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TV Guide Online (US, www)
August 5, 1998
live online chat with Tori Amos
TV Guide Online: Welcome! Our special guest tonight is Tori Amos. From the Choirgirl Hotel is Tori's fourth album, following the multimillion-selling Little Earthquakes (1991), Under the Pink (1994) and Boys for Pele (1996). Those albums established the singer as one of the most strikingly talented songwriters around today. Tori is well-known for being unorthodox, uncompromising and unashamed to follow her own unique musical instincts wherever they might lead. She is taking time our from her current tour (her first time with a band) to chat with us this evening. Welcome, Tori!
Tori Amos: Hi, everybody.
Thainevedder: Do you think that Choirgirl Hotel is a departure from your previous work?
Tori Amos: I wouldn't call it a departure. I would say it was probably the next logical step. I worked with a harpsichord on Boys for Pele, and I had taken the piano to a lot of different musical expressions in the other records, in Little Earthquakes and on Under the Pink. Choirgirl is really about integrating the piano with rhythm. I cut live with Matt Chamberlain, who is a drummer, and with a programmer.
DeL_IdaLia: Tori, do you ever miss home when you are on the road? And do you have any pets?
Tori Amos: You can't really have pets because we are never around for too long, we as in the inner circle and the crew. It really wouldn't be fair to the animals. I particularly love pets, but we can't really do that yet. I do miss home. I just miss sometimes making my own lunch, even though if wouldn't taste so very good, just the fact that you can make it yourself and sit down by yourself. Home has become really important to me over the last couple of years, but I won't be able to spend time until after Christmas.
Anaischick: Do you write the full band arrangements for all songs now or just the piano parts?
Tori Amos: No, the reason we get players really is to give them the freedom to come up with ideas. For example, Caton, the guitar player, will come up with a few different parts for each song, and some work and some don't, but it's really important to give the musicians freedom or it stifles the creativity. At the end of the day, if I can't live with something I just say it doesn't fit in with the spirit of the song. Sometimes I get rid of my piano parts because they don't serve the song, so we try something else.
Heyjupiter_aries: Did you write "Jackie's Strength" for anyone in particular?
Tori Amos: Well, I knew I was getting married, and all those feelings were coming up, sort of flashbacks of your life. So when I saw this tiny book on Jackie's life at a bookstore in an airport I just picked it up, and then I saw the picture of her as a bride and then turned the page and saw the picture of her when JFK got shot, it really spoke to me about how fast your life can change, just at the turn of a page. I really didn't know how I was going to react on my wedding day when I wrote this song. A part of me could see myself getting lost, going to a 7-Eleven and having a Slurpee all day. The song is about a girl getting lost on her wedding day. I happened to show up at the church for mine in real life. But a 7-Eleven did cross my mind.
Molsonstock: There's definitely been a serious overtone in your music overall. Is this an outward expression of who you are as a person?
Tori Amos: I guess I enjoy good black comedy, and I think life is really like that. Rules fascinate me and why they exist. Ideas fascinate me. Ideas that hold people back, or ideas that become like rockets that you put on your arms and take you, take you where I don't know. But I think that a lot of us are trapped in our limitations. But limitations come from not physical limitations but I think internal limitations.
We have perceptions of ourselves that we took on from other people's opinions of us which formed the way we see ourselves. That doesn't necessarily mean that's who we are. I think most people are trapped in these opinions and wear them like a Hefty bag. And we almost asphyxiate ourselves with other people's ideas of who we are. I don't know if you could call this being serious. I see it more as being an explorer; I see myself as an explorer asking questions, not necessarily having many answers.
Tifbrett: Tori, you once said that Little Earthquakes is like your diary and that Under the Pink is your fantasy and that Boys for Pele is your novel. What is From the Choirgirl Hotel for you?
Tori Amos: I think it's a car race, but with women racing the cars. And it's not about winning as much as it is about fluidity and form. I find independence very sexy, and I see these songs as very independent from each other. That's why I put them in singing troupe.
Llllk: Tori, your songs are so very personal. Is there any topic that you are afraid to write about?
Tori Amos: I'm sure there is. There's a lot that I won't broach. Timing is really important with certain subject matter. There has to be a window, an opening where a subject can take root, because the minds of the masses are fertile, the ground in the consciousness or even the unconsciousness can hold that seed. There are certain things that are not ready to be talked about yet. I don't even know what a lot of them are.
Jahardeman445: How long did it take you to write your whole CD?
Tori Amos: Well, all in all about -- I started writing right after I miscarried, and I miscarried on Dec.23, 1996, which obviously, the angel was on the tree and the whole bit. So soon after that the songs started to come, thank God. And Pandora was the first one to come, not in her entirety, but she started to come. She came off the water. I was staying on the river, and the water was a large part of this record.
I would spend hours on the water and seeing how the sea transformed itself, knowing that I had to transform myself from a woman who had lost a baby, to a woman who was grieving, to a woman who had to find joy in life again. So the songs began, I guess you could say, early January and the album was finished in February of 1998, ready to be mastered.
Vestan_pance: Were you pleased that Neil finally "made you a tree" in Stardust? What did you think of it?
Tori Amos: It was about time he made me a tree, he had been talking about it for ages. He came and visited me at my beach house, and I was thrilled when he told me I was going to become bark. For my wedding present he got me the originals of the drawings of them making me a tree.
