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World Café (US, radio)
May 18, 1992
Tori Amos interview and live performance
David Dye: Hello, I'm David Dye. Welcome to the Monday edition of World Café for May 18, 1992.
We've got a very special live performance today, actually our first performance with somebody playing piano. It's Tori Amos joining us in the studio. Her debut album is called Little Earthquakes and has been one of the big success stories of the year so far, both in terms of critical acclaim and in terms of sales. She's been compared somewhat to Kate Bush but there's a lot more to Tori Amos than that comparison and we'll find out more about that today.
We're in our guest studio, back in the music studio. Kind of unusual today. Usually there's some guy sitting here with an acoustic guitar. Today we have our first piano guest. Very happy to welcome Tori Amos. You may have heard her album Little Earthquakes or maybe you saw her on David Letterman just a little while ago.
David said he'd let you come back and do the entire record?
Tori: I don't know if David means it or not... we'll see. (laughs) How are you David?
David: I'm well, how are you?
Tori: I'm doing pretty well, playing tonight.
David: Yeah... You're... it seems like you're on tour forever. If it's not in this country it's...
Tori: Yeah, I'm playing... I think I'm playing every night. I say that every day, "I'm playing tonight." It's kind of like, "I'm hungry."
David: Well, speaking of this instrument, this piano, you started out playing very young. Did you always have a good relationship with this instrument or did you become estranged at one point?
Tori: Yes. We've gone through many interesting dinners together. At first we got along really wonderfully because I always loved to play. I was playing at 2 1/2. And then I started studying at the Peabody Conservatory when I was five. And things got really... confrontational with the people I was studying with, but I couldn't express myself as a kid because I was an ear student and the whole point is when you're a classical pianist you've gotta read.
David: Yeah, you didn't read. I guess it's the only way you could pick it up at such a young age.
Tori: Yeah, and to take you to the next stage they want you to learn to read but there is really, I think, a way that you have to teach a child. You don't take away the thing that was the impetus for this whole thing in the first place. But this was 1968, when this was a real different time.
David: Yeah, so now it might be different...
Tori: I think it would be different because people are more aware of child psychology and they're more aware of how children are people. They have their own thoughts and they're very aware of what's going on. They can actually tell us things that we'd never even dream of.
David: I want to get back to that because I think a lot of your music, your lyrics bring out a lot of things that we may lose. There's a track you mention, Leather. Is there a story behind this one?
Tori: Well, Leather is really one of the ones on the record that was written in one sitting.
David: Is that uncommon?
Tori: That's uncommon... because I always go back and tinker. I mean, I have to go, the map gets... It's like a body. It's almost like... a chunk of clay gets dropped in my lap and then you have to go back and you start molding it. But with Leather somebody just... got me so off that I sat and just did this one.
[plays the album recording of Leather]
David: Our guest is Tori Amos on the World Café. That's a great one. That's Leather from the album Little Earthquakes. Ummm... Let's talk about sex... you have such a great way of being sexual in your music that is not... it's... sex has sacrament or something... it's such a wonderful experience.
Tori: Well, I'll tell you... sex has really taken many forms and steps and changes in my life. I think that growing up in a Christian home, and even if you're not a minister's daughter you can really be influenced by guilt and shame and all those really fun things, and we have seperated love and lust so much in our culture in the way that we're taught, even if it's subliminally taught. You'd be amazed, having dinner, I've told people this many times, that if you could be... instead of a fly on the wall, [that's] a bit maggoty, but if you could be, say, the pepper on the spaghetti or something... then you would hear ten women at a table talking, from all different backgrounds about how the good girl and the bad girl are divided. And I'm sure men have their own conversations that I haven't been privy to, but having had many dinners alone with women... it reiterates what I believe, which is so many of us are affected by this division, which is lust and love, and we think to be a mother, to have a loving relationship with a man that we can't throw them up against the wall or et cetera and have this passionate... We think of mistress, we think of the affair that has this illicit experience... It's not the one you have with your best friend. How can you have both? We're taught that we can't have both and that really keeps us weak.
David: Well what you're describing sounds pretty damn healthy...
Tori: It's incredibly healthy but it's... it's stripping to the fundamental places of childhood where you take on everybody else's beliefs. It's amazing how as a kid you're told things and they become your thoughts because some teacher told you or some adult or you know, Maria Yahn, Linda's sister, who's fifteen, who gets all the guys. This is the authority! (laughs)
David: Right... One of the songs that's going to be newer to a lot of people is the lead track on the album; Crucify. You want to do that one?
Tori: Yeah, next single.
[plays the album recording of Crucify]
David: That's Crucify, which you'll find on Little Earthquakes. You'll also find kind of a neat CD single with some unexpected B-sides on it, which is kind of a joy to have you doing Led Zeppelin and the Stones and Nirvana. How did those things... do you play them around the house?
Tori: Yeah, I play them around the house. That's what I'm into around the house. I think that being an acoustic piano player, people have real concepts of what that should be. One of them is... nice... that idea of nice and pleasing and you don't just pick up Metallica and do it at the piano...
David: After all, you are a woman.
Tori: Yeah, (laughs) after all!
David: Here you are performing for me and a couple of other people that are listening in here. You really are such an expressive singer and an expressive player. What's it like for you playing live? Are you playing for small audiences or theatres?
Tori: In the states, because it's the first tour and nobody's really heard of me, I'm doing small venues this go around and in the fall I hope to do a college tour.
David: I was interested in people's reactions to your songs because you get so close to the bone on so many of your songs and it must touch people in ways...
Tori: I'll tell you there's some interesting stories about... I walk out and I have, and I won't tell you the places... but where it will be very hostile. They're walking out, they're almost challenging me to not be able to open up to them. Because that means if I do, then they just might have to. And I've had nights like this where you're going out there saying, "This would be a lot easier if we just all wanted to come to the party" But I haven't always had those nights. The most open people that I've ever played to are the Scottish. Because when you go up there they're screaming from the seats, "Tori, I love you lass!" which is good fun. (laughs)
David: That's great... You want to do the song I guess which was the introduction for a lot of us to you? Which was Silent All These Years?
Tori: Yeah, this is Silent and this is... is about a lot of things. I started it with this bumblebee riff. You know we all grew up playing... you know that bumblebee song? I decided that that song tortured me so I'm going to pay it back.
[plays the album recording of Silent All These Years]
David: On the World Café our guest is Tori Amos with dissonances provided by that bumblebee. That's a wonderful song. So what are your plans? You're going to be playing tonight, tomorrow night, the next night?
Tori: Playing tonight, playing tomorrow night. I'm doing a tour in the States and then I go to Austral/Asia..
David: Have you been yet?
Tori: I've been to Hong Kong and Singapore but I've never been to where I'm going, which is Japan, and Australia, Korea and Taiwan. And then I go and do a European.... it's really exciting to see... I'm going to Iceland which I'm really thrilled about and Israel.
David: Iceland is supposed to be this perfect place...
Tori: I'm really ready for Iceland. Very ready... Go get lost with the seals...
David: Thank you for playing the piano, for inaugurating the piano here on the World Café.
Tori: Thanks, David.
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the World of Tori Amos