home / interviews
anyqueries? Where you get to ask the questions
Her favourite Madonna song is Like a Prayer. She gets an annual newsletter from the Vampire Society. But she hasn't got a clue how to bake a Cornish pastie. Attitude meets the First Lady of Kook with your questions.
Miss Amos - Official Queen of the Faeries, First Lady of LaLoon, High Priestess of Pagan Pop - is sat sipping tea in her swish airy central London hotel suite. Naturally, there is a very large white ceramic egg in the middle of the room.
"I just laid that", she offers by way of explanation.
It may well be true. Tori has been given to a spate of procreation recently. Firstly, there was - arguably and undoubtedly most significantly - the birth of her daughter, a year ago. Tori is fully in the throws of first motherhood and likely to go misty-eyed at the very mention of her. Which is lovely. (Certainly she is far less flighty and twitchy than when we last met. Which still means she is 300% more flighty and twitchy than any other human you're likely to meet).
Secondly, after another period of gestation comes her new, fifth album - Strange Little Girls. All covers. All songs written by blokes. But Tori-fied. It's fab, obviously - a fascinating left turn from the intense musical journey she's taken over the past decade from the blood-stained diary of Little Earthquakes to the wildly experimental To Venus and Back. Listen to her versions of Lloyd Cole's Rattlesnakes. You will just shudder.
Now, Miss Amos, the postbag.
1. Your record company say you have to release an Artful Dodger mix of your new single for radio. You hear the remix and hate it. Do you release it or make a stand?
Mr. N. O'Keefe, Dublin, e-mail
Tori Amos: Who is the Artful Dodger? Oh, I thought you meant the ARtful Dodger as in (sings) "consider yourself at home, consider yourself one of the family!"). Let's get this straight. The Artful Dodger remix is not going to happen unless I send the tapes, which are locked at my studio at home. I would have to agree for this to happen for it to get that far. The record company don't say "you have to". That doesn't get said. They suggest an idea and if I like it, I go with it.
2. I heard that you did Eminem's Bonnie & Clyde on your new album. Forgive me, but hasn't that twat made enough money from the oppression of women and homosexuals already? How can you possibly hand over your royalties to him?
Tori Amos: Well Jilly ... you know if you're gonna be an activist you have to go the venom for the antidote sometimes. You have to weigh up what's more important - them earning a tiny drop from this or me turning his song into a little warrior girl. And I know what they all make. With this song there are three or four writers and a big publisher, it's not that much. It's not about the money here, it's about exposing a part of a myth that Eminem chose to write and he aligned himself with the killer. I had a laboratory of men as my control group. Not one of them asked about her. Some of them didn't care for the song, others felt empathy for him. The power is in the venom, the work. It's a reflection of our violent times. People have to not be oblivious to what is in this song. The woman's in the trunk heraing her little girl being made an accomplice to her murder, knowing her daughter is going to grow up carrying this. To know that she couldn't protect her daughter ... I had to give this woman a voice. She didn't have one.
I gave the album to a friend of mine and she phone up and said "My 17 year old and my 15 year old loved the record, but they had a real problem with track two. They thought it was really scary." And I told them they weren't a stranger to that song. They said "What are you talking about?" Neither one of them had a clue and to me that says it all.
I didn't change one work of the Eminem song. We gave him his say. And he wrote this. And now it's her turn, she is hearing, this is her vocal as she lay dying in the trunk. This is about showing that words can hurt and heal. It's about showing that you can take your power back as a woman or as a gay person. Clearly me and Eminem are on different sides politically, but bitching and moaning does not change anything. What changes things is when people become conscious and start questioning things for themselves. He sat the voltage at 220 and I wanted to put my hand on it.
3. What's your favourite song to play live?
Justin Gray, Clapham
Tori Amos: I kind of like doing Take to the Sky. I like doing it on the piano, using it like a percussion instrument. It makes me feel better, no matter how low I am I feel like I can pull something up out of me. It's a very physical song, very tactile. It has the capacity to ground me. If a show isn't going so well then I play Leather. I think it breaks the ice. It's very Sally Bowles, very trampy.
