home / interviews
KLLC, San Francisco (US, radio)
Alice 97.3 FM
September 15, 1998
Tori Amos interview and live performance
Gretchen: We're glad to have ya.
Tori: Thank you.
Gretchen: It's really exciting, I'm really nervous 'cause, [I'm a] big fan.
Tori: Oh, don't be nervous, I don't bite.
Gretchen: That's good, that's good.
Tori: Actually, I do bite. But not you.
Gretchen: But not the nice radio hosts. Ok, um, well listen, you're at the New Arena tonight, right?
Tori: Yeah, I think at, yeah, that's right.
Gretchen: New Arena in Oakland tonight, and it's the Plugged Tour. And I have tons of questions for you from fans and listeners and people that, they emailed and, you know, they faxed, and all kinds of stuff like that. So most of my questions are going to be not my questions but listener questions and Toriphile questions. Is that ok?
Tori: That'll work.
Gretchen: Sound pretty good?
Tori: Sounds good.
Gretchen: Ok. Um, well, there's like a whole lot of questions right here about the tour itself because you're doing something new. For the first time, you're doing the full band, so tell us all about that, how you like it.
Tori: Well, the guys have become really like brothers. They're, first of all, wonderful musicians. And um, always when you're learning to play with people, at first um, it's a bit tricky because, you know, you can't read everybody. You don't know people moods and stuff, when you just first get to know them. So now we know if somebody's had a bad night or had a bad phone call with the girlfriend or, all that really changes the show, actually. So, usually, one of us is more in control than the others every night. There's always one of us that's doing pretty good.
Gretchen: One's the mom?
Tori: Yeah, one is usually holding ground for everybody, and that's our benchmark of where we have to rise to, as players.
Gretchen: Do you like that? Is that a lot different for you?
Tori: Well, before, I was always having to be everything, even though I couldn't do everything very well. I did a very mediocre Bootsy Collins, but -- I was trying to channel him in my left hand when I was, it was just me and the piano. So now um, it's just pretty neat having guys that do what they do really, really well, and you work as a unit.
Gretchen: So, for the most part, you enjoy it, I guess.
Tori: Love, yeah, I love it
Gretchen: Um, that's what one of these questions here that went on to say, "Three other beings are on the stage with you now, Tori, do you miss the freedom to improvise that you had when you were solo? Do you think that has changed your freedom to improvise?
Tori: I'm starting to improvise. Just the other night, last show, I didn't know what happened, Johnny, did you hear that "Oh, Susanna"? I don't know what happened, but all of a sudden I started doing this rendition of "Oh, Susanna". It was all that weed in Eugene [Oregon]. I wasn't smoking it, but it was um, something was wafting up to the stage, you know, that Northern stuff, they say it's quite strong, but somehow I started going back to those Southern ballads. I don't know what got into me. So we're starting to improvise. There it is.
Gretchen: Ok. So it hasn't really, you know, gone away for good.
Tori: No, not for good. Always, when you're doing something different, there are gonna be shifts and changes. But as you, as you get to know people, you're gonna do what you love doing. You can't get away from the thing that you love doing, and I love to improvise, so that's gonna come into play.
Gretchen: So you think for the most part it's really been a positive experience to have a full band?
Tori: Yeah, it's very challenging, 'cause first of all, I consider myself a player more than say, a singer. And um, it took me a long time to have the confidence to play with other players in this league. And that was just, I wasn't ready 'til I was ready. Um, but I'm happiest when I'm playing with people that are pushing me, and hopefully I'm pushing them, and that's when everybody kinda improves, you know?
Gretchen: Ok, um, ok, as far as the like, larger audiences and the larger arena-type, you know, venues, how do you like that?
Tori: Every night's different. When we're outside, that's completely different. If it's a small outside place to a large outside place. I don't do the set uuntil 20 minutes before I walk on, so um, there's a beginning and an end to the show that's consistent no matter where I'm playing. But what happens in the middle is very dependent on what I'm feeling from the audience. And usually, in the arenas, they want a very primal, Dyonesian, you know, they want stuff to happen. It's not about, hold hands, have Oreo cookies and sing Kumbaya, you know what I mean? It's a whole different thing.
