home / interviews
Triple J (Australia, radio)
Triple J FM, Sydney
July 16, 1998
[the cd recording of Spark is played]
Richard Kingsmill: First up Me And A Gun, and right there Spark - the
first single and the first taste of the current album for tori amos,
From The Choirgirl Hotel. richard kingsmill with you tonight, you're
listening to the J Files on Triple J. Preceding the recording of
From The Choirgirl Hotel it was a pretty chaotic two years for tori amos. she toured
constantly throughout 1995 and 1996, although she didn't make it to
australia which is a real pity, but we'll get onto that later. she also
suffered a relationship break-up, she suffered a miscarriage and then
she enjoyed a marriage so it was a pretty eventful 18 months prior to
the recording of this album. there was a lot to talk about in just 20
minutes. when I had the chance of interviewing her recently things
didn't go according exactly to plan and tori asked for this interview to
be played in full and I had no problem with that.
Richard: hello, Triple J.
John Witherspoon: Richard? John Witherspoon. I've got Tori here for you
Tori: Hey Richard.
Richard: Tori, hi. How are you?
Tori: I'm okay.
Richard: That's good. Can you hang on one tick. Hang on, the other phone in
the studio's just rung. [in the background Richard answers the phone and
tells whomever is on the other end that "he's in the other studio"].
Tori: That's okay.
Richard: We're on a tight schedule, I know, so we'll fire off the questions
if that's okay - are you set?
Tori: mmm hmmm.
Richard: Before we start talking about the new album I just wanted to get
some sort of sense of the importance of your own work to yourself. when
you look back at what you've created so far are you proud of the body of
work you've done so far?
Tori: Um... well, that's a funny question because more than anything it
just reflects my life. I don't know if you're proud about it.
Richard: Do you, I mean, are you the sort of person who looks more ahead than
you do back?
Tori: Umm... hmmmm.
Richard: Because a lot of artists sort of get to a point where they've done
four or five albums and they kind of think 'oh there's still so much
more to do, so much more I've got to get out through my music' and I'm
kind of curious to know where you sit, at this point in time, with the
new album just out.
Tori: No, and there's so much more crap they can write, you know what I
mean? I mean, I think at the end of the day, um, it's kinda scary, you
know, writing music because you don't know what people are gonna think.
and it's pretty vulnerable. Ummmm, and people can be kinda vicious about
the whole thing. so all you can do is like write the music and put it
Richard: Yeah. you've never been one though to hold back with your music.
Tori: Ummm... you know, the... at the end of the day the muse kind of
takes me by the hair and drags me and says: 'you know, if you don't
respect me then, um, I'm never gonna come to you again'.
Richard: So you feel like, and I've read this before in your interviews,
where you feel like you're almost a channel for the muse.
Tori: Well, I think um, if you think you do it by yourself then you
might have a really, really humbling awakening coming.
Richard: [laughs]. I mean, how much intervention do you honestly feel? when
you're creating the music are you literally that sort of out of yourself
where you lose sense of time and place?
Tori: No. Obviously my experiences come in to play, but at the same time
you have to realise it's just thread, it's not what all the songs are
about. And you have to respect that, um, the songs, it's not just about
you and if you think that then I think, um, the songs just stop coming.
Richard: Why would they just stop coming?
Tori: Well, do you write songs?
Richard: No. What? Do I? no.
Tori: If you try and you get arrogant then you'll know why they stop
Richard: But why does, I'm just a bit confused as to why arrogance, I mean,
if you felt confident in what you're doing and you felt like you were
churning out great stuff...
Tori: No. Confidence and arrogance are two very, very different things. You know that!
Richard: Yeah, I know that, but I mean in terms of a songwriter, what do
you mean by arrogance?
Tori: If you think you're the only one that's creating then you're quite
an arrogant person. There are a lot of them out there and they don't
make records anymore. The ones that do, um, understand it's not just
about them - whether it's Neil Young, Peter Gabriel, Robert Plant --
[Tori laughs a little] give them a call! they'll tell you this.
Richard: So, would it be fair to say it feels like a magical process for you?
Tori: [Tori is silent for a long time. You hear sounds of breathing,
thinking and beginning to speak occasionally, as she remains mostly
silent before speaking.] Magical's a very tricky word right now, just
because the Americans really use that against you if you say that.
Richard: Uh, okay. Why?
Tori: Well, do you know many Americans?
Richard: [laughing] Uh, no. Well, I know a few... well...
Tori: [giggling, though seemingly very serious] Well, stay away!
Richard: Why? Have the press bitten you a little of late?
Tori: I think, um, anytime you mention the word magical they get very
confused on new age, they get very confused on what that means.
Richard: It just sounds like you're being very cautious with the words you
use and I'm just worried that you've used words in the past and people
have started to criticise you because you've just been very open in
interviews. Would that be true?
