The Dresden Dolls - Brechtian Punk Cabaret from Massachusetts
It was on the first day of the month December when I got asked to do an interview with the Brechtian Punk Cabaret duo, The Dresden Dolls. I had never seen them before but fortunately I read a lot of good things about the band and when I listened to their recently released studio album I was convinced to take this opportunity. When I arrived it was almost immediately my time to have an interview with a big grinning Amanda and the other half of the duo, drummer and guitarist Brian.
1. Hey how are you?
Great! How are you?
A small conversation started, but while it hasn’t got any value to anyone else I’m not going to write about that right now.
2. It’s obvious that the in the name “The Dresden Dolls” are two opposite elements, can you explain them?
Yeah that’s true, it’s the ‘Dresden’ element which stands for destruction and on the opposite of it is the delicate ‘Doll’. These two terms kind of reflects the way the music sounds. Very soft, very loud. It’s just the dynamic in the music.
3. Did you ever consider to expand your band with other musicians or instruments?
Jep! But we found that the chemistry remained a lot more focused with just the two of us. So it just didn’t work.
4. In the last live show in The Netherlands you said: “You can take a boy out of the Metalband, but can you take the Metalband out of the boy?” Was it hard to combine this loud rock-oriented drumming style with a piano?
Brian: It was absolutely the easiest pie! If you listen to ‘Girl Anachronism’ or ‘Truce’ it’s very easy to detect that intense urgency which is present in a lot of pumprock and driving jazz-music. That sort of irresistible urged move. So yeah, you take all that energy and fun. Heavy metal has got a great element of fun in it and an exciting performance and that definitely falls in line with what we do on stage. Ozzy Osbourne jumping up is just the same as ‘Coin-Operated Boy’ jumping up.
Amanda: Yeah there is a theatricality that makes us strange bastards together with our cousin label mates on Roadrunner Records.
Brian: No not on Roadrunner! ‘Cause that kinda heavy metal doesn’t come into that. The kind of nu-metal shit that’s out there today that’s all about like just trying to be a tough guy with your tattoos and your bald head and how dark and in pain you are. But the real fun, old heavy metal, the kind of shit that I like - Amanda: Alice Cooper! - Brian: No not that old! Ghegheghe! More like Ozzy Osbourne, Iron Maiden and all that kind of shit is all about having fun, just putting on a show and going crazy. Just the fun and energy of Rock’n’Roll. (*note, The Dresden Dolls are indeed not really on Roadrunner Records but on 8ft. Records)
5. A while ago you released your new album, what is the idea behind the booklet artwork?
Amanda: That was my idea. I’ve always made a lot of art in my life and the concept was to make each page reflect the theme of the song and I wanted to do it all by hand so… You must take a good look and then you’ll find out that each page contains a cover of a record album or LP. I just took some LP’s out of my collection and I put them into the booklet. If you look really careful you can see which records are which. There are a lot of clues in the artwork.
6. The song ‘Missed Me’ is about sexual harassment (Correct me if I’m wrong). - Amanda: you’re wrong! Hahaha! - When and how did this song originated?
Well I got the idea from an other song. It’s a jumping off point for the complexity of relationships that young girls have with older men. Because there’s a lot of relationships where it’s easy to say that the older man is guilty without realising how unpleasantly guilty the young girl is. It’s just weird that these young, attractive girls control the power of the law. And in this song there’s one of the situations where there is no right or wrong, there is no guilty, it’s just this strange relationship. The song reflects the complexity of these kind of relationships but doesn’t come to any conclusions.
7. Why did you choose ‘Coin Operated Boy’ to be the new single?
Brian: Well hey! Listen how catchy it is, haha! No really, it just has that thing that sticks in your head.
Amanda: It’s actually the crowd that we’ve been playing to that made the decision for us. And we’re very lucky with that. We play this song live for almost three years now and that is just the song people are always asking for and remember. So the song actually evolved into the single and it didn’t get just randomly chosen. We just had enough feedback from the people to say: ‘That’s the song!’ It was easy to pick.
8. I think the fans and the press are already looking forward to new material of your band. Are there any plans for a new album yet? Maybe some new experiments or covers which you play live?
