Wednesday, January 26, 2005

01/26/04 - Armageddon is Coming

We're on a seven hour (plus) drive from Phoenix, Arizona to Santa Barbara, California in a rented 15-passenger van. I've been catching up on email on my blackberry, Brian's mostly supine with a stiff neck from headbanging too hard last night during “war pigs”, Emily's been in the front seat with her hands glued to the laptop and her cellphone affixed to her ear, and Joel's been driving. It's a day. We just drove through a vast windfarm....miles long over hill and dale, creating such trippy visuals that I wanted to jump out and hear dark side of the moon at top volume. The hazy sunlight helped. Back home in Boston there's 30 inches of snow. I wonder if my volvo will survive the winter?

The Sundance Film Festival was incredible...the film industriy's equivalent to the music industry's South by Southwest. One long street in Park City, Utah (about an hour outside of Salt Lake) taken over for a week by the hip and the restless, genuine indie filmmakers swashbuckling aside A to D-list celebrities. We spent the majority of our three-show run there camped in the dressing room of the club. Some of the acts who played with us were fucking incredible. Saul Williams, who I had never heard of before, blew my mind. He was a fan of the dolls, which flattered me beyond belief. I got to see Ben Kweller live and tell him how much I loved the toothbrush record. The Kings of Leon hung out and looked very cool and skinny, and were very cordial. Most exciting was getting to see Nellie Mckay play...I was really intrigued by her debut recod (all piano-based songs slickly produced...called “doris day meets eminem” in her press release). We had been hoping to meet each other and finally got to grok on sunday night, which we all had off. She sparked a real chord in me, seeing her sitting at the piano, all alone. I couldn't stop thinking: “This is it. This is what I would be doing if I hadn't met Brian.” We were at a party altogether; us, Nellie and The Ditty Bops - who we hadn't seen since the last tour - and a photographer was trying to capture everyone together and seperately. And, as we realized by sharing later, both Brian and I watched Nellie, standing there getting her photo taken and both felt it...she just seemed so....alone. And we poured a little shot out of our proverbial forties onto the altar of rock love, once again expressing our deep gratitude...and disbelief...did we really even find each other? Are we that fucking lucky? We ask each other this question every other day or so and still are in awe of the answer.

I also found myself having a quiet moment of appreciation for my record label and the fact that they personally know me and Brian and are not so gargantuan and beurocratic that this happens: Nellie is a staunch animal-rights activist and PETA-supporter (it even states that on the back of her record) and her label, Sony, actually sent her a fur stole for Christmas. Unfuckingbelievable.

Last night we played to a packed house in Tempe, Arizona and had a blast. We played ping-pong and I came 20,000 points short of getting the high score on their Ms. Pac-Man (which, I'll have you know, is damn fine work) and walked up and down the quarter-mile alley behind the club a total of 9 times while warming up my voice, hearing the repetitive choir of dogs get all worked up from behind their respective fences, picking up oranges from the ground and trying to teach myself how to juggle and trying to figure out how anyone could possibly think that “Fuck” and “Bitch” scrawled in three-foot letters makes interesting graffitti.

Oh, and a billboard just reminded me. Armageddon is coming.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


So, after being home for an entire two weeks and having alphabetized my tea and having scraped the lint from my electrc fan with a paring knife and so forth, i haven't been able to actually write (i think i've just over-exercised the organizing side of my brain...which weakens the creative least, that's my lame theory/excuse). so instead,
acting as the productive adult that i've become (real health insurance!!! old silver fillings redone with white stuff!!!
financial planning!!! matching mugs!!!!) i finally set myself to the task of sorting through hundreds and hundreds of lyric drafts and
trying to do something with them. Without actually DOING anything, you's a "sorting" process. Oh, bloody hell, yes i'm wanking, but it's a start.
Anyway, I came across this hilarious and rather revealing song, which i never recorded (i don't think), and the music to which I can barely remember.
And I think it will breathe it's dying gasp here, since i'm never going to work on it. it's time came and went.

