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there is no other way, in today's music business, that we could make non-commercial art this ambitious.
we. are. the. media.
if you don't want to read this long-ass post and you want to just skip to the video, it's here on youtube:
and now the long part.
greetings from woodstock...i'm at home and up at the ass-crack of dawn to get this post out, since the premiere of the video was with NME.com in the UK (whee ha, thanks for premiering this, NME).
the earth is wet, the late-summer crickets are a-buzzin, neil is asleep and snoring, ash isn't up yet, rachel is here with her 2-year old asa, coco and sxip are here with 6-week old thelonious, and a new journalist/writer friend of mine named leslie is sleeping upstairs.
i literally just got ash ready for camp before pressing the PUBLISH button.
i wanna say something, first, about the patreon itself before i get into the deep nitty gritty of what went into this video. don't worry, this post is long AF and i have a ton to say.
it is not unrelated.
(p.s. it's all related. are we getting this yet? it's ALL RELATED. ONE BIG ART LIFE PROJECT IN THE SKY.)
i finished a new ukulele song yesterday.
a ukulele song about mass shootings.
i haven't written a new song since long before the last record (There Will Be No Intermission) came out. i've just been busy...busy touring, busy being behind, busy being a mom.
then the shootings in dayton and el paso happened, back to back, and again i found myself, along with so many people in my country, feeling a new depth of hopelessness about how terrible our fucking system is.
this is what it feels like: that no matter how bad it gets, no matter how many people die, the system that serves the rich, the white, the privileged in america must be protected at any cost.
it feels like we are in wartime.
i feel like i can do a few things, as an artist.
i can pick up a ukulele and write a song in a few hours, and put it on my patreon. that song cost me nothing to write, and it will cost me nothing to record it on my iphone in my underwear in the kitchen and put it up on youtube (which i probably will, next week).
and i can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, all in, to make a supremely produced song by a grammy-award-winning producer, hire a cast of dozens, and spend six months working on a music video. and put it out. using your money.
as long as you realize these two offerings are almost identical:
the $0.00 budget ukulele song and the $100k budget MTV-style video:
we are on the same page.
it's all art
it's all important.
some of it is grand, some of it is humble. the price tag isn't the point.
all hands on fuckin' deck.
for those of you who are supporting the patreon, i hope you can see how this is all coming together.
it's just revolutionary.
there is no way i would be able to pay for this level of art-making if i were working with a label.
this sort of ambition would be out of pocket, or literally un-budgetable.
but because all of you contributed your $1 here, your $30 there, we were able to mount this massive undertaking, hire all these people, and make this huge, incredible THING.
throughout my tenure as an artist, and especially since trump got into office, journalists have been asking me this question:
"what do you feel is the political responsibility of the artist?"
they ask it in english, they ask it in german, they ask it in japanese.
when i was in the dresden dolls, i used an answer that still works to this day....
the artist is political whether they try to be or not.
whether the material is directly political folk music, or personal ballads about love and tragedy.
being a woman in america and getting on a stage and singing about your true experiences is, in itself, a political act.
i have always written songs all over the spectrum.....songs more about myself ("runs in the family", "ampersand", "girl anachronism" come to mind), songs more about the general state of the world ("sing", "the bed song", "ukulele anthem" and "modern moonlight" come to mind), and songs that live in the collision in between ("berlin" comes to mind).
that being said, this video wouldn't feel complete - whether you are new to the patreon or not - without reminding you that this was the first "crowd-sourced" song i wrote.
you are in it. you are it.
which means i acted more as a scribe for the tribe, a vessel, than a first-person narrator.
or, better put, i felt like i was running the feelings and thoughts my community through a song machine shaped like me, and delivering an offering out the other end.
i was the machine, the tool, the oven that cooked the songs: but the ingredients came from this patreon, from the crowd, from my tribe.
go back, if you have a second, and read the blog i posted back on august 29th, 2017
i posted this blog, read the 600-700 comments that flooded in immediately, sat down to write the song the next day - on the 30th - and recorded and released the demo on the 31st.
the timing of all this was not an accident.
i had two videos late in production and had to get SOMETHING out for august or i would lose access to all of the money that your patronage offers.