Brian: Yeah, there’s a bunch of new material but we’re gonna record it this spring. We actually have about 90% of our new record and we’re ready to go through the material. Just a few more months and we start writing some more and see what pops up. We might record our version of ‘Port of Amsterdam’ by Jacques Brel. Maybe a Carol King cover and the Black Sabbath cover of ‘War Pigs’ so there’s a lot of new stuff to get out.
Amanda: We just put out a German maxi single with ‘Coin-Operated Boy’ and there’s a cover song on it of Britney Spears.
Gheghe, that’s cool, which song?
Amanda: ‘Hit me Baby one more time’. It’s a good song to cover, it’s just awesome haha!
9. What will happen when your band hits the charts and you will end in the top? Don’t you think it will affect the magic in your live performance when you get to play bigger venues or festivals?
If that does happen, we’ll just make it work. We really do not hope that an explosive growing process will ‘corrupt’ the music. We hope people still can love what we do, the music we make. Hopefully we are capable enough to evolve into it and hopefully we can still express that sort of artistic statements that we have within the new boundaries.
10. I’ve heard that you played a cover of ‘Port of Amsterdam’ when you performed in Amsterdam last time. I assume you specially changed the stage show for this date. Do you often change the stage performance during one tour?
A little bit. I’d say there’s probably five or six songs that we always play as part of one tour. Then there’s about four or five songs that we switch up and occasionally we play a song that we never play or we get a request. But it’s never a huge variation like we play one set a night and then a completely new set for the next show.
11. Are you interested in the countries and their cultures that you visit on tour?
Brian: Yeah, absolutely! Amanda especially likes Germany.
Why is that?
Amanda: Well, I used to live in Germany. But I’ve always been very interested in Europe particularly. Other languages are very fascinating to me. But it’s always a conflict; we were actually just talking about it. It’s really difficult to come to all these cities and to be able to spend time there and get the essence of a city. We spend a lot of time sound checking or resting for a show. It’s difficult to be a musician and a tourist as well. We need to be musicians first and most of the times that means sacrificing actually experiencing the place that we’re around.
Brian: I think that the thing that makes us get to see the landscape and meeting some of the people from the local area is that they come to us. It gives an expression of joy and thanks and we get to meet these people face to face and that gives us memories of cities. We always come out after the show and hang out with the fans.
12. What are the main differences between the American and the European crowd?
Brian: There’s a funnier accent over here, hahaha!
Amanda: There’s actually not a huge difference. There are always the obvious small differences but, well, we played in Tours, France last night and there were these 18 year old students and then there are these straight looking guys and they’re around 40. And everybody between these groups of course. I think that’s just because our music crosses boundaries and you know, unlike certain kinds of music it doesn’t feel uncool for any kind of person. It’s really open to anyone and that’s the cool thing about this band, it doesn’t seem to include only young people, or only old people. We’ve got fans that are 8 and we have fans that are 50. We even have fans that bring their kids to our shows; the variation of the crowd is just awesome.
13. In about two weeks you’re going to tour in Australia and New Zealand, have you ever been there before?
Amanda: I’ve been to Australia but not with the band. I used to be a street-performer and I travelled to the Adelaide-Friends festival which is a big theatre festival. I just went there to work and not to perform.
What do you expect from that tour?
Brian: A very positive response. The Australians and New Zealand people have been very receptive to the video and the single so far. There’s a huge amount of requests for it. Everything I’ve heard is that Australians are very turned on by progressive sounding music so people are very anticipating in that kind of music. We’re very excited to what’s going to happen.
14. Ok that was my final question, anything left to say to the readers of Metal Rage?
Thank you very, very much for participating in this Punk Cabaret. It’s been wonderful to see all the people come out to our shows to make a real experience out of the night then just a Monday night in a rockclub. We’re very grateful for our fans and their wonderful ‘open attitude’.
Thank you very much for your time and good luck tonight!
Thank you too and we’ll see you tonight at the show!
And then it was already over. I’ve experienced a great interview with two of the nicest and talented artists there are these days and I did it with joy. The show was also awesome and The Dresden Dolls made the non-metal side of me turning on. A big thanks goes out to everyone involved at this interview.