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Alex Bennett Morning Show (US, radio)
KITS "Live 105" San Francisco (105.3 FM)
February 10, 1994
Tori Amos interview and live performance
songs: Icicle, Crucify
Alex: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to our program, a great talent, and she's even nice, too, that's the part I hate, you expect them to come in and be snotty... Tori Amos, ladies and gentlemen.
Alex: How are ya?
Tori: Pretty good, Alex, how are you?
Alex: I'm fine. Nice of you to ask. Well, actually, I'm not fine, Tori. Do you want to listen? No.
Tori: Sure, I'll listen.
Alex: No. People ask you how you are, and then you start telling them all the things going on. "Well, my back's been hurting me, and my girlfriend broke up with me..." Then when they start yawning, you know they really don't care. So, how have you been?
Tori: Pretty good.
Alex: Yeah, things are going nice, huh? You happy with the career?
Tori: Yeah, I'm happy with what I'm doing.
Alex: Sometimes people, when things are going good, do not know they're going good.
Tori: Mmm. That's because they haven't maybe played Holday Inns for fourteen years.
Tori: There is a difference.
Alex: Did you play Holiday Inn?
Tori: Fourteen years.
Alex: Really? Did that little cocktail piano thing?
Tori: I did two things. I did that for four hours and then I'd do the night shift with my little drum machine.
Alex: Yeah. But I mean, you could do things like What I Did for Love and songs like that.
Tori: You do all that.
Tori: You, you do all that.
Alex: Do you ever long for those days again?
Tori: But you know, it's a...
Alex: I mean like, you have your big Roland here.
Tori: Well, this isn't what I play. I mean, I play a real piano. Obviously I can't carry it on my back.
Tori: So I have to...
Alex: But I mean, if you were at the Holiday Inn right now, could you just give us a little idea of what you did at the Holiday Inn? Just a... do you remember any of it?
Tori starts playing the piano
You must remember this
a kiss is still a kiss
and you can put the five dollars
in the brandy snifter...
Alex: That's great.
Tori: But that's what you do.
Tori: Look, if you're a piano player, you've got three choices: you teach, you are a church organist, you play clubs, lounge, or then, you do your own music and, you know, you... people like it.
Alex: Yeah, but now the transition, you had to get out of the Holiday Inn.
Tori: Yeah, but you have to pay your rent.
Alex: Yeah, but I mean, of course, but how'd you bust out of the Holiday Inn? 'Cause you had a classical training, right? I mean, you're...
Tori: Yeah, I was studying to be a concert pianist, but I didn't do very well. I didn't... you have to be on a competitive level. Um...
Alex: And somebody broke your legs, what, I don't know?
Tori: No. But that wouldn't have hurt me.
Tori: The point is, the point is that it really comes down to you and maybe a handful of people in the world that can compete and play. You're all playing, you know, Pricafiaf's whatever.
Tori: And people are judging and deciding if you play it the way they deem you should play it. And if you don't, then you're out.
Alex: So it's kind of almost like figure-skating or anything else, in that it is competitive and you have to do it in a certain form, a certain style.
Tori: That's right.
Alex: Execute certain things. And then, of course, you're wonderful.
Tori: Well, and, but they decide how Debussy should be interpreted. And I would always say...
Alex: In other words, there's no such thing as soul in competitive classical piano playing.
Tori: Well, if you sneak it in there, then you're really good.
Tori: But the point is, they're not interested in maybe your version of Debussy. I always said to them, "If he came back from the dead, he'd really want to know what her version is and what her version is and what his version is and maybe what my version is. I mean, even though the worms might be dropping off him and stuff, he'd really be into hearing somebody's different experience. Because what you've experienced and what you've experienced is totally different than what he as the writer experienced, and you're gonna bring something to it. Now, that's what being a musician is about.
Alex: You're just a rebel.
Tori: I think it just makes sense.
Alex: No, it makes absolute sense.
Tori: But they, most of them don't make sense because they don't understand what being a musician is about.
Alex: But haven't the people who've been the most successful, I mean, I think about, for instance, in acting, Shakespearean actors who interpreted Shakespeare in a slightly different way, been the ones who got the most notice? I mean, people who ran away from the pack and said, "I'm not gonna do it in the same way."
Tori: Well, sometimes it's the long road 'cause you have to stay committed to what you believe in, I think. When I turned my tapes in for those musicians out there, I turned my tapes in and everybody said, "This girl-and-her-piano thing is never gonna work." Well, guess what -- that's what I do. I mean, I tried to do everything else after that because after seven years of rejection letters -- I mean, you all have different um, you all have different limits to how much rejection you can take. Maybe it's two weeks, maybe it's ten years. My limit was seven years, and I just said, "Maybe they're right." So then I tried to become everything that they thought would be approved of. Because, you see, my goal became to be approved of and to be whatever successful means, instead of having pride in my work. That was not my main thing anymore. My main thing became, "Why don't you like my work?" Instead of, "No, I gotta wake up in the morning and feel good about my work even if it stays in my living room."
Alex: Bravo for you.
Tori: Well, it's the only way that you can look at yourself and the funny thing is, people smell dishonesty. They smell it when you don't believe in what you're doing. And so people knew when I was doing it from a needy place instead of "Hey, this is what I do," and then you find that people gravitate to, if you're inspired then they're inspired 'cause that's like a rare commodity right now.
Alex: It's nice when that happens. It doesn't always happen.
