Sunday, January 08, 2006

Oversaturation VS Mystique: round one

here seems the most appropriate place to bring the discussion.

the band, with it's never-ending crop of images and sound, has been led recently into a dialogue about overkill/oversaturation and when enough is enough. Everybody has their very different opinions about this, as, of course, everybody interested in the band (or products of the band) has their own agenda as well. Who the fuck is interested anyway and why? in what and how and how much and when is too much?

I hadn't thought too too much about it before. But the conversation was kicked off with the Sheet Music book, and then everything else got called into question. We live in the age of uberinformation, this we all know. I myself fall victim to it on a minutely basis, flailing late at night to pointlessly google one more obscure song reference, obsessively checking my email and cramming things into my head, reaching for ANYTHING to read when waiting ANYWHERE, unable to stop the floodgate of words and images that bombard me constantly, the mind candy that makes me think and ponder but rarely leaves me time to reflect. If I could read in my sleep, I would. But I shouldn't. i am currently reading a book called "in praise of slowness" and though i'd only recommend the first two chapters, the point is well taken. there's just too much shit, period.

We first realized that we needed to print sheet music about two years ago, when we started getting requests. people emailed asking for tabs and notation. then more people asked. then enough people asked for me to get off my ass and find a local guy in boston who could transcribe the songs (I can't write - and can barely read - musical notation) and the project seemed to be simple enough. But this being an Amanda Project, it was destined to take two more years, while I expanded and expanded the damn thing until the point where the actual musical notes and tabs seemed more like an Afterthought compared to the rest of the shit in the book.

i will admit it: I am an archivist of myself. I am a shameless archivist of the band. so it just seemed to make sense. Where and when else would have a limitless public 2D portfolio in which to cram all of the photos and notes and crap that has accumulated in various boxes over the years...boxes marked "of interest, to somebody, somewhere - do not throw away"? So I wrote a long introduction that ended being about 20 pages, pasted togehter all of the various album-related notes and photos and gave it to various friends to criticize and edit. Now, you see, I am not a prose writer. I can fake it as a blogger but you don't realize how forgiving you are being, yes you, as you sit there and read this. There are typos and run-ons and I am simply emptying out un-edited head-shit into your brain. Holding a book is different. a book is Real.

anyway, the thing grew and grew. ummmm. If i'm going to talk about this, i reasoned, why not that? and that? and that? and that and that and that? and so it went, becoming young-amanda-biography, band-biography, songwriter-101, and piano un-lesson all in one. i can't even read the whole damn thing myself, it spins my head. i think i will stick to writing blogs and songs in the future. my friend that knows me best says it all: "you use too many words". but that's beside the point. the point is, when we got to the 200-page completion of this beast, i had another Bright Idea. the Bright Idea was to include a DVD in the back of the book that held a 20-minute impromptu interview i did in the summer of 2003 with Wojtek Gwiazda, who was a film-making friend of my landlords who just happened to be in town with his fancy camera, sleeping upstairs. he wandered down into my bombed-looking mess of a kitchen, artwork and glue strewn everywhere and said

"what the hell is happening here?"
"I am making our album artwork."
"can i film you?"
"fuck yeah".

it was as simple as that, and wojteck (a charming and wonderful polish-canadian) came down and filmed. but this being the Cloud Club and the Cloud Club being what it is, the interview was of course also riddled with the Big Questions. why am i doing this. what is album artwork. and on and on. and mind you, i never thought this would really be seen by anyone, in fact, i forgot it existed for a while. i am in my boxer shirts and a stained wife-beater, all red and freckled from the july outside, looking like the unwashed, sleepless, manic, harried, starry-eyed workaholic that i was that month - two months before the record came out on our label. there's this great piece of spinach in my teeth. but there's also this beauty to it....this quiet, july morning, ivy-in-the-windows beauty that soaks onto the floor and into the discussion. it's ten in the morning, it's summer, it's roasting hot, pope is probably on the front steps drinking coffee, lee is probably upstairs screwing a tree to a picture frame, the birds outside are going nuts. it's perfect.

