Amanda Palmer / Photo by Kahn and Selesnick
On There Will Be No Intermission, Amanda Palmer’s first solo album in seven years, the artist sings about abortion, death, children’s fiction writer Judy Blume, and becoming a mother. Given that these are some of the most exposed, intimate, and – frankly – naked songs Palmer has ever written, it seems only natural she appear full-frontal on the album cover.
Of course, the choice to put boobs and pubes on an album cover is fraught with peril. Facebook won’t show it, nor will Instagram, and many a record label might baulk at the choice. Fortunately, the only ‘label’ Palmer has to answer to are her 15,096 (at the time of writing) supporters on Patreon. I caught up with Palmer as she prepared to embark on the There Will Be No Intermission world tour.
Hi Amanda. Congratulations on the new album! How are you feeling?
I am feeling beautifully disoriented. It's always weird, when you do things in a way that nobody else does them... there's just nothing to compare stuff to in order to orient yourself. Mostly I feel really proud of myself and of this community for what we've collectively accomplished, and taking the show on the road nails it all in place. These shows feel almost like a kind of church of feelings and mutual understanding between me and the crowd.
Let’s get into Voicemail for Jill [video above]. I can’t thank you enough for writing an unsentimental (though loving) song about abortion. Scouring my rolodex for songs that even touch on the subject, I can only come up with a few, fleeting examples. What was in your artistic orbit when you approached this song?
Hannah Gadsby, Hannah Gadbsy, Hannah Gadbsy. I saw Nanette in London and it reminded me to just say fuck it and tell the truth. Also Nick Cave's last record [Skeleton Tree], and the film that went with it [One More Time With Feeling], were reminders to forget about convention and just ... tell the truth. That's what real art is supposed to be, isn't it? Both of those artists put brave fuel in my tank.
Switching gears, you’re gloriously naked on the cover of this album. What’s the purpose in that (if any)?
I was actually going to use one of the very high-concept and theatrical shots that [photographers] Kahn & Selesnick took near my house, but then I saw that naked photo and was like: oh shit. Nope. That's the cover. Because it literally advertises exactly what's inside the package. These songs are naked, and strong. It's been funny, people are pointing out all these obvious metaphors/allusions: I'm justice, but I have no blindfold, the pose makes it look like a tarot card, all that. I just know I hopped up on a log with a sword and it matched the themes of the record absolutely perfectly. Meaning comes later.
Your song Judy Blume made me cry when I heard it, despite never having read any of Blume’s work. It brought back all the worlds I’d entered as a child with a library card (and inspired me to read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret as an adult). What was it like to write a song about a literary hero of your childhood?
Incredibly therapeutic. The guilt that I felt when I realised that I'd been leaving her off my list of influences as a songwriter was actually immense, and I was like: how can I fix this? Write a blog? A blog will come and go and be forgotten. But, I realised if you write a song, it'll erase all the bad. So I wrote a song.
I love it. What else is big in your world right now?
Sleep. I've just been reading Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, MD, and it's changed my entire understanding of my past and present. Whole eras of my life - especially my touring years with The Dresden Dolls and my vocal surgery - now make horrific sense retroactively. I am not letting anything fuck with my 7-8 hours anymore, I'm starting to prize sleep more than literally anything. And it feels really wonderful.
There Will Be No Intermission is available everywhere.Support Villainesse