On the other hand, those of you who are aware of Amanda Palmer and love her music certainly don’t need to be reminded about Theatre Is Evil. Not only are you aware that it comes out today, you probably helped pay for it, contributing to the Kickstarter campaign that raised millions to get Theatre Is Evil recorded and released. You know about the album because you’re an investor. If you donated more than $300 and were in Los Angeles this summer, you might’ve even been on the guest list for her show at the Pop tART gallery in Koreatown, where she invited the audience to paint her naked body. Were you there? If so, fuck you and your good fortune. Telling you that Amanda Palmer has a new album is the dictionary definition of redundant. It’d be like going on Fox News and saying, “Hey guys, I’m pretty sure Obama is a socialist!”

I called Palmer to talk about balloon dresses, the kindness of strangers, and why it’s important to steal Metallica’s music. I only spoke to her for about 30 minutes, but I’m already prepared to fight Neil Gaiman for her hand.

You sometimes go by the full name Amanda “Fucking” Palmer.

That’s right, yeah.

Where’d the “fucking” come from? Did you give yourself that middle name, or was it given to you?

A little of both. It happened while I was in Nashville, working on Who Killed Amanda Palmer with Ben (Folds, who produced the album). There was someone in Ben’s life who was not particularly fond of me, and I guess she referred to me to Ben as “Amanda Fucking Palmer.”

Not meaning it as a compliment.

Not at all. But Ben thought it was funny. He mentioned it to the engineers in the studio, and they started calling me AFP as a joke. For a while we even considered using it in the album title.

I heard you considered calling it That’s Amanda Fucking Palmer to You.

Yeah, that’s true. Even when we gave up on that title, I kept using the name. I appropriated it, just like black people appropriate n****r.

You took the power back.

I took back the fucking power.

To paraphrase my mother, when I told her that you sometimes use “Fucking” as a middle name, “Is that necessary?”

[Laughs.] You know, my mom asks the same thing. And I guess the answer is no, it’s not necessary. But neither is music, art or life. I don’t think I ever officially released any music under the moniker. It’s a nickname I use when I need a little emphasis.

Are you ever tempted to kick it up a notch? Take it from “Fucking” to “Motherfucking”? As Spinal Tap would say, take it up to eleven?

No, I think “Fucking” says it all. “Fucking” is enough for me. I remember in the ‘90s seeing a t-shirt that Ani DiFranco had made. It was really small white letters that just said “Ani Fucking Difranco.” I thought that was a brilliant piece of merchandise.

One of my favorite things about you is there will never be a tabloid headline that reads “Amanda Palmer Nipple Slip.”

[Laughs.] Yeah, probably not.

If there’s a nipple being shown, it was probably intentional.

Well, not necessarily. I do run around clothed occasionally.

Well sure, but you’re more comfortable with nudity than 99.9% of celebrities.

I guess that’s true.

You did a show in Brooklyn this summer, where you wore a balloon dress and invited the audience to pop it. Was there a moment of anxiety before you went onstage, where you thought “What the fuck am I doing?”

You know what’s funny about the ballon dress? None of that was planned in advance.

How much? The popping part or-?

All of it! Before the show, this guy came up to me and said, “Hey, look what I made for you.” It was a balloon dress, and I immediately said to him, “Give it to me!” [Laughs.] We didn’t have any kind of discussion about it. I didn’t ask him, “Can I try it on? Can I wear it?” I just ripped my clothes off and he tied me into it. I didn’t have a chance to think about it.

Did you know you were going to ask the audience to essentially disrobe you?

I got the idea on stage. The whole thing happened in under two minutes. It was totally spontaneous. Had I actually have planned it out, it probably wouldn’t have been as awesome.

Watch Amanda Palmer get into her balloon dress:

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