home / interviews
Maie Pauts show (Canada, radio)
CFNY, Toronto (102.1 FM)
March 5, 1993
Tori Amos interview and live performance
Maie Pauts: Friday afternoon in Toronto. I'm Maie Pauts, pleased to welcome Tori Amos back to our studios. Tori, avidly trying to work out this keyboard.
Tori Amos: Hi.
Maie: Uh, you know, it's funny cause I remember the first time that you came here, the last time you came here, you uh, you and I started talking about how difficult it is to be a keyboard player on the road and how, you know, you can't really take all your own equipment with you when you're kind of at the whim of what shows up at your gigs.
Maie: It's funny because today you've had something happen...
Tori: Well, we got our wires crossed a bit.
Tori: That's all. Not us, but the um... Always when you're dealing with equipment companies it's hard because they have a middle man. Then there're two other people between me and them. So we never get to talk. And it gets hard just because um, what shows up sometimes isn't what uhh, you kinda thought it would be.
Maie: [laughs] That's right.
Tori: So, but we're making, it's becoming an interesting challenge for me to see if I can make something that... [clears throat]
Maie: Make it work.
Tori: Yeah, make it work, just cause I don't know this keyboard, I've never seen it before and um, sorry everybody out there, but it's not gonna sound like a piano because um... First of all, it's not a piano. And second of all, I don't really know how to make it sound like one. So you're gonna get a mixed bag of things.
Maie: They're gonna bear with us. I think that uh, I think that your audience understands the situation. At any rate, the last time that you were here you performed in town and I gotta tell you, for days, I mean, maybe even weeks afterwards, I was getting phone calls from people who went to see your show who were just raving and, you know, was just so thrilled with your performance and said if you ever came back they would definitely come again and bring more friends to come and see you. So I just thought I'd pass that on from all the folks that were at your show that last time you played in Toronto.
Tori: We're coming again in '94, that's when um, the next record'll be out. I have to go write it and record it, now.
Maie: You were so busy. You were on like, this whirlwind tour when you came through here. And I remember at that time asking you when you were gonna get a bit of a break and you said uh, over Christmas. Did you actually take a little bit of a breather?
Tori: Well, I had a week. And then I...
Maie: That's it?
Tori: And then I had to finish the promotion for um... Things started happening in France and a few other territories. So I had to go and do telly. And now this is my last stop, Toronto's the last in promotional stops. Just to say, "See you soon and I'm gonna go eat, now."
Maie: I'm gonna go eat, now, make some records, be back soon. Well that's cool. The book is um, actually it was surprising because I wasn't really sure what to expect. I thought at first when I heard people talking about it that it was just a book of lyrics. I didn't understand that it would also be the music...
Maie: And thoughts about the songs and inspiration...
Tori: Like little biographies of the songs.
Tori: They all have little... I call them birth certificates because that's what happens -- every time you write a song you feel like you're having a baby. Not that I've ever had a baby. But um, I go through...
Maie: It's your baby.
Tori: They're my babies. I go through sometimes three years of labor with a song and they interrupt love-making, eating, I mean, anything I'm doing. I'll be at a funeral and a song wants to come in, it's like, "Yeah, but I'm a happy song," and I'm going, "Yeah, but now is not the time to be happy," it goes, "Yeah, but I'm coming now." They don't really have any kind of understanding of my other life. They just are very demanding. So...
Maie: Well, in that way they are your babies, that's just like children.
Tori: I love them, though. I do, they're my buddies.
Maie: These kinda song books, did you, when you were younger or maybe even now, do you buy song books, do you still look at other artists?
Tori: Well, I had to play all this piano music, right? Cause my father was a serious task-master about me practicing. And I got sick of playing classical music for eight hours a day just because everybody else was playing it that was in my classes. So you'd hear ten people playing the same Debussy piece or the same Chopin piece and I was bored out of my head. So I would go and get other music. I play everything pretty much by ear, but you know, sometimes I couldn't figure stuff out. So I'd get these manuscript books and be really bummed out because it was just music thrown on a page, and a lot of times the music didn't sound like the record. And I really tried to take great care in making the music as close as I could to what was on the record and still have it playable for like, beginning students. So it was a bit tricky.
