home / interviews
The River Music Hall (US, radio)
WXRV "The River" Boston (92.5 FM)
January 30, 1996
Tori Amos interview and live performance
songs: Marianne, Little Amsterdam and This Old Man/Samurai
Bob Stewart: It's Bob Stewart, 5:56, and my special guest in The River Music Hall, Tori Amos. Tori, I've been thinking about you non-stop.
Tori Amos: Hi, Bob. [laughs]
Bob: Hi, how are you? I am just so jazzed. This is like, such a high point for me and a lot of other people. We've got a whole bunch of people here in The River Music Hall. Welcome to The River.
Tori: Thank you.
Bob: Yeah. You're looking very nice, I must confess. I heard you play earlier and you just sounded awesome.
Tori: Well, you know, I met up with Neil, who used to be at The River.
Bob: Oh, really?
Bob: I don't know Neil.
Tori: I've met up with people who have been talking about The River. Neil said he used to work here, he used to interview me, Neil, and we used to talk about oysters.
Bob: You know what I did last Sunday? I picked up your biography and I...
Tori: Oh, you shouldn't have done that.
Bob: Oh, it a...
Tori: Those people go on and on and on. What did it say?
Bob: Oh, it's a beautiful book. Have you seen it yet? [laughs]
Tori: Oh, yeah, my father was behing that. [laughs]
Bob: Oh, really?
Tori: He helped the lady that did it, yeah.
Bob: You had a really interesting life. It's almost like you were, you know that phrase, "born to rock." It's like almost from the time you were born, you were performing and playing music.
Tori: I think I had more interesting hairdos, though. If you look at the pictures, you know, we really had the Aqua-Net. You know the white can, girls? Remember, you get the hair to the ceiling so that you can -- yeah.
Bob: Oh, I enjoyed your hairdos. Awesome hair.
Tori: Yeah. Well, you get to see, you know, you get to see my trashy little look, you get to see the Pat Benatar wannabe. Then you get to see the Lita Ford wannabe. I mean, I go through my metamorphoses.
Bob: That's right. I like your current style the best. It's my own personal opinion, anyway.
Tori: Well, it's just got too hard to try and -- Lita does Lita better than I ever did, that's for sure.
Bob: Now, you were a child prodigy, a minister's daughter. And, you know, when you mention child prodigy to most people they think, "Oh, wow, that must have been like, so amazing." But from what I've read, it was a tough time for you in a way, because you had certain things that were expected of you.
Tori: I think a lot of "child prodigies" -- quote, unquote -- would tell you that it gets a bit weird, just because a thing that you love doing, even though nobody means it to be, you have a career at a very young age. And you might love the thing that you do, but it becomes quite competitive. And even if you just, I don't know, like doing math problems, whatever it is, if people want you to do that all the time, it's not as fun anymore. It gets kinda weird.
Bob: Yeah, all of a sudden you're like a cardboard character, you're not a real person.
Tori: Well, you're competing at such a young age, it's almost like um, especially trying to be a concert at such a young age. I remember all the other kids would play their um, you know, their version of Hot Cross Buns and stuff, and I was doing Mozart stuff, but um, they would get the double-decker fudge chocolates when they finished their recital, and I remember sometimes the teachers going, "You know, you just don't have this yet." And I'm like, "And I certainly don't have that double-decker chocolate, either!"
Bob: My goodness gracious.
Tori: It's a drag.
Bob: I'm getting hungry, now. When you were six years old -- I thought this was so cool -- you wanted to run away with Robert Plant?
Tori: Well, yes, six. Sixteen. Twenty-six.
Bob: That's a few years between...
Tori: Yeah. Yeah, I did. I didn't know what I would do with him once I had him, but I knew that at six that truly we could eat peanut butter and helly and we could talk about Bartok and bars of five and all strange kinds of rhythms. And why would he be interested in those gorgeous, big, buxom women? They couldn't know about Bartok like I did. And that's all I understood, and I know that's really arrogant, but it didn't mean to be. I was absolutely crushed that he like, never found me.
Bob: By the way, you were such a cute little girl. I was looking at pictures, you were a real cutie, you really were.
Tori: Round. Very round.
Bob: And I think you were wearing some really cool, I saw this one picture, you were wearing some cool shoes.
Tori: Of course, come on!
Bob: The minute you were born, you were cool.
Tori: Well, I was a cool nerd. I had my nerd thing -- oh, totally -- always happening. But I had shoes. So even if I had like, um, you know, the Kmart special -- girls, you know -- the little faux-velvet outfit, I had my go-go boots. I would save my allowance and I would go and I'd buy my go-go boots, and that was my thing.
