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KSCA, Los Angeles (US, radio)
KSCA, Los Angeles (101.9 FM)
August 24, 1994
Tori Amos interview and live performance
songs: Honey, Icicle
The DJ is a woman whose name is never said during the interview.
DJ: Tori Amos is joining me here. This is the music hall because it's kind of the hallway between two studios. We don't mean it to sound like it's a big hall or anything.
Tori: Well, it kinda sounds like a big hall. [laughs] It's kind of like a closet. It's kinda like a little kitchenette where you could cook chocolate chip cookies, but that's cute.
DJ: All we need it an oven.
Tori: Yeah, you need an oven and some good dough.
DJ: Cool, alright, we'll do that after. Um, I saw your show last night and the Pantages Theatre and it was really wonderful. Uh, it was the first time I had been able to see you live. Um, I've enjoyed your music for a few years, but I'd never been able to get to one of your concerts. And the crowd was so appreciative of you, um, I was a little surprised at the screaming when you took the stage.
Tori: Well, they're not passive.
Tori: My audience isn't passive at all. But we respect each other, that's the main thing, I think. Um, we both have a cracker in our butt. Both of us do, them and me. But there are times when you gotta kinda sit on it. And they know that there's, it's a moment of give and take, really, where um, it's a bit like a dance, the whole show, where you explode and you come back and rejuvinate. And I think that's what the whole give and take thing's about.
DJ: Yeah. What surprised me was, again, like, young girls screaming like it was a Beatles concert when you walked out. It was like, wow, ok. But when you sat down at the piano and you played, you could hear a pindrop in there. It was really nice, it was just wonderful. So, I wanted to let you know what a experience that was for me last night, I really enjoyed it. And I urge everyone -- I know the three shows at the Pantages are sold out, but you also have a show Saturday night at UCI Crawford Hall, there are still some tickets for that.
Tori: That's in Irvine, right?
DJ: Irvine, down south. And then you go up north on Sunday to Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara, which is a beautiful place. So, there are tickets available for that. So, um, for someone who doesn't know you, say there's somebody sitting out there -- it's like, ok, her name is Tori Amos, I've heard of her, but I don't know anything about her -- who are you and what do you do?
Tori: Oh boy. I make really good chicken. And um, I don't have very much luck with boys. I'm a really good friend. But I think that my songs are much more interesting than my personal life. And um, the idea that -- I mean, I don't hurt flies, but if, you know, if you cross me or my piano, the butterknife is gonna be up your dress. That's it.
DJ: That's a healthy attitude, I think.
Tori: My piano's the most important thing to me, and it's nine feet. It's bigger than anything Metallica has.
DJ: [laughs] Yeah, I would think so. I do't know first-hand, but I would agree with you. Um, you're gonna play a couple songs, why don't you do one, will you do one first?
Tori: Yeah, this is um, off the Cornflake EP that came out a few months ago. This is one of my favorites, it's called Honey.
Tori performs Honey.
DJ: Tori Amos live at FM 101.9. That song is on the EP that you released with Cornflake Girl.
DJ: It's not on Under the Pink. Beautiful song. Um, I have like, cards full of questions. So many things, I was thinking, God, there's so much to ask you because you're a fascinating woman. You started playing piano at two-and-a-half. Now how -- how? Most kids at two-and-a-half maybe climb on the piano and start like, pounding on it. Did you just sit down and you were able to play? I mean, how does it work with a child prodigy?
Tori: Um, I was really playing before I could talk. I didn't think much about it. I don't know, the fairies sprinkled something on my head, one of those things, you can't really explain it, it just happens to you.
DJ: So, it was just there... wow.
Tori: Just happened.
DJ: See, that blows me away.
Tori: Kinda like peeing in your diaper, you know. Sorta the same thing.
DJ: And the singing, when did you start singing.
Tori: Um, I didn't have much success at first with that 'cause Kevin Craig said I sang like a frog. He wrote this on a piece of paper in fourth grade to Peggy Shaw. Um, and said, "I love you forever, Peggy, God, Ellen Amos -- that's what I was called -- sings like a frog." And I was pretty devastated and I wasn't gonna sing again. And my brother said, "You listen to Robert Plant, you sing to his records every day, and one day they'll stop laughing at you." And that's what I did.
