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The Baltimore Sun (US)
January 30, 1994
TORI AMOS FOLLOWS UP 'LITTLE EARTHQUAKES' WITH ANOTHER ALBUM AFTERSHOCK
By: J.D. Considine Pop Music Critic
Edition: Final Section: Features (Arts & Entertainment) Page: 1H
New York - Imagine, for a moment, that you're Tori Amos. You've spent
your entire life as a musician, having been a piano prodigy at the Peabody
Conservatory, a teen-age chanteuse working the Washington piano-bar scene,
even a hair spray-and-spandex hard rock babe in L.A. -- and none of it
seemed to work.
Dejected, you retreat into yourself, and discover within your pain and
anger an epiphany. Instead of making music for others, you begin writing
songs for yourself, and with this breakthrough comes a measure of passion,
understanding and confidence that leaves your listeners awe-struck and
enthralled. You've finally discovered who you really are, and that person
is a success.
So what do you do for an encore?
That was the question facing Tori Amos at the end of 1992. After
spending almost a solid year on the road promoting "Little Earthquakes,"
Amos knew she was moving in the right direction. The album had gone gold,
her tour played to packed houses everywhere -- no mean feat for a
singer-pianist in this age of hip-hop, techno and grunge -- and her fans
were almost manic in their enthusiasm.
"'Little Earthquakes' was an acknowledgment of things I hadn't looked
at for 15 years, in some cases," Amos says. "You tell everybody, and other
people say, 'I know what that's like, too.' And there's this energy and
liberation you get from doing that.
"But then what happens? Well, everybody goes home, and you're sitting
there. There was a deep fall after that, because I didn't have the same
feeling of freedom as when I first discovered certain things. So what do I
do the rest of my life? I can't write 'Little Earthquakes' again."
Amos didn't wonder for long, though. As it turned out, the songs that
would become her new album, "Under the Pink" (Atlantic 82567, arriving in
stores Tuesday), made themselves manifest almost immediately.
"I didn't think I was going to go into another record so fast," she
says. "But as soon as I got off the road, 'Silent All These Years' came to
me -- they all live, these songs, they're all alive -- and said, 'These are
the girls I've been hanging out with.'
"When they showed up, I went, 'Oh, God. I just really want to, like, lie
on the hammock and stuff.' But they said, 'Well, it's cold, and you can't
lie on the hammock anyway, so check us out.'"
Sitting in a conference room overlooking Rockefeller Plaza, Amos looks
more like an office intern than an established pop star. Short and slight,
she looks younger than her 30 years, and her outfit -- a jumble of denim
and cotton and bright-colored leggings -- appears to have been assembled
more for its comfort than any sort of fashion statement.
A compulsion to explain
Yet beneath that apparently casual exterior, she's all business. Amos is
in New York to talk about "Under the Pink," and seems intent on making sure
every song is explained, and every theme discussed.
Why does she feel such a compulsion to explain? In large part, it's
because the songs on "Under the Pink" work on a completely different level
than those on "Little Earthquakes."
Granted, the music is fairly similar, from the piano balladry of "Pretty
Good Year" and "The Wrong Band" to the wry, guitar-flavored pop of "God"
and "Cornflake Girl." But the lyrics are another matter entirely. Some are
character songs that seem worlds removed from the emotional disclosure of
older work like "Crucify" and "Silent All These Years"; others are so
deeply metaphoric that it's almost as if Amos were writing in a language of
her own devising.
"You've got to work on this record," she admits. "This is not as
petal-opening as the last record. You've got to go in your own being to get
this record. But I think people that are into what I'm doing are ready to
take that step."
Still, Amos can't resist providing a little context. "Part of this
record is dealing with the betrayal of women, by women," she says. "The
history of woman has been very lonely, and when you think that we should
support each other, understand each other, that makes sense to me. But the
concept of a sisterhood is not real."
Amos speaks from personal experience here, having noted with no little
irony that the most vituperative reviews of her work have been written by
"I get criticized by women more than men on how I play the piano," she
says, referring to her habit of straddling the piano bench and rocking her
hips as she plays. "They find it offensive." Amos rolls her eyes. "Well,
this is how I choose to express myself, so if you're truly a strong,
independent woman, then how could you possibly find me being a strong,
independent woman offensive?
