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Alex Bennett Morning Show (US, radio)
KITS "Live 105" San Francisco (105.3 FM)
February 7, 1996
Tori Amos interview and live performance
Alex Bennett: Our next guest puts out records. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Tori Amos. Where is she? Let her through, let her through folks. She'll be here for a while. Everybody's hugging and kissing. She'll never get here.
Traffic reporter: Let's get a traffic report on this. Tori is rounding past the kid with the spiked hair.
Alex: How are you, Tori?
Tori Amos: I'm pretty good. [sounding a bit sad] How're you?
Alex: What do you mean you're pretty good?
Tori: I'm pretty good. I hear I have no pedals. So just understand that when I play there's no sustain and we'll just pretend.
Alex: Now would you explain that to people. I understand, but...
Tori: Does anyone here play piano? Okay, well you know that if you have no pedal, that means when you go like that [plays a bar of "Blood Roses"] it just goes away. It says, "Toodles, honey, I'm not hanging out." So that means that certain songs I'm not sure what we'll play, but I'll figure it out.
Alex: Well, I mean--
Tori: It's a challenge.
Alex: It's like when you started out and couldn't afford a sustain pedal. [laughs]
Tori: Sweetpea... every piano has a sustain pedal. No, this is called when you make it big time and you go with synthesizers.
Alex: Hey, I want to ask you a couple things. Hey, good to have you here again.
Tori: I like being here.
Alex: We like _having_ you here! This is David Tell, by the way.
Tori: How are you, Tori?
Alex: He and I are going to be married.
David: Sorry about the pedal. Jackie Chan [the martial artist, the previous guest] came in and really mixed it up. Sorry.
Alex: The album cover... sitting there in a rockin' chair with a gun. Well? How do you explain yourself, young lady?
Tori: Well, it's a reference to "Me and a Gun," a song I wrote that was on Little Earthquakes. And the idea that there's a dead cock on my right and a live snake on my left. And the idea is that death and life... creation... what it's taken me to get here with men, and I don't want to be angry anymore. And you turn it over and you put the gun down, but I'm not pretending what it's taken to get me here. But no more resentment.
Alex: Okay, no more resentment. But on the other side of the album, you're caressing a pig.
Tori: Yeah, well that's a beautiful thing.
Alex: I mean, does that represent a guy?
Tori: You know, I will tell you something. You learn a lot about a person from their perception of things. I think I have to give freedom to somebody if they want to perceive it that way. Then that's their choice. But--
Alex: And young lady, inside this album, you're nursing a pig.
Alex: Ha ha ha ha! [nervously] Now was that pig actually sucking?
Tori: It was a happy little critter. [laughter and howls from audience]
Alex: I think we all would be.
Tori: No, but it was a beautiful moment. This might be hard to believe but it wasn't sexual. It was about mother and child. This little critter was four days old and hung out with me long enough that it wanted to think I was its mother. I couldn't fulfill for it.
Alex: That was kind of teasing the pig.
Tori: No, it fell asleep and it was gone for two hours and was happy as a clam.
Alex: Pigs are wonderful animals.
Alex: I had a friend who owned one. People think they're stupid or something, but they're the most intelligent animal, practically, on the planet.
Tori: Well, the shot really represents the hidden. To nurse the hidden, the non-kosher. That which is not acceptable.
Alex: I must admit that part bothered me a little. Being Jewish, you know... nursing a _pig_...
Tori: The imagery is there. It affects people how they want it to. I know how I felt when I chose to do it.
Alex: You know what's kind of interesting about careers, as it were? You come up with an idea like this. You're Tori Amos. "Anything you want, Tori." But if you wanted to do that on your first album, you probably would have met a lot of resistance.
Tori: When I turned in this album, do you want to know what the response was? Silence. Absolute silence. 'Cause I kept them away for the whole project---Oh my God, I have a pedal! [audience cheers]
Alex: She's got a pedal. Now she can sustain!
Tori: Yeah. No, but you have to know, for all those musicians out there and all those artists. The response for this album from the kids, from the people out there, has been wonderful, so it kind of gets them off my back a little, but they got a little nervous.
Alex: Do they still get on your back, as successful as you've been for them?
Tori: No, they look me in the eye and say, "Yeah, this is... it's... it's it's... it's... it's, uh, music."