DJ: Wow. And you did. I mean, you're a major Led Zeppelin fan.
Tori: Maj, yeah. Robert's my buddy. He's great.
DJ: Yeah, you made a reference to him last night at the show and the audience kind of had a collective gasp. You know, you said that there wasn't a thing there, that you just met.
Tori: Yeah, we're buddies, that's all, just buddies. I think the thing about Robert is um, you know, he's just, the reason they call him [?] is for a reason. He's totally in love with women, he loves women. And that's a great thing. You don't feel that from some of the guys in the music -- the musican guys. You don't really know what their sexual orientation is. That doesn't really matter, some of them don't even like women no matter what their sexual orientation is.
DJ: Or maybe don't have respect for women.
Tori: Yeah, or like them. You know what I mean, like, "yummy." Like, "God, I just love their essence." And Robert loves the essence of women, and you feel that when you're around him, I think. You just feel like, he loves it. And um, I like being with him. He's a passionate person, and he always inspired me to be a passionate performer.
DJ: Which, passion kinda goes hand in hand with Tori Amos, I think. Um, you bring up sexuality and yumminess, and you kinda exude that. I went to the show last night with a friend of mine, a male friend of mine, who just has it so bad for you. And I think you have one of two affects on men. One is that one that my friend had, he just adores you, he wants you in the worst way. And the other is kind of a threatening thing. Do you find that a lot, that men are threatened by you?
Tori: Um, yeah, intimidated, yeah. I think it's because um, it brings stuff up in them. It just does. They feel, sometimes, inadequate, which is kinda sad because um, I love nerdy guys. I mean, I really love them. At the same time, if they're not gonna stand up for themselves, I'm not gonna kick 'em in the face but, but I can't do it for them. And I just think if a guy doesn't feel good about himself, sometimes he doesn't feel so great around me because um, I don't censor much. And I don't think I'm unkind, I think I'm really loving to men, 'cause I do, I adore them. But at the same time, um, I don't pretend, either. If they're not working on stuff, it's like, "Who are you hiding from, honey? It's so obvious what you're doing." The tough male bit doesn't work with me, I just start laughing. I can't, I can't not laugh, because it's so cute. On one hand you're going, "Guys, this is so obvious, I have to laugh at this tough male thing."
DJ: Yeah, a lot of men, I think, are threatened by someone who is strong, just naturally strong -- a woman, I'm talking about. Um, they don't know how to deal with that, and they think they're supposed to be the strong sex, so maybe that's where the conflict comes in. Um, I had heard -- I don't know how to put this, 'cause I don't want it to come out wrong -- about your stance onstage, the way you sit on the piano bench. And I had seen you in videos and stuff, and I know what you're about, and you're enjoying the music. I mean, I think that's all part of it, it moves through you, it's part of you. Um, I expected some kind of like, sex act on the stage, from some of the things I had read, and I don't think that's that at all. How did that evolve? How did your, what you do at the piano bench, happen?
Tori: Um, hmm. I played clubs for so long, people would just be ignoring me, drinking their strawberry daiquiri, right, and treating me like I was part of the wallpaper. And you're going, "Ok, this isn't any fun for me, 'cause we're not communicating." And part of being a performer is not being part of the wallpaper, unless you're paid to be like, live Muzak, which wasn't what the job was. So, I started to decide, the only way that we could have a relationship is if I made it so that they could have one with me. So, I open up the right side of my body so that they feel like they can come in and that we're having a conversation. That's really how it started. And then, it's incredible, physically. I have so much more power that way than if I sat the quote-unquote "traditional" way. I get an incredible amount of support from my back leg, my diaphragm is supported, I have so much more strength to hit that piano. That's why, one reason, the piano sounds so powerful -- besides, of course, my sound man, and besides, of course, it's a Bösendorfer -- is that I have a lot of strength to hit it and I'm supported by my whole back leg um, so that I can throw force into my instrument.
DJ: So there's a lot more to it that just the sensual/sexual erotic aspect to it.