"If you go to their side and take up their cause, then you're a 'strong,
independent woman.' Well, you know, I'm so tired of hearing 'strong,
independent woman equals -- and there's a list. It's just another set of
rules. They're no different than the men that enslave the women in the
So Amos, inspired by Alice Walker's "Possessing the Spirit of Joy,"
responded by writing "Cornflake Girl," a song about the trials of
"'Cornflake Girl' is about that disappointment," she says.
This is a transcript of the telephone interview by JD Considine in January of 1994, which was the basis for his January 30, 1994, article in The Baltimore Sun.
Tori: Whether it
bums you out or not, the truth is, all this happened, as much as the first
record did. But there are other characters involved a bit more. There are just
other beings involved in this one.
Like "Pretty Good Year," for example, I got a letter from
a guy named Greg in England. This one got to me--it missed getting to me for,
like, three months. But it just got passed around to different people, and
finally somebody just--I was walking through the record label in between the
tour up in England, and somebody put it in my bag. They just said, "You know
what, Tori? This has been sitting around here. Just take it."
And I took this letter, and I opened my bag two days
later, and I read it. It was a picture of--he had drawn himself. It was a pencil
drawing. Greg has kind of scrawny hair and glasses, and he's very skinny and he
held this great big flower. Greg is 23, lives in the north of England, and his
life is over, in his mind.
I found this a reoccurrence in every country that I went.
In that early 20 age, with so many of the guys--more than the girls, they were a
bit more, "Ah, things are just beginning to happen." The guys, it was finished.
The best parts of their life were done.
The tragedy of that for me, just seeing that over and over
again, got to me so much that I wrote "Pretty Good Year." You don't really know
what my role is. Am I Lucy, or am I that eight bars of grunge that comes out
near the end where I express, and then nothing, everything else is Greg's
story? I found that kind of really fun. The emotion is coming from somebody
else's story. And yet it touched me so much that I could sing it.
Sun: I'm sure
you had at least a couple moments where you wondered, "Would there be more"?
Tori: Yeah. I
related heavy. It's just, it was hard to see this so many times over and over
and over again, that at 23, it's over. There isn't a hope that there was when,
I think, maybe 15 years ago or something. There just seems to be this--they feel
like the generation above were liars. This whole peace/love thing. Who gives a
shit what you did when you were 18? You're a fuck now. You're 47. It's like,
who cares? I don't want to hear what you did, the march you did when you were
19. The whole thing about, "OK, hang on a minute. You did a march when you were
18, 19, and you're telling me that I can't take birth control pills? I'm 15
years old. It's my fucking business." "But you're under our roof."
It's like, they're full of shit. Because they're not
dealing with, well, hang on a minute, how would I feel if I were 15? Yeah, but
I know better now. Well, I don't think so.
Sun: I hate
Tori: I see the
effect, the general group that comes to the shows are the kids of them, the
next down, and it's like, it's that there's so much anger for a reason.
we're heading into a good time, where people who are tuned in like you are
taken more seriously.
Tori: Well, the
good place where I'm going is, I finally understood that I didn't understand
what spirituality is. After being around people that have done a Jungian study,
the sweat lodges, the this, the that-- and we're not talking about just a new
age fanaticism. We're talking about very educated and passionate people,
whatever, again, that you could sit down and have a conversation with.
And yet, some of these people, who I got to know very well
in New Mexico, were the most bitter, negative people that I've ever met. Now,
then had a lot of information, but that's a whole different thing than
knowledge. So it's very different. There's loads of information, and yet the
heart connection was gone. Just the acceptance of, well, this is OK that I
don't have it resolved. It's OK that I don't have an answer to this, and it's
OK that I don't really know what I'm feeling right now. I'm a bit confused.
Those things are OK. That's been a new place where I am where I wasn't before,
where I thought that there had to be a resolve.
Tori: "God" is
hey, buddy, I think you need a babe. Sit down. And I just happen to be around.
The whole concept of God, that our institutions have taught us, whatever it is,
it's not just Christianity but the whole rigamarole, to me isn't what it truly
is. I don't know what it truly is. But I don't believe that what we've been
taught is what it is. Most of us don't--that's not true. A few of us don't. But
when you're 10 years old and being taught a belief system, you don't have the
wherewithal to go, "Well, when they're putting this dried, stale cracker in my
mouth, and telling me it's all going to be OK, it'll be OK if I put my little
warm hand down on my little warm spot. That'll make it a bit OK." That's where
"Icicle" comes in.