Maie: This is, like you said, there's more than just the music on a page with this particular book. And um, there's photos and, like you said, the thoughts, and it actually makes it more of a, almost like a, I guess like an autobiography, this particular book, rather than just a straight song book.
Tori: I wanted um, people to feel like they had an inside view of where the songs come from. And a lot of people are songwriters out there, and a lot of beginning players, I think, should work on their own stuff, too. And I was hoping that it would encourage people to go inside themselves and undnerstand the creative process. And it's not weird, anything you want to do is not strange. And just because you can't sing on key doesn't mean anything. Neither could Bob Dylan, so what? I mean, I think that you have to start feeling like everybody deserves to express themselves. And if you want to musically, to develop a style is to just keep trying all sorts of things out, whether it's beating on pots or, you know, talking, even talking lyrics over chords and stuff.
Maie: Mmhmm. Would you like to try and play for us now?
Tori: We're gonna try something. Um, this is, I'm gonna play um, b-sides, imports from, that I don't know if it ever made it to North America, but in England I put songs that don't make the record as extra songs because, you know, they want a home, too, those songs. So these are a few of those. This is called Upside Down.
[Tori plays Upside Down]
Maie: Tori Amos here at CFNY studios. Tori, that's beautiful.
Tori: I mixed up the words, I'm sorry. But some people will know.
Maie: Those who have those b-sides.
Tori: Yeah, they know.
Maie: Um, I was talking to a friend of mine the other day about early childhood recollections, and thinking about how difficult it is sometimes to remember things from the very early years of your life. And I was thinking how music had been a real part of your life from a very early point. Do you remember what your first, what's your earliest musical recollection?
Maie: That's a tough one, I know.
Tori: I saw this big, big black piano in my father's study. It was massive. And I looked up and I said, "Hi." And I really wanted to become friends with it. And it looked so foreboding. Because, I mean, it was huge. It was one of those old uprights. And um, I just crawled up on the stool and decided to become best friends. And that's the first thing I remember. I remember my mother putting telephone books uunder me so that I could um, first of all, reach the keys. And I couldn't reach the pedals forever. So, you know, you had to let a few things slide.
Maie: That's funny cause my parents also had one of those in the dining room, a great big old piano. And I remember sitting there, going in there pretending I could play. I was putting on massive concerts. I just wonder how my parents put up with that. They never put me into lessons, I must have been really bad. [laughs]
Tori: Well, I had, you know, I had a really good time without having lessons. Sometimes lessons can mess you up. It really depends who your teacher is. I think a lot of people tell you, you can teach yourself a lot of stuff. Especially if you work on your ear And that's what I did, I played records, anything, my mother had a record collection and so I played anything I could get my hands on, and tried to imitate it. What became the biggest influence were guitar players, for me.
Maie: Is that right? Mmm.
Tori: It's right. I didn't want to steal from all the other piano players. So nobody could tell where I was stealing from when I listened to guitar players.
Maie: Ahh. Do you remember what first records you bought, that you wanted to go out and learn to play?
Tori: Well, the Beatles was, that was the big thing. John Lennon was a big influence. There was a Doors record that I, that got snuck in the house, and my father made it leave. And I said to him, "But Dad, he looks like Jesus." And he said, "Mary... [scared voice] Mary, Mary, get this out of here." My dad's a minister, so he had a real hard time with Jim Morrison. As did most fathers. Yummy, yummy, yummy. Yeah, Jim was... Jim and Robert Plant, as girls, I remember, Jim had already died by the time this, I mean, Jim died when I was like, six or seven, so this hadn't quite crossed my mind. Although it did, but I hadn't figured it out yet. But by the time I was ten it was definitely crossing mine and my friend's mind, like who we were gonna give it to. The first time. And Robert was like, the guy we wanted to initiate us. We wanted Robert to, we wanted to like, do one of these - go to the Stones, and see this guy. We'd all, you know, share Robert, we weren't gonna...