Tori: There's loads of stuff. Obviously, it also, I mean, I move with my music. It's about an energy force and it's flowing through me and um, it's part of that, too, but that's just a part of it. It all works together.
DJ: I agree. I mean, I thought, it's just all the music, it's all part of it. Do you have any inhibitions at all? I see you as this free spirit and it's like, I'm always afraid of certain things that um, saying things, like, I used to be involved in a radio show that got risque sometimes. Just things like that. And I always thought of my father, I couldn't do these things if my father could hear it or see it or, 'cause, you know, it's like, Daddy's little girl. You come from a very strict background, um, yet you seem, to have no inhibitions, that there's no censorship.
Tori: I don't think I have any inhibitions. I do have tastes, though, I have personal tastes. I don't find that being inhibited, there are just certain things that I won't put in my mouth. You know, it's like there are certain foods that I won't eat, 'cause I don't think they're yummy. I'm very much a yummy girl. If it's yummy, I'm there. But if like, if it's mushed up beatles, I don't think so. Um, and that's not just with physical things, but that's just a philosophy. If it's a vibe or if it's a person or a conversation, um, I'm really into yummy. But I don't see myself as inhibited.
DJ: No, I don't see that either, but I understand what you're saying. As long as it doesn't leave a bad taste in your mouth, you feel good about what you're doing.
DJ: There's no problem there. Um, some women emulate you. I noticed that at the show, there was one right behind me who had red hair, dyed the same color as yours, and she was very much -- I don't want to say a Tori wannabe, because I don't want to put her down -- but, emulating your style. Um, they look up to you. And then, it's just like the men, there are two types of men. I think the women, then there are the feminists who just don't get it. What do you think they're obsessed about?
Tori: Sometimes feminists don't get it, but I never have problems with women.
DJ: You said that some women are very cruel to other women. What did you say, "Girls are the most vicious creatures alive to each other."
Tori: Hm, absolutely. We're so much more, let's put it this way, our nail files are hidden. But boy, they can do some damage. Yeah, guys don't even understand that world, they don't know what goes on in the Ladies' room, they have no idea. Which is ok, but they're pretty obvious, we know when they're dissing us. It takes two seconds to know where they stand. That's not a put-down to them, but they wear their heart on their sleeve. They're like, they're not into it, they're into it, they're confused, whatever. A woman, she'll come in acting like she's your best friend so that you can trust her so that she can get information to annihilate you. And women have the patience of a saint. They can, they're really like the spider, they can weave a web.
DJ: And wait for the right moment to pounce.
DJ: But on the other hand, you also notice the nurturing side of women. I don't know if I'm getting the vibe right from God, in the song God, um, "you need a woman to look after you."
Tori: That, well that's all about, "Honey, you're not doing such a good job, you need some advice, and I ain't busy. So here. I need to take over."
DJ: You're offering advice.
Tori: Yeah, well I think that um, it's about calling forth the Goddess, that whole song, really. And it's not being, it's about not feeling inhibited to say to the Patriarchy or to God or to Jesus, whatever, say, "Hi, Jesus, you did a good job. I don't need your services, I can work this out on my own. Maybe I'm gonna bumble it a bit, but um, I have the tools and the capacity to figure stuff out. I don't need you to do it for me. I respect that you did it for you, I can do it for me."
DJ: Tori Amos is our guest at FM 101.9. They told me you were gonna play two songs, and you did one. I have so many songs I want to hear. I should probably just let you pick whatever you've planned to play, 'cause I have a list of about -- you did one the other night, last night, I won't give it away 'cause I don't know if you're gonna do it again tonight and if it's a surprise. But the second-to-last song you did blew me away because I love that song. In high school I played it over and over again. And um, I'm one of those people that, music moves me to tears. I mean, if it's one of those kind of songs, and boy, you did last night. That was just really beautiful. So, if you want to play it that would be great, if you don't, I understand.
Tori: Well, I kinda save that.
DJ: That's what I figured.
Tori: Those are, I save those.
DJ: That's why I didn't want to even say what it was.