(as great as this was...this kind of scramble was also why we instituted the "state of all things")
the comments from everybody contained so much weight, so much fear, so much darkness.
hurricane harvey was threatening to demolish parts of texas.
the idea that climate change was just around the corner....
the eclipse had just happened.
i sat there, all that day of the 29th and morning of the 30th, pen in hand with scraps of paper and notecards, scribbling away everybody's thoughts and fears and impressions about the world.
i saw a lot of water. a lot of fear. a lot of people feeling lonely, disconnected despite their electronic tether to one another.
late on the morning of the 30th, i headed into the recording studio to write.
and (if you saw my show, you know what's coming) i made the mistake, late that morning of my exciting-crowd-songwriting-mission, of posting to facebook about taylor swift finally embracing her goth side (look! her new video is so un-taylor! she's wearing black and full of angst! HOORAY). somebody on facebook decided that i was "clearly an unapologetic racist" because i was discussing taylor swift without addressing her racism and appropriation of black culture.
it was a very facebook moment.
i was so fucking irritated.
i was very lucky.
that irritation, like a piece of sand in a clam shell, fueled my entire songwriting day.
the song collided it all.
(here, you can listen to the demo version of the song that i recorded the day after i wrote it. it's pretty great for a demo:
then the song became one of the most intricately produced tracks on There Will Be No Intermission.
then, i asked michael pope, my long long time art-partner in the film-world, which track he wanted to attack. i gave him the whole album to pick from.
this is the song he chose.
it spoke to him.
photo by krys fox
this is the most ambitious (and expensive) video i have made in years.
pope and i took a collaborative breather during that era and i worked with a few different directors ("killing type" was directed by tim pope - no relation - and "the bed song" was directed by michael mcquilken, who was also the drummer in the grand theft orchestra, my back-up band).
every video pope and i have ever made is a stumbling stumble towards an ultra-clear vision. all art is this way, to some degree. the bigger, the scarier.
sometimes you nail the vision in your head, sometimes you wind up with a surprise, sometimes it’s somewhere in-between.....
sometimes you realize you like working with professional stumblers because the true joy is in the stumble.
the ideas always come from conversations, over the phone, from our heads, in cafes and bars.....michael pope and i have been making videos together since “girl anarchism” back in 2004, and i remember sitting on the couch in my kitchen in the cloud club, our arts collective, and saying "THERE MUST BE MANY COSTUMES, MANY AMANDAS" with pope scribbling onto a notebook he probably promptly left under the couch.
the conversation of images and how they SHOW music is one we have been having since then.....we’ve probably done over 20 film projects altogether, including coin-operated boy, night reconnaissance, astronaut, the point of it all.
we consider each other family.
i gotta say, with pride: we still don’t know what we’re doing.
this is why we are awesome.
every time we try to attack something, our art-eyes are bigger than our art-stomachs, and we refuse to work within the bounds of what we know how to do.
had either of us ever shot a bunch of dancers in a post-apocalyptic water-world?
hell no. but we all got the idea in our heads, and so we did it.
that’s what i love about the patreon, and what i love about my friends, and what i love about art.
the frightening dive into doing what you have no idea how to do, and the dive being the thrill of fucking life itself.
why else art.
pope and i hammered out our first ideas over the phone.
i see dancers, i said.
let’s get coco.
(photo by krys fox)
coco karol has been an important part of my life for the past few years. i write about this in the art book. she and i went through back-to-back miscarriages together, and she’s become a soul-sister of sorts, a mirror friend. she and sxip, my old touring friend of yore, have spent a lot of time up at our house in woodstock.
here is our photo (from the art book):
coco was 7 months pregnant when we shot this video.
