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World Café (US, radio)
March 18, 1994
Tori Amos interview and live performance
David Dye: Hello, David Dye here with the World Café. In hour two today, Tori Amos is going to join us in the studio. Her new album is called Under the Pink. She will be performing and talking about the new record today, and how she's dealt the success she has had since last year and the remarkable debut of Little Earthquakes...
David: This hour Tori Amos joins us in the studio. It's been two years since she released her incredible debut album Little Earthquakes, a series of songs that she once described as "meditations on religion, love, relationships, and breaking the bonds of sexual guilt." The album sold over a million copies, propelled by excellent press, constant touring. Her live shows impress people as far away as Israel and Japan, with performances that combine a blend of sensuality and honest if not frank openness. Well, Tori is back. She's still digging deep on her new album, Under the Pink. She's still honest and open-minded, and the album includes new characters, great songs and some interesting revelations. Tori shares the songs and her thoughts with us this hour. Coming up on the World Café...
David: Start out going back, with a live version of Precious Things, Tori Amos.
[a live recording of Precious Things is played]
David: I'm David Dye, this is the World Café. New album due from Primal Scream in a few weeks, it's called Get Out But Don't Give Up. And now for something completely different - Tori Amos is our guest in the studio today. She will join us at the piano in just a moment, here on the World Café...
David: Tori Amos was the first person to play piano in our World Café studios, and she is back again after what has been a remarkable year, between the release of Little Earthquakes and its worldwide acceptance, and really, essentially, establishing yourself as an artist over the last year. Rarely has an artist connected so strongly, emotionally, with an audience as you have on this one record. I mean, a lot of it is due to you and the openness of what you write about. I'm sure that attracts a lot of people. I mean, you have two fanzines, a fan club. Do you have a lot of people coming up to you and saying, "You say what I've been thinking"?
Tori: Well... I deal on an emotional level. That's the only way I really know how to write. And I think people want to talk about that. They want to talk about the stuff that's been swept under the carpet, so to speak. And I like to sweep. [laugh] So I've opened one door with Little Earthquakes which said, "I want to kinda be awake now." And now, "What am I gonna see while I'm awake," and Under the Pink got written.
David: Under the Pink - under the skin?
Tori: Under... if we ripped everybody's skin off, I think we're pink. So, and underneath that is the inner world. And also under the concept of girl. Under the concept of what a girl is, because that's really changed for me. Especially in the last couple years.
David: Has it changed since you did Little Earthquakes, since you started writing for this?
Tori: Yeah. Um... the violence between women is something I've really kind of had to deal with. Look at. See my own violence. See my own mud-slinging. [laugh]
David: Why do you label it violence as far as just women not being supportive of other women. You see it as violence?
Tori: Well, when you wanna throw some bitch up against the wall and rip her head off, you know, it's not about a tea party. Um... or maybe it is, with a nice butterknife. But um, you know, I guess I had this idea of women being um... this illusion that we were, we didn't do stuff like the guys did. I know that's really arrogant, and I'm sorry if it sounds that way, but I really believed that there were things that we wouldn't do to each other. Well, we don't do it in the way that guys do it. But we do things to each other like they do to each other and like they do to us. And it's um, it is a secret society, what happens between women. It isn't as obvious, what the guys do to each other. Um, but it's really there.
David: I was wondering - I talked about what a year it was, does a very good year have anything to do with your year, or was that...
Tori: Well, Pretty Good Year actually was written from a letter I got from a boy in the north of England who said, - he's a young guy in his late teens - and he said basically his life had ended because now he was going to work in the factory and there was, in his mind, no out. All his dreams and the things that he had said he was gonna do - he was never gonna do, and he knew it. And so, I started to think about Winter and how, in that song, the father said, "when you gonna love you as much as I do," and then in Pretty Good Year I'm saying to Greg, "I can't give you self-respect, I can't love you enough." Whether Greg is, I don't know, reminds me of relationships I've been in where the guy doesn't feel good about himself and I can't make him feel good about himself, so then what ha-... you know what I mean? It just doesn't stop. So this is Pretty Good Year.