so, i thought, this 20-minute piece of thing would be the perfect addition to the Sheet Music Book, which, by this point, had evolved into an Epic Album Companion Coffee Table Extravaganza. Anything and Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About The First Dresden Dolls Album, where the songs came from, how the album was recorded....on and on. and this is where the resistance hit. pope and our Magic Manager cocked an eyebrow. isn't it a little overboard? isn't it just a little self-indulgent? do you REALLY need to include 20 minutes of yourself rambling on in your kitchen about the album artwork? don't you talk about it in the introduction?

i argued: i like it. i think the fans will like it. i think it's interesting. am i crazy?

no, they said, you're not crazy, but maybe you have no perspective. so i tried to look at things from their point of view. but i didn't agree. so more arguments ensued. it's expensive. it adds to the cost of the book. but - i argued - won't the added DVD be an incentive for people to buy it? no, they said, it won't. really? i have no experience with this, i said, i can only follow my gut. my gut says include it.

i sat with brian and our photographer friend kelly davidson and we watched it. i asked for their opinion. cut it, they said. so i cut some fat off of it.

then the late night discussions. what would elvis do? what would neil do? what would the beatles do? living in an image and video-saturated world, should we add our constant two cents or hold back? less is more. is less more?
wait, isn't more more? if less is more? what's more? less? is more less? if more is less, and less is more, doesn't that mean that more is still more? aghhghahghhhhAGAHAAGhhhhhghhahhahg.
oh, the ashtrays filled and the night wore on.

Manager says: "You need to protect your Mystique."
Amanda says: "But I don't want a Mystique. Has nobody noticed this obvious fact?"

this is where the blog came up in the conversation. Amanda says: it seems to me, a lot of people out there seem to appreciate the fact that brian and i have no interest in being Rock Stars and Superhumans With Mystique.
the manager says: but the printed word is very different from the visual image.

then i ate a christmas fish with a friend who used to work in the music business for a long, long time. he said: amanda, you will rue the day you stuck your hand in that toilet on your DVD. you aren't protecting your image. you're forcing people to ingest self-indulgent nonsense. why did you include that hour-long documentary on your DVD? It's BORING. you're not jessica simpson. get over it. you should not be directing the dresden dolls reality show.

in the wake of that, poetically, i needed to address the question of what to do with the 80+ hours of tour footage we shot on the october tour. edit it into another DVD? put it up in installments on the web? turn it into an andy warhol-esque art project, where we just stream 80 hours of footage of the band endlessly in the internet? so many choices. but all the recent feedback echoes in my head. we can output and output, but should we? discussions abounded. now i am confused. my gut has always served me well, but i also have no interest in being a stubborn, headstrong, sunset-boulevard casualty of my own archivist vanity. it's hard to know what to do. the superfans of the band will certainly be interested in any and everything, but they aren't the majority. how careful do we need to be? doesn't everyone edit everything as they want it nowadays ANYWAY? it's the FUTURE.

i have always been insecure about my totally narcissistic personality. i used to curse and psychically mutilate myself for years in high school and college, convinced that my own selfishness and vanity made it impossible for me to make a single authentic move, from writing a song to having a friendship to fucking brushing my teeth. my life was a movie. i like to think that i've transformed my attention-needing personality into something relatively constructive, and i've definitely managed through years of thinking and listening to understand myself better, to know when to step out of the spotlight, to shut the fuck up and listen instead. but it remains a sensitive nerve, i wonder why....i am actually making my living getting attention, up there on stage, applauded, focused on. and this is supposed to be normal (while in the back of my head all i hear is the tall adults of tiny childhood saying from above "just ignore her, she's just trying to get attention, poor girl" - sound familiar?). this is fingernails-on-the-blackboard-territory for me. i will never be fully confidant as close as i may feel, it's always possible for someone to stick an easy nail in my achilles' heel. just mumble the word "selfish" or better yet "attention-whore" and i'm likely to be seen in a corner taking deep breaths, trying very hard to quiet the bawling 8-year old inside.

in other news: christmas came and went, new years came and went (we played On Stage at our san francisco show with the String Cheese Incident, thus bursting our jamband hymens), and the 4-foot pine trees lay lifeless all over the sidewalks of new york this morning, waiting to be carted away by some magical elves.


if your interest was piqued: the sheet music book/Epic Album Companion Coffee Table Extravaganza/200-page monster (with interview included....yes, i won the argument....pyrrhic victory? time will tell) is now officially on sale for pre-order on the webstore: