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July 1994 (#685)
Transcript of interview by Anthony Horan for Beat magazine.
Interview date and time was July 14th, 1994, at 2.45pm Australian Eastern Standard Time. This was a phone interview.
Anthony: Hi Tori, how's it going?
Tori: Hi Anthony, what's up?
Anthony: I'm having a long day today...
Tori: Yeah, I understand.
Anthony: This is a much-rescheduled interview, this one.
Tori: Is it? They don't tell me these things, Anthony, I have no idea. I just did a show here in Iowa. I'm in Iowa. I'm in the middle of the cornfields. I'm not kidding you, I really am.
Anthony: How did the show go tonight?
Tori: Really good. The kids were great, fantastic. So open and loving, I mean it was like... they really really appreciate it. I love going to the places that don't get much live music, because they appreciate it so much, they're starving for it.
Anthony: This has been a very long tour for you, and it's still going...
Tori: Yeah, I've done 80 shows tonight since February...
Anthony: And how many more to go?
Tori: Ninety-some... A hundred I think, I don't know. I'm doing six shows a week until the second week in December.
Anthony: That's like doing Broadway...
Tori: It's nuts, isn't it? But you have to do it that way. If you want to play America, you have to play it properly. I'm doing 110 cities in America.
Anthony: There was originally a tour scheduled for Australia for around about now, but it looks like that's been put back. Is there actually a date set for Australia yet?
Tori: Yeah, it's the end of November, I think. When it's nice and warm and
yummy there. I have to be realistic, you have to go where it works. I've got my crew, I've got my trucks, I can't leave in the middle of a tour of one country and split, I have to finish a country and then go. We finished Europe around the first of June, and then we started America, and this is such a big country that it takes time to do it properly. Then we're going to come to Australia.
Anthony: Do you get tired of the routine of going from city to city and playing almost every night - do you wonder where your life's gone?
Tori: I get tired of the routine, I don't get tired of the people, because each night it's a totally different energy. It really really is, and I work through things. I mean, being on the road, you get a bit wacky. You just change. It's like you're in a goldfish bowl, you and your crew. I'm very true about this. I probably think things on the road that I would never think if I was just hanging out. Because it's not a life, it's not part of reality. Do you know what I mean? Whatever reality is, I don't think I wanna be a part of that either, but I do know that you give and give and give so much, and it's hard sometimes to get fulfillment. The shows can be fulfilling if the audience is giving.
Anthony: From what I hear of the shows in the US, you've been getting some pretty rowdy audiences at times...
Tori: Yeah, I love it. I totally love that. It's fantastic, the shared screaming (adopts high-pitched member-of-crowd voice) "Yeah, Tori, aaaaahhhhhh"
Anthony: A lot of people are under the impression that they have to keep totally silent at your shows - a lot of the fans wish the loud people in the crowd would just shut up.
Tori: Well, you know... I'm sure there are people at the shows that, for them, want silence. But for me, I'm a big believer in freedom, and I think an audience has to act spontaneously. Now if they were disrespectful, then that's another thing, and you know I'll nail them if they are. I'm not a victim up there. Ever. So if they're being stroppy, I'm gonna fucking nail them. But I haven't run into that. I mean, once in a while, there's some guy that wants to have a conversation, so we just stop the show and have one. We just chat. In front of everyone. Because it's like, he's got to get it out. And then he gets it out, and then he's usually OK. I don't mind, it's about dealing with things in the moment. But in New York, some guy tried to jump from the balcony. To become like... the flowers on the piano, I don't know. It's nuts.
Anthony: That was the show where there was a lot of screaming in the balcony?
Tori: Yeah, there was loads. We turned the lights on, and rushed up and got the guy out, and I just started playing again, and it moved on.
Anthony: There's been a bit of press, especially in England, about the manic, obsessed and fanatical fans that you're supposed to have - especially since "Under The Pink" came out. What do you think about that?
Tori: I think that "God" - that was a number one hit in America on alternative radio - got a lot of the fundamentalist Christians pissed off. So, that's a good thing, I think, because that means you're stirring the pot up. I like stirring the pot up a bit. "Cornflake Girl" was the big single in England, and "God" is being released there in a few weeks. So the energy is a little different in the States compared to England, in that you've got this whole religious fervor thing in America where the kids are coming to the shows, especially the ones who have been suppressed and are trying to break free, and that's why they can't contain themselves. In England, they're not as rowdy anyway. They don't carry guns and stuff, it's a different culture. It just is. So I don't let it worry me how people are reacting. I can't gauge my behaviour on how people react, it isn't my responsibility. My responsibility is to say what I believe in and back it up with whatever I'm doing. Whatever anybody else is doing, they can knock themselves out...