Bob: Well, I'm glad you bought them. When you were thirteen, what was it like? You played a gay bar when you were thirteen.
Bob: And you played some other bars, too. And wasn't that at the insistence of your father? Your father, at that point, wanted you to get a job, is that true?
Tori: Yeah, he wanted me to get a job. Better that than getting pregnant, he thought. And he um, he, the thing about him is I remember when we played my first gay bar, and he would say to me, "You know, I don't, what are you gonna do if they hit on you?" And I'm like going, "They're not gonna hit on me! You're the one we need to be concerned about." And the thing is um, I'm really, now when I look back, that kind of exposure to the gay side of things changed my whole life. 'Cause they taught me how to dress, they taught me how to walk, they taught me, you know, how to like, flirt with boys, they taught me everything. And it's really funny because, as I got older and um, I just loved the fact telling, you know, male, male men, when they would say, you know, "how did you get your sense of style?" And I said, "well, the gay men in my life." Because they really taught me so much about being a girl.
Bob: And that side of playing in the gay bars, did that sort of kindle the side of you that was sort of the non-Christian side of you, that sort of, the cool, passionate side of you? Did that sort of go with that side?
Tori: Well, I had that going since I was about three. But when I would ask about Mary Magdalene, it was very clear that she was not a respected figure. And that always felt kinda weird to me, like, what are these guys so afraid of? And what are these old bags, these old women, so afraid of about the Mary Magdalene? What did she have that scares the poop out of them? And as I got older, I started to understand. She had, I really believe, this wholeness. You know, she wasn't about the Virgin or the Divine Mother, bless her, but it was about being a woman. You know, maybe a high priestess. Not the whore, but in her own right, very much an equal to Jesus, more than some kind of, you know, "He saved her butt." I get so tired of that because I think that, you know, in the Christian side of things, in other religions, it's never about, you know, the women having that kind of wholeness, the women being able to explore these different sides. So I really think the Magdalene represented that, and nobody talked about that, so there were a lot of wars over chicken Sunday dinners, yeah.
Bob: Mm, ok. Let's, speaking of expressing one's self, let's have you play a song here. What are you gonna play for us now, Tori?
Tori: Uh, this is something that I haven't really played yet, today. [laughs]
Tori Amos performs Marianne.
Bob: You are truly amazing. You're better in person than it is to listen to you on a CD, by far. And I love listening to you. Thank you very much. Speaking of the new CD, you were quoted as saying that the songs on Boys for Pele have to do with your relationships, about men in general, not just.
Tori: Well, inspired by them.
Tori: Once they inspired them, though, sometimes I didn't need them around to finish them. It's like, "ok, fine, I get the message, go away, now."
Bob: I was really surprised, you said that this is the first album that you had complete and total freedom on?
Bob: That surprises me, that.
Tori: That doesn't mean that anybody was holding me back. It was just about, when you're collaborating with other producers -- and I've collaborated with a few -- it's very much about a brainstorm. You're kind of like, um, it's not the same as, even though I had a team of engineers, I had loads of techs on this, it would be about, when I would come in and go, "I hate that, that sucks, we're getting rid of it, red light." What they would do instead of like another producer who would go, "No, you know, I really like this, let's hold onto this, let's do another take." And you kinda sit there and you go, "But I hate this thing and I know it's gonna get used, 'cause I know they're gonna talk me into it because..."
Bob: But, wait a minute, if it's your album...
Tori: No, but, you'd, no, no, no, no, no, but it's different because you, a lot of times I think it's about making decisions in the minute. So, so since I was producing it alone this time, I would turn around and say to the techs, "Guys, let's get rid of it," and they'd look at me and go, "Alright, in three we are pushing the red button. Do you really want to do this?" I'd say, "Yes." "Ok, three, two, is it for definite?" "Absolutely! Kill her!" "One, she's gone." And that would be it with the techs. I mean, it would be, they'd look at me, they'd say, "Ok, we want you to know that we just heard you. Are you just having one of your redheaded craziness things or is it real?" And I'd never turned around to them and say, "Oh god, I wish we wouldn't have erased that." So that's how they kind of um, [whispers] I mean the truth is they have like, back-ups on Tascam and they have back-ups on tape, I know. But, you know, it was really about making decisions in the moment, and it could have been the wackiest thing, working with the musicians. Sometimes I would show them pictures of the National Geographic, the brain, and go, "I want you to play like this." And they would get it. They would totally get it. George Porter would go, "Well, why didn't do you do that a long time ago?" And then it was amazing how certain visual things changed the sound.
Bob: Was this the best experience you've had, doing this album, than the others.