Alex: You know when the executives don't like it, you're onto something good.
Tori: That's what I told them. I said, "Look, don't take this the wrong way, but you drive around in your BMW's with your second wives and you go to, you know, the mountains skiing in France-- hoopey-doopdey-doo--on your holidays, so what do you know about a girl crawling on the floor to a phone that isn't ringing?" You don't know.
Alex: I guess I must have been going to France too often. But you do write about these things which women really respond to--
Tori: And guys. It's not just, you know. I think it's about people who are kind of in touch with their heart side. It's not really about a sex.
Alex: Look, it's never about sex, really. It's always about love in the end. It's always about that need to be wanted, even the desire for sex includes in it that desire to hold someone, to feel someone else.
Tori: Yeah, it's not whether you're a guy or a girl. It's not when people say you have a big girl audience. It's fifty-fifty. It's about people who have to speak what's been hidden in their heart.
Alex: Can I ask you what has been your experience with guys that tones your music the way it does
Tori: This record I'm calling my "boy" record, which means it's my womanhood record. Because, um, whatever you think of this, the truth is that when I wasn't behind the piano, I lived through the men in my life in certain ways, not as a creative force, but I looked for my woman's worth through their eyes.
Alex: Bad. It's a bad thing to do.
Tori: A lot of women do that.
Alex: It's an old concept.
Tori: Yeah, but why is that? It's because it's been going on for thousands of years. [huh?]
Alex: I'll give you the perfect example of this. Yesterday I was talking to my mother. She says,"Where are you going?" I said, "I'm going home." She said, "What are you going to do when you get home?" I said, "My girlfriend is there." She says, "Is she going to make you breakfast?" You know, and I went, "No, mom, she doesn't make breakfast." And she goes, "Well, she should." And we got into this discussion about how when I was growing up you wanted to do right for your man, and everything she's talking about was being an extension of that man. It was good for us, but lousy for you.
Tori: That's an obvious kind of setup. Sometimes it's much more subtle. When you don't know why you think they have access to plug their plug into a wall, and you can't find that wall. You go, how come they have this flame burning inside them? And I would have the flame at the piano, but when I would walk off, just as a woman, without the piano, without the fame, without all that stuff, it was like, "Where's my worth just as a person?" And so I drew to me, shall we say, dynamic men. Who when they walk into a room, they're like a bloody heating blanket. They walk in an eminate this thing. Now the truth is they were stealing different stuff from me. But I was trying to steal the idea of fire, that you're not enough. And so there was a lot of love involved. There's a bit of blood, becuase you know you kind of go, "Umm... boy blood, yummy." And then you go, "No, Tori, wait a minute. Why do you think you need to live through them?" Even sitting next to them sometimes and smelling that heat. That right to express. So I left all those situations and ended up on my own and wrote this record.
Alex: And learned that you have your own heat.
Tori: I got my own fire.
Alex: Can we hear some of that fire?
Tori: Yaaazz. But this is when I was crawling. This is the first song that came on the record when I realized I was crawling to a phone that wasn't ringing.
Alex: Ladies and gentlemen, our guest is Tori Amos. Swig of water. Spits it out. Puts the earphones on. Plops her fanny down. No, she's standing. She's _attacking_ the piano.
[Tori plays Blood Roses]
Alex: You know, I want to ask you a question. I sit here and watch you play and I just had to ask you as I watched you, where do you go? You go somewhere. When you're singing, when you're playing you seem to go somewhere.
Tori: No... I don't go anywhere. Something comes to visit. It's like a lightning rod. What I feel happens is when I'm playing... Keith Richards said something once--
Alex: Did you understand a word of it?
Tori: Yeah, I don't know if that says anything about me, but I did. He was saying there's this big song in the sky and you just take pieces of this song from what you're able to see as a writer. It's always there. And I feel no different when I'm playing the music. It just comes through. You feel this lightning rod from this other place into you through the piano into the earth.
Alex: Your surroundings seem to blank themselves out.
Tori: Yeah, they do, but that's not why I do it. If I'm honest, Alex.
Alex: Sometimes I've asked this of sports figures. If you're in a boxing ring, do you hear the crowd? If you're playing football, and you're a football player, do you hear the crowd? When you're on stage, do you to a certain extent loose the crowd?
