home / interviews
Press Conference (US)
at Wadsworth Theater in Los Angeles, California
March 22, 1994
Transcriptions of Tori are pretty accurate, with a number of "uhs" and "y'knows" and stutters left out. Transcriptions of questions are highly dubious, since they are generally inaudible on the tape.
[Tori talks to Suzanne about her tape recorder]
Tori: Ok everybody, who would like to start?
Q: I want to know what's next as far as trying new things... is there something else you want to try or progress into?
Tori: Well, a baby would be nice. Umm, musically it's very funny. I need time to work things out. I can't just like in between sound check and a show take myself to another level musically. I think to take yourself to another level you have to in a sense be open to this inspiration that might or might not be coming. You kind of cross your fingers and hope it will, because you can't force that. You can analyze things until you joke them to death, but that won't make magic. You can make music but you won't necessarily make magic. If you are not going to make magic, I really think I am wasting tape. I'm doing 250 shows, I've got 238 left, and then I hope to... as a writer, really take it to a different layer. Because musically you see it's not just what you are hearing that makes something get you here. . It's, it's where you have the breaths in the piece, it's the phrasing of the piece, all that stuff matters. Breath and space is the most important thing. You know there are only twelve notes.
Q: Who do you like in the music industry?
Tori: You mean as friends?
Q: As friends, or what bands do you like?
Tori: Well that's different than friends sometimes. Uh, friends, and I also like her, is Polly Harvey, we're friends. She's going to try to teach me how to plant brussel sprouts. Bjork's a friend. Trent's a friend.
Q: Who are people you don't like?
Tori: Well you know I usually don't tell those things because you have to run into them here and there. It's not like we're one big happy family, the music group. It's not like girl scouts or anything. I think some people might have the illusion that we all like get together and swap secrets.
Unfortunately, like when you're back stage at Top of the Pops in the UK, which is a show where a lot of musicians play, maybe 6 or 7 at one go. It's not like everyone's hanging out and being interested in each other. That's a little disturbing on one level, and on another level, it's like why do I have this illusion that we should all sit down and have cookies and milk…
Q: Did you expect that, when you first started?
Tori: Well, I expected that at a certain level you'd get over the competitive thing. Ya know, when you are at a certain level, it's not about how many gold stars you have, how many gold records you have. It's about well, we have an opportunity here to really reach a lot of people. And what is our intention and what can we do as a group? That's not what it's like. There are not a lot of people that think that way, there are some, and when you meet those, you bond to them, like . A lot of times it's a little disappointing how some of them, especially the divas, how they act. You're just going NO, and she's American, NO. And you're sitting there and these English girls are coming in crying. Ya know, the tea girls. You don't shit on the tea girls cause guess what? They all have little rings and they used to put things in those little rings in Olde England. It's just, you go, how could you talk about peace in your songs and shit all over these tea girls, And not just from the women divas but from the guys too. It's so, it's disheartening.
Q: What about the success and increased fame that Under the Pink has brought you? Were you surprised by the success.
Tori: Well, I try not to anticipate stuff. Then you're qualifying your work by people's response. I'm sure some of you want to write your own works in some form, and if you qualify that by how many you sell, that doesn't mean you've written anything that's going to help or change this planet. It means you sold a lot of books. That's all it means. Now, the thing about it is, if you sell a lot of books, maybe they will let you write another one, and put it out. They can't stop you from writing another one, but they might not put it out.
I've had such an up and down relationship with Atlantic records. They know that I am always good for a fight. I don't like confrontations, but I do have a very strong line that can be drawn. to the point that to where when it's about music, I'm gonna win, I'm gonna win cause I'm so fucking tenacious when it comes to my songs. I'll rip your fucking head off if you touch my babies. I'm really like a mother with her cubs. And I think it's cause I've been writing for so long, and I don't have human children, so that when I hear some kinda "Well I dunno", it's like "Go write your own. Then you go write your own and put out your own record. If you want this to have a different story, then you go write that story." There has to be a certain level as a writer where you know what your intention is. I bring a team of people around me that when they make comments, I have a lot of respect, and if they make sense, I'm open to 'em. But that's different than when a business point of view comes in and starts making a suggestion.