Maie: You weren't gonna be greedy about it or anything.
Tori: Yeah. And then he could initiate us and then he could leave and we could all have like, popcorn and stuff.
Maie: That's like, a great idea. Sounds like a good fantasy.
Tori: Yeah, I told him when I met him and he wanted to know how old I was. [laughs] So...
Maie: Oh, that's funny, that's funny. If you were about six or seven, I'm thinking now about your teen years, we're maybe looking at about the '70s, some point in the late '70s, early '80s.
Tori: Uh, '75.
Maie: '75, ok. Now at that time there was a, when I think about the '70s there was a lot of stuff budding up in music. I guess this has always been the case, but when I think of prominent musical directions popping up, there was the progressive rock kind of scene, there was a lot of disco, if I remember rightly.
Maie: There was also...
Maie: Punk. Were you into any one of those scenes to any great degree?
Tori: I was...
Maie: Or a little bit of all?
Tori: What I was, was a student of anything I could get my hands on, so I've never been like a part of a movement because then that discards the other movements. But I would try and... really, when I was listening to punk or I was listening to jazz or when I was listening to Bartok or whoever I was listening to, I would immerse myself in that world because, you know, punk isn't cooler than Bartok isn't cooler than um, you know, Gershwin isn't cooler than Oscar Peterson isn't cooler than Jimi Hendrix. You know, nobody is cooler than anybody else. If you think that, what it is is your opinion is just, you happen to like them, but that doesn't mean they're cooler than the next person. In their field, these people were geniuses. In their field. And if you really want to be a student of music, and to honor -- jazz isn't something that is my, doesn't personally make my tummy go, but I can really respect those that do it well. And it's changed my playing style, it's made me a more interesting player because my vocabulary has changed cause I've listened to different kinds of music. I mean, I'll put on Sonic Youth as fast as I'll put on, you know, um, um, any classical player, back-to-back, to see well, what can I learn from listening to these different things. And it changes you forever as a player.
Maie: You seem to be very much into continuing the learning process.
Tori: All the time. You become really boring if you don't. You know, all you are is repeat. You just repeat anything that goes inside you. I feel like, to develop your own thoughts and your own expression, you go to all these different catagories of expression. And that's also reading, that's also novels, reading poets. And a lot of times I'll go look at painters. I've been looking at a lot of painters lately. And Agnes Martin is a woman that I've been looking at, she's real subliminal, and I'll just stare for hours. Sometimes it's just a whole wall filled with one color. [laughs] And I'll just sit there and it's amazing, the thoughts that come. Because it's a different medium. So when you go to a different medium it helps your medium. And you don't steal. And that's important to not become, you know, exactly like somebody else.
Maie: Mmhmm. Would you like to play for us again, cause I think we'd love to hear another song?
Tori: Um, yeah. I'm gonna do another b-side, and I have to find my program, everybody.
Tori: Now this might be a bit silly, but...
Maie: While you're doing that, I'm just gonna remind folks that Tori Amos, this afternoon, between uh, 5 and 6:30, is gonna be at HMV -- 333 Young Street. And you're gonna be signing copies of your Little Earthquakes song book, which is more than a song book.
Tori: And, and I, you can just come say "Hi" if you want.
Tori: I mean, that's ok, too. So um, let's try this. Cross your fingers. [laughs]
[Tori plays a very unique version of Sugar]
Maie: Tori Amos here at CFNY. It just, it always, it's so exciting to watch you perform. And you sound great. I don't know much about keyboards, but you, Tori, sound wonderful.
Tori: Well, it's a bit tricky because, you know, I've never done this before. But I didn't wanna, I didn't wanna not play cause I felt like that was crapping out. So... you try and...
Maie: Well we're glad that you're playing, yes.
Tori: You know, you just go, "Well, we'll see what this happens here."
Maie: Yeah. What I'd like to do, if it's alright with you, is open up the phone lines...
