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July 17, 1999
Tori Amos Unveils "Venus"
Exclusive: Singer Details Atlantic Live/Studio Set.
By Chuck Taylor
NEW YORK -- When singer/songwriter Tori Amos went into the studio several months ago to record a few new tracks for a planned collection of B-sides and oddities, little did she know she'd step out not only with a full album's worth of new material, but also with a second set packed with live performances.
The resulting double-album, "to venus and back," Amos' fifth project on Atlantic, is set for release Sept. 21. It features live renditions from the recent tour supporting her "from the choirgirl hotel" album and 12 new self-penned/produced tracks, which are tagged with the intense, soul-searching lyrical textures and complex melodies that the platinum artist's steadfast base of fans has come to live and breathe.
For the unexpected studio album, Amos says that she found herself confronted with a free flow of inspiration and decided to run with it.
"I had originally thought we were tracking stuff for the B-sides album, and all of these songs kept coming," she says. "The writing gods decided to stop by, and you try and be there when the muse decides she wants to hang out with you."
"To venus and back" will be previewed with an as-yet-undetermined track to hit radio Aug. 6, with a commercial single likely to follow. Both are aimed to coincide with Amos' 25-date, co-headlining tour with Alanis Morissette, opening Aug. 18 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and wrapping Sept. 25 in Los Angeles.
Fans and proponents of the artist have long held her live gigs to be the benchmark of Amos' full creative sense of expression, particularly given her signature rhythm-and-writhe performance style, which must be seen to be fully appreciated.
"The show that we did was about an hour and 40 minutes every night. We're trying to get the people that have come to the show a semblance of what they saw," Amos says of the album, though she acknowledges that it's a tough task picking which performances best fit the project.
"I hope to get 11 or 12 songs on the album, but 'Waitress' is 9 and a half minutes long, and 'Precious' is seven minutes long. We'll have to see which ones make the semifinals."
A BAND IN TOW
The new studio album marks the first time Amos has recorded with her road band, in this case a team of four musicians she shared a bus with for nine months. The five play on the live album, as well.
"You get to know who likes the pizza crust and which one likes 'Teletubbies' at that point," Amos says. "Something happens when you spend that much time with people.
"It became quite exciting, because we had no idea we were cutting a new record. It just grabbed me by the throat, really," she adds. "We ended up working around the clock and putting it together pretty quickly."
Themes on "venus" range from a troubling anthem about unavoidable father and daughter ties on "Bliss" to a whirlwind Los Angeles-based fantasy about the decade past in "Glory Of The '80s," from which the album title is derived.
"Looking back, I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else in the '80s than as a working musician in L.A.," Amos notes. "You just can't match that kind of decadence."
HIDDEN BEHIND THE HEART
"No one event shaped this record," she says of the full body of the project. "I sort of just let my observations take over. I realized that as a songwriter, you're not always going to have those moments where you're flying over Afghanistan and seeing fires and being told it's a war. You have to keep taking adventures and exposing yourself, but there are things in daily living that hide behind everybody's heart, and that's always fascinated me."
Instrumental sounds are even more experimental than with previous efforts, bordering on industrial in some cases, alongside the traditional mass of sometimes joyous, often deliberately chaotic, vocal layers that define Amos.
That stamp is all the stronger with her behind the boards as producer of the project. "Being my own producer, no one can buy me to turn on my artist," she says wryly. "I also understand how they work with budgets, so I realize how not to get ripped off that way."
Amos contends that making a record is very much a group effort that, for her, is not a single-minded mode of thinking.
"It's not like I don't have a team of musicians and engineers around me that I respect," she says. When one of them has a suggestion, "I will literally change my shoes and let the artist leave the room," she adds. "There's the one side who writes songs and spills her guts out. Then she leaves, and we have to make it good on the other side."
She will have the opportunity to present much of the new material during the upcoming tour with Morissette, which Amos finds an appropriate pairing -- but for reasons that have little to do with musical matchmaking.
"I've never done a tour like this before -- with somebody," Amos says. "It was actually [Morissette's] idea. She had come to see me at Jones Beach [in Long Island, N.Y.], and we had a cup of tea and a giggle and got along really well.
"We share a lot of the same philosophies of putting on a show, which is important. I'm talking about the semantics of it, not just the music. Having all of these people on the road together is like a little town on the road, where you're all part of the same tribe. People do it differently, and it's difficult to pull it off with someone who doesn't hold the same priorities.
"I do think we're going to draw people that want an exciting evening," she says.
With her work on the albums nearly done and a tour on the books, Amos says she's ready to present her new testaments to her public, hoping they'll enjoy it, but with no particular mandate.
"I have no idea what people think about when they listen to my work," she says. "It's one of those things where if I was a fly, I probably wouldn't want to be in the room. I just put it out there, and people can think what they want."
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