Amanda hug'n'kiss? Palmer gets kicks after a kickstart
THE AMERICAN CULT singer and performance artist Amanda Palmer is at it again. The 36-year-old, who has been known to end some of her shows by taking off her clothes and asking the audience to autograph every centimetre of her body, has recently released an album, Theatre Is Evil, funded by her fans via Kickstarter to the tune of $1.2m.
The album pops and rocks with the best of them, but earlier this week the New Yorker magazine, in a blog posted by Joshua Clover, questioned Palmer’s ethics in neglecting to pay the local musicians joining her on her current tour of the US.
The “payment”, outlined by Palmer a few weeks ago on amandapalmer.net, amounted to “feed you beer, hug/high-five you up and down, give you merchandise and thank you mightily.”
“Newly minted haves, like Amanda Palmer, really need to treat have-nots, such as local musicians, a whole lot better,” Clover writes, especially in light of the debate “about wealth inequality that has animated both the Occupy movement and the presidential campaigns; the sense that even”. Clover compares Palmer’s recompense to “an accidental experiment with real communism”.
Palmer upgraded her payment to cash last month after initial controversy, but weeks later and the issue won’t go away, particularly on Twitter (Palmer has almost 690,000 followers), where her loyal fanbase have rallied around the singer, accusing Clover of not properly researching his article, and claiming people power.
Following the appearance of the blog post, Palmer tweeted: “To be misunderstood hurts a bit. to be misunderstood criticized hurts a lot. to be all that lied about in @newyorker hurts like hell.” She then retreated from Twitter with the following: “Turning away from internet; towards husband. thank you all for making this feel better. perhaps @newyorker will listen and respond.”
When The Irish Times spoke to Palmer several weeks ago, she was eager to stake her claim as the individual artist.
“I’m not some freaky avant-garde outsider,” she said. “I mean, I’ve practically made a pop record. But I also feel like it’s one of my most liberated records so far, because it’s exactly the kind of album I wanted to make. If, however, anyone had marched up to me years ago and said they really wanted me to make an 1980s/1990s derivative album I would have run screaming in the other direction.So it’s amazing what gets to happen when I work in a vacuum without anybody telling me what to do. No one likes to be put in a cage.”
PALMER HAS BEENoperating on the fringes for more than 15 years, initially in performing arts and busking. Up until her mid-20s, she says, she was adrift. “I was messing around, basically, working as a street performer – a living statue – making money to buy beer and pay my rent.”
She was, she says, quite content, although she admits to experiencing “an undercurrent of shame” regarding her lack of focused work ethic.
Her first band, Dresden Dolls, was formed with drummer Brian Viglione in 2000, and that’s when something clicked. “The first year of the band was reasonably slow; we arranged songs, got some gigs. But then Brian left, and I was heartbroken. Now, as it turned out, two weeks later Brian came back into the band, but that point where he left, leaving me to think he wasn’t going to return, got me to thinking that if I didn’t start working hard then something I considered to be a golden opportunity would pass me by. I was in my mid-20s, and I thought, If I don’t do something now when will I ever do it?”