You don't just walk into the Winter's and the 1000 Ocean's because they are difficult to deliver. There has to be fluidity to pull that off. At the same time you have to have your own personal rhythm, you can't let the audience determine it for you. You don't make records by committee, just like you don't do shows with other people setting your pace for you. Although sometimes if I know it'll be a moment of love, I'll give them what they want.
4. I read you talking about the Mayan Prophesies and how the Sun's got 11 years left before it dies. Do you really believe that?
Tori Amos: No! I didn't say that. I said the Mayan calendar ends in 2012. It's not my opinion, it has been projected for a long, long time. The world won't end. It's the end of a way of seeing time - I don't know what that means exactly.
5. What's your favourite boyband? (d'oh!)
James C, Edinburgh
Tori Amos: Coldplay is really cool. They're a boy band! They're boys in a band. (Laughs) Vocal groups arent' bands! They don't play anything or write anything! A band of what? A rubberband? (Laughs)
6. Why are you so mad?
Gareth Hill, Glasgow
Tori Amos: I'm not so mad. There are times when I'm not. And you would have to ask me specifically about a certain comment that was made. Mad meaning pissed off, right? Oh. Crazy? Am I? Intense, maybe. I'm alive. Mad for me is like mad cow, disease, which worries me. I think mad is good if it's not mad-angry. I do wear a shirt sometimes that says "Less anger, more smile".
7. You get asked to do a celebrity Big Brother. Would you be the first one out or last one in?
Marcus Wright, Torquay
Tori Amos: I don't think I'd be the first one out. I'm not that horrible to get along with. With touring you live on buses with people, so it's not something far away from my experience. I don't think I'd win, though, because I've never won anything. Except the Montgomery County talent contest when I was 12. And the Vampire Society give me an award every year. I'm big with vampires, I guess. I haven't read the newsletter, I don't know all the ins and outs. Maybe it's because I've got big teeth. My canines defy convention! With Big Brother it's going to be way more difficult than just doing one with ordinary people because I find celebrities very difficult. Backstage at the Grammy's is not a fun place to be. You want to be out with the crew. They're the ones who have a sens of humour. Don't assume anyone can do anything more than their job. They might be a great poet or singer, but just leave it there. It doesn't mean they're going to be a fun person to be around. I don't know about the Celebrity Big Brother. I'd probably say something to piss someone off.
8. Is Merman about the murder of Matthew Shephard?
Tori Amos: No, it's not about that but I dedicated it to him when I performed it. It was written before that.
9. Why has your first album Y Kant Tori Read never been re-released? Heart Attack at 23 is one of my favourite songs by you.
Alan Marcheson, Brighton
Tori Amos: I'm glad he liked it. I liked it at the time. But I think it's best that stays special. I don't want to re-issue it because it might become a parody of the time. I haven't stopped it being around. In the past, the record company have said let's reissue it and I've said, "Let's not!". They'd be doing it for all the wrong reasons. It's not right to do it just to cash in. It's very of the time, to re-issue it now is just confusing. It's like me getting back together with an old boyfriend and having sex with somebody I did when I was 23. I'm not hiding the fact we did it and if you can find the photographs to prove it, y'know? But I'm not gonna do it again.
10. What would your Jerry Springer episode be called?
Ste, Blackpool, via e-mail
Tori Amos: Shooting Jerry Springer. No. (Laughs). It's not him but the show itself that makes you think, "Oh my god, I live (italics) in this country". It scares the shit out of me. I couldn't go on that show. Is that show set up? I hope so. Why would you do that? Why would you expose someone you loved? To get that person to show up they would have to trust you. No! I guess my episode would be really called "Tori is a Betraying Cow". I couldn't live with myself and I'd lose a friend. There are people who are willing to do anything for that sort of celebrity. I think people are fascinated in seeing how far others will go for it. It's sort of become a weird replacement for religion.
11. What was all that pig-suckling about?
Nick Black, Bath
Tori Amos: That which is kosher and that which is not. It was about embracing and nurturing that which isn't considered kosher or accepted or allowable. Instead of just saying no immediately to things we don't accept. And if that answer bores you, you can just say I was making Christmas cards for my father "Madonna and Child".
