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Rip It Up (Adelaide, Australia)
December 8, 1994
Tickled Pink with Tori
by Anthony Horan
In the space of two albums, Tori Amos has gone from being a critical success with a modest but fanatically loyal fan base to being one of the most popular recording artists in the world with a huge but still fanatically loyal fan following. She's done it entirely on her own terms. But, such success also brings with is massive demands, especially for a woman who is a solo artist in the very purest sense of the word.
Tori Amos is tired. It's clearly audible in her voice, and it's been coming across for some time in interviews: she's spent almost an entire year on the road and on the publicity treadmill - work which cannot be delegated - to promote her extraordinary album Under the Pink with a schedule that would make the most hardcore grunge band give up and go home. The end of the tour is now firmly in sight - it winds up in New Zealand after her current Australian shows - and Tori Amos can now allow herself to plan for life out of the public eye for a while.
"It's a relief," she admits. "I mean look, when the audience is great, I can completely get it up, but at this point, when they're a little reserved, it's hard for me to instill life in them."
The stage of the tour in question is Kichener, Ontario, a city in Canada where Tori has just finished playing a show before settling in for a round of telephone interviews. Someone with a sense of humour has booked this self-confessed former Viking into a hotel called the Valhalla Inn. Unfortunately, however, the even more appropriately named Odin Suite was unavailable.
"It was booked," she explains with wry amusement. "Some businessman got it. I should go and f**king cut his heart out because, honey, I should get the Odin Suite. 'Who the f**k are you?' What, do you work for IBM or something, give me a break."
I suggest that maybe IBM mogul Bill Gates is enjoying the Odin Suite tonight. "No. He's not a Viking."
For Tori, the audience can make or break a particular show. While the natural inclination for audiences on her last trip to Australia was to be reverentially quiet and respectful, this time round it's likely that people will be more vocal, something that is just fine by Tori.
"You can tell a lot by where you are. Y'know, I was doing colleges in America last week which is a different vibe to where I am now. It's more of a reserved vibe. They're still young kids and stuff, and they're open and respectful, but they're just not as expressive. Whereas I was at Ann Arbor playing to 4000 kids and there was mayhem. I'm really dependent on that audience. If they're kickin', then it breathes new life into the show. It just does.
"I put in a lot of different cover songs that nobody's heard me do, and try and switch it around so that it's a different experience. I mean, if you've just gotten laid, it's gonna be shit because you're too relaxed. So, y'know, come a little hungry, come a little frustrated and then it'll be alright."
While Tori may seem to effortlessly handle the constand demands of touring and promoting, there is only so much any human body can take. Tori's body decided to speak its mind during a recent show in Wisconsin, USA, where she collapsed after leaving the stage. While the cause was initially reported as exhaustion, it turned out to be a somewhat dangerous condition.
"It's costochondritis, which is an inflammation of the chest wall cavity so when I overworked those muscles, it was like running into my ribs. There was a bit of a train wreck happening. It felt like I was getting stabbed and my ribs were puncturing this muscle. I felt like I was having a heart attack. So, I didn't know what it was. I just couldn't breathe and when I did, it felt like I was getting stabbed in the chest."
Taken on a stretcher from the theatre where she was playing that night, Tori cancelled only one show before returning to the tour, despite being advised by doctors to stop ("I told them to f**k off," she said on stage recently), pragmatism and sense of humour very much intact.
"I was put on a very heavy anti-inflammatory and got the biggest shot in my ass you've ever seen." One of those big horse needles? "Yeah, totally, but it was a dyke doctor who gave it to me and she was kinda cool, so I was into it. And she was into it too, so it was cool. It was very funny."
The malaise in question was something that had probably been building up for a while, happening as it did after some 130 shows in the space of eight months. Those familiar with Tori's style of piano attack will be well aware we're not talking about a person who sits quietly on the piano stool playing minuets.
"It comes from overworking my piano playing," Tori explains. "I'm playin' heavy, meaning the way I breathe and sing at the same time, very few people do that. If you're just a player, you don't have to use the same breathing, and if you're just a singer you don't have to use the same power from the chest as when you're playing and singing. Do you know what I mean? The less you play and sing the less you use these muscles. People do have costochondritis, but how it got developed is specific to what I do."
The other tour hazard, as it turns out, is ice cream. A self confessed ice cream addict, Tori laments the physical effects she says it has had. "The way I see it, the men I'm with, whoever they are, it's like, look, you have to accept that I like ice cream, and I know it shows up on my hips but if you can't accept that, then leave. Go away. Toodles. It's non-negotiable." But the power of Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia ice cream, says Tori, is irrefutable. Ice cream of any kind does not figure in her tour rider, though.
"No, because I'm so conscious about what it's gonna do to my bdoy. And I can't sing with so much milk in me because too much cream product is terrible for the voice. So, while we had Mrs. Fields in the rider - y'know Mrs. Fields Cookies? - well, one time I ordered six dozen 'cos I was just in the mood and I ate, not two dozen, but I ate two cookies in two minutes. And then I was on my third one - chomping down my third Mrs. Fields - and right as I finished the thing one, I had to sit down and I felt like Humpty Dumpty. I had to go on in an hour and it was the hardest night of my life, trying to sing. Every time I hit a note, I felt like Mrs. Fields was gonna go all over the piano. It was disgustingly gross. I can't look at a Mrs. Fields cookie now."
Once the endless touring is over and done with just before Christmas ("I'm gonna go pass out," says Tori of her immediate plans), it will have been more than a year since the initial press interviews for Under the Pink took place and the publicity treadmill began. A year's a lng time in the life of an ascending artist, but if Tori's record label (Warner/East West) wants another album in a hurry, they're going to be disappointed.
"Oh, they're not gonna bother me," Tori says without hesitation. "Warner's got so many problems. They've gotta deal with their own stuff. No, Warner doesn't bother me. You need to know a little secret. I really don't have to answer to any of those people. You can't just write because somebody says do it. It has to happen or it doesn't happen. You know, Max Hole, who's head of Warner/East West in London, he understands that. I get along with him very well."
And what of Warner/Atlantic in the US, where commercial success was slower coming?
"Well, I try to avoid them. I mean, they're good for some stuff, right, but from the beginning of the creative process, I think the Brits are better because they just know when to back off. They still want the same thing, which is a record, but they know they're gonna get it sooner if they just shut their mouths. It's like if you're a parent, you don't say to your daughter, 'Oh, I hate that boy, I never want you to see him again.' If you tell that to her, she's gonna be gnawing on his knob so quick. You just have to understand that. But if you say, 'You know what, it's your life, do what you want. If you wanna see him, go ahead 'cause you're the one who has to be with him,' she's gonna dump him within two weeks if he's a scumbag."
The next Tori Amos album is currently the last thing on her mind and while she takes a deserved break, fans old and new will have to content themselves with duets she's recorded with Tom Homes (already out), Robert Plant and Michael Stipe, and with many of the dates on the Under the Pink tour having been recorded, a live album next year would seem likely. Some time after that, both record company and fans should get what they really want.
"[The UK record label people] are wiser. They know how to deal with it. But I know what they want. They still want a record, but at least I can acknowledge that they're being, you know, they're being really manipulative, which is kind of great. So, they're letting me think I'm getting my way. And that's okay, we can all pretend."
[scan by Lori Christie]
[transcribed by jason/yessaid]
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