But with "God," I think that the energy force of creation
feels really pissed off at this usurper that humankind has created is misusing that
force, you know? I think it's really pissed off.
Sun: The story
you tell a 10-year-old kid, well, that's what our notion of God is. It's a
story that we tell ourselves so we can understand this concept that's greater
than our understanding. The trouble is, people, instead of seeing the story as
a means to understanding, see the story as the end.
the end. That's so free, when we can release the end, that it's just a
continuum. The idea that I'll never stop writing, because I've been doing it, I
think, before I can remember anything, that is just part of my expression, and
I understand things better when I write something. I can see it better. But I
don't think there's an end to when people would say, "What are you going to do
after ‘Little Earthquakes'?" Well, I'm going to do what I did before "Little
Earthquakes," which is what I've done since I was two and a half, which is
Now, sometimes I put on plastic snake pants and hair
spray, like with Y Kant Tori Read. I go through different phases when I'm not
willing to face things or when I am. But there isn't an end to the creative
process. Which is not what even in our industry, there's a high point, and then
there's an end to it all, instead of, I'll still be writing in my living room
if nobody shows up for biscuits or not, I'm going to still be doing it.
Sun: Is YKTR
ever going to be reissued? There are people paying, like, 100 bucks a copy.
Tori: Isn't that the funniest thing that you ever heard?
Particularly since I remember seeing it as a $5.98 cutout at Tower.
Tori: They were
a bit kinder. It was, like, $1.99 in other places. It's a collector's item. It's hilarious, isn't it? It's only a
collector's item because there aren't any more. There were only 10,000 in the
whole world. So that's why. When you have such a small issue, and then people
just collect things, because of all my imports, if they have that, it makes
their collection complete. That's kind
of like why they do it. I think that they could use it for, like, dog paper,
but that's a whole other thing. It's expensive dog paper. You know, knock
yourself out, whatever. I find it kind of amusing. No, they won't put it out
again. More than anything, because I'll have, probably, eight EPs that'll come
over from England on this record. I do imports. So I'll do that.
this mailing list on the Internet called Really Deep Thoughts.
I've heard of them. They're good people.
Sun: They had,
what did they call it, Torimas--
Tori: Hah! Oh,
Oc-Tori-Fest, wasn't it? They're so funny. The thing is, they won't bring it
out, because I've moved on, and the company's moved on. We want to make more
music. That's not where I'm at, anyway.
Sun: Eventually, when you get to the box set
Tori: I don't
think so. I think that's it.
Sun: I can't
imagine how you'll pull off "Bells" in concert.
Tori: It's a
detuned piano. It's Eric Rosse demolishing a piano.
that audible distance makes the whole thing work. If you don't have the
distance, the concept is not--
moment is a moment, that song as you hear it was written as it was recorded.
I'd been feeling something in my belly all day, and I told Eric, "I'm feeling
something." He goes, "Like, when? Do I need to set the mikes up now or what?" I
said, "I don't know, but later. I've got to eat first." It was around four
o'clock, and he said, "Are you feeling something yet?" I said, "Not quite yet."
He goes, "Well, like, feel it now, because I've been waiting for six hours and
I need to record this." And I said, "Uh." He said, "Just go into the piano.
Just go in."
So I went in, and I was listening to the sonics of the
detuned acoustic. All of a sudden, this thing has started that was [inhales
deeply] and it came in that moment. Words, music, everything. And for one
second, my head went out of it and had to come back in. It was during the
instrumental part where I was going, "I can't believe this is happening." And
when it was over, it was like, "Did you get that?" And he goes, "I got it." He
pushed Record. It's like, thank you for pushing Record. I have to relearn that.
I haven't relearned it yet. But I gotta relearn it to play it live.
I dictated the words right after I did it to understand
what was being said, and I understood it. I felt it when it was coming through.