Tori: It was Landslide by Stevie Nicks, I don't play it every night. I do different covers every night. Maybe I'll do a little Prince, maybe I'll do a little Joni, maybe Zeppelin. Whatever comes up, you know, they show up, they have different, um, times when they want to come, really. They just kinda show up and go, "Play me, now."
DJ: What made you record Smells Like Teen Spirit?
Tori: Well, I just think that that represented how the guys felt so much. And um, I did it with a lot of respect. But I brought it to the piano 'cause it's what I understand. And I felt like I wanted to take it to the feminine place of rage. Not that quiet is feminine and loud is masculine, I'm not saying that 'cause L7 can hold their own quite nicely. I'm just saying, I felt that there was um, the whispered scream that I wanted to bring to it.
DJ: And you did beautiful. Alright, um, I'm just gonna ask you to play another song, whatever you choose.
Tori performs Icicle.
DJ: Tori Amos live at FM 101.9, Icicle, found on Tori's latest CD, Under the Pink. Um, I don't want to ask personal questions, but you said you're not good with boys. Is the relationship not happening anymore? Didn't you have a relationship with, is it Eric Rosse?
Tori: Yeah. Eric Rosse. We're still very close, but we um, we just need to grow on our own, now. So, we both feel good about it. We feel like it's a good thing. Um, so I'm really on my own. And I'm just learning about myself. It's a big step for me.
DJ: Something we all have to do, too.
Tori: Well, you have to before, I think, you can really um, give. And I think before I can really give to somebody I have have to understand some things about myself, so I thought it was the most respectful thing to do, to me. And to him and we both are very dear to each other, so it's a good step.
DJ: That's good. You say that songwriting is therapy for you. But a lot of your songs -- and you say this, too, I've been reading -- that they're coded. I've had a hard time reading some of this stuff and I can think, "Ok, well this is what it would mean to me." It's, in many cases, probably not what it meant to you. Is that intentional?
Tori: Yeah. I like people to make their own relationships with the songs. Obviously, some are gonna be more of a diary and some are more like an impressionist painting, so you crawl into it and let it be what it is for you. And then others are just very much, like God is pretty much throwed up against the wall.
Tori: It's very clear what that is. Whereas some of the others you can kind of crawl in and like Past the Mission, I think, it's a bit more of a painting, that.
DJ: One song that's pretty stark and right out there and was um, a very moving moment last night was Me and a Gun. And obviously that dealt directly with an experience you had with rape. But the response you got to that song caused you to take some action.
Tori: Yeah, we have an 800 number, it's 1-800-656-HOPE. And we feel really good about putting that together. Um, it's 24-hours. I got so many letters from so many young women ... they didn't choose to, you know, go seek out help. I felt like they needed to have something easy, that if they just needed to talk to somebody um, that it could be there.
DJ: So it's a 24-hour hotline. It's a group called Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.
Tori: Yeah, we call it RAINN.
DJ: RAINN. And you're a founding member, and it's funded by Atlantic and Warner Music?
DJ: That's great. Um, I'm gonna make sure that the number and information on that gets into our public service rotation.
Tori: Yeah, that would be great.
DJ: 'Cause there's a lot of people, especially in the city like Los Angeles, who don't know where to turn, who've been through...
Tori: And it doesn't cost anything, that's what was real important to me is people who can't afford it or people that don't want it on their number, if they don't want anybody to know and they want it private, they can call it at any time and it connects you to the closest rape crisis center where there are people that are trained that are there and that have been there before. They've got no judgments, they've been there.
DJ: Um, you've been touring it seems like since this album came out. And I've gotta say, thank you so much for coming in today. You did the show last night, I saw you on Channel 5 this morning at 8:30. Now, you had to be up at like, 6, to do that. You must be exhausted.
Tori: [laughs] Yes, actually. Yeah but, you know, whatever. You just, you do. But I'm ... having fun. Look, I know what it's like when nobody wants to listen to your music. It sucks. I've been there. So when people want to listen to your music, it's a thrilling thing. I think when success comes to east to certain people, they just have no idea. They have absolutely no idea, if they haven't crawled to get it. So, I crawled big-time to get it. And I appreciate it, I think, a bit more than the ones that just kinda, I don't know, get on a bus and show up and get a record deal. They just, the complain a lot more because they didn't play bars for fifteen years and have beer spilled all over their piano. And, you know, you just see it real differently. It's like, [in a whiny voice] "Oww, I gotta get in the limousine and go down and do this." And it's like, oh shut up.