Gretchen: So do you prefer that?
Tori: I like the arenas, it's where I think you really... you don't know if you can play 'em until you play 'em. I didn't know if I could do it 'til I did it. Because your container has to get bigger. I mean your internal container, the power of your voice, the power as a player. The sound system doesn't carry you. The force that I put in is twice as as what I do in a theater because it has to be. Um, and I didn't know that it would be that until I had to do it.
Gretchen: So you're still kinda learning the ropes, in a way.
Tori: Kind of, but I think you immediately know that you have to have two plugs instead of one. You have to plug in.
Gretchen: Right, twice as much.
Gretchen: Oh, um, this person wanted to know if, "from now on are you going to be touring only with a band or willy ou still perform some shows just you and the piano?"
Tori: Well, this tour is definitely the Plugged Tour, and I think we go until mid-December. Oh, Johnny, what will that have been, like 150 shows, by the time we will finish, or more, since mid-April. And then after that, I really don't know what I'm gonna do. I'm thinking about putting out a live album of this tour because um, there are so many terrible bootlegs.
Gretchen: That's the next question.
Tori: Oh, is it?
Gretchen: Yeah. What are your plans after the tour and they hard, this person heard that you will put out a live cd and they want to know if they'll have to wait another two years to see you.
Tori: Probably, because I have to go to a geriatric center and heal.
Gretchen: Take a little time off. Ok, well um, are we ready to hear something?
Tori: Yeah. I usually don't play a lot of b-sides on radio, but um, I've just gotten into it lately. It's, these songs don't get heard much, and it's not that I don't like them, I usually like them better than any of my albums, but it's that weird thing about, your favorite things you don't put on your albums. It's a strange, I don't know, it's a strange thing. So this is a b-side that came out, um, a few months ago. And the song's called Cooling.
Tori performs Cooling.
Gretchen: Very nice, very nice. I think I cut off the first couple notes, though. I had something that wasn't in exactly, but that was very nice. And that's a b-side, it's something that...
Tori: That's a b-side, it came out in the UK, I forget, I think on the Spark b-side in the UK.
Gretchen: I think I heard you perform that on the Boys for Pele tour.
Tori: I did that one time, only one time, in Miami when I passed out.
Gretchen: When you passed out?
Tori: Mmhmm. It might have gotten on a boot.
Gretchen: It, I know I've heard it before. It was a live thing.
Tori: It could have been on a boot.
Gretchen: Not sure.
Tori: They're always around, those guys with the little things that make sound.
Gretchen: What do you think of um, some of your fan web sites that are out there? Do you check them?
Tori: I don't have a computer, which I think is kinda wise on my part.
Gretchen: It probably is.
Tori: It's not really my business when they go, "Oh yeah, she's put on a little bit of a pudge, you know." You know, I don't want to really know that, see. 'Cause they know if your tummy's hanging out or if your toenails are painted or, I mean, they know everything. I don't really want to know about that stuff.
Gretchen: Yeah, I guess I can see that, that would be a little...
Tori: You just get intimidated, and I think...
Gretchen: They notice way too much.
Tori: Yeah, to try things or just to, especially when you're live performing, people say, "What do you think about," and the biggest thing that I think about when I'm performing is, "How am I gonna get this spit out of my mouth." Because when you're playing, right, and you're pounding on keys, and you're trying to hit the notes -- and I have a keyboard on my left and a keyboard on my right, and the Bösendorfer's nine feet, so you have to pound pretty hard to get sound out of her. And so sometimes you're just trying to make sure you hit the right notes, and you don't like, trip over your chords asnd everything that's around you. And then you're hitting these notes, well what are you gonna do with that stuff in your mouth? So these things, I mean, I know it's not very glamorous, but that's what I'm telling you, it's not very glamorous. And so sometimes, you know, you have to heave-ho a little bit on the diaphragm to get that um, sound out, and people think you're like, five months pregnant, and it's like, no I just ate at [?] last night, that's what happened. That's all.
Gretchen: I'm just trrying to get rid of the spit in my mouth. So what do you usually do with it?
