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Music Monitor (US)
published and distributed by NC music store The Record Exchange
Tori! Tori! Tori!
by Jim Maynard, Chapel Hill (photo by Loren Haynes; cover photo by Cindy Palmano)
Upon the release of her debut album, Little Earthquakes, in 1992, Tori Amos emerged onto the music scene with intense views on religion, love, relationships and self-actualization. In support of the album, Tori played over 200 shows, stunning audiences worldwide with her powerful performances. With the release of her new album Under the Pink, we find Tori exploring such varied topics as violence between women and the limitations of our patriarchal society. In an attempt to avoid what has already been written, I spoke to Tori Amos in the midst of her current tour.
At your recent show in Raleigh, NC, I noticed two things different from the last time you came to town: more lights and less talk. At one point, during "God," I thought the piano was going to start rotating on some platforms under the stage because the song was so powerful. Would you ever add any musicians or props to your live shows?
If I were going to add something, not on this tour, of course, but for the next record, I envisioned bringing some musicians, but never a band. First of all, adding a band is not a smart move. And I don't think I ever make a move that isn't smart. The reason my shows move people is because I can alter the songs to fit the mood. If a band is on stage, you have to play pretty much the same thing every night. With just me on stage, I can throw in 16 bars here or change the whole piano part there, or I'm going to draw out this note or this line and make it really aggressive. On any given night I can do something really dynamically different; I could bring it totally down. I'm able to do a different reading on something every night which keeps it fresh. Now with a band, I'd never have that ability. I don't like to try and re-create the record exactly. I'm thinking about maybe next time I'll bring an orchestra. I'd bring a string section so when I play "Yes, Anastasia" or "Winter" or those types of songs, I'd have an orchestra. When I play the aggressive ones, I could take it down to just me and a piano. To me, that's going forward again. You know there would be people throwing eggs at me...
No, there wouldn't!
Maybe not, but if I bring in a band to do "Precious" they'd go...
I don't want that. I want to hear something closer to the recorded version!
You recorded Under the Pink in an old hacienda in New Mexico called the Fishhouse. How did that come about?
Eric Rosse, who produced the record, knew that I didn't want to go into a studio. I kind of felt the pressure of making a sophomore record because everybody's sophomore record seems to regress. I knew I had to be away from anybody and everybody that was going to give me an opinion and some little doubt or fear. So I said, "Fuch that," I've got to be away from people that have any music industry ties.
Get away from the bigwigs...
Yeah, get away from everyone. You know, when you're in a music town, the musicians are worse than the industry people. They're paranoid! All musicians I know are four miles apart and are very paranoid. Everyone is saying, "Oh God, what if I don't do something good..."
But, it's a lot of pressure, though. For instance, you have these small bands today that are given so much money up front and they have people stopping by everyday from the label and ...
Yes, but I didn't want to be around anybody's fear. So I went out to the desert and Eric found this house he thought would be perfect for us to record in. I had the Bosendorfer [piano] shipped out and all the musicians and equipment got flown in. There wasn't any studio there, we made one at the Fishhouse.
I understand the next single in the U.S. is "Past the Mission." Any plans on having Trent [Reznor, of Nine Inch Nails, who guests on the song] appear in the video and have you been asked to appear on the next Nine Inch Nails record?
I know that you've probably been asked that question many times; I'm sorry...
He's actually a slave to my cooking! [laughs]. But seriously, I've already made the video in Spain. We're really good buddies, but he doesn't appear in the video. On "Past the Mission," I imagined sending him a piano vocal and saying, "Here, do something with this. Knock yourself out." As far as plans right now, we're both on tour...
And very busy...
In terms of your videos, the ones for Little Earthquakes were just you and/or you and a piano. Very similar looking, color-wise. Now with Under the Pink, they're more animated and colorful; "God" with the snakes and "Cornflake Girl" with the cast of man, women and truck. What have you learned in making videos for your two albums? How do you feel about them?
Well... it's another world making a video.
It's a lot harder than people think, I'm sure.
Oh, God. In making videos, I'm obviously out of my element. So to try and learn about that side of things without having to go and learn to be film director is a challenge. They're so expensive and you can't really afford to get them wrong too often. I don't have a mind for film like other musicians do. They can talk about techniques, what they want to do, they want to get certain directors and editors, they want it to look like this movie they just saw...
They're more hands-on...
Yeah! I, on the other hand, know what I want it to feel like. But, technique-wise, I'm not up on how I want it done. For instance, Jake Scott, who just did the "Past the Mission" video, knew how he wanted the video to look; I knew how I wanted it to feel and we discussed an energy that I needed in there. The big thing that I brought to the video was the energy of passion. We had this whole village in Spain in it. It's all about me walking through the village a bit like Anna Magnani, gathering the women and rebelling. So, his idea is the march and my idea was Spain and I said this has got to be passionate! It can't just be revolutionary; this has got to be a revolution against the oppression of passion. Because if you don't have that, then it misses what all my work is about, which is the oppression of passion. I think it's some of the best work I've done.
I noticed that you gave thanks to Apple Computers in your liner notes. Any chance we'll see any Tori Amos interactive products on the market soon a la Todd Rundgren, Peter Gabriel and Billy Idol?
If you're going to do an interactive you have really got to be good! I'm just worried about doing something stupid. If you're going to do something, it has to be for the right reasons; not to just have something out there, but because you're having something out there that's special. But until I hear of an interactive idea that sounds right for me, I would just be doing it for all the wrong reasons.
I think they'll be able to go so much further with interactive products. In five years I'm sure there's going to be so many different things that you can do. They've only scratched the surface.
Yeah, there are a lot of doors that can be opened, but I haven't run into the team of people that could be a brain trust, where we'd all work on a project and I would just be a piece of it with my work and my music. But they would need to come up with a story, an idea, a direction for the music to be headed so that it became a form that really worked. As a songwriter, I'm very conscious of form. Even for the next record I know what I want to do and I know that to achieve these certain things I have to go do some studying now. Musically, I'm going back and listening to certain old CDs, things that I want to put back into my music vocabulary. I want to incorporate some of that. It's important not to just sit down and think while I'm writing these songs, "They're important to me, so they've got to be good." That doesn't work!
Speaking of computers, have you ever participated in any of the on-line computer services around the U.S. and overseas? You know, you have a big fan base on the Internet.
Yes, it's huge. I even asked some of the folks for interview question ideas and got some rather off-the-wall responses.
Really? Like what?
What's your favorite color? Who did you vote for in the last presidential election? How's your relationship with your mother... also questions concerning your views on bootlegging and stuff.
What are everyone's feelings about bootlegs?
Well, there are some people on the Internet who, if they could come through your computer, would rip your throat out for buying a bootleg. Then there are some others that feel, "Hey, I've bought everything that Tori's ever put out; why shouldn't I buy one?" There are varying degrees but the consensus is; don't buy them because they're hurting you and your career.
Well, it's funny. I think there are twenty-something out now.
Wait, you actually know how many bootlegs are out there!?
Yes, because people come back and tell me.
Oh, my gosh. That's hilarious!
There are collectors out there that fly in for my shows and introduce themselves! Real quick... I want you to do me a favor and ask the people on the Internet something and I want some feedback!
I'm thinking, at Christmas, about putting out a live 15 song album, recorded from all the American shows, with all fresh pictures from this tour. Is that smart?
I already know the answer to that question. They're all gonna completely freak.
So, I should just do it?
Yes, do it!
[scans by Sakre Heinze]
[transcribed by jason/yessaid]
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