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Ground Zero (US, radio)
KCRW, Santa Monica, California (89.9 FM)
September 22, 2001
Tori Amos interview and live performance
The interview was conducted at noon in a London studio where Tori was rehearsing.
Chris Douridas: It's Ground Zero, I'm Chris Duretus. All this hour, Tori Amos is with us. We caught up with her at a rehearsal for her upcoming solo tour, her first in seven years at the deep post studios in North London. Her new album Strangle Little Girls features covers, a female perspectives she says, of songs written by men: John Lennon, Tom Waits, Bob Geldolf, and even Eminem among others. We will be hearing a live performance from Tori but first we are going to hear a cover she did back in 1992 for the Crucify EP. A song written by another man, Kurt Kobain. Tori Amos is up next on Ground Zero.
Tori performs Smells Like Teen Spirit
Tori performs Icicle
Chris: Icicle and a live performance. It's Tori Amos here at Ground Zero. I'm Chris Duritus and its so good to see you .
Chris: So good to have you. This is from Under the Pink.
Tori: Is this from under the pink? It takes me a minute to remember where they're all from.
Chris: Its gotta..It adds up. I was looking over the discography and just the history of what you've been doing since I first came across, ya know, little earthquakes and its quite astounding. There are a lot of records. There are 6 full albums and then there's all these EP's
Tori: Well I have to take DHA Nerman (Chris Laughing in background) just to remember because you know its hard to remember sometimes. Harder to remember the lyrics than the music just because music has a different kind of imprint I think on you
Tori: But Ummm,
Chris: It comes out of your fingers then?
Tori: You know I don't know....But I do know that, and you can change it, where as the words are a little different, there kinda of indelible and they need to be pretty much held truth. Sometimes we throw something in or he said she said or this that or something or a different bridge but you kind of need to stay true to that as where as the music sometimes I think variations are fresh.
Chris: The words are the tether and the music you can kind of swing it around that
Tori: I think so, Yeah
Chris: Your actually embarking on a pretty massive tour here. I mean you're here in London rehearsing for a show that's tomorrow night at the Union Chapel. That's something that you have been doing for a long time, right? You've been singing in churches...
Tori: Weddings and funerals yeah I did wedding ummm first and then I graduated to funerals. I like funeral better then
Chris: No I'm talking about when you were a little girl, like,
Tori: Yeah that's what I mean...
Tori: My dad had me working see I was cheaper than the organist So he could pay less if he got me working then if he had to hire a pro. And umm I was about 10, 9 or 10, and wedding were pretty lucrative
Chris: So your dad got you your start in music
Tori: I guess
Chris: Got your start in the business
Tori: Paying yes, getting paid and then ummm again like I said funerals were the real good ones
Chris: So what were you singing? Were you singing religious material? You were singing....
Tori: No. No People getting married in the 70's did not want religious material. But the great thing is when I did funerals I did not have to sing we only just begun so that was good
Tori: I look forward to that
Chris: That's what you were singing? We've only just begun?
Tori: For weddings, Yeah
Chris: Paul Williams?
Tori: Yeah. Very big request Evergreen, Big One,
Chris: Maybe you can do that for us here...
Tori: Oh yeah...Maybe NOT!
Chris: Ahhh, well its interesting to me also that, you know, there's always been a lot of religious iconography in your music, your father as you just pointed out was a Methodist minister. Right?
Chris: Dr. Edison Amos
Chris: And..You know it makes me think of ummm Well, Crucify, was one song in particular that I'm thinking of and it was the Crucify EP that you had all these covers on there. You did the Nirvana cover Smells Like Teen Spirit and Led Zeppelin's Thank You, right?
Tori: And Angie
Chris: Angie, Yeah, which I thought were great versions and that kept coming into my mind as I listened to the new album which, ya know which is a collection of covers
Tori: By guys
Chris: By guys right? So it almost feels like an extension of what you were sort of investigating back then with the crucify EP
Tori: Yeah I've been fiddling for a while with that. I think this one became more of a ummm, there were a couple themes that started out with the project. One was how men say things and what a woman hears. And so certain songs had to follow a certain criteria. I mean they had to rise up to the idea or they couldn't really be included even if I liked them
Chris: So the concept was going into it that you wanted to uhhh illuminate the material of these songs from the point of view of the women.
Chris: That was the subject of the songs. And was there one song that you kinda built the concept out of?
Tori: Well Obviously the Bonnie and Clyde song, does that to a tee because
Chris: This is the Enimen song.
Tori: The Enimen song yeah, you know he wrote a really powerful song on domestic violence and the character he choose to aligned with wasn't who I was aligning with. And immediately when I heard it she just reached out of that trunk of the car and said you know there's another way to hear this. And so I think songs are like little myths. And Mythology is something I have always been drawn to.