Tori: Let it run out of the side of my mouth. But I try and do it the left side, 'cause the audience is usually the right side, so I always choose the side they're not at. Yeah, you get good at aiming. You start trying to aim over to where the drummer is. [laughs]
Gretchen: Oh my. Alright, well that's some of the people that, you know, Toriphiles they call themselves. Is that, do you find that amusing? Is that annoying - Toriphile?
Tori: No, it's not annoying. They're really interesting people, usually. They know more about my work than I do. I mean, they know every release...
Gretchen: They know everything about you.
Tori: Oh yeah, they know everything.
Gretchen: So anyway, they wanted to know if you ever read the things that they post on the internet or if you ever look at any of the web sites that they have dedicated to you.
Tori: Johnny does, oh yeah. I mean, there are people that do. I don't have a computer, but we're aware of what's going on, yeah.
Gretchen: So you have somebody that keeps on top of that sort of stuff for you.
Tori: Yeah, yeah.
Gretchen: I would imagine, yeah. Ok, in a Rolling Stone interview you did recently, suggested that Tori prefers the nerdy type of boys like Bill Gates?
Tori: Who said Bill Gates? Did I say Bill Gates?
Gretchen: Apparently. I think the question was, "what makes Bill Gates so sexy," and you said, "I never liked bullies, I have a lot of, I used to have a lot of time for the nerds of the world, the ones that don't make the cut. I'd hang out with science kids 'cause they blow things up.
Tori: Yeah, but the question is, is Bill Gates a bully? See?
Tori: Probably so. I mean, you can't have that much control and not be one, right?
Gretchen: Right. So, you maybe were...
Tori: I don't know if he's a nerd, though. No, I'm into nerds, but I don't know if Bill Gates qualifies as a nerd. I mean um, I don't even know much about him, I have no idea what he's like. But I think I've always been into techs. You know, guys that are on the technical side more than the glam kind of boys. I always liked the guys that, you know, turn a bit a knobs. I like that.
Gretchen: Nice way to put it, that's cute. Um, at your meet and greets before a concert, is there a set way to attend them or expect them to be?
Tori: No, it's just, people, it's a really relaxed atmosphere. The band and the crew and us and, you know, we're like a family, so there's no protocol except, you know, if you're an idiot then you'll probably get spit on. That's about it.
Gretchen: Ok, here's some little small personal questions. People called in and wanted to know if you still put cayenne pepper on everything that you eat.
Tori: No. But I do liek cayenne pepper. Um, I was in a phase, it's really good for your voice if you're not well. But right now I just stick to honey and ginger for the voice. I do a lot of ginger these days.
Gretchen: She's dropping a lot of ginger.
Tori: Yeah, a lot of it. It's one of the things that keeps us going on the tour. I mean, when you do so many shows -- we do six shows a week -- and it's a lot of wear and tear on your voice.
Gretchen: Do you eat it raw? Raw ginger?
Tori: Yeah, you just cut it up and put it in boiling water and then some really good honey. No lemon, 'cause it dries out the throat.
Gretchen: So then like, lemon is kind of a myth then?
Tori: Real drying, if you're a singer. But of course, if you need to cut down on your spit intake, it's a very good thing to try, 'cause it's drying. But what we do is we um, there's this place called the Tea Gardens in LA and we get elixirs, Chinese elixers from them. Serious stuff.
Gretchen: Like what?
Tori: Well, I have a thing called Torch that I take before I go on. And it's like, it's like zooming, it's a zooming elixir. And it's all legal, but it all comes from herbs, lots of ginseng. Tam, what's in it? Deer antler. [laughs] Yeah, but they say they only use the deer antler when it falls off the deer, because that's the kind of...
Gretchen: I didn't know those fell off the deer.
Tori: Yeah, they fall off.
Gretchen: Oh yeah, that's right, they shed 'em in the wintertime, don't they.
Tori: And the Tea Garden is there to pick them up.
Gretchen: Follow them around waiting for them to drop their antlers. Uh, what's your favorite color and why? Somebody wanted to know that. Got a favorite?
Tori: I really don't know. Red, because I love red wine. I'm a red wine drinker, yeah.
Gretchen: Red wine is very good.
