Photo by Kambriel
Amanda Palmer has been in the news quite a lot in the past few months. Her self-released album with the Grand Theft Orchestra, Theatre Is Evil, debuted at No. 10 on Billboard's 200. (You can pay what you will via her website.) That's after she raised over $1.2 million in a month via Kickstarter to finance the album. Following an explosive week caught in the fire of a larger cultural debate on crowdsourcing and musicians' unions, Palmer explained in a blog post that she will, in fact, be paying the musicians each night.
Before the kerfuffle, I spoke to Palmer about the strength of the community she has built over the years. She said it was a "side effect and by-product" of the coummunity that has building since 2000, since the "dawn of the Dresden Dolls." She explained how she wanted to be a part of "a big artistic party," and during the conversation, we also got to talking about her relationship with author Neil Gaiman, whom she married in 2011, and how she defines herself sexually these days since she's also been with women. "Are you just an old married woman now?" I asked. And she laughed.
"I've never been comfortable in a monogamous relationship in my life. I feel like I was built for open relationships just because of the way I function," Palmer explained. "It's not a reactive decision like, 'Hey I'm on the road, you're on the road, let's just find other people.' It was a fundamental building block of our relationship. We both like things this way."
As many in the LGBT people decide to come out in multiple ways, it is also a struggle for people in non-monogamous relationships to "come out" about the creative ways in which they have decided to craft their loving situations. I wondered how Palmer and Gaiman have negotiated their own relationship.
"Our relationship is open, and the open-ness is grounded in total honesty with one another. We're very communicative with each other and we share everything. I think that's the way you gotta do it. I can't speak for anyone but myself, and there are a million ways to love and be in a relationship," Palmer said. "But fundamentally, I think if you're going to have a really, truly loving partnership, you have to be completely transparent, communicating and sharing everything. Neil and I fall more and more in love with each other every day, and I think part of that is because we encourage each other to say more, share more, to peel ourselves open to each other in the middle of the night when the day is done and the real talking happens. It's not always easy, the peeling sometimes hurts, but the deep love it fosters is clear to see."
Palmer had never discussed this facet of her relationship with the press before, but she's not afraid to let people know. "I've always lived my life under the philosphy of radical honesty. I can't handle lying or being lied to," she said. "I think there's many many many kinds of love. I think about this more and more as our careers and relationship evolves: the main 'other' relationship in both of our lives is our fanbase, our public. Sometimes when I'm with Neil, and go to the other room to Twitter with my followers, it feels like sneaking off for a quick shag."
So all of the discussions in the media about Palmer and the way she interacts with her fans could in fact be seen through this lense. She's not "using" her fans, she's committed to them. It's symbiotic and there's giving in both directions.
"A strong and intimate relationship with your fanbase really does kind of function like a committed partner relationship. It is the 'other' to whom you're communicating and sharing your life, time and energy, and the thing that can suck your attention - and even your sexual energy - away from your real-life partner," Palmer explained. "A real relationship with your fanbase is a longterm, committed relationship; I've been in a relationship with my fans for 13 years....so in effect, we're common law, right? Either way...we've been through a lot of shit together, we've had our ups and downs, our petty fights, our deaths to mourn, our births to celebrate, our embarrassing slip-ups, our times of needs together and apart, our moments of extreme appreciating for each other. Like any other couple."
For more information on the tour and album, visit AmandaPalmer.net.