The words and the music are trying to translate what the feeling was. I think
it does, but the main thing about "Bells" is that there is no resolve, and
that's what that whole song was saying. "Can't stop what's coming, can't stop
what is on its way." All I can do is respond truthfully, and the concept that
we'll always be friends, or we can always work it out, I would have bet you
that I could have worked anything out with this person. I would have bet my
hand I could have worked anything out. I'd be missing a hand right now. It'd be
the one-armed Tori tour. I couldn't have foreseen this. And I think, how many
people, in marriages or families, and they're going, "Wait a minute. I'm a
rational being. This is a rational
being, so we think."
Of course, I'm a little--I'm partial, but I would have
thought, yes, we could work it out. And when it got to in the end "blankettes,"
and the spelling changed, and when I was writing it down, I did it "blankettes"
as in--well, what it means to me is just blank women, chicks. Yet they were
making mudpies and creating and it's void now. And if you talk to people that
know her, they think she's a together, great babe. And if you talk to people
that know me, I'm a together, great babe. And yet we just couldn't do it. So
there is a triangle on this record of the betrayal of women. It's not just that relationship. It's many
other things in the other tunes.
"Past the Mission," there's hope. "Past the mission, I smell the roses," and
Trent sings on it. I wanted him to sing on it because of his energy. I love
Trent's work. "Past the Mission" wanted him to sing on it.
Sun: Parts of
"Past the Mission" reminded me of "China." There seemed to be little bits of
Tori: We love
Elton. "Past the Mission" has--yeah, I can see that. George Porter Jr. from the
Meters played on the whole record, and there's a lot of him on that, as much as
Carlo Nuccio from the bottom end. I did the piano vocal first, but they played
the track, which gave it that--especially in the verses, that New Orleans kind
of church meets Otis Redding meets, and they had a lot to do with bringing that
out of the piece itself. Trent, obviously, it's nothing like he does in his
work, which I found an interesting choice, because it wasn't for him to sing on
something that was his, why do that?
"Past the Mission" is a love story. It's kind of a strange
one in that it's me again, still trying to find pieces that I've left other
places. It kind of breaks my heart when I hear him sing with me, "I once knew a
hot girl." Where is she now? She can come back again. It's that same thing,
where in "Pretty Good Year" and "Past the Mission" and "Space Dog," where
everything is reclaimable.
Sun: It's also
very easy to see the horizon as a dead end.
Sun: I do think
that there is something endemic about the way our market-driven society works,
where they want us to see the horizon as a dead end. Otherwise, why would we
stay in our little salaried positions to pay our mortgage every month? It's not
as if people just don't see it.
Yes. That's how the whole thing's set up, isn't it?
Douglas Adams' idea that there are things you don't see because you won't let
yourself see them.
Tori: Yes. I think
there's also a bit of the Mary Magdalene/Jesus relationship in "Past the
Mission," because I was reading "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" at the time. It has a
lot of thoughts. It's a very long book about a historical viewpoint on
everything, with the Cathars and all that happened in the Pyrenees, and the
Merovingian dynasty and the whole nine yards. It's an interesting read. It
opened my mind up a bit. More than anything, it was the sexual relations, even
if it's just with yourself, surrounding the oppression of the church, and
that's where "Past the Mission" again -- it's really freeing to me, that song.
I've always kind of-- there's no resolve, either.
Baker" is kind of tragic in a way, because--I've had to look at how I treated
men, and on this record, I think with "Baker Baker," to deal with a man that
truly loved me, but that I wasn't emotionally available for. You know how women
always say men aren't emotionally available. Well, a lot of women aren't
emotionally available. It's like, if you're vulnerable, we say, "Look, we need
you to be sensitive." So you become sensitive, and yet we go, "You've got no
fuckin' backbone," and we kick you in the face and run off with a ski trainer.
love, wanting love, is easy for anyone to understand.
Maintaining love is much more difficult than most people
Tori: Yeah. I
didn't maintain it very well. But you know, I'm learning, I'm trying.
Tori: You know,
I played a piano bar in Washington for years, and I used to know some hookers.
They would come into the hotels. I love hookers. I love them. It's a past life
thing for me, Paris in another time, when it was a bit more respectable. Let's
think about it. You were either a wife, or you were quote-mistress. You can
call it whatever you want, but the truth is, you're taking money for your--
Sun: You're a
But at least you have say. If you were good, you had say, instead of Daddy
marries you to some gangrene-toothed lech.
You could say, "Uh, I don't think so, Harry. No, I got enough clients."
