The Dresden Dolls
Interview with Brain Viglione (Drummer)
By Joe Savins
The Junction, Cambridge

Clattering out of Boston, traditional home of musical weirdos and trendsetters, The Dresden Dolls - Amanda Palmer (vocals, piano) and Brian Viglione (drums and guitars) - play a form of music called "Brechtian-Punk-Cabaret". Think Weimar-era hook-laden piano, backed by drums that are as delicate as they are pugnacious and you're starting to get the idea. (DiS)

So, what's the story behind The Dresden Dolls?
Well both me and Amanda wanted to do music in our lifetime and we were both working towards that and we met at a party in Boston and she was looking for a drummer to play shows with and put a band together, and it was the perfect mix of styles, she had a very specific style of songwriting which spoke to a lot of the musical qualities that I was looking for too, and we just really answered each others prayers in our first jam sessions. I really feel we've been both been able to portray who we are and what we wanted to do as players. Our underlined philosophy is to put all of our visions into our songwriting, and not just one little section to fit into a certain genre.

You spoke about the different styles of music, so how did you cope in introducing these ideas to a unknowing audience?
Well we started off playing to people at our friends house parties, so we started off playing to a receptive, open-minded audience from the beginning, and I think that played a good part in building confidence, because it was all very new to us.
It was still very new to us even going in to record the first record, we went in thinking 'Well, we'll just go for it' and we didn't really know the most effective way to capture ourselves on tape, so we went back to the live shows and kinda relied on those to win people over, we just went for it with all we had every time we went up on that stage. I think people responded well to the lyrics, and more so the chemistry between me and Amanda, and I think we relied very heavily on that to get us by.

So how has the tour been so far in the UK?
Its been phenomenal, the reaction has been amazing. A ton of the shows have sold out and we're just shaking our heads thinking 'how did this happen?'

I suppose it must be very strange coming to a different country and finding so many people have heard your stuff?
Yeah, its great. This is probably our 6th time coming to the UK to play shows, which is nice because i feel that we've been planting the seeds that have grown to this, and its nice to know that people have caught on and are coming out to the shows.

When you get back to the states you are doing a mammoth tour with Panic! At The Disco, excited?
Of course, there's going to be about 35 shows, which follows straight on from our 6-week European tour. We're excited about playing to a whole new audience of kids that have never heard us before, we're going to go to a lot of places that we wouldn't have chance to tour by ourselves.

You've just signed to Roadrunner Records, what was the difference like recording under major label pressure?
You know there was actually a lot less pressure overall recording this record because we had a pretty singular vision about the bands sound, as apposed to the first record where all of the questions were unanswered and we just went in naively and Amanda had a lot more control issues over the first record, whereas for this record she was a lot more relaxed. There was really the stereotypical pressure that you would expect, the best thing about Roadrunner is that when we were in negotiations we said 'Look, we really have a strong vision on what we want the record to sound like', and they really adhered to that, they didn't try and overall the entire sound which was really cool.

How well do you think the latest album, 'Yes Virginia' has been received?
Pretty much how i expected, mixed reviews. Most people seemed to really like but some people seem to have a emotional attachment to the first record which i totally understand, i would never have a grudge against people that say 'I don't like their new stuff' or 'The new album isn't as good as the first' because in my experience people relate records to certain things that are happening in their lives at a certain point. At the end of the day, if everyone likes 'Yes, Virginia' then that's nice, but if they dont its not going to effect me. If me and Amanda are happy with what we're playing onstage thats what counts for me, personally.

How did it feel to receive a MTVU nomination for 'Coin-Operated Boy'?
Well, I don't really watch MTV, and I didn't really know about it until afterwards, but I mean its all nice.

But it must be nice to feel your efforts are being recognised?
Yeah that's right, but i feel that our efforts are being recognised anyway, regardless of how many awards we win. I remember when i was a kid watching the Grammys and trying to picture myself up there and always thinking 'I dunno', I don't really measure success on the amount of awards won, it all seems a bit material. At the end of the day it's not going to make or break my emotional view of how i feel about myself as an artist. If people say we've been voted 'Best…' whatever that's cool but if they don't it doesn't take anything away from this experience.

I understand that the album artwork for 'Yes, Virginia' was compiled from various fan submissions; did you help pick the artwork yourself?
Yeah, basically a friend of ours took a picture of all these old dilapidated buildings, and over that we super-imposed some of the images that were submitted. But that was mainly Amanda who took all the submissions because she had a very particular vision of what she wanted, as usual (laughs). So yeah, it was just a beautiful way to say thank you to the fans that have supported us throughout our career.

So is it important for you to keep a close connection with your fans?
To be very specific in answering that, we both have different ways of communicating with our fans, Amanda likes to get on the weblog and get on forums and always tries to get out and sign and take pictures after the show. But for me it's like, I feel I'm giving the most to them by playing my best on stage, and being the best member of the group I can be, compared to how many things i can sign after a show or whatever. I definitely feel I keep my distance from the fans more, i mean i used to go out and sign after every single show but it just put a tremendous strain on my voice. But to make sure the fans know that we are eternally grateful for what they have done we try and keep that close connection.

So, last question. What are you planning next after the UK tour?
I think we are focusing on touring since the record is still fairly new. But there has been talks for a video/single for the song 'Backstabber' which should be really fun; there's also been talks of a theatre production which should be really interesting. But it's basically going to be lots of touring and promoting the record, so it's going to be life on the road for a while (laughs).

Sounds good, thanks for talking to R*E*P*E*A*T today.
No problem, it's cool.

Thanks also to Alex Barfield at All Press for setting things up.