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CFNY, Toronto (Canada, radio)
CFNY "The Edge" Toronto (102.1 FM)
April 28, 1998
Tori Amos was interviewed in her hotel room by Kim Hughes.
Kim: Tori is in town tonight, performing a sold-out show at the Phoenix and doing a series of shows with a band for the first time ever. These club shows represent kind of a chance for her to warm up for a big summer tour, so there will be lots of opportunities to see Tori again if you weren't able to get tickets for tonight. This afternoon we had a chance to go to Tori Amos' hotel and talk with her there, she was doing a couple of very select interviews with us and with Much Music so we were pretty pleased about that we also got a copy of the brand new album, and the license to play as much of it as we can, so we'll try to squeeze in as many songs as possible between know and 8:00. First though we're going to begin with some words from Tori Amos we were talking about the studio she built in Cornwall England and just how the songs came together in that studio.
Tori: There were times when, um, we would just roll pretty much for 48 hours and, you know, you take cat-naps, but when the muse is visiting you and it's so exciting you just can't stop yourself. Then there were days when musicians would just be sitting around for at least a couple of days at a time because I would just be looking up around... around, um, you know, parked Range-Rovers or Minis or whatever I could see and go, "Where are you?" Begging the muse to come because I just didn't have... you know when she comes... I mean, I can sing the songs and they're okay, but when the muse comes, I always try and wait to record the song, um, when she comes through. It really is about an outside force that come through, and I align with it and together we pull it through. But she just doesn't show up all the time.
Kim: So you have to allow yourself, in a way, to be a waiting receptacle, in that sense, right?
Tori: Yeah. I mean, the record company, that's why I owe them so much money. It's like, "I'm waiting for the..." (in a funny-harsh voice of the record company people) "What are you doing!" (then as herself again) "It's none of your business what I'm doing. My accounts are very good. So piss off (laughing), I'm waiting for the muse."
Kim: So when you talk about the muse visiting you and giving you some direction with respect to song writing, does that apply to lyrics as well, or is that a separate entity altogether?
Tori: It's separate because, um, once I get a taste of (pause) sort of, the essence of a song, then I go and do research. I mean, I have hundreds of books in the house that I don't necessarily read until I pick one up one day that I've never picked up before and I turn it to page 102, and there's a picture of something that makes me go to another reference book, that makes me go somewhere else, than makes me take a drive, and then I start forming what the language is. It's so much like word association, you're getting an essence, and you're getting a picture on many layers, right? And then you're saying, "There are millions of words I can choose here," so how do you find the right ones? And a lot of times it's not about being literal, it's about making the essence of this song three-dimensional to you, so that she really exists, and she breathes, and she wears perfume, and, you know, "What does she look like?" and, "How old is she?" and, "Is she bi-sexual?" "Is she, um, you know, on Lithium?" I mean, what is she doing?
[album version of "Spark"]
Kim: Welcome back to the show, I'm Kim. Let's return now to our interview with Tori Amos. We did this this afternoon at her hotel. It's in anticipation of her album which will be in stores on tuesday and, of course, her show at the Phoenix tonight. And I asked Tori if she was deliberately more cryptic in writing her lyrics, in order to keep a distance from her most obsessive fans.
Tori: It depends on the song, because, um, I'm not afraid to go after an issue or to expose myself. I mean, I think on "Boys for Pele" it was much more an internal record. And it's just what I needed to write at the time. It was very much about, um, crossing the river Styx in my own psyche. You know, that was what... I was crawling on that record to try and find my woman's power. And on this record, I was really trying to communicate with an outside force. I was trying to, um makes sense of, number one, the miscarriage... I was trying to, um, find something in myself because, obviously, the most natural thing you can do as a woman, didn't happen... feeling really helpless about it, and surrendering all at the same time, and still being connected to the spirit of this being.
Along the way, the songs grab me by the hand and say, "You know you can't understand this on an A B C level, you need to understand it through metaphor." And so a lot of times, they'll grab me through a different rabbit hole and all of a sudden it becomes like parables. You know, the songs become characters come alive and I can deal with something that's going on in my life. Because feelings take on um, personas. And that's really what the work becomes, like a little tiny mythology of people that we've never heard of before.
[album version of "iieee"]
Kim: In terms of specific songs, you mentioned the miscarriage, and I think that's touched upon in "Spark" but tell me about the song "Jackie's Strength." Where does that come from? I mean, it seems, obviously part of it is, you know, the Kennedy years and Camelot and... but there's more than that. I mean, there's a teenage girl caught in there somewhere, too.