[Tori performs Pretty Good Year]
David: Pretty Good Year, the track that leads off Under the Pink, Tori Amos's new album. Great solo version. Love that song, that's really a beautiful piece. Everything, as usual, on this record is piano-based, but there's a lot of really subtle, wonderful string arrangements that go with just your piano-playing. Was that, as co-producer that was your idea to do it that way?
Tori: No, that was Eric and I deciding. We had actually had another string arranger. We did a whole session with a... it's not important to mention names, but we did a big string date with someone and it was, it was not good. But um, we pulled in Phil Shanele and he hasn't been given much of an opportunity to arrange live strings and yet - really, really talented person. And we said like, "what are you doing in two weeks?"
David: Mmhmm. I do want to talk about the instrument you used for the basic tracks. ... It's a Bosendorfer?
Tori: Yeah, Bosendorfer. It was shipped out from um, they have a warehouse in Indiana.
David: Where do they make them?
Tori: There's a little man in Austria. I went to the plant in Vienna, and there's a little man that goes out in the forest and knocks on the trees. They have their own forest that they - they've been making pianos since 1830-something. And they own their own forest, and they replant them, and they harvest, and there's a really um, what do you call it, there's a real environmental - they have to be conscious about it.
David: Respect for the wood.
Tori: Yeah, completely. And um, a little man goes and knocks and decides who gets chopped down. And then once it goes, it sits out in the different weather conditions for three-four years, and then they start making the piano. And it takes about 68 weeks to make a Bosendorfer.
David: One of the songs on the record that I'm not sure what it's about because the lyrics on the sheet are melting is Icicle, but I know you were warming up on it.
Tori: Yeah. [laugh] You ready?
David: Yeah, what's it about?
Tori: Well, the songs have layers to them. It's not... nothing's really about one thing. Although this goes back to my childhood and all the sexual shame, the shame for a woman being passionate, a woman, a young girl feeling passionate and um, wanting to try and express that. But you either get into the good girl-bad girl case here, and what defines a good girl, and what defines a bad girl, and more important than anything for me growing up was, I wanted respect, especially from my father. So, of course I aligned with the Magdalene, and everyone else was aligning with the Virgin Mary. And the Virgin Mary actually had babies later that people don't really want to talk about. She obviously "did it" and people just have a hard time dealing with that. And um, this is about a girl that masturbates to survive, to really try and reclaim a part of her sexuality before they kill it, numb it out of her.
[Tori performs Icicle]
David: Icicle, from out guest Tori Amos, here on the World Café. Did you have pumpkin pjs? I mean, that's like, a great image, it had to come from somewhere.
Tori: Well I love pumpkin pie. You know I'm an eater. Everything is, you know, I wanted pumpkin pjs.
David: What do your father, your parents think of your work?
Tori: Um, we don't talk about Icicle and we don't talk about God too much.
David: Things on the first record you don't talk about?
Tori: We didn't talk about Me and a Gun too much, 'cause we never did. And later we have had to deal with it, Me and a Gun. Um...
David: Would you have rather had better acceptance of these songs?
Tori: Well, Me and a Gun has become much more accepted, it's because of what happened to me and not communicating with my parents until very late in the day, until way after the record was out, until was after press was out and there was confusing things. Then I had to get clear and come forth and, you know um... But with the religious stuff, it's been a bit more difficult because my father's a minister. And when I go after the Patriarchy and God and the Institution, um... you know, my Dad is very much a part of the Institution, so he feels like I'm going after him and I'm saying, "Well look - the Institution has to be hound accountable, Pop." I mean, you just have to kinda look at the history. This is not my opinion, this is about a misuse of power, here. And that's what we're talking about - we're talking about making humanity feel like they should be ashamed, like they're terrible, like if you don't agree with Them, then you know - cut the balls off of the men, rape the women, then butcher the children.
[a CD recording of God is played]
David: That's God, a song on Tori Amos's new album, Under the Pink. Tori is our guest, and we'll return with more from our interview with her in just a moment, here on the World Café...