It was an upbeat little ditty, the words came out fast and furious (not unlike "girl a") and the end, the "fuck this shit" part had kind of a major-key, grand finale feel to it....very broadway and sing-along (think "let the sun shine in").

"Fuck this Shit"
(written around Summer/Fall 2003)


I’m going to finally write a song;
just once and only play this song
in very small intimate settings
where I won’t end up regretting it.
ok. all right. I’m going to finally do it.
ok. here we go. please know this will be very
difficult for me.

--verse one--

today I faxed the publicist and called up different fedexes
to see which one was open and still close to my apartment.

today I spent at least an hour
putting stamps on presskit folders,
including letters that I wrote to interested record labels.

i’m hoping if I do this now I’ll never write another song
about the boring fucking shit I actually do all day long.

--verse two--

I drove to needham to pick up the execution contracts
(I love that they’re called that) and I got more
minutes tacked onto to our cell phone plan.
I cut some checks: one to the photographer, one for the insurance adjuster,
one for merch and one for my piano teacher.

I spent a couple hours sorting
email into folders and I copied brian
on what I thought was important
and two times just to treat myself I made some tea and surfed the web
for live reviews of dresden dolls shows.

managers won’t be our friends.
booking agents hate our band.
we’re not new york and not LA,
the boston rock scene thinks we’re gay,
and at the end of every day
(it seems like every day’s this way)
we barely even get to play
and this is all i have to say…..

--grand finale--

I quit.

fuck this shit.

won’t somebody save me please?
I am being eaten by the music industry.

everybody sing:
(la la la la la la)
(la la la la la la)

Thursday, January 13, 2005

01/13/05 - Block

But I'm not.
But I think I am.
I don't know. Surprise.....

It's 3:30 in the morning.

What is it like? I wish I could explain. I'll try.

Ever since I was a teenager, I grappled with how and what and when and why to write music.
Songs would come, early on, and it was simple. There was no point. Just to write a song was a wonder in itself,
a reward in itself, to be played endlessly for an imaginary crowd who would sit, impressed and awed, all five thousand of them,
attentive on folding chairs in the living room between the painting of the revolutionary war and the fireplace.
And I would play for simple.

Then came the tapes. I can't remember exactly when it started....1990, I think. The industry had just started realizing that tapes themselves could be aesthetic little pieces of plastic and started marketing the clear plastic cassette tapes with neon squiggles and lines. Clear blue, clear pink....the one I started with was dark clear blue. I called it (later) "The Long Lost Blue Tape"...because I
gave it to someone to listen to, god knows why, and it didn't find it's way back to me till much later. But it was the first one: I wouldn't just play, just write, I would ARCHIVE. I would archive this thing happening. I would record every thought, every idea, every line for a song and the stream-of-consciousness-nonsense that spewed out with it, and then..somehow....later....maybe.....finish it? When? I never did. I never could. An idea was always an end in itself; a convenient little package and tangible evidence of What Could Have Been a Brilliant Song.
As the tapes filled up and the unfinished songs started numbering in the hundreds, I (reasonably, I think), began to feel slightly distressed. This system isn't working.

I went back to a journal of mine from 1998. I had finished college and was living in Harvard Square in a garret sublet for the summer.
The same catholic guilt, the same insane self-flagellation......"why aren't you doing? making? performing? recording? finishing anything? why are you drinking too much? smoking too much? fucking stupid people too much? wasting your time? not finishing ANYTHING?" This refrain was so typical by then that is was almost laughable. Yet here I am, 2005, sitting in my apartment, wondering many of the same things. And I've "accomplished" plenty. The feeling doesn't go away.

When I got to college things got remarkably worse. I stopped writing altogether. I don't know what happened. I was terrified. So disappointed that college wasn't the artists bohemian haven I has fantasized about, so disappointed that I had to start from scratch with a group of people I couldn't relate to, and I had no piano to go to without trekking across campus to a dank and sterile practice room open until 10 pm while genius #56 on one side pounded out Beethoven Sonatas and disciplined music student #85 flew through scale after endless scale on their flute/trombone/jaw harp on the other side. I had nothing in common with these people. I was so much better, I was so much worse. I didn't do anything right.