Tori: Yeah, there's a girl that, um, had a fantasy about a wedding... I think when she was really young and then just ditched it. I mean, that wasn't gonna be her. And then she finds... it's her wedding day and she finds that she's getting lost. She's uh... she doesn't know if she's ready to do that. And she looks back at her whole life, everything that ever happened to her to get her to that place. And she'd seen a picture of Jackie on her wedding day, and knows that she's not handling it quite so well (laughing). And that whole... the way that I really got inspired to write it is that I had a a book of Jackie, and um, I turned to a picture of her in her wedding dress and then I turned the page and JFK was getting shot, it's that famous picture of them in the car. And just one page... you know, you're dealing with the birth of the bride and the death of her love, or the death of a union, and I was sort of dealing with... from the miscarriage to then being a bride myself -- a bit backwards but anyway that's the way it was -- the cyclical um, constant turning of the seasons and the life wheel, and um... you know, it's so out of our hands sometimes, things that get put on our plate. There's a death or there's a birth or there's a love that walks in your life and you're like, "Oh, but I don't wanna fall in love right now, 'cause I'm already supposed to be in love with someone else." You know, it just doesn't get wrapped up in this neat little package and I started to be so, um... a new appreciation of the life force came out of losing the baby... I really began to see how fragile life is, and you and I don't know how long we're going to be here. I mean, I like to think I'm 80 years old and still rocking in my boots and you come and interview me and we have a margarita and we do it, but we don't know um, and this record is really... It wasn't what I thought it was going to be um, but the rhythm made me really want to wake up every morning.
[album version of "Jackie's Strength"]
Kim: Music from Tori Amos on 102.1, the Edge. That's called "Jackie's Strength" and it's taken from "From the Choirgirl Hotel," her new record in stores on Tuesday. The song we heard before that was called Iie... once again, Tori Amos playing at the Phoenix, and she did mention emphatically that she will be back for summer dates in much, much bigger venues, so hopefully everyone will get a chance to see her, that wants to see her. We're going to take our final break and return with more words and more music from Tori Amos right after this.
Kim: Well, as you may have heard, Tori Amos is doing something a little bit different on this record and this tour in that she is touring with a band. This is the first time ever, and certainly, although the piano is the most permanent instrument in "From the Choirgirl Hotel," you do hear... percussion is there, drums are there, you can hear these other elements, so during our discussion with Tori this afternoon, I asked her at what point in the writing and recording process did the idea of working with a band occur to her.
Tori: As I was writing, I began to understand the songs themselves were pretty adamant that this was not just, um, instruments being put around the piano. It had to be fully integrated. There had to be a tension between the instruments and a relationship, And the piano really kind of, you know, sat me down and said, "I am capable of playing with other players. I am capable of having to hold my own." And I knew we'd really have to practice hard to play with a caliber of players I wanted to play with. But there's no... there's nothing that gets you off more as a musician than playing with people you respect. You know, there's no drug that gives you that... there's nothing , it's just like, I can't wait to play with them tonight. I mean, I just wait till we get through the day so that at 9 or 10:00 we take the stage and these guys... I just look at them and I say, "Wow, I'm so fortunate to be with these magical men."
Kim: And I'm sure there has been alot of complications that ensue in terms of, like, just, sort of working things out. Like the back catalog, for instance.
Tori: Yeah, it's tricky. Because certain ones don't want to come right now. I mean, "Crucify," she's really like, holding back, saying I want to wait and see what you do with the others before I come(small laugh). and um...but others stepped up to the plate. They were much more of ..okay we've never had an arrangement so let's not be safe about this. I didn't want... my intention to bring a band on the road is not um, to try and satisfy a concept that I needed, a drummer, or to make this like adult contemporary, let the people tap their feet and everything's okay. You know I'm a Zepplin girl, and you know I come from, if your going to bring a band on the road, you know... I'm not, um, trying to do a PC version of female singer-songwriter here, that isn't my interest. I'm really into what each song needs. "Precious Things" needs a whole different read than "Putting the Damage On." And they stepped up to the plate and said, "We wanna came." "Horses" wanted to come, "Waitress" wanted to come, "Tear in Your Hand" wanted to come. They're kind of, letting us experiment before the others step up. And "God" wanted to come, so she's along... but it was uh... it kind of threw me off just going... you know, I have to um, give the players their freedom and I have to... let the songs lead us a little bit.
[album version of "Playboy Mommy"]
[transcript by Eryn Leedale]
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