Tori: That's true. My grandfather taught me when I was a little girl to
respect the spiritual world and, um, it's funny when you do that
sometimes how people really, um, make this, I don't know, some kind of
disneyworld, um, bastardisation of what that means.
Richard: Yeah, I mean it's very hard to talk about that stuff and, for one,
put it into words but two, relate sincerely something special you would
have felt inside. As soon as you put it into words you kind of undercut
the significance of it, don't you?
Tori: Well, you've just put it perfectly.
Richard: [laughs] Well, that's really a shame, isn't it?
Tori: Yeah, it is.
Richard: Yeah because, I mean, it can be something that's so enlightening to
you that you want to share it or you want to just relate it and it is
Tori: I think the best thing is you put the music out there and people
get it or they don't. And if they don't, you just keep doing what you're
doing and, um, that's sorta the end of it.
Richard: Your music is interesting because it's not only open to lots of
interpretations but it's also open to a lot of different emotional
responses. I mean, I listen to your songs and just depending upon what
I'm feeling at the point in time, it will reflect how I kind of try to
get inside your head and hear what you're trying to create. and,
therefore, it's open to many interpretations, many of them probably the
wrong interpretations, in terms of what you were trying to create.
Tori: Yeah, but the exciting thing is this, you know, getting inside
your own head, not getting inside my head. [laughing]. You don't want to
get inside my head. Getting inside your own head, that's kind of
Richard: Oh definitely! I mean, that's the wonderful thing. but you also
reflect on the artist, him or herself, and try to just imagine or
wonder, it's just common human behaviour isn't it really?
Tori: ahhh... mmmm....
Richard: And therein is the difficulty in doing interviews with artists
because sometimes you're prying and probing into their subconscious...
Tori: Yeah! And I'm prying into yours!
Richard: [laughs] You're not supposed to do that! I'm only supposed to do
that to you!
Tori: Yeah, but 'sposed to - those words aren't in my vocabulary!
Richard: Can I just...
Tori: That's why I lived in the corner when I was at school.
Richard: What? You were isolated?
Tori: My desk was always in the corner.
Richard: Oh, okay. Why? Was that a safe position for you do you think?
Tori: It's not about safe. I asked too many questions that they didn't
Richard: Oohh - I see what you mean now. sorry! So, they kind of separated
you and banished you...
Tori: Yeah. Funny that, eh?
Richard: Uh, yeah. Education. I mean, we could sort of talk about education
and its limitations on young people but that's probably a 20 to 30
minute discussion at least!
Tori: No, we could talk about... well, the thing is, when you're the
interviewee questioning the interviewer, what's going on in their brain,
that doesn't seem to be okay, which I find very funny.
Richard: Oh, it is. I...
Tori: You guys just don't want to go there, do you?
Richard: No, we don't want to be drawn into the process...
Richard: Do you know why? part of the reason being it assumes, and reflecting
back on the word arrogance, we're as important as you are.
Tori: Don't play that sweetpea! don't even play that card. don't hide
behind that one.
Richard: What? You don't think I'm being sincere?
Tori: No, no, not that at all. You're hiding behind that so that I don't
like tear you apart.
Richard: No, no, that's, look. I mean, totally, an interviewer's role should
be to allow the musician, the person they're speaking to, to speak to
their fans. I am just a mediator who, whenever I interview someone, I'm
just merely trying to get them to open up about their work to try and
give some sense of communication to the fans, I've...
Tori: I think you'd be surprised what sort of interview you and I could
have if I could really, really sit down and talk to you. 'cause you have
to know - I haven't told you anything that I don't want to tell you.
And you have to know that I'm very, very curious about who you are. So
be very, very, very careful because I might just stalk you. [laughs]
Richard: [laughs] Yeah...
Tori: That made you very uncomfortable, didn't it?
Richard: Oh yeah, I mean, totally. And I understand that the artist is only
going to reveal a certain amount of their own self to the...
Tori: You have to understand something, I've done thousands of
interviews, and you have to understand that I've been stalked many
times. You have to understand that sometimes I'm curious about you guys
because don't think I don't know stuff about you when you ask me
questions. That just really, really makes me giggle sometimes, that you
guys think that I don't know stuff about you just by what you ask me.
Richard: I know. But if I can be bold at this point and ask you, after ten
minutes of speaking, of what you think of what I'm saying, I'd be
curious to know...
Tori: I would like to sit down with you with a margarita and a really
good green salad and have one hour and interview you! and whatever radio
station you're on, I would like to take your role and you have mine. I
would love that. and I would really, really, really be honourable
Richard: Ah, ah, have you assumed that I have not been honourable towards
Tori: I'm not saying that.
