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The Deeper You Listen
By Scott Riddle
Tori Amos is easily the most understood or the most misunderstood singer of the '90s. Her tender, endearing vocals are harmoniously mixed with her resounding and dazzling piano skills. During a stunning and provocative show at the Vogue two years ago, Amos captured the hearts of a sold-out crowd, which instantly knew it was witnessing a higher level of entertainment. She'll bring that same level of excitement back to Indianapolis Saturday night, with another sold-out performance, this time at the Murat theatre.
Several months ago, before launching her 250-plus city world tour, Amos hosted a press conference at Chicago's Vic Theatre. Though most in attendance were college newspaper and radio reporters, NUVO managed to sneak in a few questions of this fascinating and friendly, Piano Girl.
NUVO: How do you feel you've progressed from Little Earthquakes to Under the Pink? Or what are some of the major differences between the two records?
Tori Amos: Little Earthquakes was a little more like a diary and I didn't think that we needed that twice. This is much more of a group participation record. It's more like an ayahuasca journey. There's a vine in the Amazon that takes you on like an 18-hour journey. It's an internal journey; it's not a drug-it's a journey. It's very sacred. It can be abused; I'm sure it's abused. But you get so sick if you don't do it right that I don't know if abuse happens that much. You can loose all contents in your body, even your cell structure for two days if you don't do it right.
It takes you on an emotional journey where you look at things inside yourself. One time I wanted to look at the way I judge - my judgment. And it was staggering some of the things I saw. I'm not even aware of how I judge other people and then therefore judge myself so harshly - what's good, what's bad? I mean, I ended up in the rose bushes for like seven hours somewhere on the side of a mountain. That's what this album is to me. (Little Earthquakes) was more of a voyeuristic type of record. This is not that. You have to become a character in order to understand it.
NUVO: Under The Pink seems to examine aspects of your religious upbringing and how you deal with sexual repression. I'm wondering what your relationship is like with your father (a Baptist minister).
Tori: He's way cooler than he's ever been. There are things we don't talk about because, why? Why do I need to change him, he's 65 years old? Why does he need to change me? I mean, I go, 'why do you need to change me?" and he said to me once, 'well, why do you need to change me?' Good point, eh? We sometimes look at the next generation and go 'you don't understand.' Well, no they don't, but I don't know if we do either, because we're so much like them. That's what makes us sick is that I think things are beginning to change a little bit in us, but I find myself being like them all the time. I'm trying to have a bit of a sense of humor because if we all really started judging, we'd just all throw up.
You know, people really understand what I do, and people don't really understand what I do. People butcher me, and people put me up on pedestals and they're all to be thrown out the window. Somebody's opinion of what I do is not my business. Even though gauges are important in our lives, how they feel is really no concern to me. Sometimes a gauge might just be somebody wandering in the study bringing in the tea. They might say, 'well, you know, I kind of liked it before you did that,' and then you listen and go, 'hang on a minute.' You have a cup of tea with them and you listen. Sometimes they're right and sometimes they're full of shit, but it was a good cup of tea!
Monday morning before performing for another packed house, this time in Madison, Wis., Amos called NUVO to reflect on everything from the progress of her second world tour, to religion and God (who she refers to as "the big G", hallucinating, and Kurt Cobain. (Or was that hallucinating with Kurt Cobain? I forgot to clarify).
NUVO: Word has it that you've been covering "American Pie" and segueing into "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on this tour. Is this your way of pointing out Kurt Cobain's legacy and doing your part to keep his memory alive?
Tori: I'm trying to make everyone realize what we've lost-musically. He was the so-called leader of a movement - like Lennon - and when I first heard he died, I was playing Berlin in church. It was a working church, and people were sitting on the floor listening to me do "...Teen Spirit" and everyone was really crying. Then, later when I hit Dublin, I decided to add "American Pie", and 2,500 Irish sang right along with me in perfect rhythm, and perfect pitch. It was really soulful, you know? It was definitely one of the most wonderful experiences on earth.
NUVO: You've said before that when you play live, you're more alive than at any time because you're very present. What makes up Tori Amos' presence?
Tori: I have to be grounded and yet at the same time, we're like on a mushroom trip. It's a very strange mixture of hallucinating and yet (being) lucid. It's very tricky. It's fantastic though, because usually when you are hallucinating you can't be lucid; you can't drive an 18-wheeler. But that's what I feel like doing. I'm up there alone at the piano, and I have to know what I'm doing. If I were off my face, I couldn't even sit at my stool, much less play with any feeling.
NUVO: A lot of fundamentalist Christians have dismissed your work as anti-God or anti-Christian. Do you feel like you're always defending yourself and your work?
Tori: I'm not really defending myself because they're not all that wrong. I think God needed a babe and I wasn't busy. And yes, I feel capable of telling him a few things because I don't buy the "I'm not worthy" concept. I respect that he was a master teacher, but I'm walking my path. He's an inspiration, but yet at the same time, he's being used by the structure to keep people controlled. Most people, especially most fundamentalist Christians, don't have their own light. I think I understand very clearly what being your own master is. I haven't mastered that but I thought that's what Jesus was talking about. Any of these organized religions are not teaching about being your own master; they're teaching you how to be mastered. I'm not here to take away what gets them off. I'm like 'Go knock yourself out. If you wanna go speak in tongues and shake, hey go for it. But I've got a date with big G, and I think he's got some problems, so we're gonna talk about it.' I don't see myself as unworthy of having disagreements with the structure at all. I think it's necessary and I think all the sexual guilt that has been put in Christianity is debilitating. That's how you keep a people divided....
NUVO: (I agreed with a verbal nod, and started in on the final question. It was never to be; she wasn't finished, yet.)
Tori: ...You know, the greatest problem in Christianity has been the division of lust and love; the division of passion and love. People have a very hard time having their baby suck their breast and then sucking their man off later. They have a very difficult problem of being whore and mother in the same household. There shouldn't be a division of the Magdalene and the Mother Mary. You know, Mary had other kids after Jesus. She 'did it.' God forbid, she spread! People have a hard time with these truths!
(For the sake of our readers, we called Central Library and tried to find out exactly what "ayahuasca Root" is. No identification was found. So, if someone tries to sell you "ayahuasca" please let us know.)
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