You know sometimes they say "We were thinking about coming down to the studio, you know, maybe change the EQ or something." That's why there are videos in the studio, ok. There are videos so that when those people come down that they can do something, but, um, for the most part Atlantic and I get along. I've been with them almost 10 years. They pretty much leave me alone musically. And so I try and just challenge myself. Sometimes I don't know how people are going to react, but....
Q: It's almost like it's a therapy, listening to your music ... Is there any advice that you can offer this generation?
Tori: Well, you know, you all are the generation to turn it around. As far as.. Every generation passes on their sickness for thousands of years. It just goes to the next. and you guys can either pass it on, or..... Some of mine, it's just too late. I mean, I'm ...
I don't know if I am not in your generation. I'm 30, so I'm kinda in the middle. But um, with you all, in the past everybody has, instead of working on themselves and saying, ya know instead of passing this to my kid, I'm going to deal with the fact that I have these things that I haven't looked at...that I've considered bad parts of myself and cut out. So when you cut out unknown parts of yourself because you want to be like really cool and bitchin, and that's not a bad thing to be. But if this planet like has one more ounce of cool, it's going to explode.
And the thing is, when you pass things down to your kids, then you haven't pulled the weed out by the root. And I think that's the only solution to consciousness... is when I can sit here and go ok I know this is my stuff.
Why do I need my kid to be a ballet dancer? Because I was a piano player and wanted to be a ballet dancer and had to play 9 hours a day and practice and watch those little girls dance, and never dance. So guess what? I should go join a dance class. It's not for me to to put this little kid in a dance class if she or he doesn't want to be doing it.
And I think there's a lot of stuff you put off on the kid, your sexual shit, the stuff that just makes you... you know, we all have different stuff.
That's not a bad thing, that's real exciting. It's really exciting. We don't need to lie anymore. That we're all ok. Nobody's ok. That's ok. How can you be ok in a society? This whole planet, that's taught you lies from the beginning... and one of them is Santa Claus. I mean, the bottom line is I just don't think we've been given tools to go and do inner work. It's very easy to do outer work and... I'll tell you a very short but funny story.
I was in Asia recently and this woman, and the women journalists are usually the worst, so for you future women journalists, just be aware of how fucking bitchy you can be, because you just need to be aware that you know you talk about feminism, not you, you collective, and women's rights and everything, but they are the hardest on women. They are the ones that won't print about healing from rape. They are the ones that say this is not relevant. I've had to fight women from Ireland to America to Asia to talk about issues that matter. And it's been very painful for other women journalists, that are maybe not the editors, but some of these women are the power that stop it. It's like it's not always the guys that are stopping the growth.
This one woman in Asia comes in, really really really tough. And I said, um, it's obvious you're very clear about what you want this interview to be, so let's talk about it. We talked about violence, we talked about sexual repression of Christian women, and we talked about trying to heal. Now after this very, very intense talk, it was one of the most intense I've had, where it was, it was, um, very emotional, she said to me, just like this, "what do you think about the comment you made when you said you're trying to not be a walking reaction and personally all I think is that you are a walking reaction." And I said "You fucking cunt, you've just asked me the most serious questions. If you don't react, you're dead. How can you not react to these things? That's the most manipulative thing anybody's said to me. You come in here and ask me these things and then turn it on me like for me to have feelings about violence, like you're shaming me." And it really upset me, because she could not, for one second she just sat there like "I'm going to kill you in tomorrow's paper", and she did.
And I just find it very clear how it's very easy to not look at yourselves. It's very easy not to look at your part in winding people up. In, you know, passive aggressives are my favorite. Because they sit there and they'll never tell you you did a good job. They find it very hard to say. Ya know that piece was really good, or dadadadadada.
They always make you doubt yourself. they always try 'n do that. That's abusive. I do it too. But I mean I'm saying we all have stuff and I think your generation is the one, if you're willing to look at your stuff, that's how you clean up the planet.