David: Some of the images, just even in the titles, that are just so wonderful like Cloud On My Tongue. You know, as somebody that talks for a living, that means something to me, it has a feeling to it. Where did that image come to you?
David: Did you have the idea for the song and then try to figure out something to explain it.
Tori: No, well, cause I didn't wanna... I didn't... My pride wouldn't let me cry in front of this person. And that's what it felt like - I didn't want to cry. I couldn't, I just couldn't.
David: Could you do Cloud On Your Tongue?
[Tori performs Cloud On My Tongue]
David: Cloud On My Tongue, the solo version. One of the people on your record I would like to tell you - I want you to tell me, actually - how he came to be on the record. It's George Porter, Jr, from The Meters, one of the funkiest bassists in the world.
Tori: That's right.
David: I love what he does, I love what you do, but I would not have thought to put you two together. How did that come about?
Tori: Well... um, we were listening to different bass players and, um... you know, I was getting so frustrated and I almost went with one. And Eric [Eric Rosse, co-producer of Under the Pink] actually said, "Tori, this is not what you said you wanted." I mean, Eric is great for that. He like, has the patience of a rock. And he said, "I think we gotta keep looking. We've just gotta keep looking." And we asked the drummer if he, you know, loved to play with anybody, and he said, "Well, I've never played with George Porter, Jr, but I would love to." We said, "You mean George Porter, Jr, from The Meters?" And it was like, "Yeah, the only. The only George Porter, Jr." So we called him and got him the record - the first record [Little Earthquakes] - and he came up. And he heard the new stuff and goes, "Well, I can play to this, there's some funky stuff here, girl." So we, we hung out.
David: And Trent Reznor, how did that come about?
David: You got Trent to sing - very sweetly, for Trent.
Tori: Yeah um, well, the song actually wanted him on it. The songs, you know the songs, they're living things, to me. And they speak to me and they let me know who they want on them and who they don't. And they can get very, very vile, sometimes. And she said to me, "I want you to get Trent Reznor to sing on me." And I said, "Well, I'm sure you'd like that, but I don't know if I can do it." And she said, "Well then you're scum." So I said, "Well, let me see what I can do." And I got in touch with him, and we met. And we hung out for alittle while up at the Tate house, which is kinda spooky, but anyway, that's his story. And we got on really well. I found him incredibly interesting and we were giggling and I played him the song. He said, "Yeah, if you want me to do it, mm, what is it about, really?" And I said, "It's about a girl trying to work through being a victim." And the guy singing is about supporting it. Um, there is, there of course is that love thing going on, and there's some, the religious thing of Jesus and Mary Magdalene going on, and there's all sorts of stuff. But um, I figured, to have a raging male be supportive meant a lot more than a man that doesn't know how to rage.
David: Let's listen to it from the record.
[a CD recording of Past the Mission is played]
David: Past the Mission, that's the recorded version of that from Under the Pink. Tori Amos is our guest here. Nice feel to that, nice reggae-ish feel at the beginning and then it changes up. Good song.
Tori: Well, you know George and Carlo. They've had a lot of jumbalaya, playin'... They were actually cookin' in the kitchen.
Tori: You know.
David: You mentioned Baker Baker. Is that possible?
Tori: Yeah, we can do Baker Baker. Baker Baker was a hard one for me to um... to admit because, you know me, I like to see that the guys are emotionally unavailable. And you know, I have a deep, deep love for men as I have a deep love for women. And then I have a deep resentment also, and hurt for men. And also - now, in dealing with it - for women. So it's not about one sex or another, it's about individuals and my own part of myself. But Baker Baker has been coming to terms with um, that I haven't been able to be open to men. Especially after, I think, really dealing with the Me and a Gun thing. Now I'm going, "But I want to be open again. I want to come through this. And I know it's my choice if I want to stay bitter." So this is kinda my friend, helping me get through it.
[Tori performs Baker Baker]
David: Baker Baker, another track from Under the Pink. Tori Amos.
[transcribed by jason/yessaid]
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the World of Tori Amos