(photo by krys fox)
pope and coco and i sat down for the first meetings about six months ago.
we listened to the song over and over again, and we drafted our wish-list of what we would make if we had a limitless budget.
there were ships, and storms, and drowning churches. fires in the woods.
we wanted the video to be not literal, but a feeling...a feeling that we all three of us saw in our heads.
about flailing. about power and control. about drowning.
we filled pages and pages with our writing-ideas....
this was the fun part.
then came the hard part.
making it happen.
pope and i aren’t “commercial” filmmakers, neither of us sits around making movies for other people all day. but we are real artists. what we lack in skill we make up for in hope and dreams. we figure it out as we go even if we’ve got no idea what we are dong because we’ve never done it before. we know it might go, as neil and the brits like to say, “TITS UP”, or we might strike gold with our “whatever let’s just fucking try it” attitude.
putting this shoot together was a MASSIVE undertaking. the crew was enormous and the budgets were tight, even with my patreon. i try to keep my patreon projects at about $10-20k each, so that we can pay all the bills and keep the staff fed and the lights on. this video looked like it was going to cost north of $65k, and then, of course, the budget kept ballooning.
there were two sets: one behind our house, in our backyard old-school pool,
….and one down the street in woodstock a sound/stage studio called “utopia”.....
(fun fact: the utopia soundstage building was originally build FOR THE PURPOSE of shooting music videos….back in the 80s. it was built by todd rundgren’s manager, albert grossman, who was also bob dylan’s manager until they got art-divorced).
we needed to build a dystopian water-world.
we had the old piano from the THERE WILL BE NO INTERMISSION photoshoots, so we re-used it. but we had to haul it around. michael cooter, me and neil's handy carpenter, helped with that.....and a massive crew assembled a waste-land in the utopia building.
on the limited budget, we only had a few angles to shoot from, which was one of the things that really wound up annoying pope in the edit.
words from pope:
Beautiful. Brutal. Impossible. Inevitable - Not necessarily in that order.
It takes a demanding kind of love and guts to go all-in on creative impulse. These specific artists and comrades in arms, under these exact conditions, at this exact moment in time, did just that.
Oh, what a fcking ride.
To Those About To Live We Salute You
here’s a bunch of behind-the-scenes photos of the set-building….
this is michael cooter filling the pool on the sound stage
photo by hayley
photos below by krys fox
for the dance and choreography, we started early, back in wintertime.
here’s some photos of coco, effy, miguel, alexi, yeman and me working out the choreo in NYC....
photo by effy grey
photo by me
it was an honor to learn from all these dancers....
their freedom in their own bodies gave me permission to feel free.
the costumes were obviously a massive part of this undertaking, and we hired andrea lauer to be the mastermind, after we gave her a basic mood/direction and color palate. here she is, working on set.
photo by me
photo by effy grey
photo by krys fox
this massive parachute dress you might recognize from the "machete" photoshoot i did with allan amato in LA, which we then used for the cover art for the "machete" demo, and we also used it in the art book. it was designed by his pal rachel freire.
allan finally just GAVE me this dress. you're a prince, allan.
words from andrea:
Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of what feels like a dream, more of a magical realm where there is a type of creative utopia and as the day passes you only wish it would slow down. Working as the costume designer for the DITS music video was like this.
Each of us bringing the tools of our trade with large imaginations and even larger hearts. It is hard to say where one person's job began and the other ended as collectively we merged in a place of artistic action. I met so many amazing people that felt like kindred spirits from a time passed and together we collaged this milky fantasia of a video. All hail the brilliant director Michael Pope, my wonderous collaborators, and the one and only Amanda Fucking Palmer.
the dancers rehearsed again the day before filming in woodstock. we periscoped some of it, watch here:
photos below by krys fox
the make-up, also, was a huge factor in the look and vibe of the video, and we brought in regina harris, who had also dome the make-up for the THERE WILL NE NO INTERMISSION art book:
here are some photos of regina at work on the cast:
words from regina:
Makeup is most effective when used as a tool of self-expression and story telling. The makeup for Drowning in the Sound suggests the glow of a smart phone. It is Butoh-esque and deconstructed. Face paint is implemented here to help tell a story.
the shoot itself lasted two days.
it was wet, cold, fun, insane, exhausting.
our long-time photo comrade krys fox and hayley both worked on the set to gather images.
that's krys on the right in orange...
photo by hayley
me and krys....
words from krys:
DITS is the fifth music video I’ve worked on with Amanda, and the third as the Stills Photographer, and it was by far my favorite experience so far. It’s also my favorite song on the new album, and I played it over and over and over again when we got the initial Patreon version about a year ago.
