home / interviews
Picture the scene. You are standing on Oxford Street, London, on a warm
cloudless morning. The shops are teaming with enthusiastic shoppers
hustling for bargains. You stand outside one of London's most famous
department stores and the people look twice as they pass, recognizing the
shock of auburn hair, slimline figure and unmistakably angelic face. Most
days they would stop and talk, but today they're too busy shopping. Thank
So you stand there, propped against a roadside rail, eating ice cream and
slowly delving into your most vivid fantasies. You see the smart city gent
dressed in pin-striped suit and immaculate Versace shirt and imagine him
seated on a broad oak bed. At his side is an attentive hooker who makes him
suck on a pink rubber dummy and wail for attention. Then the gent
disappears from view. Next up is a bustling secretary who wanders from a
store. You picture her as the ruthless dominatrix dressed in black PVC
which exposes rude quarters of flesh. In her hand is a tight woven leather
whip, on her feet are eight-inch heels and she is standing powerfully
astride her man. Blink and the image is gone.
You spy a builder and reveal him as the hapless porn addict who delights in
a strict regime of daily self abuse. Behind him is a gregarious au pair who
you imagine acquiescing to a lesbian boss at a countryside tryst. And
finally, a shuffling shop worker walks by who you picture captive in an S&M
den, begging for clemency. Your thoughts become more vivid, your fantasies
more detailed and your mind more lurid.
And then you stop. You collect your thoughts and plug back into reality.
The corners of your lips upturn, you reconsider each of your maverick
fantasies and a smile spreads broad across your face. Then you turn on your
heels, leave the fantasies behind and hail a cab back to your plush record
company offices at Kensington Court. When you walk through the doors into
the swish reception area you are greeted with a smile. "Hello Tori. Good to
Today Tori Amos is seated in a functional interview room at the
offices of her UK record company. It's 11:30am and she hasn't
eaten for a day. Last night she filmed the UK television show
"Later," hosted by ex-Squeeze pianist Jools Holland, today she
has a series of meetings and tomorrow she will film the video for her new
single, Caught A Lite Sneeze. "I'm just going to get some french fries,"
she says. "I haven't eaten in about a day. Sometimes you just need some
french fries." Between fries, Amos talks about the barrage of fan mail she
receives. The letters are inquisitive, revealing, fantastic, formal,
graphic, and occasionally alarming. Many fans tell her their life stories,
others offer ghoulish insights into their personal anxieties, while still
more provide vampiric fantasies.
"The fans, they write a lot of letters and they are very interesting," she
says. "It's amazing how many people out there have their own unique
experience. I walked down Oxford Street while people were shopping [and] I
started just observing the people and thinking about their fantasies, their
imaginations, their needs. A lot of people don't experience that side and
then you imagine them at a party, in a pram or tied up doing something."
Amos remains inordinately close to her fans. She enjoys the open lines of
communication and is willing to sit with them for hours after gigs,
listening intently. She finds their stories compelling and besides, it
distracts her from herself. Few are shiny happy people, which impresses
"I think that happiness is when you can let yourself feel every emotion you
want to at any time instead of being a lying little fuck. But people I see
laughing all the time -- check for razor blades in their analforce underwear
because it's a lie."
Tori Amos has a new album, Boys for Pele. It is her third LP and is
dominated by sex, soul-searching and submission. Amos began writing it
towards the end of her Under The Pink tour to chronicle the demise of her
eight-year relationship with producer Eric Rosse. It is her darkest and
most revealing work to date.
"When people break up because they don't want to be together anymore you
break open the champagne and say 'See you later.' But its different when
you just can't be together."
Amos ended the relationship to preserve her sanity and the health and
sanity of her former partner. "It was difficult," she continues. "Not
because there's not feelings, but because that was the first time I'd been
alone in many years. We were definitely a couple; we'd lived together. It's
pretty complicated. I think when you are with a soulmate, it's not just
somebody who you are hanging out to blow time with. You are with them
because you are fascinated by them and are with them on different levels.
You are absolutely and totally in love. you love them, then you hate them
then you resent them and it's not so simple anymore. But that's what makes
it exciting. if it's just about companionship, that's just boring. I've
always been with fascinating men and with men who are very deep thinkers.
Sometimes they think themselves off the planet."
But then Tori Amos isn't the easiest woman in the world to date, as she
readily concedes. She is prone to moods and bottles of wine. She has her
black-as-pitch dark side and an eagerness to "drink cups of tea with
Lucifer." She recalls how her relationship ended with bitter recriminations
and psychological torment.
"I know I'm not like a 'picnic in the city on Sunday,'" she says. "But
[when] you wake up one morning and you are making these gingerbread muffins
for breakfast and you are dropping razor blades into them just to see how
he reacts, you have to pull back and say, 'Hang on a minute.' And that's
really where the record stems from; it's from being a woman alone and not
being able to hide behind anyone else's personality. I steal fire a lot of
the men in my life and that makes it fairly difficult and bloody. I didn't
allow myself to get angry, and I needed to do that before I could sit
across the table and say, 'Okay baby, I'll make a margarita without using
a lethal alcohol.' I had to let myself laugh at the things I did. I thought
I was just eating ice cream and walking down Oxford Street. Little did I
know I was dragging his balls across from New Mexico."
Boys for Pele is Tori Amos' first self-produced work. It was recorded at
Dinosaur Studio's Egyptian Room in New Orleans, Louisiana, and in a damp
Irish church at Delgany, County Wicklow in the UK. The album was recorded
by her live sound engineers Mark Hawley and Marcel Van Limbeek and only
five of the 18 tracks are accompanied by a rhythm section. The rest are
sparse, occasionally whimsical and almost...
[missing part of article text]
...how to not give. They know how to
move the balance to give power back [to them] and I can too. I'm talking
about bloodlusting, about living through them, about whether they can get
to their dark side. Sometimes I think women need to be defacated on and yet
at the same time, you are negotiating your contract."
"In my Christian upbringing, we weren't given the blueprint of that Mary
Magdalene. The blueprint is not a virgin, a woman with passion, compassion,
wisdom and her own power not connected with men. So it makes it clear to me
why so many women are divided in themselves trying to find the place where
they are either in control or the victim. There's nothing that you can buy,
no place you can shop for, no party you can be invited to and no lover that
can give you this permission to explore."
The most controversial track on Boys For Pele is Professional Widow, a song
apparently directed at Courtney Love that contains the following lyrics:
honey bring it close to my lips
Don't blow these brains yet
We gotta be big, boy
We gotta be big
Starfucker just like my daddy
The song ends on a knife's edge with Amos neither endorsing nor judging the
subject. "Just give me peace, love/And a hard cock," she sings. However, in
interview, Amos is typically non-committal about any possible Courtney Love
connection and instead offers a long monologue about people that go to S&M
parties. "I'm fascinated by them," she concludes.
So Boys For Pele is rooted in contradiction and impenetrable double-speak.
it launches her onto a new plane alongside similar mellifluous
nonconformists like Michael Stipe and Kate Bush. At times Amos is
apparently away with the fairies, while at other times she is as incisive
and cutting as they come.
She says: "I've begun to work with the extremes of my own personality, not
with any shrink. It's real simple, I just observe... I observe when I feel
like an idiot and I try to crack a joke [at that time]. But I'm not an
idiot; why do I need to see [psychiatrists] to see that. Fuck that, I'm not
an idiot. I don't think it pays in a week or year for me. I don't want to
live that way anymore."
t o r i p h o r i a
the World of Tori Amos