Tori: But I'm saying don't be afraid that if we ever had that
opportunity, don't be afraid...
Richard: I, I would very...
Tori: And I would very much love for you to play this whole interview
for everybody. is this live?
Richard: Oh, no, no, no - this is not live, but this will get played, we're
doing a big...
Tori: Fantastic! Because this would not get played in america.
Richard: No, no...
Tori: no way!
Richard: No, I, I... it would be on the edit floor already. Either that or
the interview would of been cut off by now...
Tori: Oh, absolutely. So, play this. And if you ever get, I don't know,
an opportunity to be interviewed, I would like to be the one to
Richard: You make this sound like such a threatening process!
Tori: I don't think I do!
Richard: I'm interpreting...
Tori: How many people have wanted to interview you?
Richard: Ummm, not all that many, only a couple and..
Tori: And why does it have to be threatening? it's just, I'm interested
in interviewing you. that doesn't have to be threatening! If you think
that's threatening, what do you think I go through every day? 20 times a
Richard: But you're making it sound like it's a threatening process...
Tori: Oh, am *I*? [giggling] am *I* making it?
Richard: Well, no, hang on, because you just...
Tori: This is not a dual conversation! you have nothing to do with this!
Own your part in this.
Richard: What is my part in this?
Richard: I've answered that! I've said that! I was saying that *you're*
making this sound like it's a threatening process.
Tori: Oh, I'm sure I am! [laughing] I'm sure it's all my fault!
Richard: Oohh, I'm not saying that tori! I'm just saying that you said that
you'd want to sit down with me for an hour...
Tori: Absolutely, I would! So, why's that threatening to you?
Richard: ahh, ohh... umm... to show me what that's like to have the shoe on
the other foot, to see what it's like to be on...
Tori: So maybe I would be absolutely gracious with you and really
compassionate. You don't know what I would be like.
Richard: I try to be compassionate and gracious in every interview I do
Tori: But who's saying you're not? I'm just saying I'd like to interview
you, you haven't been interviewed before, I'd like to do it...
Richard: I've been interviewed a couple of times and, let me tell you, I find
it much easier to ask the questions that to answer them. I will say
Tori: So maybe you haven't really had caring people asking you the right
Richard: Sorry, so maybe I, I missed that, maybe I...
Tori: You wanna try? Let's try. Let's just go for it, like 'what's your
favourite ice-cream sundae?'
Richard: That's a very American question... My favourite ice cream would have
to be chocolate. We don't have sundaes very much over here.
Tori: I thought every country had sundaes?
Richard: Oh, they do, but it's, you know, ice-cream sundaes are kind of like
banana splits with topping and nuts and all that sort of stuff, isn't
Tori: I never have nuts!
Richard: You never have nuts?
Richard: What's wrong with nuts?!
Tori: [giggles again] I just don't have 'em on my ice-cream sundaes.
Richard: Oh, okay, that's the vision I've got of ice-cream sundaes, but if I
eat ice cream I just eat it plain. and chocolate is my favourite
flavour. and vanilla...
Tori: Yeah, see. I love chocolate too. I don't think you'd be a horrible
interview, I think you'd be okay.
Richard: Well, [laughing], that line of questioning's fine. you start digging
a little deeper and you might see me squirm though...
Tori: Maybe I won't dig deeper. that's my whole point.
Richard: Ah, yeah. okay.
Tori: Yeah, I won't.
Richard: So, is it fair to say that the interview process can try to dig so
deep that it's just not fair?
Tori: It's just, it scratches so deep that I'm so ready for you guys
that I wouldn't, do you know what I mean?
Richard: Yeah... yeah. I've interviewed a lot of people, tori, and no one's
actually said that and I think they feel it and they've never said it.
You're the first person who's ever said that.
Tori: Well, I haven't exercised in three weeks and I've got too much
cellulite on my body so... [laughing] There you go!
Richard: [laughing] No. I think what you speak is a lot of truth, and I've
often wondered about this process, but never had it confronted to me
like you've just confronted me with it.
Tori: [breathing can be heard but she doesn't speak]
Richard: So, I don't know if I should say thank you, but it's just
Tori: [laughing] I promise you, you don't have to say thank you! but if
you ever need to get interviewed, call me because I really, really won't
give you a hard time. [pauses before continuing] I've been given a hard
time enough in my life, I'm not going to give you one.
Richard: Well, I don't know where exactly to go with this interview,
Tori: But don't you love that? don't you love for once not knowing where
to go? I send you a big kiss!
Richard: Oh, Tori - if, not intimidation, but if making me shake and squirm
and question my every next question, you've succeeded and I, um, I, I'm
not ashamed to say that. you've succeeded in, um, sort of making me
flounder a bit.
Tori: [sounding sorry because she thinks richard has misunderstood her]
That wasn't my intention...