So much of the song speaks to how I have felt the past few years, the way we all are feeling, like we are treading water and holding onto loved ones for survival. I also am a huge fan of when Amanda dips deep into Rock Mode and this song just flat out kicks ass!!
As far as my role in the shoot, it was a technically challenging but emotionally invigorating week. They say in film to never work with children and animals, well, I don’t agree, I always love any chance I get to hang and shoot with Ash and the location gave me a herd of Guinea Pea Fowl, Chickens, a very macho Rooster and a certain problematic Raccoon to create with!
For me, the hardest elements to work with are shooting in low contrasting light with fast motion and lots of water. And MOST of the days in this project involved both. You kinda have to trust your instincts and hope you got something pretty and in focus and emotional. And after a month and a half of editing.. I’m happy to report, I did!
here's hayley helping to shoot behind the scenes footage of the pool...
photo by krys fox
and helping with the slate:
right before wrapping the shoot, hayley periscoped some of the final scenes throwing things into the water with the help of stephanie:
michael (mccommiskey, from team AFP) came on set and literally froze his ass off in the water to assist on the shoot.
(photo by krys fox)
LOOK AT THIS DEVOTION.
all in all….it went mostly according to plan.
we had a few disasters with the schedule, and one of the costume assistants banged up her leg in a fall.
but mostly….we did it.
everybody holding their breathe while 7-month pregnant coco and i BASHED IT OUT on the dystopian dance floor.
(photos below by krys fox)
we survived. i think her baby will remember this forever.
holding my breath underwater for a long time, while pope took that ending shot.
thanks yoga and meditation.
here is a picture f the ENTIRE crew from the video, in front of our house in woodstock
i am so grateful to every one of these crazy fuckers for taking the art-plunge with us and coming on board for this video experiment.
whatever we made.....we sure had a great fucking time making it.
and that's the point, people.
that's the point.
(photo by effy grey)
our production assistant bimini is missing from this photo because she was on a drive to pick up camera equipment from new york city. THANKS BIMINI.
a bit more...
words from christina bryant (assistant producer/unit production manager/props):
I started out as an Art PA on several Pope-directed Dresden Dolls videos, so when he approached me about this video, I was excited to reunite and in this more logistical role of support. I knew Pope, Amanda and Coco would make something honest and moving and that the process would evoke a transformation as any time I have worked for Pope and Amanda/The Dolls, I’ve left with a renewed dedication to go further artistically.
Some of that can be attributed to the challenge of making ambitious videos on lower budgets (by industry standards); you push beyond your perceived limits. What is unique is the dynamic that Pope, Amanda and this team creates on set, one where everyone jumps in to do what is needed regardless of title, where every person is vital. When our dancers and crew were freezing in the pool, everyone else was brewing and running hot teas out in cycles, keeping dry towels constantly on hand to swaddle them. At one point I realized - it feels like we’re giving birth and we’re all acting as midwives. Perhaps that was Coco’s pregnancy and being surrounded by water, but it was also that sense of community focused on caring for each other while catching the truth and intensity of the performance.
I am very grateful to the cast and crew who worked so hard and kept such great attitudes throughout the shoot, and a special shout out to Michael Cooter, an intensely talented carpenter and problem solver who built our giant wading pool, figured out how to submerge a piano and kept saying “that’s easy, what’s the hard part?” Thank you Pope for the alchemical experience and thank you Amanda for creating art and experiences that open up the locked places inside of me.