Chris: Well you actually, from what I understand, for the Eminem recording, you had a box built?
Tori: Yeah they built a space, a confining space, so that I couldn't move in it.
Tori: And I just felt like it was really important. You know this one was a tricky one just because ummm my desire was that our version would be happening almost exactly at the same time as he's telling his little girl the story. Because the whole point is that your hearing her hear him tell her daughter lies and making the daughter an accomplice.
The cd recording of '97 Bonnie and Clyde is played
Chris: 97 Bonnie and Clyde that's Tori Amos from the album Strange Little Girls, brand New
Some people are hearing this saying Why? That's a horrifing portrait, a horrifying ya know episode. Obviously you respect Eminem as a storyteller
Tori: Uhhh, Lets say this, I think he wrote a very strong song, Bonnie and Clyde, that depicts domestic violence because I know I picked the wordsmiths I pick the power houses, There's no question about that I don't know these men. So respect is a very tricky word because I I do not give that lightly. I don't know unless I knew somebody how I would feel about them So I reserve judgement But if somebody is a misogynist or somebody thinks women should be subjectcated Im probably not going to have a lot to say to them, or they think gays should be subjected or that you know I probably will not have a lot in common but that is not what this record is about. This is about ummm crawling behind the eyes of men. This is about when you take a man's word you take his seed. When you take a women's word you don't take it. Our word hasn't meant anything until maybe the last century unless you are Queen Elizabeth the 1st, or Cleapatura let's be honest, a woman's word didn't mean a whole lot. We had to have our fathers to vouch for us. That's what mattered.
Chris: I'm Chris Duritus , Tori Amos is with us in the studio, We are hearing some songs in live performance. Were actually in Deep Post Studios, A rehearsal studio in the North of London. Now you've peppered the set with some older songs, songs I guess in some way fit with the new album SLG. This one goes back to 1999 from to Venus and Back
Tori: Yes. One reason that this is kinda surfacing right now is that it does have that religious tie in and it does have that, you know the question of the blood, the sacred blood, and there's raining blood, by slayer on the record. Which you know I just did not find Satan in that song, I found this beautiful big vagina raining over Afghanistan or whatever country that subjectates women, and parts of America.
Chris: Tori Amos is with us...we are hearing a live performance.
Tori performs Lust
Chris: It's called Lust, That's Tori Amos a live performance, you can find the original version on the album To Venus and Back. There's a new album from Tori Amos its called SLG due in stores the 18th of September in the Unites States and then there's a tour that starts In West Palm Beach the 28th of September and goes through San Francisco Nov 21st I think. Were hearing a performance from the deep post studios north of London. I'm sitting here north of your Bosendorfer, this is, this is the piano you don't go anywhere without.
Tori: Yes, she's my dear friend
Chris: So is one that you're going to take on the road with you?
Chris: So there aren't several of these?
Tori: There a couple of these but she, her friend lives in Florida and she doesn't go anywhere. (Chris laughs) Her friend just likes the beach and doesn't do well with temperature change; has a really hard time
Chris: Do you have names for these Pianos?
Tori: No just her, she (Chris laughs again)
Chris: OK, So your living in South West England these days right?
M: most the time, yes.
Chris: Your Husbands British
Tori: Yes he is. He's very British.
Chris: Is that the reason to settle in England because of Mark holly
Tori: Because he is very uncompromising and he's listening to every thing were saying because of course he taping this. Im a much better traveler than he is and he gets very grumpy if he's away from Arsenal for to long. So, we compromise
Chris: Well, uh, ya know, I have to ask the question. I Mean, whenever there's like uh, you see an album, a collection of covers come along, ya know, it sort of makes you go ok was there a writers block or was it, was it inspired by the concept initially and that's what you ran with? Or was, uh sometimes you'll see people...
Tori: Well lets face it a lot of cover album suck so you know you have to make your own decision if this is a powerful work or not and then you'll decide when you hear my next work if I did have a writers block. (Chris laughs) and I just kinda, I was drawn to a few lines of though and I really wanted to do something where I was more uh it was about perspective. You know I've had a war with the patriotic for a long long time. I really don't want to continue the war, however there has been a lot of umm you know real meanness from some heterosexual men against women and gay men, and there a lot of them, in the west particularly. Umm and so whatever this kind of malice is, instead of umm, I think sometimes to be an activist you have to infiltrate. And I also believe that you know you go to the poison to get the antidote. Simple stuff we all know that.