Poseur68: Do you have a particular favorite on Choirgirl?
Tori Amos: It changes all the time like with every record. I think if I'm fair there are always a few on each record that I enjoy playing more than others. But I never tell what they are, because I have to live with these songs so I don't make it public in case they turn on me.
Stuporfly: Tori, how accurately do you feel your videos depict the song they represent? Do you view them as independent entities, or elaborations of each other?
Tori Amos: Well, I'm really happy with the videos for the new record. I spent a lot of time with the directors, talking about the songs themselves, and then I let the directors take the ball and run with it. James Brown directed "Bark" and "Jackie's Strength." "Jackie's Strength" is just being released now as we speak. It will be available on an enhanced CD coming out in the stores in a couple of weeks, and you should be able to see it on The Box in a couple of weeks. "Jackie's Strength" is in black and white and it's me on my wedding day getting lost. So it's kind of a parallel to my life, if that makes any sense.
I am in the back of a taxi in my wedding dress, not able to quite go through with it. I pass the boy I'm supposed to marry at the church and I hide in the back of the cab like a wimp. But you can see I'm torn because my whole life is flashing in front of me. And I run into myself as a 13-year-old girl, which took a lot of hair and makeup. And that 13-year-old girl is reminding me that we had a dream. And the characters, the bride in the taxi, forgot. Even though I think she loves this boy, she didn't follow her heart. You know, she never took that trip to Australia, she never took that art class, she never followed up on her dreams. And she just can't get married and close the blinds. So it's very emotional, this video, because she does love him, I believe that.
Michael682: What kinds of things do you do when you're not on tour, and have time to yourself?
Tori Amos: Well, I like to race my little boat: It's really small, a 14-footer, but I like being out on the water. Once I took it into the big ocean when it was really calm, and it was so humbling, because you don't see land in the distance, like on a river. I said to myself, Oh, my God, how massive this living, breathing organism is.
What else do I like to do? I like books, and I wish I could take a mythology class, I'm really fascinated with mythology, whether it's Egyptian, Hebrew, Celtic, Native American, whatever. I'm fascinated by cultures and what their belief systems are. Unfortunately, this has been watered down in the media to Tinkerbell philosophy. I call it Tinkerbell Smegma.
The history of the elemental world as many of you know goes back thousands of years, and it gets put into this New Age diluted kind of philosophy, very white bread, that would probably get these journalists their nose removed if they urinated on Celtic mythology to some of these Irish guys in a pub in Ireland. A lot of the media has a disrespect for other people's ancient belief systems. And you can't really commercialize it; it's too old to be commercialized. So the sensationalism of mythology is unfortunate.
Judith_hill: What venue is your favorite to play; why?
Tori Amos: Well, I love playing The Greek Theater; it's really magical being outside. Last time I played to a full moon -- talk about an atmosphere. Playing the Albert Hall in London. You can feel the ghosts of all the history. And I must say Madison Square Garden in New York, it was a big wow, even though I had a sinus infection.
Beska_M: Do you ever write songs that "don't fit in" with the rest of an album? What do you do with them?
Tori Amos: Good question. "Cooling" is a song that was written for Boys for Pele and it didn't really fit in the album, so it came out as a B side for Spark in England; you can get it as an import. And I play it a lot now; I tried to put it on this record but it didn't really fit.
On "Jackie's Strength" I have two unreleased songs that are coming out as part of the CD [single], as part of the "Jackie" package. Obviously "Jackie" is one, and "Never Seen Blue," and the third track is called "Beulah Land." These two songs were also written for Boys for Pele and recorded for it but weren't right, so I held them, and now they feel current; they feel like their time is now.
There is a song I wrote for Choirgirl that didn't come out and I didn't record it. It's one of my favorites, called "Snow Cherries From France." And I haven't recorded it yet, and I wrote it for this record. So we'll see.
Arcanum77: How do you feel about playing with a band in your tour? Do you like it more than when it was just yourself and your piano?
Tori Amos: Well, you can't compare them. It's such a different experience. They are both valid. These musicians are so talented that it's a challenge for me to play with them. It's always a dream to play with people who are good enough to inspire you and who you hope to keep up with. Every night we change what we play, and we don't look at the clocks. That's not the goal at all. At Madison Square Garden we looked at each other and said, "Savor every second," because it will be over all too fast.
Compass69: Is there anything you haven't accomplished in your professional career that you are striving to?
Tori Amos: There's so much musically that you can experiment with that if you don't get lazy it will take a lifetime, and then some. I think for you to really feel like you can take a nap. The problem with a lot of musicians is we can get numb. Almost like a haze sets in. And you don't keep your ear to the ground, so you are not exploring any more. And you start repeating yourself and repeating yourself. Obviously as a player you are drawn to certain sounds and that becomes part of your style. But the problems of structure in songs, and how to work with sound effects, this is what's challenging.
For those that are coming to the concerts, just remember to watch out for each other as well as yourselves. And if somebody needs help, try and help them. But if you get a bad feeling about them, they're probably a psycho.
TV Guide Online: OK, folks. Thanks for being here this evening. Tori is playing in Albany, NY, this evening, so if you're going to the concert, have fun. We've concluded our chat with Tori Amos for this evening. Thanks to everyone for all the great questions that were sent in.
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