the FULL CREDITS: DROWNING IN THE SOUND
Director: Michael Pope
Choreographer: Coco Karol
Conceived & Written By Amanda Palmer, Coco Karol, and Michael Pope
Performers: Amanda Palmer, Coco Karol, Yeman Brown, Alexi Transparent, Effy Grey, Miguel Angel Guzman
Makeup Artist: Regina Harris
Hair Stylist: Gerald Decock
Costume Designer: Andrea Lauer
Editors: James Holland, Michael Pope
Post Production Supervisor: James Holland
Cinematographer: Benjamin Knight
Asst Camera: Dan Mason
Gaffer: Daniel Hourihan
Key Grip: Dan Peck
Grip: Matt Kehoe
Producer: Allen Smithy
Executive Producer: Amanda Palmer
Asst Producer, UPM: Christina Bryant
Production Consultant: BriAnna Olson
Assistant Director: Eddie Hollenbeck
Key Production Asst, Driver: Bimini Wright
Production Assistant: Stephanie Bryant
Props Master: Christina Bryant
Head Carpenter: Mike Cooter
Assistant Carpenter: Ngo'e Crossan
Hair and Makeup Asst: Harumi Yonemoto
Costume Asst: Anna Metelina
Documentarian: James Holland
Stills Photographer: Krys Fox
Asst to Amanda: Michael McComiskey, Hayley Rosenblum
Manager: Jordan Verzar
Lighting & Grip Equipment: FastLights
Craft Services: Provisions Woodstock
Piano Movement: Loren Rose
Lifeguard: Sam Burt
Special Thanks: Augusta Ogden, Kim Ross, Janette Johnston, Assa Sacko Zarcone and Utopia Soundstage, Bill Young & 100 Grand Dance, Allways Moving
i wanted to save these last few words and photos for last...mostly because ending on miguel's poem - art begetting art - seemed like the best way to go.
all these portraits by krys fox.
words from coco:
In the video I am 7 months pregnant.
It was wild to be pregnant dancing, choreographing, and being a part of the creative team with Pope and AFP.
It was empowering— a wish fulfilled to get to continue to make art and do motherhood. The process was an artistic wet dream: to sit down, dream up some crazy ideas with artists I love, and then watch impossibilities and imagined images become realities—for example, submerging a piano in a swimming pool, and filling a stage with 4 inches of water to create a reflecting pool!
The content of the song is so poignant, and potent: our drowning world, our drowning words, the violence of our blindness, the power structures of survival. Through out my whole pregnancy, but especially within the context this video and this song, I became aware of the symbolism and meaning the image of my pregnant body takes on for others, becoming a site and a carrier for their projections, hopes, and fears. In the choreography of the video, I feel my character/ my dancing body both take on all that symbolism while also pushing back against it. It was possible for me to go to some of the extreme moments in the video, physically and emotionally, because of the love and trust that Amanda and I have built together through our deepening friendship and mutual respect. I also was lucky to work with four of the most incredible dancers, an amazing production team, and to have my husband Sxip on the set. I felt supported and cared for at all times.
two months after we shot this video, coco gave birth, at her and sxip's home in brooklyn, to a gorgeous, healthy little boy.
his name is thelonious.
(yesterday, i played him the first draft of my mass shooting ukulele song.)
i think he liked it.
Photography instagram: @fe_iron_works_
Facebook: Effy Grey
Facebook: Yeman Brown
words from yeman:
It was such an honor to work with Amanda and the many brilliant collaborators that gathered to make this work. There was a divine power during our time together and I’m grateful we were brought together. So thank you Amanda, for bringing us together.
Facebook: Alexi Transparent
words from alexi:
Drowning in the Sound is a collective cry of a generation.
Art begets art.
You gave me permission to be.
You told me to infect others.
MIGUEL ANGEL GUZMAN
Facebook: Miguel Angel Guzman
words from miguel:
We have all come together
Yearning to stop
Feeding the dark.
We turned up the light
And plunged into
The healing waters.
We became community,
We understood the heft of words, and
The echo they relate
In people’s hearts.
The veil has fallen,
The bodies are drenched.
We were left with truth,
And with a heartbreaking reality.
Heartbreaking for its beauty,
And for its darkness.
We were left with the belief
That we are changing things.
i love you all so much.
thank you for being my patrons and
making this all possible.
we are changing things.
------THE NEVER-ENDING AS ALWAYS---------
1. if you’re a patron, please click through to comment on this post. at the very least, if you’ve read it, indicate that by using the heart symbol.
2. see All the Things i've made so far on patreon: http://amandapalmer.net/patreon-things
3. join the official AFP-patron facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/afpland
4. new to my music and TOTALLY OVERWHELMED? TAKE A WALK THROUGH AMANDALANDA….we made a basic list of my greatest hits n stuff on this lovely page: http://amandalanda.amandapalmer.net/
5. general AFP/patreon-related questions? ask away, someone will answer: [email protected]
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