Anthony: I assume your time for meeting fans after the shows is much more in demand now...
Tori: Well I meet them all. I meet them at every show. I just don't do signings. I mean, let's put it this way - I will never get to Australia, Anthony, if I'm doing signings in Cedar Rapids. It ain't gonna happen, because I'm gonna collapse. You can't get up at seven o'clock in the morning, do interviews, radio all day, and fly to the next town, and eat your one big meal a day, and do your soundcheck, and get ready for the show, then I'm a one-woman show for an hour and a half kickin' ass, then go and do a two hour signing, then get up and do it all again - you couldn't fucking do it for two weeks, I'm sure - don't take this personally. But my guys, people that come out and hang with me, from the record company or whoever, after five days, they're exhausted, they're like "I have to get out of here". Even groupies - groupies will come and hang for a week, and then they're like, we've gotta go home and sleep. And I'm like, "You didn't even do anything, you just sat there and listened". I mean, I love them, but give me a break... you know I'm not like a plug you can just plug into the wall and say "okay, do this now". I love music. I just had to make a choice, was this going to be a signing tour or a music tour. And I mean, maybe it's a tough decision Anthony, but I think music's a little more important than a signature.
Anthony: You must be drawing on a source of energy to get through this tour, then...
Tori: Well, it's an emotional energy. I think when you start tapping into feelings, it's an incredible charge. Getting in touch with all these feelings, it's like all these little endorphins start running around. My estrogen goes up.
Anthony: Speaking of manic fans once again, the current price on the second-hand market of the Y Kant Tori Read album is something over 400 dollars, and people are paying it.
Tori: Isn't that sad, it's such a waste of money. Go treat yourself to something really good, don't waste your money. I'm telling you, it's crap.
Anthony: I suppose the one thing people want to know about that album is, will it ever come out again?
Tori: No. Never. I promise you, it's not gonna happen. Ever. It's over.
Anthony: It's taken on legendary status, that record...
Tori: Isn't it hilarious? Do you know, it's become way more important than it ever would have been if it had been a hit.
Anthony: Record Collector magazine in England listed a single that you did before Y Kant Tori Read, called "Baltimore", which is changing hands for similar prices...
Tori: Ah. Ah. Yeah, I was 14 years old when I did that. I wasn't even in puberty yet.
Anthony: I'm sure the City Of Baltimore appreciated it...
Tori: Well they did, actually - they gave me a little award.
Anthony: Have you still got it?
Tori: My mom has it somewhere. You know moms have that stuff. My mom's so excellent. She is the coolest, she's great.
Anthony: She wouldn't have seen much of you in the past six months...
Tori: No, but she comes out on the road and hangs out. She's a total road dog, my mom. She is, out of everybody in my family and my friends, my mother is the best road person. She just loves travelling and hanging out with musicians and the crew, and meeting the kids. She's really fascinated by it. Keeps her young, she says.
Anthony: She survives longer than the average record company executive, then?
Tori: Oh, forget it. Way longer. But you know she's got Cherokee blood in her, so my mom's very tough.
Anthony: The extra tracks you do on CD singles - there's almost enough there to fill a couple of albums with. There's so much material - is there a chance of a b-sides compilation album? There's some great songs there...
Tori: I don't know, I've been thinking about it. At some point we'll do a compilation of everything so it's easy for everybody to get. But sometimes, I don't know what's going to happen next. Like, the "God" single in England, it's all different remixes from different remixers. Carl Craig, CJ Bolland, they all got their hands on "God" and did a totally different thing. Which I thought would be good fun, to let somebody else just knock themselves out. And I stayed totally out of it. I just said, "here guys, this is about you hearing it the way you hear it." So that's what the next CDs are gonna be for "God." But, you know, it's a challenge when you can put extra tracks down and they would get wasted if I didn't do this.
Anthony: "Honey" was a different story, though - it was going to be on "Under The Pink", wasn't it?
Tori: That was going to be on the album, but I knocked it off. But Honey was OK with it. She was OK, she really was. We had a long talk about it. Because believe it or not, she's getting great status as a b-side. People love her. So she's getting all this praise because she's a bit of an underground song. She's a bit of a cult song, so she kind of loves this attention. She's getting more attention than she would if she were on the album. I think everything has its place. The only regret I ever have is that "Upside Down" wasn't on "Little Earthquakes".
Anthony: "Here. In My Head" you've said during a show that you wish it had been given more prominence as well.
