home / interviews


Next (US)
January 1996



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 heavens.

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 see you."

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 her.

"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."

Right.

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:

Slag pit
Slag shit
honey bring it close to my lips
Yes
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
www.yessaid.com