Chris: Do you think that that war with the patriarchy as you said has been fueled even more by the fact that you have a daughter now and thinking about the world through her eyes?
Tori: Sure, especially when you hear, when I would hear just some of the stuff about women you just go, oh my God. I don't know the girls that some of these people know but if that isn't the problem that they have then it did strike me that before, you know I do have a umm, what would you say, a little survival kit as a women, and sometimes I'm maybe more callous and cold hearted than an eleven month old but when I looked at my daughter I realized, know you she's going to grow up, and if you would have asked me in 1968 what I thought the new age was going to be when New Age by the Velvets came out,
Chris: The Velvet Underground right
Tori: I would not have thought that we, with all the strides we were making then, and I remembered very well, I was five, I was at the Peabody conservatory and I remember this openness, free quality, not this anti-freedom movement that seems to be everywhere. So, yeah, it was a time where in 2001, my picture of the New Age in 1968 wouldn't have been this.
Chris: Tori Amos is with us here at Ground Zero, I'm Chris Duretus and there is a new album its called SLG its out in the states September 18th. Were hearing a live performance here in studio and this one is another old one, this one goes back to a bee side, Umm Take to the Sky
Tori: Even though their b-sides, I have to tell ya. I think I like the b-sides more than I like the other songs, and I don't know if its because I've played the others so many times, or I have this weird thing where I really do like the b-sides best. And umm, because I like..
Chris: It's like the children you give a little more nurturing to
Tori: Maybe, or maybe I didn't put them on the record cause you wanna, I don't know, keep um private, I don't know. I haven't, I don't know that but I do know that I like them.
Tori performs Take to the Sky
Chris: I'm Chris Duritus joined by Tori Amos, who is with us in studio. Were hearing tracks from the new album SLG's , a collection of covers of Tori Amos of songs written by various men. There's one on here by John Lennon, Happiness is a Warm Gun. Now is that your father that's at the front of this?
Tori: Yeah, you've got father and daughter and father and son. So you have um, you know Dr. Edison Amos my dad talking about the second amendment and then you have George Sr. and George Jr. doing their...
Chris: George Bush Sr.
Tori: Yeah the Bushes
Tori: So um I thought that if I'm going to do father and son it was fair to do father and daughter and um this is this song is has a little thread going to the one before it on the record; which is I don't like Mondays. And one of the brain trust of men called me up and said after the shooting in San Diego that happened this year you know you have to do I Don't Like Mondays. And I said you know fair point. And as I was uh
Chris: Cause that's actual a song about uh another shooting in San Diego from the seventies?
Tori: That Bob Geldolf was commenting on years and years ago. And um, the fact that it, its still going on, that its resonating still now, um that hand happiness started to really kind of really become a couplet together. Um, I was watching a lot of the commentary at the time after the shooting, and the thing that stuck me was: different people from the gun lobby or the NRA would say things to the effect of, or I'd read it on the net, umm that these are bad seeds that do these kinds of things. And it was almost like they were absolving themselves because we all know that the issue is accessibility. And with all my nieces and nephews, The Chip Is Going To Slip! It did with me. Its gonna so the last thing you want is they can pick up a 38 caliber gun. That's the last thing that you want.
Chris: You mean your nieces and nephews might be victims of violence.
Tori: NO! There Chips Gonna Slip... meaning they lose it. We all have had moments when we get angry.
Chris: Oh, I see what you are saying.
Tori: And you know they throw watermelons because that's what they...
Chris: That's what's around.
Tori: That's what's around. And so when those, when those guys in power or women, did not want to say hey that's its easier to get a gun than a drivers license in some states. That's that's really not good so we have to look at this. So Happiness became a canvas, um for the second amendment written by a man who was killed by a gun. Who when he saw the sad, you know just couldn't believe it, you know why is it warm? Because he just fired it. Um, so I felt like yeah this needs to be put on this record.
Chris: Then I think what ill do is put those together, um well start off with I Don't Like Mondays and then we'll head into Happiness Is a Warm Girl, both coming from Strange Little Girls from the new album by Tori Amos. And um, why, I mean I know there's a song Strange Little Girl on the album, but why characterize these women as strangle little girls.
Tori: Well because you probably don't know this but I always call my songs the girls.
Chris: And these are strange ones? Strange songs you mean?
Tori: Strange ones, strange girls. The men are the mothers on this record. The men are the mothers.
Chris: The writers
Tori: The writers yeah.
Chris: Thanks so much for joining us. Thank You...
Tori: Thank You Chris
Chris: for the live performance. Best of luck to you.
The cd recordings of I Don't Like Mondays and Happiness is Warm Gun are played
[transcribed by Heather Mayes and David N. Averbach]
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