We don't have y'know a clean planet and a shit people. It's not going to happen. Vice versa... you don't have a shit planet and a clean people. It will never happen. They have to go together.
Q: I read a quote that said something to the effect that you approved of what Loreena Bobbitt did. Any comments?
Tori: Well, it was a very long talk I had about that. You see, I had this row in Italy with 12 men on national telivision about that too. And all in Italian, which was really funny, and I had this interpreter next to me, going brrrrrrrrrrr.
So, I think, forget about the comment for a second and just think about, the reason it had to happen is because of what it represents. If you just look at, for a minute, how many women have been mutilated, their genitalias been removed, like millions over the last few thousand years, but like loads, and nobody thinks that is the same as cutting off a penis. Because you can still get in the hole, even though you rip and tear, and you know it's like a fucking chain saw. And you can have children. Don't ask me to go into how they have children. What they have to go through to have them. But you know what, they can still perform a function. And that's what it is.
Men cannot perform a function if their penises were cut off So that's why it doesn't happen. And plus, the patriarchy has had the power really. Now, I'm not saying all guys are part of the patriarchy, and I don't hate men at all. Some women are part of the patriarchy.
Cornflake Girl is all about the mothers taking the daughters to the butchers. Alice Walker's book Possessing the Secret of Joy. That's what first inspired the idea of women betraying women.
No matter that this law was put into place by the patriarchy, it was the mothers that took the daughters and said "y'know we have to get you pure for marriage we have to make you (with them?)" Well, y'know, no matter what lies we're told. Mutilation under any light isn't going to be ok when you really look at it.
So my point is... one guy's penis being cut off by a woman ain't such a horrible thing when you think about that, for a few thousand years, this is, it represents, women that have needed to make that response from being mutilated.
Whether it's out of a rape or a cultural thing or a religious thing, and I think that men that rape don't think about that they've destroyed a woman's life. They don't think about it. They just, and I think when you hear it in the paper, right, you don't, you go, oh yeah, you might have feelings for it, but if you don't know the girl or whatever, you might not be able to really understand that that woman will never be the same again. Now that doesn't mean she can't heal. But unless you've been through it, you have no idea what steps she's gotta take to heal.
So I think for that guy to lose his dick is representative of "No more guys". And I promise you, it is going to make men think twice before they do that to their wife or woman again. Because of what it represented. I'm not saying that you heal by dragging the guys by their balls and hurting them. That's not what I'm saying. But I'm saying, one penis, next to a few million vaginas hung on the cloths line, and the chicken's ate it. You know what I'm saying. If we leave it at that, I think we're very honorable. I think we should leave it at that, but the message should be read.
Q: Something else incomprehensible, apparently about the responsibility of an artist.
Tori: Well, I'm... I can only answer for me because other people don't think they have any responsibility. I think my responsibility is, the more honest I am with myself, about when I'm lying and playing games and stuff, then the more honest I can be in my work. If I need to make a splash no matter what, like some writers, then they don't think about the effect it's going to have on people out there. They don't think about it. I think there are people who can go into the dark energy and expose it, and really be very responsible. Neal Gaiman is one of those people, who writes The Sandman. He has an incredible gift for that.
But for me, you know I, I get sick when I, physically sick, when I know that I'm being a sensationalist. And I know when I am. You just know it. You read it and you go... It's always this question that comes up. What are my intentions? What am I trying to say by saying this? Do I really want to say this? And then if you do, you stand by that. It's not about a popularity contest. It's about... can I stand by this thought? Can I stand by this idea? Do you have a question?
Q: [Girl visibly upset and crying.]
Tori: We'll come back, ok, we'll come back. Yes?
Q: Do you favor the legalization of marijuana?
Tori: I'm sorry I didn't hear you.
Q: The legalization of marijuana?
Tori: The legalization. (laughter) Well, funny thing is that the peace pipe was doing just fine before the Europeans came over here and messed it all up. Before Columbus discovered America, which I find really, really funny. You know that's like, I'm sure you know, the whole thing about Columbus... That's the worst thing you could ever say.
