home / interviews


Chicago Sun-Times (US)
July 17, 1998

Tori Wings Out

Amos has the voice of a 'choirgirl'

by Jim DeRogatis

I have a pretty low tolerance for new age mystic babble, but I love talking to Tori Amos.

The fiery red-haired singer-songwriter is an odd combination of gonzo punk and flighty faerie princess. Wind her up and she's off like a run away train. Hang on if you dare.

"See what I mean?" she'll ask periodically.

No, Tori, often I do not. But I get almost as big a kick out of listening to you talk as I do listening to your forth Atlantic album "from the choirgirl hotel" Your music has a visceral rock power that most of Lilith Fair lacks. Where does that come from?

Tori: "Its hard for me to define it. I think that what interests me is not why are we warring, but how did we get here? How did we get to the point where we are not speaking anymore? In a relationship with somebody -- it doesn't even have to be about treaties.

"If you are going to tell a story, you have to grow into the head of the rapist, as well as the raped. Thats always been my fascination: knowing the characters. Characters are rich. Even when they are one dimensional, they're so stangly devoid of richness that thier role is really important, because sometimes thats the person you run into.

"They're like the gatekeeper. You might have someone really sensitive and groovy inside, but you run into the gatekeeper first. It might be a band of gypsies, and the person inside might really want to talk to gypsies, but the gatekeeper just says 'They're smelly, forget it.' So just because you've got some ding-bell gatekeeper-- which is like 50 percent of the plant -- people just keep missing the moment where, 'God, it didn't have to end up in revolution!'

If somebody would have kept letting Marie Antoinette have her hair done for another week! Things that could have been avoided, that is always my fascination. Of course there's an intensity there! Like Anne Boleyn, there was a choice there, but she wasn't going to dishoner her her belief system. "It always fascinates me how people make thier choices. You see what I mean?" Um, er, ah ... nope! But I am looking forward to hearing you reinvent your older "just a girl and her piano" material for this new rhythm-driven band. "Freom the choirgirl hotel" was cut live in the studio with drummer Matt Chamberlin, a former Smashing Pumpkin.

Watching Amos play solo acoustic version of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," I always thought i saw the spunk and soul of a rocker. So I ask: Are you trying to smash genre boundaries for women artists? Seems to me you could just as easily play the Empty Bottle, Metal Fest or Lollapalooza. Are you still trying to break out of that little boxlike trap on the cover of your first album?

Tori: What's really fun right now is that i know i have a career whether or not radio comes to the party or not. It means if I make music and stay true -- whatever that means to the people that listen to my music, its kind of like our own private joke -- but if I keep questioning there is going to be a group of people who at least will check it out.

"Maybe its part of my [preacher's daugher] upbringing, but I really am on a quest to get down to the bottom of an argument. Sometimes I'm sitting there with a girlfriend going, 'That fingernail just went completely through my ovaries! And what did I say to make that happen?'

"I was talking to someone earlier about wars, and why wars are so distracting. Right now I'm [on the phone] in Ireland, and if a bunch of these people came running over the hill with muskets and guns and cannons and stuff, everybody in this house is going to get along real quick! See what I mean? But its when you're not distracted with all that stuff, which is so distracting, you sit there and go 'Ouch!' at the dinner table.

"Sometimes I don't realize I've stirred up this hornet's nest back in the village just because of my attitude. They dont realize I'm super-shy and that take it as arrogance. Getting down to 'Where is the wire going? What's the end of it? Where is the plug? Where's the circuitry to this?'

"I think thats what fascinates me with the live show. just stirring things up in people."

You go girl! I haven't the foggiest idea exactly where you're going. But I'm with ya all the way.


t o r i p h o r i a
the World of Tori Amos
www.yessaid.com