Tori: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Maie: ...and let some of the listeners call in and ask a question of Tori. We also have some Tori Amos Little Earthquake song books -- song books that are much more than song books -- to give away on the air. So 870-EDGE. Uh, first couple callers through, we'll take your name, give you a song book, maybe you can even autograph it for them.
Maie: We'll get them autographed and uuh, you'll also talk to Tori in just a few moments. We're gonna take a break and we'll be right back.
Maie: CFNY, 102.1, I'm Maie Pauts and joining us in the studios here, Tori Amos. And Tori, we're gonna go to the phones, now. We've got a couple people standing by to ask you some questions. I think first we've got Mike up on the line. Hi, Mike.
Maie: How are ya?
Mike: Pretty good.
Maie: Good. What would you like to ask Tori?
Mike: I'm just wondering uh, what inspired that song?
Tori: That one?
Tori: Ok, we're on Toronto, so like, nobody can hear us that in England or America. Ok, um, I met somebody that was changing my idea of relationships. Like, "Why do you have to be in just one?" And um, it was tearing me to pieces because I couldn't be in both relationships. And um, this guy made me a cup of tea and he forgot that I took sugar in it. And it really uh, hurt my feelings because after all I shared with him and, "How many cups of tea have I had with this person?" And he forgot that I took sugar in my tea. And that sounds like a little thing to you, Mike.
Mike: The little things in life, but they count.
Tori: But it was like, "Well wait a minute, which girl did you think I was that didn't take sugar?" Because this wasn't like I've never done this with this person before, had a cup of tea. And the English make tea, so they should know what they're doing, as far as the tea thing. If this would have been the American, we could have let him slide on this, because they don't know what they're doing with tea anyway. But he did, and he didn't know, and it made me so mad, and I wrote this song. And I recorded it like, within an hour of when this happened. And that's that song.
Mike: Wow. Yeah, cause it's a really beautiful song and I really like your work. I'm a musician myself, I play guitar.
Tori: Oh, well, I, I might steal from you. I steal from all guitar players. [laughs]
Mike: Whatever you want to steal from me, go for it.
Maie: So guitar players, beware of Tori.
Tori: Yeah, Jimmy Page is like, he knows when I'm around, he's like, "I'm not gonna play you my new licks, Tori, because..."
Maie: Well Mike, thanks for your call. And Tori's gonna sign a book for you. We've got the Little Earthquakes song book here from Tori Amos, and maybe you can, you can share with her, too. We won't say "stealing." You guys could share.
Mike: Well, thank you.
Tori: Mmm. Thanks, Mike.
Maie: We're gonna now talk to Pauline. Hi Pauline.
Pauline: Hi there.
Maie: How are you today?
Pauline: Not too bad, thanks, how are you?
Maie: Good. I'm just fine. Doesn't Tori sound great.
Pauline: Yes, absolutely fabulous, regardless of the piano/keyboard situation.
Tori: Thanks, Pauline.
Pauline: Yeah, it sounds great. I had a question. Um, just to get your opinion. Um, how do you feel about, you know, the using of, I don't know how specifically to describe it, but I'll call it, you know, a classical voice, or a very pure, sort of untainted voice, behind pop music, either like, via samples or whatever's happening today? Do you think it devalues it at all?
Tori: What, uh, using...
Pauline: You know, like, there's been some examples, and I won't name any singers or bands that have done it but, you know, samples of certain singers who are very accomplished in their own fields, and I think, take a lot of pains to get there, and it's been sampled in pop music. How do you feel about that?
Tori: Well, that's, you know, that's a real big war that's going on right now. They don't mind if they're used, ok? But, cause I know one of them that has been used, who's very, very well-known.
Tori: And they feel like, though, that if they've been used and have helped the song become what it is, then they should get credit for it. And a lot of these bands sell millions of records, right -- the sampling -- and don't give credit to the person that they've taken from.