DJ: So are you glad Y Kant Tori Read didn't do anything?
Tori: Of course I'm glad. It's the best gift I ever had. I have no illusions about the music business. I have no illusions. My self-worth is not wrapped up in this fame game. I'm very clear on it. And that feels good.
DJ: You learned the lessons and you learned to be with yourself, it's like the relationship thing, kinda.
Tori: Kinda. I have a harder time in my personal life than my music life. Music life makes much more sense to me. I understand that. I don't really understand people that well. I can't understand, it's like, "Why can't we just hold hands and have Oreo cookies." I don't understand why we can't do that.
DJ: I'm there with you.
Tori: I can't understand why you wouldn't want jam on your peanut butter, that strawberry jam is so good and it's dripping down my finger. I don't understand why you wouldn't want that, so, you know, it's over my head.
DJ: And it feels good to know when Under the Pink came out, it entered the Billboard charts at like, what, number 12?
DJ: That must have felt really, really good.
Tori: Felt really good.
DJ: So people are getting it.
Tori: Felt really good, yeah. It's good in this, 'cause this is my home country and it um, I'd done well in England and I didn't know if it would ever get over here. So it's a wonderful thing to be able to come to the place where all these songs really took root. I mean, this is the country where it happened. So, it's um, I think the kids, too, are responding 'cause it makes sense to them. They know what I'm feeling, they know a lot of that religious oppression. They understand it.
DJ: And it's nice that your parents get it.
Tori: [laughs] No, well, we won't go that far, but they're very cool.
DJ: That's good. Do you have a good relationship with them now?
Tori: What it is is they get it that they don't get it, which is very cool.
DJ: And you agree to disagree on some things.
Tori: Yeah, we get along great.
Tori: I mean, they're great um, roadies, my parents. They're fun, they're a trip.
DJ: Cool. So what's next? How much longer are you touring?
Tori: 'Til December, and then I have no idea what I'm doing.
DJ: Are you already writing for your next whatever?
Tori: Oh yeah, it's already starting.
DJ: So where is home now?
Tori: Uhh, rocket cargo at LAX. That's my address.
DJ: Alright. Well you always have a home here. Tori Amos, thank you so much for coming by. It's been a pleasure. I hope this was more pleasant for you than our last radio experience. It wasn't exactly together, but I kinda felt responsible for it, so I know it didn't go too well.
Tori: They know, everybody knows what you're talking about, right?
DJ: I think so. I used to work on another radio show and not to put those guys down, but they didn't quite get the music, and you have guys who um, maybe don't know how to deal with strong women. It goes back to what we were talking about before. But um...
Tori: Well, you're here.
DJ: I'm here, and...
Tori: That's the main thing.
DJ: Yeah, we're having fun. And um, again, tonight and tomorrow night at the Pantages Theatre. Those tickets are sold out, unfortunately, but Tori Amos is also appearing Saturday night at University of California at Irvine at Crawford Hall and Sunday at the beautiful Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara. That'll be a great place to see you.
Tori: Yeah, that'll be neat.
DJ: The Pantages is beautiful, too, and that's a nice, old theatre in Hollywood.
Tori: Yeah, I'm just waiting for the little sphinxes to come out of those, you know, those little openings up top on the left and right-hand side of the theatre. I'm waiting for the, "nee-nee-nee-nee-ner-ner-ner, ner-ner-ner-ner-ner-ner-ner." Anyway. I'm just waiting, the thing I'm waiting for in the show, "Now, when are those little sphinxes gonna come out and dance naked?" I don't know.
DJ: Oh, that could be fun. Watch what you ask for.
Tori: [laughs] My tour manager says, "That could be very fun, Tori."
DJ: There are all kinds of special-effects people, we're in Hollywood, you know. Alright, Tori Amos is with us, FM 101.9, thank you so much.
[transcribed by jason/yessaid]
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