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Rolling Stone (US)
Special Edition
November 1994

interview by Chris Mundy

Some of you might remember Tori Amos from the one album she made with her short-lived mid-80's spandex band, Y Kant Tori Read. Others might picture her straddling her piano bench like Debra Winger riding the mechanical bull in Urban Cowboy. Perhaps you think of her as the rebellious minister's daughter from North Carolina. Or as the outspoken nut job who claims to speak to fairies on a regular basis. If you checked all of the above, you're correct.

Most people, however, know Tori Amos simply as the painfully personal singer/songwriter whose two albums, Little Earthquakes and Under the Pink, have dissected her own life in poignant and frightening detail. One song from Little Earthquakes, "Me and A Gun," even chronicles her experience as a rape victim. Whatever you think of Amos, you can rest assured that she will talk and get people talking.

WHAT DO YOU THINK THE YOUNGER GENERATION HAS THAT THE BABY BOOMERS DON'T?

Our generation has an incredible amount of realism, yet at the same time it loves to complain and not really change. Because, if it does change, then it won't have anything to complain about. I think our generation loves our pain, and if you dare fucking take it away from us, we're going to kill you. We like our pain. And we're packaging it, and we're selling it.

ARE YOU WORRIED THAT YOU CAN NEVER GET ANY MORE EMOTIONALLY BARE THAN "ME AND A GUN"?

Well, you gotta figure that when you're firstborn and you come out of the tummy and there's that moment of life, it's never going to be quite so dramatic. I know that song is as bare as you get, but I also know that when you're first talking about something you never talked about before, there's a certain power to that.

ON ONE HAND, YOUR SONGS ARE VERY PERSONAL, AND ON THE OTHER THERE ARE SONGS LIKE "CORNFLAKE GIRL" OR "THE WAITRESS," WHICH POINTS FINGERS. CAN YOU BE A PERSONAL SINGER/SONGWRITER AND UP ON A SOAPBOX AT THE SAME TIME?

I don't think I preach at people. I think I nail you against the wall and rip your skin off a little before we decide if we're going to put salt or ice cream on you. There is a level of the vampire in me, which is OK. I've got a really nice shoe collection. And then there's a part of me that's a part of me that's a nerdy girl who watched her best friend get the guy she wanted over and over again.

ARE YOU INTERESETED IN PERSONAL POLITICS OR ACTUAL POLITICS?

Everything comes back to the personal. There's no way a judge, for example, can be objective in a child-molestation case if he's molesting children himself. There's no way.

I THINK THAT'S AN EXTREME EXAMPLE.

But it's true.

WHAT ROLE SHOULD POP MUSIC PLAY IN TERMS OF PEOPLE'S AWARENESS OF POLITICAL OR SOCIAL ISSUES?

I don't know about politics, but I know about thinking for yourself. A lot of people stand in different camps right now. One of the camps is, "We are fucked, and we have no choice. We're fucked." I don't agree with that. I think we're choosing to be fucked, which is different. This ain't Rwanda. Hellooooooo. Let's not have delusions of grandeur here. Know what I'm saying?

NOT AT ALL.

Let's say you're a doe in the field, and you hear the call of the bull elk. I watched those does. I sat in Yellowstone (National Park) for six hours one day, checking the whole scene out. There's 18 of them. So you figure your bull's-eye has gotta be standing up very smartly because there's 18 to choose from. This is where the whole female-clawing-at-each-other mentality comes from. So this bull elk wanted the ones that were running away from him, not the ones that were pretending to eat the grass. Forget it. He was going after the ones that really didn't want him. That says a lot to me.

HMMM. YOU TURN ALL YOUR ANSWERS BACK TO LOVE AND RELATIONSHIPS. ARE THERE PEOPLE TODAY WRITING GOOD LOVE SONGS?

I don't know. There are some good hate songs. I think all the boys that write the screaming stuff would write the best love songs.

WHY?

Because they have the most to hide. The guys that are in the most pain are usually the ones with the biggest hearts.

IN TERMS OF THE MUSIC BIZ, HOW MUCH DO YOU FEEL IT NEEDS TO MARKET PEOPLE MORE AS PERSONALITIES THAN AS MUSICIANS?

I think journalists use it more than record companies.

WHAT DO JOURNALISTS HAVE TO GAIN BY YOUR BEING STRANGE?

They're selling copy. Oh, I laugh my head off when some woman calls me a shivering waif in the forest. I'm like "OK, sister, you get raped and get ready to get cut up, and then write about it and sing it. And you have the balls to call me a waif shivering in the forest." That's why I wrote "Cornflake Girl" and "The Waitress." That to me is a lizard running around with a pussy. It's not a woman to me. She ruined her rights as a woman. So what if I sing like the Little Mermaid?

IF YOU HAD TO IDENTIFY YOURSELF FIRST AND FOREMOST AS A WOMAN, SONGWRITER, OR PIANO PLAYER, WHICH WOULD IT BE?

I can't be a boy with extra holes, right? Well, I guess if you cut my hands off, I couldn't play the piano anymore, but I'd still be a women.

ARE YOU SUPRISED WHEN MALE LISTENERS IDENTIFY WITH YOUR MUSIC?

No. Because I'm nailing them left, right and center.

SO WHY SHOULD THEY IDENTIFY?

Because they know what they're up against. They're not stupid. It's so painful. We just want to go play with them. We just want to go walk in the rain and have an ice cream. And if you want to tie me up in there, too, that's all right, you can get that in there if you need to. But what is all this freak-out stuff from guys as soon as they get close to something real?

WHAT DO MOST WOMEN WHO GET THE CHANCE TO TALK TO YOU HAVE TO SAY?

That they've been raped.

DO YOU THINK THERE'S A REAL OUTLET FOR THEM TO DISCUSS IT?

Most of them haven't worked through it. They keep it inside.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF GANGSTA RAP? IS IT TRULY A MIRROR IMAGE OF SOCIETY?

I haven't listened to enough to make a comment. I've listened to Ice-T quite a bit. He has a very clear opinion of women, and I don't necessarily agreee with that, but I have a very clear opinion of men. Certain things do appeal to me more than other things. I'm obsessed with crocodiles and getting eaten by one.

DOES THIS PLAY A SIGNIFICANT ROLE IN YOUR DAILY ROUTINE?

Yeah, because when I hear that someone's been eaten by a crocodile or shark, I just get all gooey. I start salivating. I'm fascinated by it. If I had to get tortured by a human being or eaten by a crocodile, I'd take the crocodile any day of the week. The reason is that it's not personal. You were lunch.


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