Q: I'm a devout agnostic and I'm really in tune with your song God. What would you say to people who are offended by this song?
Tori: Have a pizza!
Q: How do you feel about some quote this quote that calls you "the brazen saint of shrinks, hookers, and wolves."
Tori: What did they say?!
Tori: Well anyway, you know, you gotta have some fun. You have to have a bit of a sense of humor with stuff. And the main thing is, that you don't take yourself so seriously. I take my work seriously. I used to get laughed at, when my very first record called Y Kant Tori Read was a bomb. And I remember how, y'know, people would say all sorts of stuff. I'm sure some of you will write things and people will make all sorts of comments about you, what you do. But if we hung out for like a week just baking I don't think that we'd have the same impression of each other at all. I'd know you totally differently and you'd know me differently. And it would be like really different than these headlines.
Yeah, oh you were just
Q: Do you prefer your interviews to focus on your music or on other topics?
Tori: Umm, it's a funny thing, I find that most of my interviews are never about the songs. Cuz they kinda, they don't really want me, the songs I mean, don't want me to talk about them a whole lot. Cuz they're like "We're fine by ourselves, Tori, thanks very much." And they kind of, uh, want their own interpretation. Sometimes I'll lead a little bit, but I think it's important to let people have there own, I mean, your opinion of something of what I write is just as valid as mine.
The only thing I get a little touchy about is when people come up to me and go I can't believe you made God a man." And I'm like, "Yes, like I created the Christian church and y'know the Papacy and everything." And sometimes people misinterpret that I'm talking about the institutionalized church, which by the way, runs the planet. Whether it's Christian, Judaic, or Islam. It was definitely our heavenly father. Allah didn't have tits. And you know neither did the Christian god or the Jewish god, it's been very much that. And again, I'm really about the balance.
This takes away from guys too, y'know. This takes away from all of us, the imbalance. You know I believe in other lives and stuff, and I was a guy like loads of times. It's not like one is better, or one should have the message, it's about a balance within ourselves. And that's what "God" was really about, but sometimes when somebody asks me that, I just go "You really haven't heard what that song is about."
Tori: Well, I don't know how it works to be honest with you. I'm sure somebody's got it figured out, but i'm open to possibilities. I just think that... Say a truck hit me tonight , like a Haagan Das truck or something. Then I can't possibly believe that I'm ready to just sit down and hang out with Jesus and have a capucino and chat. I think it's... Nor do I think He would ever stop growing. Being able to be on this planet is an incredible gift because it is where we can act out things, it's where you can put into a body consciousness. Say when you're flying around and stuff, and you don't have to eat and you don't know what being a rock and roll god is like. You have a whole different set of problems. You don't have avarice. You're not jealous. Maybe you're jealous cause "Wow her wings are cuter than mine." But I don't think that it comes to, y'know, I think your whole vision is different. And here you can get lost so easily, which is so perfect because there are so many distractions. Things. People's opinions of you. Are you, y'know are you somebody people want to invite to a party? You know all those things. Did your peers respect you? Those things are so, they're such great gifts. Because they show you...if you watch and I watch how we react to things.
That's when we really know where we stand. I think human beings are so much more capable than what they told us we were capable of. We are so much more capable of, who knows, maybe being in a few places at the same time, if time doesn't really exist like they've all said. If you can be in multi-dimensional realities, like they talk about. We go, Oh God, how can we talk about that, well y'know they said that when it was like the world was flat. and there were civilizations, the Incas, the Mayas, the Native Americans, they were existing. They didn't know about them in Italy. Y'know, so it's just perception, I think.
Q: You sing a cover of Billie Holiday's Strange Fruit. How has Billie Holiday's music influenced you?
Tori: Ummm, when I would hear her sing. There was almost a memory that happened with me when I would here her sing. And I would remember things that I didn't even know I had experienced. I'm sure some of you have had that, whether it's a scent sometimes a smell or something that you hear. Just for a minute the veil lifts, and she has always done that for me.
