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July 27, 1998
Another day, another city on a summer rock tour. When Dave Matthews and Tori Amos hit the same town, they sat down and talked shop.
At a recent rock festival in Brussels, Tori Amos and Dave Matthews met for the first time. They seem an unlikely pair: she is a classically trained pianist who became famous for "Me and a Gun," a song about how she survived a brutal rape; he is the South African-born front man for a band that blends progressive rock, pop and jazz. But both have a huge, obsessively loyal fan base (Matthews's fans follow him with the trip-happy devotion of Deadheads). Both have achieved mainstream success with unusual blends of music. And both are on tour this summer, promoting albums they released in the past few months-Matthews's "Before These Crowded Streets" is funky, thoughtful and danceable; On "From the Choirgirl Hotel" Amos returns to her rock roots and plays with a full band for the first time. Between sets at the festival, Amos and Matthews met over french fries and coffee to talk with NEWSWEEK's Veronica Chambers about the music business, their fans and why neither of them thinks they will age as well as Keith Richards.
Newsweek: Let's talk about touring. Dave, how did it feel to sell out Giants Stadium in two hours?
Dave Matthews: It was incredible. When I heard, I had a 24-hour anxiety attack even though it was months prior to the show. I just kept thinking, "How the hell are we going to satisfy the back row?"
Tori Amos: You could leave Twinkies on every seat like Rosie O'Donnell does. Or is it yo-yos?
Dave: Put out 60,000 yo-yos?
Tori: Yeah, why not? Tell the promoter.
Newsweek: Tori, how do you project to an arena full of people when you're alone on the stage?
Tori: It's the high heels. It gives you that stance on the piano. I've got to hit all these notes, so I anchor it with my right foot.
Dave: Left foot on the pedals. You got a little bit of that Yanni thing going on.
Tori: Exactly. Touring alone was really important to me because I needed to understand what the piano meant to me. I've been playing since I was 2, or so my mother says.
Newsweek: Were those tours lonely?
Tori: It got that way eventually. The first time, it was daunting, but people were open to it. They hadn't really seen that too much before--a girl and her piano, singing to all these people for an hour and a half with nothing else. Dave talks about the family being the band; my family was the crew. It was me and a 35-person crew. They're the most interesting people. Like my monitor guy; he's a nudist physicist. He dropped out of college.
Dave: A nudist physicist! So when he's off the road, he goes and studies physics and takes his clothes off?
Tori: Well, he takes his clothes off as much as he can. Even when he's behind the monitor.
Dave: I'm sure that's a nice thing.
Newsweek: How much do you see of a city when you're on tour?
Dave: You get to hang out a little bit. I spend a lot of the time at the bars.
Tori: I wish I could hang out at the bloody gym. I'm trying. First thing in the morning, before I do anything, I get up and do my abs. I just sit there and do 200 sit-ups. Otherwise I don't have the strength to play. Another thing that happens is so much energy is running through your body after a show. I know why a lot of performers, they do start doing stuff to bring them down. You've got to come down, but there are ways to come down. And I mean, everybody can't be Keith Richards.
Dave: Yeah, at this point in my life, I've got a fairly smooth contract with alcohol. It's not necessarily healthy. I've been comfortable with alcohol for a long time, long before I was playing onstage, since I was 15 or 16. It's been a daily thing. I'm one of those happy alcoholics that's doomed to a long existence as a smiley drunk. I'm the kind of drunk that no one will ever complain about.
Newsweek: What do you eat on the road?
Tori: I'm trying to do a lot of vegetables, fish, no red meat. No wheat. Bad for the voice.
Dave: Really? Wheat is bad for the voice? I always find out these things. You know, smoking is bad for the voice, too.
Tori: [laughs] Yeah, but in Amsterdam, you have to have the grass. It's the only place where you don't get someone hauling your ass away.
Newsweek: Tori, why didn't you do Lilith Fair?
Tori: Let's be brutally honest here. If you can do your own tour, it's your vision, your light, your sound. I think Sarah [McLachlan] has done an amazing job. Sarah owns Lilith. So you're really doing Sarah's tour. Which is fantastic, especially for a lot of women who can't do their own tour or don't want to. It's tough to keep 35 beings on the road and feed and clothe them, maintain the trucks and everything. It's an unbelievable responsibility. I happen to love that side of it. To be able to do your own tour is the most incredible thing. A lot of acts have had to cancel dates because they weren't selling enough tickets.
Newsweek: How about your relationship with your fans?
Dave: I'm very endeared to the fans. I feel like serving them. It's almost like old minstrels wandering or the court players that are playing for the king and queen.
Newsweek: But your frat-boy fans take a lot of flak. Do critics dislike you or them?
Dave: They were the people that gave us a job when the industry wouldn't. We wanted to play, but we needed to make money, because we had families and we needed to pay our rent. So you can either go and play to five people in a bar and be a "real artist," or you can go and play at a frat party for a thousand kids for $1,000, which makes more sense.
Newsweek: The music industry is in a slump. There's not as much commitment to artists over the long term. But both of you have built a loyal, steady following.
Tori: This industry will devour you. They want the new thing. They want to taste it, smell it, crawl inside of it, just devour it.
Dave: It's comparable to the sacrifice of a lamb. Here's this 19-year-old or 21-year-old pasted all over the country. Every word that comes out of their mouth is posted and twisted. It's a hell of a thing for a kid.
Newsweek: Let's talk about songwriting. Tori, how does the muse visit you?
Tori: You can begin to feel a presence when she comes. I call it a she, like it's a bath product. I would start to know when she's coming. And when that happens, I know I have to remember it. I'll write on my hand or something.
Dave: I get similar visitations often when I'm having a crap. [Amos giggles.] Or driving, or something like that. I have these ideas and they come in and I'm, oh, very excited about them. But then they vanish.
Newsweek: Dave, I hear you love potty humor.
Dave: I do. I am potty. I am potty.
Tori: I admire that so much. I can't go there. I can't.
Dave: You can't even look at me while I'm thinking about potty.
Tori: I can't.
Newsweek: But you both can talk about sex.
Tori: Oh no, no. I'll turn red. Not while he's sitting here. I'm not going to talk about sex.
Dave: Sex is, it's, it's like a thing, right? That people do. I'm going to have some coffee so I don't say some things I'm going to regret.
Tori: You're charming, I'm telling you. Do you have a woman?
Dave: Yes, I do. She's here with me.
Tori: That's fantastic. She's very lucky. I'm sure you're lucky, too.
Dave: I am very lucky.
Tori: But you're such a gentleman. That's a wonderful quality. I just like all that.
Dave: I'm not going to say anything. I'm just going to let you glow.
Tori: I'm the type of woman that I don't need to open the door for myself. You know what I mean? I can negotiate my own deal, but it's nice to have the door opened for me or the wine poured. I just love chivalry.
Dave: I have to walk on the puddley side of the pavement.
Tori: Because our shoes are so much cuter than yours. Of course you should be on the puddley side. Do you realize that I have shoes that have never left the bedroom?
Dave: Oh really?
Tori: Oh yeah. Shoes, to me, they're just little pieces of architecture. I just adore shoes. [John Witherspoon, Amos's tour manager, enters the room.]
Tori: John, I've made a new friend.
John Witherspoon: You have?
Dave: We have.
Tori: Yes, we're going to see each other on tour and have... uh, french fries.
Dave: Oh, I didn't know what was coming, but french fries sound good.
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