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Virgin Radio (UK, radio)
Virgin 1215 AM, London
February 5, 1994
afternoon show hosted by Tommy Vance
Tori Amos interview
Tommy: Good afternoon, I'm Tommy Vance, and now we're gonna join Tori Amos in conversation...
[a recording of Crucify by Tori Amos is played]
Tommy: Tell me about the fact that you went to church in leathers. And how the establishment of the church responded to you.
Tori: My father would just put his hands over his head and say, "Mommy, do something about this, will you do," then she said, "I can't do anything about it, she's, you know, she's thirteen years old, she's gonna do what she wants to do." I remember saying something about Jesus once where I go, "I really like that guy." And I got a talking to for 45-minutes in front of everybody about referring to Jesus as "that guy." And I said, "Well, he's a guy, isn't he? I mean I, what's the big deal?"
Tommy: So really, what you were, in reality, was a teenage rebel?
Tori: I guess, yeah. In reality. It was tricky because I had no choice but to go to church. There wasn't another reality. It was, you went to church three times a week, that's just what you did. I love my father, both his parents were ministers, and he wasn't gonna be one until his mother said, "Who of all my sons is gonna carry on the name of Jesus to the people." And it was like, not Dad, not Dad, please not Dad. If you want something to do for a weekend, go down to South Carolina, turn on the local television, and hear the sins of women.
Tommy: The sins of women?
Tori: Well, I think women have sold out on other women. The deepest betrayal. That's what Cornflake Girl is really about, that sense of betrayal.
[a recording of Cornflake Girl by Tori Amos is played]
Tori: On the rest of the new record there's The Waitress, where two girls want to kill each other. There's a lot of this female, like the ladies' room, what the secrets are in there, you know?
Tommy: Well, I wouldn't, 'cause they never let me in.
Tori: Well, that's a shame because what goes on, it is a secret society. There's this thing in me -- I wish I could be Catwoman in Batman, you know, it was cccc, and you get your claws. It's like, "you're not women, you don't deserve the right. Take your tits off -- NOW! Take 'em off! All of you. Put 'em down. You lose, errrr -- next player." That's how you feel. They've abused the right to be women, when they can't try and understand what another woman is going through. It's like, "you don't have any idea." Not you, Tommy, I mean those women. I started going off on some old station and I think they asked me to kindly leave. "Miss Amos, we have to kindly ask you to leave." [laughs] It's like, "oh, okay."
[a recording of The Waitress by Tori Amos is played]
Tommy: Tori Amos, you are a creature of intense passion.
Tori: I'm passionate about human rights, I'm passionate about us being encouraged to think for ourselves and develop out own belief systems. And we're not taught that, we're taught to believe a belief system where they can manipulate us and control us. Whoever "they" is, those, they, thems, that run the world. Whosever theys is, you know? But it's not about us being encouraged to be whole beings. Because we don't understand how to get to our pain, we don't understand how to heal ourselves, which I completely believe we can do. And it takes a lot of work, and that doesn't mean you don't have sad days. Sad isn't a bad thing. Sad isn't bad. Sad needs to be taken shopping, too. That's a precious, precious treasure, to be able to feel that.
Tommy: The voice there of Tori Amos. More conversation with Tori Amos and her track Silent All These Years, after this on Virgin 1215.
[a recording of Silent All These Years by Tori Amos is played]
Tommy: You must recognize that the world is a very cynical place. How much of a battle do you have with the actual recording industry and the moguls therein?
Tori: Well, I used to have a lot of horrible, horrible battles, 'cause um, for years they told me that this girl and her piano was never gonna happen. I listened to what these people said, after seven years of rejection letters. You know, "Why don't you go to college and get an education, be a teacher of music, because um, you're not writing anything that people will ever want to listen to." After enough of that, I started to believe them. And so when they said, you know, do metal, do rock, do dance, do pop, do all of it in the same measure, whatever, I lost my passion for music. I lost my passion for life, for self-expression. So, part of me died. Well, you know, when Billboard called me a bimbo -- bimbo in America being really, really a slag, meaning that you have nothing in you, there's nothing. And I took a stand on self-expression even when I was real young, and look, look what's happened to me. I've become just another sheep wanting their approval. It's so slimy, why do I want approval from slime? So I started to write songs for me. I began to write again.
[a recording of Cloud On My Tongue by Tori Amos is played]
Tommy: Does Tori Amos have a sense of humor?
Tori: Yeah, I think so.
Tommy: What makes you laugh?
Tori: My tour manager [John Witherspoon] from Liverpool, he makes me laugh. He makes me laugh so much. Reeves and Mortimer make me laugh. I don't know anything they're saying, but they really make me laugh. I think you have to take humor with you when you go into the sewers, when you go into the sewers of your being, where I have to go. 'Cause then I don't know what's going on with me if I don't. I'm just a walking dead girl.
Tommy: What song, then, is a good example of the way that you encrypt your humor?
Tori: What does encrypt mean?
Tommy: You codify it, you bury it slightly.
Tori: Well, on the new record, I think there are a lot of them. A couple of the ballads don't have that because they're dealing with -- well it's just not funny, what they're dealing with, on any level. God has humor in it, the song God. I don't want to give away the song or try and interpret it for anybody, but it's there to me. If you believe any of the Bible, especially the Old Testement -- if it was really quoted from what they say the source said -- it's like, hang on a minute, here, excuse me! Our deity -- for women -- in Christianity, the Virgin Mary, was a sexless being. Whoever figured this out was very, very clever.