Tori: Doesn't always.
Alex: Well, I mean, I think you and I could probably make up a list of people who we think are really good who never really got the recognition they should...
Alex: And have always stayed true to their form. But it's nice every now and then when somebody does stay true to their form and manages to do ok, you know. But there are a lot of people that you sit around and you go, "Gee, you know, that person was so good..."
Alex: "Nobody really just, they didn't catch."
Tori: And you don't know why. I know.
Alex: Yeah. But you know, things are going good now, this isn't exactly a Holiday Inn. It's close.
Alex: But it isn't a Holiday Inn. I gotta take a break here for some spots and when we come back, obviously they brought this piano in here, so obviously you're gonna play, right?
Tori: Yeah, I'm gonna try and play something.
Alex: And the album I'm holding in my hand is called, For Promotional Use Only, Sale to Others... Oh, that's...
Alex: Tori Amos, Under the Pink, it is called. And uh, boy that's a nice photograph of you. You like that?
Tori: [hesitates] Yeah.
Tori: You know, it's nice...
Alex: Bad self-esteem, Tori.
Tori: No, it's hey, you know, I like the photographer that I work with a lot, Cindy Palmano, she's a British artist and I think she's one of the, I don't know, I respect her so much as an artist. she just captures people, she has that ability. She's great to work with.
Alex: The color's good because it captures your hair beautifully because you have like, the most dramatically red hair I've seen. Do you do something with that?
Tori: Of course.
Alex: Oh, ok.
Tori: Sorry, Alex. The grill doesn't match.
Alex: Ok, I'm gonna turn off my mic in here, and then people will be able to hear you. And I want to turn it down, so just do anything you want.
Tori: Ok, this is from the new record. This is Icicle.
Tori performs Icicle
Alex: Tori Amos, ladies and gentlemen, live on Live 105. We'll be right back, stay where you are, Tori's gonna do another one for you.
Alex: And Tori Amos is with us as well. Her new album, incidentally, is called Under the Pink and you should be very happy 'cause it debuted in San Francisco this week at number four in sales.
Tori: That's great.
Alex: That's pretty good, huh?
Tori: By the way, we're coming back, -- we're coming back -- me and the piano are coming back on um, in March, to play live, so I don't know where we're gonna be playing, but I start the tour in the UK January twenty, January-February twenty-fourth, and we're coming to the States for two weeks in the middle of the European tour um, to come to some cities, and San Francisco is on of 'em. So, in March we'll be back in the summer for the big American tour, but this is a little sneak-peek in March, so if you're not doing anything, come visit and bring some good cinnamon ice cream and we'll hang out.
Alex: We'll all party.
Tori: We'll all melt together.
Alex: You want to, can you do something else?
Tori: Yeah, I'm gonna do, somebody asked me to do it when I came in, so I'm gonna do it. It's from Little Earthquakes.
Tori performs Crucify
Alex: Woah. Tori Amos, ladies and gentlemen, we'll be back to talk to her in just a moment. Stay where you are.
Tori: Hi guys, hey everybody.
Alex: Uh, when you were growing up and you listened to singers, -- I mean, I have a funny feeling the answer I'm gonna get -- who'd you listen to?
Tori: Patsy Cline and Robert Plant.
Alex: Somewhere I would have thought somewhere in there was Laura Nyro.
Tori: Yes, I tried, well look -- I tried to, when people ask me this, I did try and open my mind to as much music as I can, 'cause it just keeps your vocabulary growing. You know, instead of just one person. A lot of times I listen to horn players to deal with phrasing as a singer. Because the way that they phrase, it just completely changes your phrasing. I mean, you have to, the funny thing is, with the voice, it's an instrument.
Alex: Well, you're very reedy, you have a very reedy voice.
Tori: Is it reedy?
Alex: Reedy, I think, is the way I would describe it.
Tori: Better than a tuba, though, maybe.
Alex: No, no, no, I don't mean that in a bad way. You know what I'm talking about.
Tori: But I had the tuba thing when I was nine years old.
Alex: You played the tuba?
Tori: No, I think I sounded like a tuba. But I had notes, there would be notes, I would play the piano and sing in class, you know, 'cause that's what, that's what I kinda did. And the teacher would always say, "Could you just play and not sing?" And I would say, "Yeah... ok. I'm sorry." And Kevin Craig wrote this letter to Peggy Shaw, and Kevin said -- everybody called me Ellen, growing up -- "I hate Ellen, she sings like a frog, it's so gross. I love you Peggy, I hate Ellen forever." And the teacher read this in class, you know. And it's very difficult when you're nine and you do kinda sing like a tuba, and you're going, you know, you haven't developed -- this is an instrument that has to be developed, it's not like a piano or a guitar that's already developed when you start playing it. You have to, what do you call it, sculpt your own voice.
Alex: Exactly. I would say a tuba was bell-sounding, whereas your voice is reedy sounding, it has kind of a very nice, I don't know how to describe it.
Tori: Lots of lounges, I think.
Alex: Maybe you think it's the lounge, do you?
Tori: Yeah, I think so, maybe.
Alex: Well, you were terrific. I know you were only scheduled to do two songs, could you do one more?
Tori: Are you serious?
Alex: Oh yeah, like... Well, why don't we just stay here 'til noon and you can just keep singing.
Tori: Um, ok, ok, ok. You know... ok. This is...
[tape cuts off]
[transcribed by jason/yessaid]
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