Q: What are some of the skills your parents had that you would like to use when you become a parent?
Tori: Hey, I have to turn this over. Uh oh, I'm not very good at this. Is this yours? Ummm, is every body working? This one stopped... this is going... I can't even tell you what that's doing, it's a digital thing, it probably has a long leader... yeah, you guys checked these, right.
Tori: Let's do two, I'm having so much fun.
Q: You talked about how fierce you are as far as your babies, your songs. What about your visual images, controlling them?
Tori: Well videos have been tricky of late. I'm not the best visual person. But I am co-directing a video tomorrow, for Cornflake Girl. I did a Cornflake Girl for Europe, and I'm doing something else for the states because it just doesn't express what I, I want to take it in a whole different direction. SO, I wasn't real happy with the treatment I was getting. Because I don't think they understood what I was talking about, how girls dog each other and I really wanted to go after how women treat each other in some circumstances. And all I got was girls being victimized by men and I'm going, "Guys, you're not involved in this one, it's about girls, doing stuff to each other." So I'm co-directing for the first time tomorrow, and I don't know if it would be a shambles or not.
Q: If I came over to visit, what would you feed me and what would you show me?
Tori: Spaghetti, and I'd show you my Bosendorfer.
Q: You skipped my questions before.
Tori: Oh, I'm sorry, what did you ask me?
Q: Something about parenting.... Yeah.
Q: Something about her relationship to her parents and how it would apply to her role as a parent.
Tori: Oh isn't that interesting I just missed that one, isn't that good? You know, my parents ... I love them dearly. The religious thing kind of confused me for a long time. What I don't want to do, is because I've had, you know, it's not that I'm, I believe in a spiritual life, in in in forces that are not in body. But I don't wanna like... could you imagine if I never took the child to a Christian church service because of my stuff?
I really, I talked a lot about it with the father of the kids, who's going to be the pop. And we discuss... He's from a hippie Jewish family and we talked a lot about not keeping the child's you know… just eating berries and roots in the forest because we're into it. There is a level of exposing children to things. So that's one thing I hope that I really keep in mind is to expose. The most important thing for this child...
I'm just a caretaker. This isn't for me to fiddle with, this spirit. I'm a caretaker. and that's the thing as parents, we're caretakers for these spirits. And it's about them developing their own belief systems, I think, and then, they'll teach us. And we have to keep them from burning themselves up, and us too, because they can be little pyros and just flame the place down. But uh, the thing about my parents that I treasure is their honesty. Just like with simple things, day-to-day things. I I I don't like that. I like that about them...
Q: What do see yourself doing (in the next year, after the tour, sometime)? Huh?
Q: Repeated. Oh, planting brussel sprouts. One more yeah
Q: [Talks about rumours of how badly she reacted and got sick and stuff after YKTR.]
Tori: That's not a rumour, go on.
Q: [reads more of a quote]
Q: [reads about how she went around on her apartment on her hands and knees for a week because she didn't feel worthy of walking.]
Tori: cause I felt I wasn't what?
Q: [reads again]
Tori: yeah, I did make it to the toilet and to Ralph's, but that's about it. It was a rough time but again, a gift. It was really about self-acceptance. I say, I know I'm gonna say about 50 stupid things a day and I'm gonna do stuff that makes me want to gross out. Y'know, you do stuff, you go "I can not believe I treated that person like that." Or, "Why am I so hung up that I treated that person like that." Just like, get over it, y'know. It's not about being perfect. And I have a hard time with that. Because I feel like sometimes I'm, trying so hard that I'm not being real. One more
Q: What is your biggest personal struggle?
Tori: My biggest personal struggle... shitting! It's very hard being on the road. I have 250 cities, I've done 11. It's very tense, very irregular. Ok guys, did you want something in the brown shirt, or are you cool? Ok guys.
thank you. Bye. See ya. Oh please, one request, no exclamation points. Thank you.
t o r i p h o r i a
the World of Tori Amos