But it's not looked upon that way anymore.
Sun: There's an
interesting book that talks about how the Victorian era turned all of that.
What all anti-sex movements boil down to over the years is using the control of
sex to reinforce the position of patriarchy. It posits that sex is only safe
Wrong Band," that's what it's about. I don't know if you got that. "The Wrong
Band," with Heidi and Ginger and me, we're all sex professionals in "The Wrong
Band." My character, although I say she, who's really written about a woman
that I knew that had to leave for Japan. She left to be protected, because she
was involved with somebody in the house years ago. This was years ago. She got
in too deep. She just knew too much, and she was really afraid that they were
going to kill her, they were going to set her up and kill her. She went to
Japan to be protected by another powerful man, but she didn't have too many
choices at that point, and he was powerful enough to hide her in Japan. I never
heard from her again. I don't know what happened. And I knew her for three
You just get in too deep, and when the Heidi thing came
out-- whatever you do to open your mouth or cause it or whatever it is, it's
just kind of a shame that, again, it's that control of the patriarchy. That
goes back to "God" again.
interviewed Billy Joel, who said that the bane of his existence is that he
Tori: I know
what that's like. The songs are so good in the dream.
Sun: You feel
like such a fool trying to get them onto tape when you wake up.
Tori: It just
doesn't have--it's so complete in the dream. I was actually conscious when these
visions happened, but it's very intangible, because I can feel something in my
belly, but I haven't lived it yet. Like "The Waitress." I got a sense of what
was coming, but I hadn't lived it yet. So I had to go--these experiences all did
come to me over an eight-month period, but I didn't know at the time what it
was going to be. The Pueblos have a saying that the mountain spits you out if
it doesn't like you, and the mountain was spitting me out, like, every 30
seconds. We were in New Mexico--that's where this everything was written and
Why New Mexico?
Tori: Just called
there, just called to it. The Wild West. There was something about it,
something really rugged and raw. Obviously it was supposed to happen there.
It's funny, because after "Little Earthquakes," I really didn't know what I was
in for. I didn't think about it.
Sun: You were
saying that you were worried, having gotten through something with "Little
Tori: What's next?
Sun: Did you
set yourself up for trauma again so you'd have something else to work through?
Tori: What I
didn't understand at the time was that "Little Earthquakes" was an
acknowledgement of things I hadn't looked at for 15 years, in some cases. There
is another step that I just hadn't gone through that after you acknowledge
something, like, you tell everybody, and other people say, "I know what that's
like, too." And there's this whole kind of energy charge you get and liberation
from doing that, and then what happens? Well, everybody goes home, and you're
sitting there, and then you have to do the work. You have to apply it to your
life. There was a deep fall kind of after that, because I didn't have the
feeling of freedom as when I first discovered certain things, and it was just,
would I still kind of have these same feelings?
analysis, part of it is recognizing the mistakes you make over and over again,
and part of it is learning not to make them.
right. That's the hard work. So what do I do the rest of my life? I can't write
"Little Earthquakes" again. The rest of my life is devoted to not making those,
putting myself in situations. Just being present, being conscious of why I do
stuff, and this record was just about living every day.
"The Waitress" is the next step in "Cornflake." I don't
have them in order. It doesn't work like that. "The Waitress" is how I can't
control my violence, and in this one situation, we're both equals, we're both
waitresses in this song. I don't go into the details of why. Why isn't the
issue. The issue is that I thought I was a peacemaker, and this violence has
totally taken control of every belief system that I have. It's a very scary
thing, especially after you talk about anti-violence.
Sun: Belief in
anti-violence--you couldn't have a belief in anti-violence if you didn't have a
sense of violence anyway. If there weren't sin, there'd be no need for
salvation. It's frightening to feel in yourself what you despise in others.
especially after the "Me and a Gun" experience, where I was so--it's about
healing for me, that whole experience, and that's all through this record too,
with "Baker Baker" and healing in "Anastasia," "We'll see how brave you are."
But to be on the other side of it, it's not an analogy to "Me and a Gun." It's
just to feel the feeling of rage, because I've been on the victim side before.