Richard: I know it wasn't your intention. but as an interviewer, I like to
maintain a level of a] control, b] consistency and c] good conversation
and at the moment [laughs] I'm struggling with all three!
Tori: [giggles] um, okay. let's go to one thing because I'm really,
really curious. um, who's your favourite formula one driver?
Richard: Ah, I hate car racing, don't get me started, don't get me started on
car racing ...
Tori: Do you? Can I just tell you something?
Tori: I really wanted to be a car driver.
Tori: Nobody knows that but I really, really didn't want to play the
piano. I wanted to race cars. And my dad didn't think that was a thing
that girls did.
Richard: How old were you at this point?
Richard: But were you playing the piano before five?
Tori: Yeah. Two and a half.
Richard: Oh, okay, but car racing was a bigger passion, was it?
Tori: Yeah, and being a ballerina. but I was fat and not cute. so there
Richard: You look great now, were you really a plump child?
Tori: Oh yeah.
Richard: Oh. Was that, um, I, see I was always thin as a kid and so I
Tori: Were you really?
Richard: Yeah. I know big kids got victimised a hell of a lot, didn't they?
Tori: Yeah, but I'll tell you a little secret. I only look good now
because all the photographers, they put me in the computer and they slim
Richard: Oh they don't!
Tori: Oh of course they do!
Richard: I've seen you in person.
Tori: I'm okay. you know, that's what they do. you know, let's not be
naive - that's what they do to everybody. that's how it works.
Richard: Do you mind that?
Tori: The only thing you have at the end of that day, right -- before
johnny comes in and drags me off to do 20 more interviews, is that, um,
you have your instrument. you look at it, you respect it, you play it
and that's all you've got. and your self respect. at the end of the day
that's all you have.
Richard: Self-respect and the instrument. and a respect for that instrument.
Tori: That's it. In the music business that's all you've got.
Richard: Do you ever question...
Tori: And you know what? That's not bad. Do you know what I mean?
Richard: If you can maintain that, that'd be brilliant. isn't that like the
little seed inside the whole plant whereby if you can maintain the
purity of that everything else you can deal with?
Tori: [takes a deep breath in, breathes out and giggles a little] Hmm.
it, yeah, depends how big the 'everything else' is.
Richard: ah he he...
Tori: Do you know what I mean? If we're honest, you've gotta be so
strong to fight that. And for some reason I've been up for, like, 24
hours. I'm so tired, I'm being very honest with you. but for all those
musicians out there, that's the truth. you have to know why you're
making music and if you don't stay true, somebody will steer you down
a different path.
Richard: Hmmm. You are strong though, aren't you?
Tori: I'm not even gonna answer that.
Tori: That's vulgar to answer that.
Richard: that's vulgar to answer that?
Tori: You know that question.
Richard: I know the question. I know the answer as well...
Richard: ... I just wanted you to reassure yourself that you're strong
enough to go through that.
Tori: I don't need to reassure myself.
Richard: For the fans...
Tori: No. You and I wouldn't be talking if I didn't know that.
Richard: Okay. I understand. ummm, this interview is going to wind to an end
very, very quickly...
Tori: Fair enough...
Richard: [laughing] I've barely asked any of the questions on my page. I
don't mind that...
Tori: Don't you love that?
Richard: I don't mind that one little bit. Often the best interviews I do, I
don't sort of even ask any of the questions.
Richard: I don't mind that whatsoever. There's many, many things I want to
ask you because this is such an interesting new album... but maybe...
Tori: But, but no, but you have to know there are questions I want to
ask you. so, when it's time, call me. okay? And I'll interview you?
Richard: [laughing] Okay...
Richard: Yeah, yeah, if you can be contactable.
Tori: You'd be surprised!
Tori: Okay. Bye for now.
Richard: Can I ask you one smidge of a question? very easy - are you coming
back to Australia soon?
Tori: I would love to come to australia. I would love to. it isn't my
choice at this point. [laughing]. call east west records, okay?
Richard: Sorry? What was that?
Tori: If you want me to come, call east west records and tell them you
want me to come.
Richard: Well, yeah, I just know that the fan base here that you've got is
Tori: Yeah, I would love to come but, you know what? Let's be honest -
call East West Records and tell them that you want me to come.... that's
what this is about.
Richard: Okay. I think they should already know that though.
Tori: Yeah, but let's not be silly. Put heat under them.
Richard: [laughing]. Put heat under them. okay.
Tori: If you want me to come, put heat under them. That's the truth.
Richard: Well, the fans are hearing this, so I'll let them deal with a lot of
Tori: Fair enough.
Richard: Okay, tori amos, thanks for your time.
Tori: Okay, bye bye.
t o r i p h o r i a
the World of Tori Amos