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Philly's Inner View
NO EXCLAMATION MARKS ARE UNDER THE PINK OF THIS LITTLE EARTHQUAKE
THE TORI AMOS INTERVIEW
by David Maida
It happens once in a while when you feel as though you have discovered an artist that not only has the lyrical and musical concept where you like it, but has the presence and personality to go with it as well. I'm referring to that "red-headed mermaid figure like of an artist" -- TORI AMOS. After her 1992 release of "Little Earthquakes" sold 1,000,000 copies worldwide, and Tori built her cult fan base at doing 200 plus dates a year, shocking her audience by sometimes humping her piano stool on songs like "Silent All These Years", "Precious Things" and "Me and a Gun" (a song she performs a capella about a woman's personal account of rape) all seem to attract you to an artist who is really musically talented, yet so lyrically diverse. Her superb follow up "Under the Pink" seems to pick up where "Little Earthquakes" left off. Recorded at an old hacienda in New Mexico -- It was a long way from home for a little girl born Myra Ellen Amos on August 22, 1963, in North Carolina to a strict Methodist preacher father. Tori won a piano scholarship at the age of 5 and was writing songs since she was 4. Expelled from Baltimore's Peabody Conservatory at age 11 for playing "by ear", seemed to have paved the way for Tori resisting authority. After a stint in the piano bars of D.C. covering Judy Collins for politicians and their escorts, she eventually wound up in the "city of angels" playing in a metal band called "Y Kant Tori Read". When that failed, it was finally time to explore her own life experiences that cover topics from a woman's sexuality, to religious barriers that are expressed from Tori's own personal standpoint.
DM: Your recent Philly performance was intense. It was "fine" I must say.
TORI: Wasn't it fun.
DM: No, It was "fine".
DM: It was fun too.
TORI: Thank you.
DM: My cousin first turned me onto you. He's a biker with a ton of body art.
TORI: Is he? Wow.
DM: Are you Jim Morrison trapped in a woman's body?
TORI: (A quick burst of laughter) Well, actually I think I'm tweetie trapped in my body.
DM: Do you also consider yourself to be the Jimmy Page of the piano.
TORI: Yes. You know that. There is a level of I'm really tired of people considering the piano light weight. I know I sing like the "Little Mermaid" and everything, but that doesn't mean I can't choose my words. I'm trying to take the things that I do, which are like the antecedent of hard core. My voice and the piano create the substance. I think that's why some of the bad boys understand. The ones that are kind of living in the basement with the rats and stuff. They seem to get what I do more than the ones that pose it.
DM: Your lyrics are sometimes passionately diverse, yet honest, while your piano playing can be beautifully melodic. Where did you get all that from?
TORI: I believe as a writer the subtext is really interesting. I like to sometimes have two different conversations going on. Musically I'm telling you one part of the story, while lyrically I'm telling you the other so that you can put the pieces together. I think the songs have to be like journeys. The listener has to be discovering things also. It can't be preachy, I hate that kind of music. There doesn't have to be magic in it. I always felt that the great storytellers made you taste or know if the room were wood, or if it was adobe, or if there were sweet potatoes in the oven, or you know -- cherry pie. I really felt like as a songwriter you have your phrasing, you have your rhythmic sense, you have your melodic sense, you have your chord structure, and then you have your words. So you have all those things and that's before you even get into any instrumentation and arrangement. That's part of my talent. I'm pretty ruthless with it. I try and not settle unless I feel like I've taken it as far as it can go.
DM: When you sing the line "... hold onto nothing as fast as you can..." in "Pretty Good Year", I think your voice becomes instantly addictive. Can you sing that for me?
TORI: Do you want me to?
DM: Yes. (She sang the exact line to me as I quietly listened to her voice in perfect pitch and I then realized that's why I'm addicted).
DM: Do you see yourself as sexy or just a bad girl?
TORI: I see myself as a woman who sometimes doubts her womanliness, and at other times is quite confident in it, and at other times knows exactly how to use it, and at other times feels a bit manipulative though I did use it.
DM: Well that's cool. I'm into it.
TORI: (Laughing) It's honest.
DM: Have you ever been to a real mission and are you the "hot girl" in "Past the Mission"?
TORI: Yes. That's why when Trent Reznor (the Nine Inch Nails vocalist sang with Tori on the track) and I wanted a double idea where this girl was desperately trying to find a piece of herself again, and I felt like a man supporting her which is such a beautiful thing -- especially a "raging angry" boy. To support her was a very young choice. So that's why I wanted to be her.
