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a supplement to Italian newspaper Repubblica
[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
by Andrea Silezi
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
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