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telephone interview (US)
October 30, 1996
K. Horowitz writes for The Daily Iowan and interviewed Tori Amos over the phone at 3pm on October 30, 1996.
1) How and when did you begin playing the piano and singing, and how did you get to be so phenomenal at both?
I was two and a half when I began playing the piano and I don't remember a time when I didn't play. I always remember playing, I never remember not playing. It was innate.
My voice came with age. I was no Shirley Temple. It took years and years to develop. Like you know how some little kids have great voices at first but get worse later? Well I was the opposite. I vocally developed much later.
2) I know that your rape inspired much of the Little Earthquakes album. So what inspires the ideas for your other songs and albums, because many of them often seem abstract and open to personal
It's whatever I learn about at the time. I'm always looking for the beast -- those things that are hidden. Those parts of yourself that escape consciousness but are still there. Because we all are fragments of beings. There are parts of our souls that we have and all of them are good, but we are always trying to pull in more fragments of our being. We're never satisfied with what we are. But there is not one driven thought that makes us believe we are much less than what we are.
I am very interested in what is strong and what is weak in a person. Interested in my vision of self -- how people see me instead of how I see myself. I'll pull out each part of this being that is judged harshly, and some of these parts are extreme. For instance, "Professional Widow" is an extreme part. It can get hard because I want to be king. All of us women want to be king but we have to be queens. You know, it's like Lady Macbeth or something.
You can't be king until all the rest of the men have been killed off. And it's hard.
I can sometimes surprise myself on my opinions. We are often taught what to think, not how to think. And you need to train yourself to be open to different ways of feeling -- how do I form my own opinions? You have to train yourself how to think.
3) Is it ever difficult to crank out these ideas? Either to get the ideas or to get them put onto paper?
Some of them take some coaxing, yes. A lot of the time, to get an idea, I have to have an experience, which helps me to understand what I need to write. Or I'll get a fragment of an idea, and it'll take a lot of patience to get it out correctly. Because that's what writing and expressing yourself is about. If I wrote like I was on deadline for a show or a story -- just to get it done -- that would be the wrong reason to write. If you write just to finish it, why are you writing? It's pointless. You have to be willing to let the story or the idea develop over time to make it good.
4) You are considred a very strong female artist in the music industry, and it's apparent that more and more women are getting their voices heard and messages out in the music business. So what do you feel is the reason for their success and what problems still lie ahead?
Well, women and music have been around for a couple hundred years now, but men have mainly dominated it. You'll have a few women popping out in art or literature, but being a female musician is tough.
But there's a different consciousness now that's happening. It's that people want to hear what women have to say. I just hope that they want to hear the ideas, not the sex.
We need to be open to the artistry not being male dominated or female dominated but being about what your context is and that you're moving hearts with it. That's what I find exciting about the business.
The dam has been hard to break but I think we've broken it.
5) You seem to draw an eclectic type of crowd made up of young and old, male and female, and a lot of these fans have a sort of religious devotion to you. What do you think of this, and have you deliberately catered to this vast array of people or does it just happen?
I like music that inspires me. I'm interested in freedom. Just imagine a world where people become whole. Where human civilizations are tribal and where there is no sense of hierarchy. Where you have a gift unique to you, the freedom to be creative and you are busy creating. And there's no jealousy based on these unique gifts. I have mine and you have yours and it's all good.
6) Is there any particular message you try to or would like to give to your masses? And at the same time, what message or gift do you give yourself through your music?
That I'm enough. And that you're enough. That there is nothing more you need that makes you more than that.
7) So what's it like onstage? Is it a different experience for you every time because it's been different every time I've seen you. Have you ever messed up?
I mess up every night. There's always something that gets screwed up. And that's what's hard about the concept of perfection. There are nights when I play perfectly but the atmosphere doesn't feel right. There's no magic. And there are nights when it's full of little errors, but I still feel really good about what I presented to the audience.
What is perfection? In sports, it's about winning. But when music is about winning, that's when we're in trouble. You'll have your critics being subjective and all that, and it's hard. You know? I mean it's like what might save one person, another's dog takes a crap on. And I watch these gymnasts in the Olympics getting judged and what I saw was just beautiful. But the next thing I know they're being given a 5.3 by some Czechoslovakian judge in the corner. And you're like Whatever.
So it's about, what was my intention? Can I release myself and still get to people? I have to surrender. And if I made a faux pas on stage, then that's my freedom because I let go of my perfection. I'm down to earth, and I reached people.
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