Tori: Well, I can't say that because working with Eric [Rosse] was unbelievable. Working with Eric was fantastic, he produced Under the Pink with me and he did part of Little Earthquakes And there are other producers I've worked with, and people. You know it's, every project's its own thing. Um, and so I can't say that. But I will say that um, playing the harpsichord, playing the Bösey, I played with a lot more just, who cares, let's do it.
Bob: More spontaneity.
Tori: Yeah, much more of, I had the crew there for fifteen hours a day, not knowing when it would feel right. And they would play Ziggy-ball, this game they invented with a ball and cigarettes. Anyway, it worked. And then when it was ready to record, it would just happen. So we just hunng around the church all day 'til it happened.
Bob: Yeah, you recorded this in a church in Ireland.
Tori: Yeah, County Wicklow.
Bob: What led you to want to do that, in a church?
Tori: Um, well, if you're gonna go claim your hidden feminine, a good place to go and get it is the church, 'cause I'm telling you, you'll find a lot of them hiding under pews. It's like, parts of myself, "Oh, there you are." No, truth, I mean, you know, let's be honest, religion has not supported women and men exploring all sorts of their sides, their unconscious. It has not been supportive of, you know, go into the places without shame, without blame, without judgment, and just let yourself really see what's cooking in there.
Bob: Let's hear another song off the album, if we can.
Tori Amos performs Little Amsterdam.
Bob: Amazing. This is The River, 92.5, I'm Bob Stewart and my special guest at The River music hall, performing live, Tori Amos joining me. It's now 6:16. God, when you perform you go into another world, it's so incredibly great to watch, it really is. Now you're supposed to say thank you.
Tori: That's really cool.
Bob: You know, I'm curious, I guess any self-respecting Tori fan knows this, but you had a band before you were on your own called Y Kant Tori Read.
Tori: I did.
Bob: And I'm really curious as to why, what happened with that band? The band was Y Kant Tori Read, and the album was Y Kant Tori Read, and what happened with it?
Tori: Oh... well, again, it goes back to the thing about hairspray. I really had, no, I really had that down, but as far as pushing it content-wise, I was more into pushing it as far as my look than I was musically. And I just couldn't accept the fact that I was a piano player.
Bob: Why not?
Tori: Well, because, think about it. At that time, you know, being a piano player wasn't um, you couldn't join a lot of bands, it was much more about synths and stuff. And I think that I was just trying to um, fit in. Trying to. But I couldn't avoid it anymore, it just came back to, "Ok, I'm a piano player, that's what I really do and -- next."
Bob: And you had some great people working on that project. You had a guy...
Tori: Oh god, Matt Sorum, who's in Guns 'n' Roses.
Tori: "Rock, dude!" Yeah, he's, Matt's incredible. And uh, Brad Cobb, who played bass, who's done many projeects on his own. I mean, he's really a composer and more of a jazz guy and he went in that direction. Um, Steve Caton, who, I don't know if any of you read the liner notes, but Caton has played on Earthquakes, Caton played on Under the Pink -- guitars -- and Caton has played guitars on Pele, so Caton is gonna come visit me on the road and play a few shows and um...
Bob: You had another guy with Mister Mister, or is that the person we're talking about?
Tori: No, no, no, no, Steve Farris, he played a bit on Y Kant Tori Read, which was that very first album. But Caton was in the band, though. The band had had a falling out before the record was made, so that's why Steve Farris played instead. But Farris was wonderful. I mean, it's funny because, Caton's the one person, the guitar player, who didn't play on Y Kant Tori Read, but he's played on all the other records. [laughs] Yeah.
Bob: So what happened after that band broke up? What happened between that time and Little Earthquakes in '92?
Tori: Well, it just, it became about a commitment to music. And it's the best thing that ever happened to me, that record failing, because um, I started to lose my intention as a musician, which can really happen. I think you can forget why you're doing the thing you love to do, when it becomes about outside influences.
Bob: Ok. Do you have time to do one more song? If you don't, we'll understand.
Tori: No, it's not about time. Let me think what I would do. Ok, I'll do something.
Bob: Oh, thank you. Tori Amos on The River, 92.5.
Tori Amos performs This Old Man (with one line from Samurai).
Bob: Tori Amos, thank you very much.
Bob: It was a true delight to meet you and talk with you and to hear you play and perform. And just before you go, next tour in this area?
Tori: Um, we start the world tour at the end of February in the UK, and we make our way, finally, to the States, I think, early April. So maybe up in Boston in April.
Bob: Cool, ok. Thanks for coming.
Tori: Ok, guys, thanks.
Bob: Good luck. Tori Amos live on The River Music Hall. Great performance.
[transcribed by jason/yessaid]
t o r i p h o r i a
the World of Tori Amos