DM: Why are your fans so quiet when you perform in concert?
TORI: I think there is a level of mutual respect that I have for them and they have for me. If I don't come out there respecting them, I think they feel it -- just like if they're not respecting me they're going to know about it. You know I'm gonna "pee" in your beer. I love it when people are responsive and you know sometimes they express things in the middle of the song or they go (Tori does her Aud. scream). I say a line and they'll react. I'm all into reaction. I think that's spontaneous and I love that. But when people are being rude, just 'cause you've paid the ticket doesn't give you license. It's about we've all come to have an experience and I gotta bring my respect for the evening just like you guys do. Then maybe we can go some place together. I can't go without the audience I'm so dependent on them "energy wise" that if they're not with me, it's a very painful two hours.
DM: So it's a mutual respect.
TORI: Completely. I think they know that now and they feel people that have come for the first time. It's kind of like the others that have been the old hens and have been around from the last tour show them how it goes. (Laughing) It's kind of cool. You know, if you've never been and you just decide it's time to take out your mobile phone and talk to somebody in your chair, somebody will just "nuke" you. Which is O.K.
DM: Who is "Rabbit" in "Cornflake Girl"?
TORI: "Rabbit" is a deadhead that I met on the "Little Earthquakes" Tour, and they've ("Rabbit" and "Fox") kind of followed me around through Florida and then they jumped in on the west coast. They live in forests all over the country. They live like that all year 'round. They're accomplished hikers and they were original deadheads. "Rabbit" is somebody that has a capacity to love like no one I've ever known before.
DM: How can I say hi to "Baker Baker"?
TORI: Well you can say hi to the boy "Baker Baker" was written about. You'll have to just instinctively know who he is when you see him.
DM: On "Icicle" the eagle landed for you. What do your parents think of you now and some of your diverse lyrics?
TORI: We don't talk about "Icicle" now at Sunday brunch -- No. We don't talk about "Icicle" and "God" much.
DM: Are they into Tori?
TORI: Yes, totally. Part of my parents love the whole questioning of the way things are. But another part of them are totally committed to the way things are. So I think I communicate with their shadows.
DM: Do you still have your peach party dress like the one from "Precious Things"?
TORI: Yeah, I have a new one every week. (Laughing)
DM: Did you know that "Silent All These Years" is considered a musical masterpiece?
TORI: Well I kind of see "Silent" as the doorkeeper for all my work. She introduced me to these new girls on the new record and she is working with me on the next record. She is like a huge part of my life. ("Silent") She kind of sits on my shoulder and says, "That is definitely not going on the record. It's just not in our league." She can be ruthless, but at the same time she's my guiding light.
DM: So what happens next for you musically?
TORI: Of course I'm starting to work on the next record but that will be a year and a half in the making because it has to be really good. I need time to make it good. I have a few other projects coming out. I did a song for the Leonard Cohen tribute. I did a duet with Robert Plant which is coming out on the Zeppelin tribute. He played guitar and I played piano. (Laughing)
DM: What was that like?
TORI: Estrogen level through the roof. It was my dream. You know everybody has their dream, well I had mine. That was it, I can die. I'm scoring the music for the "Sandman" comics. It's an incredible comic and that's who I'm referring to in "Space Dog" and "Tear In Your Hand". I'm working on the musical score with the sound master Eric Rosse. (Producer of both Tori releases)
We're very excited because it's being done through the BBC, but it won't be out until the new year. It gives me a chance musically to really do something because it's not like a record. It's a whole other form.
DM: What does TORI AMOS do for kicks when she's not playing and writing music?
TORI: I eat.
DM: You eat?
TORI: YEAH. (Laughing)
DM: What do you like?
TORI: Pastas are my favorite.
DM: It's been a blast.
TORI: Dave, can I ask you one favor?
TORI: Could I beg you not to use any exclamation marks?
DM: I won't use any exclamation marks.
TORI: Thank you. (Laughing) They are not my friends. I mean the whole point is really if you say you "cock-dick-motherfucker", you don't need an exclamation mark at the end of it. I think it's self explanatory.
DM: Oh ............ (Laughing)
TORI: With any word if you use them correctly they don't need an exclamation mark. Oh and Dave, tell your cousin hi.
[transcribed by jason/yessaid]
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