[a recording of God by Tori Amos is played]
Tori: When you put different elements that you wouldn't normally put together in a song, you start disarming patterns, thinking patterns. Like Charles Manson and ice cream, when you put them together, it's like, yeah. You're putting together one of the most horrible nightmares and one of the yummiest things, together. That's what a good witch does. You know, you bring out elements that you've tucked safely away. "Well, this is my horror thing, and if I keep it segregated and separated from the innocent little child, then I can have my horror thing and nobody can get hurt." And it's like, well no, umm... They all live in the same being. All these different thoughts live in all of us. So they need to be communicating with each other. And you only understand what they really mean when you start letting them sit next to each other at the dinner table and be sharing the same trencher.
Tommy: One of the press reports, one of the people who wrote in the press about you, said that in the lounges of various hotels in America, you used to play on the piano Led Zeppelin. Is that true?
Tori: Oh, yes. Devotedly. But I'd have to disguise it if I was in the dining room. So when I went into the dining room and they wanted standards and stuff, I'd be like, I'm falling asleep, I just can't keep my head up anymore. And sometimes I'd rest my head, you know, on the thing on the piano I'd rest my head, and I'd be playing and I'd start playing and I'd play a wrong note and it would wake me up and I'd go, "It's time for Black Dog. It's just time." I would try and work it so that I wouldn't get fired. Didn't always work, though.
[a recording of Black Dog by Led Zeppelin is played]
Tommy: How well does it go down with a [?] cocktail in the Marriott, then?
Tori: I think it went down really good. As long as I would disguise it I was alright. They're watching TV in America totally consumed with their video game to the point where they're so consumed -- hey, it's great to have a little fun, we all, and video games, I think, can be good teachers, actually, but that's not what seems to happen. What seems to happen is everybody loses their goal. Pretty Good Year is what that's about. A boy who loses his whole, his goal, the ideas of what he wanted to be.
[a recording of Pretty Good Year by Tori Amos is played]
Tommy: Do you have a record player, a CD player in your flat in London?
Tori: I have this CD, I don't know how to work it, but I have this CD thing that I just picked up in the States. Portable. That I'm gonna take on the road with me and start listening to a lot of different stuff. I have a cassette player.
Tommy: And what's the nearest cassette to the cassette player in your flat?
Tori: Um, hang on a minute, Billie Holiday. I did a cover of um, Strange Fruit. I had been trying to really feel her, feel her presence.
[a recording of Tori's cover of Strange Fruit is played]
Tommy: Tori Amos and her version of Strange Fruit, a song made famous by Billie Holiday. Coming up next, her choice of a Hendrix track. You're listening to Virgin 1215, I'm in conversation with Tori Amos, it's seventeen minutes, now, before six.
[a recording of If 6 Was 9 by Jimi Hendrix is played]
Tori: Well, the thing about Jimi is that, aside from the music, it's his spirit. That's the same with John Lennon, it's the spirit. It's, you know, they were the pied pipers, we'd follow then anywhere. You know, if Jimi would have like, you know how they said "never take a ride with strangers?" Well, if Jimi would have pulled up in 1968 when I was 5 years old and said, "Hey, little girl, let's go for a ride." I'd be like, "No problem. No problem." More than anything, I did it, a thing to Jimi, just out of such respect for him. Not that I thought that I could do particularly a god job with it. It's an okay job, it's not one of the best things I've ever done.
[a recording of Tori's cover of If 6 Was 9 is played]
Tori: With Jesus, but referring to Jimi, And I always got Jimis and Jesuses, they, it was all the same to me, anyway. It was one more cute guy that I'd bring to my father and say, "He's really cute. Is this Jesus, too?" And my father would go, "Mommy, mommy, mommy! My mother would run in and pull me into the kitchen and say, "Leave your father alone, he's reading the paper."
Tommy: In many ways it seems that you'd kinda like to re-write some of the aspects of the Bible.
Tori: Oh, no problem! But that's not just it. I think it's out there, and I think we're gonna be discovering things over the next 25-35 years, in history, that will absolutely curl our toes. I believe that. ... What matters is what you're contributing on an emotional level.
Tommy: And you have plenty of that to contribute.
Tori: Well, what I'm contributing is, to get people excited to contribute their own. It ain't enough. The more, this is one situation here, folks, where it's like, there isn't too many. "Mork calling Orson, Mork calling Orson, come in Orson!" ... My favorite record is Day In the Life. Always loved it. It's as applicable today as it was then. It's timeless. It's magic.
[a recording of A Day In the Life by The Beatles is played]
Tori: If we're being responsible songwriters, we are the journals of the time. Like if you were in a thousand years from now and you came back and looked at the music. We're supposed to be the subconscious of the time, to go in there and really expose what's really happening with a generation. The thoughts and feelings, what's repressed, what needs to come out. That's our job.
Tommy: Tori Amos, thank you very much.
[a recording of Cornflake Girl by Tori Amos is played]
[transcribed by jason/yessaid]
t o r i p h o r i a
the World of Tori Amos