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Musica (Italy)
a supplement to Italian newspaper Repubblica
1996

[translation by heles]

A Girl and Her Piano

Daughter of a Methodist minister, Tori Amos was born 32 years ago in North Carolina. After having studied at Baltimore conservatory, Tori moves to Los Angeles, where she mixes with the hard rock world. In the 1988 her first album, titled Y Kant Tori Read (a hard rock album, of which she is deeply ashamed) comes out, and this just makes her retire from scene for four years. Success will arrive for her in the 1992 with Little Earthquakes, welcomed by the international critic. Immediately compared to Kate Bush (mostly because of her way of singing and her love for the piano), Tori Amos conquered the critics with her personal and dry style. But the big public will discover her with Under the Pink (1994), the album of her definitive consecration, which includes the single 'Cornflake Girl', inspired to a tale by Alice Walker, metaphor of the nowadays women condition. Her new album Boys for Pele is coming out these days, and it is probably the most mature and deep of her carrier.

by Andrea Silezi

TORI AMOS
The Devil in a Cup of Tea


American, Tori Amos decided to settle in Ireland. Surrounded by nature, we talked with her about her new album, about life, Lucifer, of Mozart and Joni Mitchell.

"Ireland is an exciting place, almost rebellious. Everything here tells about catholic culture, of churchiness. And still you just have to dig some meters under ground and you'll discover a world of spirits, wizards, the rests of a mysterious and intriguing past." Tori Amos is a sort of stateless. Born in North Carolina, she studied piano in Baltimore, tried the hard rock way in Los Angeles, and then she found success in England.

Now she lives in Kilsane, 30 km to Cork, an Irish town merged in a so relaxed atmosphere that it seems completely still, almost unreal. A place full of contradictions, the ideal place for a woman who disregards everything in her life that is not substantial: "To be 100 percent creative, you have to find a way to gain access to the darkest sides of your soul. It's a sort of a backward path that can lead you out of the hellfire. But to achieve this, you ought to sit down in front of Lucifer, and have a tea with him."

Tori's personal analysis sounds like a playful exorcism, whose final purpose is to win your own taboos in order to come to a serene and conscious relationship with every detail of your soul.

"Each track of my new album is the splinter of a reasoning, of a cognitive analysis relating with the past and the present. The songs come from the discovery of a part of me that, till now I've, more or less consciously, been hiding. What is really changed in me is the way I face people and relationships. I've understood that I must not modify my behaviour in relation of the person who's in front of me: now I try to give myself without mediations, and this is not always accepted by men. They're used to capture your best pieces: if you think about history, you realize that women, were they wives, lovers, sisters, they've always been the inspiring muses for men, without ever obtain the same satisfactions reserved to men."

Obviously, the missing quote of women like Dorothy Parker, Emily Dickinson or Jane Austen is not casual. When she talks about women's emancipation, Tori shifts on a very serious mood: it's just this continuous care, this attention to the women condition problems, that have made of her the natural successor of artists such as Joni Mitchell and Patti Smith, who, in different times and ways, proposed and imposed new models of female musicians. "I think there's a great bond with Joni Mitchell, Patti Smith and Carole King. I'm not talking about the music, but simply of a continuity on the emotional point of view. If you look at the past, you realize that the great history roles have been always hold by men: from Euripides to Michelangelo, from Bach to Mozart, from Galileo to Baudelaire, it's been men who've had always the control, and the opportunity to make something, to achieve a big goal"

Emancipation and the role of the woman are main subjects of Tori Amos' music. Me and a Gun, a song from Little Earthquakes , was the bitter and sharp chronicle of a sexual violence she herself underwent when she was a teenager: since then, the urge to strip bare her condition, to cry to the world the unfairness of a system still anchored to patriarchal modalities and means, has had a definitely important role in her song's poetic.

But now, women emancipation, where is it, and where is it going? "We're by kind of a crossroad. Women have learned to talk with men, they've understood the mechanisms of life and relations, and the patriarchal system. Now we're able to dodge the obstacles, we're able to move easily through the hierarchy, but we've not acquired a real independence yet. The old system is in a state of crisis, but there is no basis for a new model. But it is important to have relationships with dynamic men. They alone can give us the chance to meet Lucifer"

Here it comes again, the friend devil. Kilsane, in the South Ireland, is a place that resumes perfectly the features of an island which doesn't seem to the raving European universe: wide spaces, primitive silences, continuously recalling an ancient, but never really buried, culture like the Celtic one. The people here watch with indifference the soft rain that fondles the rooftops, but for a stranger the suggestive elements really pile one on the other: the sense of time vanishes, threatening and dark the shade of demons and faeries appears. Maybe Tori has actually seen him, her Lucifer, if nothing because her last new album is characterized by a sharpness of form quite unusual.

"I've spent a lot of time studying music. I don't feel to be a rock artist, at least not in a strict sense, but I've always admired Led Zeppelin or Patti Smith, I've sung with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and I made a cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana. I don't believe music can be sliced in categories. If you listen to Mozart, you realize that his greatness settled just in the way he pushed the melody to its extreme boundaries. Everyone refers to models of the past, but simply because we have two thousands years of music history on our shoulders and we cannot merely ignore them. Formulae are what change, but the spirit is left unchanged, the will to go off the limits"

So, between a quote and the other, Tori plays with her harpsicord (the Kind instrument, symbol of men's power), tinkling Bach and Mozart, and slightly mocking Kate Bush. "The comparisons between me and her doesn't trouble me at all. She's a great artist, and this is just a game. Maybe, one day someone will say that that new singer looks and sounds like me."

Certainly the future doesn't scare Tori, who's used to consider Mozart an ante-litteram punk, and Kurt Kobain like a King Arthur in desperate research of the Saint Graal. No fear of profanation. Lucifer is already at the pub, excitedly waiting. Tea is served.


t o r i p h o r i a
the World of Tori Amos
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