It was just shocking for me to have to deal with that part of myself. First, of
course, you acknowledge it, and then you go, if I don't control it, I could end
up in jail with a broomstick up my ass for the next 30 years. That's no fun. I
could, like, go to Italy and have good fettucine. That would be a drag, and I'm
sure that there are people out there that just snap that one millimeter more. I
mean, what is it that keeps us--there's something obviously in us that keeps us
from taking that step.
Sun: I don't
think it's fear.
Tori: I think
that divine law of--there has to be a part of us that's either in alignment or
not alignment with some kind of divine law. Now, who am I to quote divine law?
It's not anything that we have written down on the planet. But we all know that
if you take another person's choices away, we've crossed the line. That is the line. And you know, we all know
it. Anybody on the street knows it. If they take somebody else's life, or if I
slap you for no reason, I've just crossed, I've just taken your choices away.
And instinctively we know that. Now, I think a lot of it depends on--no matter
how Viking I can get, you know, with my battle axe and stuff, there's something
innate in my upbringing in this lifetime that was, as far down as it may be, "Love
your neighbor as yourself." The karma that that brings you.
Sun: I think of
this stuff in terms of resonance. You know that there are notes that will go,
and there are notes that won't go.
Tori: You break
divine law. You go against the harmonic structure.
Well, "The Waitress," she's a real good friend now, that
song. That's not hiding in my closet
anymore. That's one thing that, at least, I'm kind of--
found a context for those notes.
Tori: Yes. And
"Bells for Her" is the loss of a friend. From "Cornflake" to "The Waitress" to
"Bells," "Bells" is the loss of-- and it's all kind of backwards. I do the last
first, and then the first last. But "Bells" is the spirit speaking, not the ego
speaking, but the part of me that still loves a friend that for whatever reason
you can't make a resolve. You just can't do it. The big lesson in this whole
year has been that there isn't a resolve for many things. Life isn't about,
well, if I just get to this mountain peak, it's over. There are like 5,000
peaks in the distance.
got to work on this record. This is not as petal-opening as the last record.
This record is, OK, you've got to go in your own being to get this record.
‘Cause I'm real clear what this is. I don't have to spell things out this time.
It wasn't conscious or unconscious; it's just people that I think are into what
I'm doing are ready to take that step.
So "Cornflake," "Bells" and "Waitress" are a triangle
together. Part of this record is
dealing with the betrayal of women, between women. These three, "Cornflake" is,
I've been reading "Possessing the Secret of Joy" by Alice Walker. I don't know
if you read that. It went in depth of
just women betraying women, and how the mothers really sold the daughters to
the butchers, and had their genitalia removed, et cetera.
A lot of memory came to me. Just social memory, not
necessarily personal memory--collective memory of how women have turned on each
other. And the concept of a sisterhood is not real. I think that hurts me more
than most concepts, because the idea that-- we've been, women have had obviously
very little say in their lives, and it's been a difficult road. See, I believe
in past lives, so I've been a man making it hard on women also. Just if we look
at it from objective viewpoints, just the history of woman has been very
lonely, and when you think that we should support each other, understand each
other, that makes sense to me. You would think.
Sun: One thing
being oppressed teaches you is how to oppress others.
Tori: Yes. It's
been--again, it's the victims become the abusers, it's that whole--which is
explored in "Waitress," too, where I become the one who wants to slice this
person's head off. But the thing is, it's been, it's so disappointing for me
when I feel betrayed by another woman. So "Cornflake Girl" is that
disappointment. "This is not really happening, you bet your life it is. Never
was a cornflake girl, thought that was a good solution." Cornflake being white
bread, closed. "Hanging with the raisin girls," you know, whole wheat,
multicultural, open, a little more going on. "She's gone to the other side,
giving us the yo heave ho. Things are
getting kind of gross." I think that's clear. "And I go at sleepytime, this is
not really happening. You bet your life it is."
The second verse, it just supports that whole thing.
"Rabbit, where'd you put the keys, girl?" Rabbit, in certain Indian traditions,
it represents fear. "Rabbit, where'd you put the keys, girl? And the man with
the golden gun thinks he knows so much." Well, those are my God references
seems to be a small but growing movement of young women who realize that the
trouble with feminism was that it was articulated as politics, and it's not
about politics. It's about being feminine, and all that being feminine entails.
Some of the stuff that you've dealt with is very much of the same cloth that
[singer] Liz Phair and [comic book artist] Julie Doucet deal with ... but their
most vituperative critics tend to be women.