Tori: I mean, I'm kind of kidding when I talk about stealing, cause I don't believe in stealing. I think people inspire each other and stuff. But I think when you do steal, then you've really crossed a serious line. Now, when you do -- especially rip and take it direct off um, a record -- there are laws that if you do it x amount of notes, x amount of measures, then you have to give credit to the person that you've taken it from. And that's only right. So that's my feeling about it.
Pauline: But you don't feel that it devalues it just because it's another sort of um, I don't know, musical vein or expression.
Tori: I don't think it devalues. I mean, people could think I devalue Nirvana. People could think that anytime you do a cover, or whatever you do, that you're not showing respect to the artist. But once you put a song out there, it's really public property. We could go in a Marriott tonight, and you know how many people are gonna be singing um, Smells Like Teen Spirit? You're gonna have these guys in like, paisley tops going, [Tori sings in a funny deep voice] "with the lights out, it's less dangerous."
Pauline: Or a reggae version.
Tori: Yeah, I mean, anything. And, you know, you have to like, toss it out there and say, "Hey, it's kinda public property, now." But if somebody records it, then they just need to respect um, who it came from. That's all.
Pauline: I just found that, I've just been taking some sort of classical training uh, for voice training and it seems that from that whole perspective sometimes, that they, I don't know, they have a different viewpoint.
Tori: Yeah, but what do they know?
Pauline: Yeah, that's what I thought. [laughs]
Tori: Let me tell you something about the classical people. They have a rug up their butt. A broom, actually. Because they can't make a living and they have to teach, and they told everybody how to sing and how to do it, and nobody can make a living doing it.
Pauline: Well, it's a refreshing change, I must say, to hear your music, cause it's a great blend.
Tori: I'm always arguing with these classical people, you know, so...
Pauline: Yeah, I know.
Maie: You know, the funny thing is, too, from my standpoint, and the point that I thought you were getting at, Pauline, was that maybe for somebody in classical would think that maybe their music or their voice was too worthy for a pop song or popular song. Let's not forget that pop just stands for popular. And I think that um, pop artists can also go through great angst in attempts to write good songs, and they also work very hard. So I think it doesn't devalue because I think that it depends on what value you personally put on popular or classical music.
Tori: Well there is a bit of spoiled grapes going on from the classical... Anything that isn't happening um... Well, they get angry. It's just like some... Let's be honest about it. They're bummed out because aren't going to see them! And that's what it is. And they try and devalue everybody else.
Maie: And you know, hopefully, by cross-pollinization like that, maybe some people may get more into go seeing classical or whatever they may have discovered through whatever means. I mean, it was only through jazz fusion that I discovered jazz.
Tori: Oh, there are people out there that are doing it. Nigel, you know Nigel? The uh...
Maie: Kennedy, yeah.
Tori: He's really excited a lot of people who wouldn't have been into that kinda music.
Maie: Although he was scorned for doing that, too, going from classical to pop.
Tori: But of course he was. Because they have, you know, if you don't have the most expensive wine sitting on the piano and have your stinky cheese and stuff, then they feel like you aren't part of the club. Well who wants to be part of their club, anyway? As I've said, those guys are dead. They're under the ground, the worms have eaten them. If Debussy, Mozart, were alive, they'd be going to a Ministry concert. Everybody knows that. Next!
Maie: So stay in your old stinky cheese club.
Maie: Anyway, Pauline, we're gonna give you also a Little Earthquakes Tori Amos book and Tori, I'm sure, will sign that for you, too. Thanks for hanging on the line. We've run out of time. Tori, thanks again so much for coming by.
Tori: Thanks, May.
Maie: It's so much fun having you here. And you're coming back when, '94?
Tori: Yeah, I gotta write the record, make it, eat a lot of food, you know, get some wolf bites, and then come back and play.
Maie: ...I do wanna remind folks that today between 5 and 6:30, you can catch Tori Amos at 333 Young Street. That's the big HMV store downtown.
Tori: Thanks, May.
Maie: Thank you, Tori. Cheers.
t o r i p h o r i a
the World of Tori Amos