Tori: Colors are funny things, you know, it changes all the time.
Gretchen: I think that's true. Sometimes, you know, if you have a favorite color and then you make your bedroom that color, later you go, ehh.
Tori: Yeah, it depends. But always, it depends what enhances my double chin. I mean, you know, there are some things that are really good that as you get older, you'll see. I know a lot of people are like, 20, that are listening to this. I just turned 35, and the thing is, no matter how much you keep yourself, if you're not like, going to the big face doctors all the time there are just certain things you have to contend with. So yes, sometimes we choose colors and angles just so that, you know...
Gretchen: That are a little more complementary.
Gretchen: That's all. Ok, let me ask you this, 'cause I was wondering about this. Somebody else called in with this, I thought it was a cute question. How do you pronounce cut number 6 on the album? On the new album?
Tori: What is cut number 6?
Tori: Oh, iieee. iieee. [sounds like "eye-eye-eee"]
Gretchen: That's how you say it?
Tori: [sings] iieee, iieee, iieee...
Gretchen: That's the one. Just wondering. And um, somebody else called in with a question about the new album. Who is Jackie? Jackie's Strength.
Tori: Well, Jackie's Strength is really, I was asked to get married, right? And I was quite nervous, 'cause I'd never thought I'd get married before. It just wasn't something that I was gonna do, even though I believe in monogamy, just having the church and state condone my union wasn't important to me. And um, in fact, I really didn't want that. So, when he asked me, it brought up, obviously, a lot of things, and I started going back in my little movie in my head, different moments of my life. And I remember my mother telling me that the day Kennedy died, John F. Kennedy, that um, she put me down, she had to lay me down, because her heart started to slow down and she couldn't breathe. And um, all she thought of was Jackie, and the strength that it would take Jackie to lead the nation, which she did. And I really knew that I was gonna need a sign of strength because I'm made up of like two personalities, and there's one side of me that could very easily have ended up at the 7-11, sitting outside drinking a Slurpee in my wedding dress and just missing the whole thing. And then there's the other one that did make it to the church. So, this song is about the one that...
Gretchen: That made it.
Tori: No, this is the one that drank the Slurpee.
Tori: She's still out there somewhere.
Gretchen: Um, are you going to perform Jackie's Strength? Is this the second number that we're gonna hear?
Tori: No, no. I think it's really good with the strings on the record, I really like that.
Tori: This is another b-side that I just put out. And um, it's called Purple People. And anyway, I just like this.
Tori performs Purple People.
Gretchen: That's beautiful. Tori Amos. That was great.
Tori: Thank you.
Gretchen: Absolutely beautiful. Where do you find something like that? It's a b-side?
Tori: I think you find it on um... you know, I think it's coming out, it's on import from England. But to be honest with you, I think I'm gonna put out a double box set um, 'cause so many people...
Gretchen: The live thing you were talking about?
Tori: Yeah, for the, with the b-sides. 'Cause so many people have asked me about b-sides they can't get and they get really kind of upset about it and drustrated and, you know, they have to pay triple the price and it's a drag, so I just think I'm gonna put all the b-sides out. Make it easy.
Gretchen: Sounds like a great idea. Ok, so it's tonight at the New Arena in Oakland.
Gretchen: Is this the first time you've ever played there? Well, obviously, 'cause you always do small clubs.
Tori: Yeah. First time I've ever played this thing.
Gretchen: Can we talk you into maybe one more song?
Tori: Oh, boy.
Gretchen: A request?
Tori: Ok, is there a request?
Gretchen: How about Cornflake Girl?
Tori: No, I can't do that. [laughs]
Gretchen: Can't do that one? Ok, um...
Tori: Let me do another b-side.
Gretchen: Let you pick the request.
Tori: I'm just in a b-side mood.
Gretchen: She's a b-side girl today.
Tori performs Honey.
Gretchen: That was great, thank you so much.
Tori: Absolutely, Gretchen
Gretchen: Yes, thanks a lot. And tonight, the Plugged Tour, New Arena in Oakland and um, have a wonderful show tonight and thank you so much for stopping by.
[transcribed by jason/yessaid]
t o r i p h o r i a
the World of Tori Amos