Tori: I know.
That's "Cornflake Girl" right there. It's that incredible--"All the sweeteaze
are gone, gone to the other side, with my encyclopedia. They musta paid her a
nice price. She's putting on her string bean love." Anorexic. They just put it
on. If you go to their side and take up their cause, then you're a strong,
independent woman. Well, you know, I'm so tired of strong, independent woman
equals. And there's a list. Instead of--well, hang on a minute, the most
interesting word here is vulnerability, that's getting left out, because it's
associated with weakness. You don't dress a certain way to be a strong
independent woman. It's fascist, and it's the same--they're no different.
They're just the other extreme.
I don't feel a part of any kind of sisterhood. Again, it's
the most disappointing thing, where I get criticized by women more than men on
how I play the piano. They find it offensive. They find it offensive. I'm just
going, well, this is how I choose to express myself, so if you're truly a
strong, independent woman, then how could you possibly find me being a strong,
independent woman offensive?
Sun: If you're
playing the game, which they are, it threatens you to discover there are people
who realize you don't have to play the game.
the core issue. It's just another set of rules. They're no different than the men that enslave the women in the
first place. They're enslaving women. That's this triangle of women enslaving
If we sit down, to have a cereal is no coincidence,
because cereal is a very interesting word to me. To go to breakfast and to go
to grains, all those things, and to segregate me as a cereal, especially since
I did do a cornflake commercial, and since I do call the song "Cornflake Girl,"
and I say "Never was a cornflake girl," there's a real rub there. Because in
honesty, I used to say, "I'm not violent, I'm a peacemaker." And here I am in
"The Waitress" with no problems ready to rip her head off.
Sun: That was
the best part of the song. "I believe in peace, bitch."
Well, I think that if--it's funny, I kind of find it all pretty clear. I can see
how "Space Dog" is tricky, and I'll come through with that one. But Space Dog's
a mushroom trip anyway. It is supposed to be kind of--
Sun: I thought
it was a "Ren and Stimpy" episode.
Tori: Ha, ha!
Well, fine. Same thing. But the thing is, with a lot of the language, it's not
like ahead thought out, but it's kind of like a camera, again, where I'm
filming myself in these experiences. And the best way I can describe things
sometimes is like how I'm tasting. With tangible things. Not just to say,
"These girls betrayed me, and I really feel bad now."
[All Tori said about "Icicle" is that it's about
"masturbating to stay alive."]
Sun: I found "Cloud On My Tongue" to be, again, about your sensory self.
totally sensory self, that doesn't know--there's a wonderful acceptance in
"Cloud On My Tongue," an acceptance of being in circles and circles again.
That's its whirlpool vat. It all leads to that.
Sun: Why Borneo?
Tori: Because I
travel a lot around the world, and I went to all sorts of places, and I ran in
to different people. Borneo had something that I didn't have. It was a very
free, hot, jungly place, and the people that, or a person that came from there,
had something that I didn't have that I desperately wanted, which was this no
rigidity. When I say "Leave the wood outside, what, all the girls here are
freezing cold, leave me with your Borneo."
Sun: Having the wood becomes beside the point.
Tori: Yeah. Or
don't leave me with your Borneo, because I've had it before, and that's why I
need the wood, because it just--you can go now, you're already in there, whether
it's pregnant or whether it's just infused. You don't even have to hang around
and watch me disintegrate, because you've already done your job. You've already
accomplished what you wanted, which was another scalp on your belt, and you did
it. That's not one of my more favorite men songs.
Sun: It's much
truer to the way men generally are. Most of us could go now, and the race would
continue on without much difference. You could fill this cup with semen and
propagate Manhattan again.
Tori: That's so
awesome. Yeah. My only problem was, I said "You can go now" after he was
already in there. I mean, it had done--it was already planted, so whatever it
was, that's where I think "Cloud" balances out "Baker Baker" a bit, because
it's the shadow side. She's not ignorant. She knows exactly what's happening.
Sun: You can
have things happen you didn't want to have happen to you and still be in
control. Like you're driving along and make a wrong turn; it's not as if you
can't get out of the wrong turn, but you know you've made a wrong turn.
Tori: I think
she went into the wrong state. She went into Borneo.
Tori: As far as
"Space Dog" goes, it was a drawing on a mud wall in New Mexico. It was a shape,
and it really was, if I could take a picture and show it to you sometime, the
whole record was recorded in mud, mud walls, adobe and wood ceilings, wood
floors, because Eric really loved the sound, which is why it sounds like it has
that warm womb thing. Well, in one of the rooms, there was this-- it's Space
Dog. A feather on his head, and it's this sharp nose. It just really is. That's
how so many of these songs came, in this "Under the Pink" world. If you rip all
your skin off, we're all pink, and it's about what's underneath that. That's
how I see it, anyway.
Space Dog would come and visit me, just as my alternative
deity, so to speak. The idea that everybody puts their faith in, I don't know,
this yogi or this channel or this god or this saint or this whatever, well,
Space Dog was like, hey, it's my deity.
I was flying over Chicago. Before I got into the city, I
was flying over, and I just felt this scene happening by this 7-11 I could see
way in the distance. It was a very cold night. It was in March, and I was going
in for a signing at Rose Records. I was flying in, and I felt this young boy,
13, 14 years old, with his family. He's eating peas. His family is like, some
of those people that show up on "Oprah Winfrey" sometimes, that you just go, My
God, if I had to go home with them, I would contemplate, like, eating Pledge.
And I just felt his presence. I felt him just opening himself up to another
possibility, because his world was just so closed. The best thing he had near
him was the 7-11 goddess.
I was just watching from the--I was in the window seat, and
I was just watching, like, way down. I felt "Space Dog." I've been talking to
him, and I felt Space Dog going, "Lemon pie. Coming through, lemon pie." It was
very Agent 99. I kind of felt like Agent 99 going, "Oh, Max." And this young
man responded. There is something out there.
The idea, again, with "Pretty Good Year," there's a lot of
triads in this whole record, and "Pretty Good Year" and "Space Dog" kind of
kiss each other, where--let me focus my thought. In the bridge, "Deck the
halls," going back again, to, again, not having resolve. "I'm young again.
Somewhere, someone must know the ending.
Where's Neil when you need him?" You know, that's all in that. "Is she
still pissing in the river now?" Patti Smith. "Heard she'd gone, moved into a
trailer park." Concept being, somebody that had all of these beliefs, and then
just numbed themselves.
And Space Dog's philosophy is, well, together, when I'm
hanging out with him, it's, "So sure we were on something. Your feet are
finally on the ground, he said." That's Space Dog's philosophy. And in the
counter-vocal in the end goes, again, the betrayal stuff, mostly girls, and
yet, if I'm in the present, and I'm on something, which is on the earth, on the
ground, then I have total opportunity to decide what my reaction will be. I
can't decide anything else, but I can decide if I'm going to let something
totally take over my life, which it did in "The Waitress." But by "Space Dog,"
I'm going, I do have a choice. It's part of the growth.
Tori: When we
get to "Anastasia"--I had some visitation on this. I was in Richmond. It was after the Washington show, and I had
food poisoning. Very ill. I was in Richmond the next night--
Sun: Which is where she died, isn't it?
Richmond, Charlottesville, yes, that area. And her being visited me, and said,
"You need to tell my story." And I'm like, "Oh, come on. I'm losing crab at
both ends. [Tori had eaten some bad seafood] Can't we, like, negotiate this?"
And it was a bit of--that's where my experience from the violent kidnapping that
I went through with "Me and a Gun" kind of made me able to understand the
horror that she went through, and yet, the incredible understanding that she
came to, which is the first half of "Anastasia," that whole, "Show me the ways
to get back to the garden" and "Driving on the vine over clotheslines. But
officer, I saw the sign." You're very aware of what's happening, that you're
being changed and that you're numbing yourself, but how do you turn it around?
And that's where "We'll see how brave you are"--when you're
18, you know everything, and it's, yeah, I can handle anything. Well, any of us
can be brought to our knees real fast. And with "Anastasia," I would be looking
kind of down on myself through different parts of my life, going, "We'll see
how brave you are." And I get such hope from that one.
Sun: It's sweet, not just because it's got the orchestral part. It does have a sense,
it's like, now you're in Panavision.
Tori: Yeah. We're storming the Parliament building by the end.
t o r i p h o r i a
the World of Tori Amos