Amanda Palmer, singer-songwriter and co-founder of the punk cabaret duo The Dresden Dolls, has released a new single, “Machete.” Her first full-band production since 2012, “Machete” is a six-minute emotional maelstrom of sound that features Amanda on vocals and piano, Jherek Bischoff (producer/string arranger) on bass, Ben Folds on drums, and Ryan Lerman on guitar. It is a beautifully produced track on which Amanda’s vocals and piano are layered with soaring strings and electric guitars to create a song that is at times sad, naked, and vulnerable and at others, it is pent-up fury unleashed in sonic expression. It is a deeply moving track that demands to be played on repeat.
I am a fan of Amanda’s and have read her book, The Art of Asking, so “Machete” had me fighting tears the very first time I listened to it. But knowing the events that inspired the song is not required in order to be deeply affected by it; the song packs an emotional wallop all on its own. Nonetheless, when the song premiered Amanda gave some background for those unfamiliar with the story:
“Machete” is my first full-band production since recording “Theatre is Evil” in 2012 with John Congleton. Since then, I’ve been pulled and stretched by lots of off-road opportunities: a kickstarter, a kickstarter kerfuffle, a TED talk about the kickstarter kerfuffle, a book about the TED talk (which wound up being more of a meditation on the art of asking), a pregnancy, and (wait for it) a baby. All the while, over the past four years, my best friend Anthony was suffering from – then dying of – a rare form of leukemia. He was 24 years my elder and moved next door when I was nine; he served as my spiritual mentor, the one who taught me yoga, compassion, Fugazi and John Lennon. He was the ersatz-parent who constantly reminded me not to take myself, or him, too seriously. Wise words, because he was a total goddamn contradiction. He yelled at waiters, he yelled in traffic, he gave me my first can of mace, and he collected guns, sabers, brass knuckles and nunchucks. He had boxes of exotic knives. A Buddhist weapon-obsessive. His private therapists’ study where we did our deep talking and bonding, my teenage haven, was decorated with boxing gloves and rifles. We did not hold the same stance on gun control. I told him I wanted all the guns to be bought back by the government and hurled into the ocean.
He often told me he would leave me the whole collection, and when he died this summer, I knew there was a song in there somewhere. And there was; it emerged about five months after he died and two months after I gave birth to me and Neil’s son (we named him Anthony)… I still don’t know what I’m going to do with the arsenal. Maybe I’ll leave it to the baby when I die and he can deal with it.”
When Fourculture last spoke with Amanda she was wrapping up her 2015, Barefoot-In-The-Kitchen tour and preparing for her UK Art-Of-Asking tour. Since then Amanda has continued to move forward at full throttle. Even in the midst of all the turmoil, she continued to record music and create art. And she did so with the help of her more than 7,000 supporters on Patreon, the crowdfunding platform where fans make ongoing pledges to their favorite artists instead of for just one creative project at a time. “Machete” is the 11th Patreon-supported project that Amanda has released in her first year on the platform. Other recent releases include a collaboration with Jherek Bischoff for the Bowie tribute EP, “Strung Out In Heaven” and “A Mother’s Confession,” a long and emotional single about the darker days of motherhood.