Not a moment of my life went by without the contemplation of the specter of the tapes that lay there, in a pile, intimidating, taunting, mocking me. So many of them. 20 maybe. Times ninety minutes. Each holding 20, 30, 40 ideas for songs I would never write or finish. I even tired to catalog, weed out the better ideas, listen and type comments into a document that I created in it's own special folder on my very modern Macintosh Classic computer. Nothing came of that. Now I have a modern Dell. It organizes and also tempts with an unending stream of communication that I could tend to constantly, sitting here as things unraveled and raveled, as crises appeared and ideas and people and fans and friends beckon with their loving and distracting correspondence. I have no self-discipline whatsoever. The idea of putting aside an allotted amount of time per day during which to check email or get online is unfathomable. It's all happening, right now. I want to watch. Now. NOW, godammit.

I can't imagine what life would be like if I owned a television, but I can empathize with the addiction.

So when I needed to create my course schedule for my sophomore year, I went to a music professor and a theatre professor and conned them both into giving me a full course credit for doing an independent "performance art" project. Of course, I did nothing. Three weeks before the end of the semester I got to work. I work well under pressure. I mixed the bets of the ideas together into a one-hour sound collage on my four track and superimposed and interview with myself on top. I interviewed my pundit from the dead, basically. "What about those old tapes?" "Well, she had an INCREDIBLE amount of potential as a songwriter, you see. She was wildly talented. But she never really got it together. Such a shame...." The soundtrack was played during the performance, which was attended by about 50 people (including the two professors, of course, who had to grade me). I strung a white sheet across the stage and stood behind it, with a slide projector projecting light against it so I was in silhouette. Then I took the 60 or 70 some-odd cassette tapes that I had found at various thrift shops and yard sales (mostly terrible things from the early eighties, and blank mix tapes of Unknown Origin) and began unraveling them, gradually hanging the yards of magnetic ribbon on a clothesline so the screen would be more more and more darkened and obscured. Then I lost my patience and hacked them apart, dramatically, with a hammer. Oh, I meant it. I wanted to crush those fuckers, Dead. The performance ended, accidentally early, when the sheet fell down and I stood there, naked, screaming that I never wanted this, that I didn't want to be talented, that I didn't want to be a songwriter with any fucking ideas, good or bad. I generally had a good old-fashioned healthy public temper tantrum freak out.

Both teachers gave me an A, but it didn't help. I was enraged. I had gotten away with murder, public wanking, and I was still stuck.

I could just let myself be, I suppose. I have been. Take a walk. Drink some coffee. Read a book. Answer the endless stream of email.
I did, I did all day. My calendar said "Day off. Write."

And there they sit, the new batch of brilliant ideas, crouching on the piano like little fucking demons, like unfinished book reports, like abandoned children who knew I was the mother. I can't sit down at the piano anymore, I'm just paralyzed with fear. Of what, I don't really know. I've never known. I used to think it was fear of success. God knows that's not true, nowadays. Bring it on.

Once an idea is finished, it's not an idea anymore. It's a song, good or bad. Possessing the secret weapon of a so-called brilliant idea feels much more exciting than following through, I suppose. Maybe that's it.

Maybe I'm actually lazy.

Maybe I really need more time off to do nothing but take walks and drink coffee and read books and answer emails and whack off, basking in the glow of existence.

I spend so much time on the road thinking about this moment, this free time, this window in which to create, and here I am. Sitting behind my computer, hiding.

One of my best friends, Joshua, once wrote and mailed me a letter. I was 18, and he knew about the song demons.
All it said was
"It is saturday morning and I find myself thinking: are you writing a song or fixing yourself a bite to eat?"

Oh, Josh, I'd be so disappointing to you right now. But my kitchen is immaculate, and I've organized my tea alphabetically.

Friday, January 07, 2005

01/07/05 - Winter in a Vacuum

It's been a rough week...on the way back from our new years' shows I started vomiting uncontrollably on the plane. Charming! Brian was the consummate band-mate, holdin the bag while the sympathetic flight attendants brought me tepid ginger ale. It made me remember being a wee lass, flying to our dad's every month adn often puking on the way. I used to be the type of kid who could practically vomit on command. On the way to the movies in the car, you name it.
Forget about boats. Luckily that passed with time. So, I thought it was turbulance, but no....I was sick the whole night with what turned out to be a nasty stomach flu. Brian contracted it 48 hours later and threw up all day at home while I scurried about trying to be florence nightingale, buying juices and soups and all-flora stomach enzyme supplements. He's on the mend, everything seems to be getting back to Dandy. I'm insanely happy to be home and able to hide in my cluttered apartment, brewing endless cups of green tea and listening to the humidifer.

The tour in Australia, which everybody keeps asking about, was unprecedented...... The band is, far and away, more successful in Australia than any other country and it showed... people were just incredubly enthusiastic and every show was sold out. My most memorable moments were a few public parks in New Zealand and Melbourne where I could walk, alone, and sit and think and stretch and lie in the grass, doing nothing and looking at trees that I wasn't used to. There wasn't time for much else, and when there was, I slept. The jetlag would just not go hit both of us 2 or 3 days into the trip and by the last few shows we were practically falling asleep (in some cases, literally falling asleep) backstage. Coem to think of it, something ridiculous happened the last night of the tour, in Melbourne: we left soundcheck to go back to the hotel - which was a block away form the venue - to grab a nap. We arranged that Robert, our trusty tour manager, would phone us up a half-hour before stage time so we could get into costume and become functional humans before hitting stage. He called. We went back to sleep. The next thing we know, Robert's on the phone saying "Where are you? There's a crowd of angry Australians chanting 'Dresden Dolls! Dresden Dolls! Dresden Dolls!' Are you locked outside the club or what?" One of the most interesting feelings I've experienced. Sort of an actor's nightmare come true. Needless to say, it was one of the quickest changes in Dresden Dolls history and the first few songs must have sounded a little rough, as we had both been been fast asleep not 12 minutes before. That was also the night the keyboard decided to shut itself off during every other song. Shit keyboard. Made for interesting interludes.

The Brigade performers throughout the world have been astounding....highlights have included a bizarre performance art/mask piece to "Missed Me" in Strasbourg, France; The Girl Who Sews Her Lips Shut in San Diego; an action painter dressed as Jack in Brisbane and cigarette girls and a contortionist in Sydney. The forums have been seeing some action lately: there's one for prep and general networking (divided up by country) up at and one for archiving photos and other stuff at

We're home for a spell and going into the studio tomorrow (with Sean Slade, at Camp Street) to record demos for the record. Seven songs in four days (Backstabber, Shores of California, wwwwwwiii, First Orgasm, Necessary Evil, Sex Changes and Delililah - and some of those are working titles) and I'm spending the majority of today changing lyrics like the little perfectionist freakazoid I am. One thing I am mystified by (and I'm sure there's a very rational psychological explanation for this) is the fact that it is invariably when I have a recording or a show coming up that the new music starts pouring out - demanding (and this is essential) that I ignore the actual work at hand and pay mind to the new ideas. It has to do with old habits of procrastination and focus, I think. Cleaning my bedroom was far preferable to doing my latin homework, which was far preferable to doing math homework, which was far preferable to actually going to I would create odd systems for myself that involved skipping school so I could do my latin homework and would deliberately mess up my room so I could write songs. Does this make any sense to anyone else? The mind is a strange beast.

After the recording we're heading to Sundance (( for a few shows and then doing a short tour of California and surrounding environs, New England and then heading back to Europe til mid-march.
All things will be revealed at



recent great books: "Hey Nostradamus!" by Douglas Coupland and "Bad Seed" (a Nick Cave biography) by Ian Johnston
recent great music: kathleen edwards "failer" gripped me for a solid week. very straight ahed rock, but the lyrics...brilliant.