Tori: Yeah, but that was written after the album was way out. I would have held it for "Under The Pink" - I was gonna hold it, because I was writing it just when I started writing "Pretty Good Year", and should have done that. "Pretty Good Year" is really part two of "Ode To The Banana King". "Ode To The Banana King" is part one - as you see, Lucy reoccurs. That's part two, "Pretty Good Year". So I'll probably write part three.
Anthony: For "Little Earthquakes" you brought in people like Davitt Sigerson and Ian Stanley to produce many of the tracks, and produced a few of them yourself with Eric. This time you and Eric have produced the entire album yourselves; is producing yourself more satisfying, and does it get better results for you?
Tori: Well, they're both great people, Ian and Davitt, but with Eric there are no limitations. He's amazing about that, there's just no limitation. A lot of times, the producer's vision can get in the way. They're involved, and they're creating with you, but they're also listening to me as a writer and where it needs to go from that point of view. I mean, "Precious Things", as you can see, is totally different from anything that Ian or Davitt produced. It had a rawness and a passion, just like "God" has. And Eric really helped support that side of me, so that when I go into those places he helps with the whole arrangement of the track, so that they have that thunder and that passion.
Anthony: The studio recordings are a completely separate entity from your live versions of the songs; is there any possibility you might in the future go out with more musicians, and play the "album versions" live?
Tori: Maybe. If you're gonna bring musicians, it's gotta be for a very clear intention, not just to recreate the album, because you know I'm not interested in doing that anyway. Live is about creating a moment with the songs that's appropriate for now. And if I can't move on my phrasing - as you'll see when you come and see me live this time, I'm really working heavily with my phrasing. So instead of going okay, we've gotta get from the top of "Precious Things" to the bottom - no. This is about, I have to get from the top of this measure to the bottom of this measure. Everything is working within the phrase, so that there is all kinds of dynamics and crescendo, it's internal rhythm.
Anthony: I noticed that when you played "Precious Things" on Letterman the other week.
Tori: Oh, you saw Letterman?
Anthony: Yeah, we get Letterman out here in the middle of the night.
Tori: So how'd you like it?
Anthony: It was great. But you had to censor yourself on that one?
Tori: Well I had to say "calm" or they were gonna totally bleep me. And I didn't want them to bleep me. So they put me in a funny position. But I tried to let it slip through. This is America, you know...
Anthony: It was good that they let you on without being backed by the Letterman band.
Tori: Yeah, it was good. The only reason they let me on without the band was because they were in a bind. Because I'd just been on a few months ago, and somebody had cancelled, some comedian, and they needed somebody in less than 24 hours. So I said if I do it, I'm playing alone. I like Paul and everything, Paul's a trip. But I wanted to play alone, and I did and it was fun.
Anthony: On "Good Morning America" you seemed tired...
Tori: Oh yeah. Up so early, it was painful. John's giving me the two minute sign, so we have to finish up soon.
Anthony: Okay, I've got a huge list of things still to ask you, so I'll save them for next time... one last thing then. The strings you have on "Under The Pink"; someone described the album before it came out as "classical Tori", and it's a description well applied to "Yes, Anastasia".
Tori: Yeah, that's my big epic. A lot of Debussy influence on the first half, and the Russian composers on the second half. I was real excited working with Phil Shenal, who arranged the strings. We'd had quite a famous arranger arranging and Eric and I erased it all after we had some margaritas. No, we purposely did, it was shit.
Anthony: Can you name him?
Tori: No, can't. You know, it's... tacky. So we erased it, and we started with our friend Phil. And we loved what he did. I just thought it was so perfect, everything.
Anthony: "Cloud On My Tongue" has one of the most beautiful string arrangements I've ever heard in a song.
Tori: It's beautiful, isn't it? He just really crawled inside and understood. Strings are really tricky, because you can get it wrong so easily.
Anthony: For the live shows in Australia, will you be bringing out the prepared piano for "Bells For Her"?
Tori: Unfortunately, I think you're gonna miss that. (To John Witherspoon: "Are we gonna bring out the prepared piano for ‘Bells For Her' for Australia?") Johnny says we're going to try and come up with something. We'll see, I mean, wouldn't it be great. Because we have it on tour with us now in the States, we had it all through Europe - I really want to bring it to Australia, because it's such an important part of the show.
Anthony: Will you do that song without the prepared piano?
Tori: No, can't. It's like, forget it. It's like pasta with no noodles if I do it without that piano. But anyway you've gotta come and say hi when we come out, hopefully at the end of November. When it's warm. We're gonna make it there right when the cold sets in in the States, and we're coming down and hangin' out.
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