Tori: I'm working off energy in the crowd. I'm not seeing them as people anymore. I'm feeling frequency. That's how the music come in. It's frequency. I can't see it. It's not tangible like you sitting there with your cute little BBC cap on.
Alex: I wore this cute cap just for you.
Tori: But it just comes and you either can tap into it or you don't. And again, I use that thing about letting yourself become a lightning rod. The born-again Christians would think I'm speaking in tongues-- heaven forbid. But it's different than that. You just kind of let the music... the piano's very much a part of that. I'm kind of like the vase, and it all come through.
Alex: There's another interesting thing I think we should make note of. But you are probably... I can only think of a handful of other guests who have been as warm to their audience as you are to yours. People come up to give you tapes and you pay attention to them and you listen to them and they bring you necklaces. Somebody brought you a necklace. You hugged another person. You're very accessable. That does not mean you're supposed to go up to her hotel room tonight and knock on her door.
Tori: The whole thing is, two hundred years ago musicians were playing in these little manors and getting fat. They didn't even get meat from the table; the hounds would get the best pick first. And you'd come and you go from town to town and sing your songs. If you weren't like the special, special musicians. And you would travel in your groups and you wouldn't stop singing your songs. I think to loose that level of humanity, that's really boring. You know, it's boring to be a jerk.
Alex: I had a pretty good time myself for years.
Tori: Yeah, but Alex, I don't buy for one minute... I think the most interesting thing you can do on this planet is to find another creature, another soul, and just go buzz off with them.
Alex: It's so easy to be an asshole. You're absolutely correct. When I see somebody like yourself, who has achieved a great deal of notoriety, still allow themselves to be accessable to people, to touch the flesh--it took you a while to get in here because you wanted to say hello to everybody that wanted to say hello to you. That's says a lot for you. That says a lot for how you've handled all of this.
Tori: Well, I don't, I don't... I'm not interested in taking drugs. I do hallucinogens once in a while for journey experiences.
Alex: What's your favorite?
Alex: What's that?
Tori: Amazon. A drug from the Amazon.
Alex: I guess the rest of us can't afford that one, huh? You snob!
Tori: No, it's not about that. What I'm saying though is it's about, my God there's nothing groovier than kind of hanging out. When somebody said to me, "I gotta make it. I gotta make it. I gotta make it," I said, "Why?" "'Cause I want to meet all those people." I said, "Okay, which people are you talking about?" "All those people, like backstage at the Grammys." I said, "Honey, there ain't nothing going on backstage at the Grammys. I've been there. And I got in my car and exited stage left quick."
Alex: You gotta hang out with all the people you didn't want to hang out with in the first place.
Tori: It's not about, can I get a ticket to a party? I got these tickets to these parties. And yeah, there are a few people that you meet that go, "Wow, I've met a soul friend." But you meet soulfriends everywhere. You meet them in the tech crews, you meet them in the backline roadie guys, you meet them... it's not about your position. That this whole hierarchy thing that gets very confusing.
Alex: The bottom line was I was saying I was very touched by your attitude toward your audience.
Tori: Well, it makes me feel good as much as them. That's the main thing.
Alex: Oh, so you're selfish, eh?
Tori: Yeah, I'm selfish. I said to somebody that's on this side of things in music, you're getting old, I told them. You're getting old because you keep yourself far away from the real people. Look at the lines on your face. You're getting sick, you get ill because you buy the trip.
Alex: Let me take a break here. When we come back, will you do one more for us?
Alex: As though we didn't have that planned. [commercial break] During the break you may have heard over some of the commercials, 'cause they forgot to turn down the sound in the mixing room, her answering some questions form the audience. During the break you were just answering some things people wanted to ask you. That's all part of it. It's really very nice, Tori. I have to compliment you.
Tori: Alex, I want to play something if I could, that kind of refers to something we've been talking about. Somebody talked about when I was walking in what inspired this record. There's a lot of... when you go after the hidden parts in yourself there's a little giggle to be had, but there's also a little tear. The men who brought me to this awareness... people say, do you hate men? And I go, God, you've missed the whole point. Because there's a lot of big chocolate hearts on this record. And as much as sometimes you know it's over you still... it doesn't mean that it doesn't get your heart sometimes. So I just want to play a chocolate heart song.
Alex: Ladies and gentlemen, Tori Amos....
[Tori plays Hey Jupiter]
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