12. What are the worst and best things that anybody's ever written about you?
Ian, Berlin, via e-mail
Tori Amos: I try not to read it .. but the worst thing that anyone has written about me was what Kevin Cray wrote when I was nine and a half. He was writing to Peggy Shaw and the teacher intercepted the letter and he had said "Oh God, I hate it when Ellen sings, she sings like a frog". I had the hugest crush on him. "But I love you baby and you're so beautiful".
And the best thing? My husband said something really wonderful at our wedding in front of everybody. He said he married the sexiest girl alive. And that made me cry, because I don't really see myself as that. I see myself as sort of a fairy that sits on your shoulder. Rather than demon that always says nasty things. If I could come back and have a different job, I'd be that fairy and I'd say "go for the sparkle!" (Laughs).
13. Do you still have the wooden box and toy piano from the sleeve of Little Eartquakes?
Tori Amos: I think so. Somewhere in storage. My father has everything. He just comes in and rummages through my stuff. Like "do you still need these?" What a question? A girl always needs a peach pair of Manolo Blahniks! He says he's putting them in archive. I say for what? "In case you meet an untimely end and it goes on display" Great thought, Dad! He's a lunatic but I love him.
14. What's Hey Jupiter about? Is the line about "choosing between the shower and the bath" about being gay or straight?
Clive Reed, Plymouth
Tori Amos: (Sings the entire song to find the lyric. Attitude waits with baited breath before she announces) Yes! (Laughs) I was having a hard time with a guy who couldn't decided what he was drawn to. And I mean these are big questions. It's not just do we get on and is there chemistry? It's do I have the right gear? Can I get on this plane with you? And I know he found it difficult too. These are good questions.
15. What's the last dream you remember?
Lee Phillips, Bristol
Tori Amos: That this guy was making me outfits - jumpsuits and feather plumes and stuff - and he was charging me too much money and I couldn't afford it. Like £10,000 an outfit! So I had all these outfits which I couldn't pay for. So I got sent to debtor's prison and I had to go in a canary yellow jumpsuit. I'm currently getting the outfits together for my tour, so it was an outfit anxiety dream.
16. What can we be thankful to the USA for?
Tori Amos: Very good question, Nick.. (long pause) Gloria Steinem. She brought some real changes in how women are treated in the workplace - equal pay for the same job. And you can be thanful to the poten native American wisdom. You can find it if you look hard enough. the USA hijacked that which was the 500 nations. That was before the Europeans came and said "Oh, let's grab some free land!" The USA doesn't teach what happened at schools. That the land was stolen from these tribes. They do talk about slavery because the black vote matters. The Indian vote doesn't because there arent' any left after the genocide that has occurred. Unbelievable.
17. What's in your handbag?
Tori Amos: Lip gloss, credit cards and my passport. And an anti-inflammatory. Everything a girl needs.
18. Can you bake a Cornish pastie?
Mr Scott, Cornwall
Tori Amos: Well. No. I can't even eat one. They're so big! (dirty giggles) I've had a couple and that's enoght to keep me forever! Tell Mr. Scott that (Pauses) But I can eat a Cornish pastie. (Laughs)
19. How many Kate Bush records do you own?
Brian Chambers, Brixton
Tori Amos: Well I owned two, which are of course "Hounds of Love" and the one after, "The Sensual World". I really love those two. Someone gave me "The Red Shoes", but then someone else stole it. People come to my beach house in Miami and some things go and some things arrive. Where did that ceramic squirrel come from? I have three homes - one two hours from Miami, the main one in Cornwall and one in Ireland. I believe in odd numbers: 3 pianos, 3 houses, 1 man, 1 baby. But two men would be good. Three would be better. Becuase it you weren't around he could never say "oh, but she must be with..."
20. What's the best song you've ever written?
Joe Matthews, via e-mail
Tori Amos: I can't say that! The other songs are hearing me say this. They're zooming in from all over the planet, wherever they are. Leather was down in Costa Rica (laughs). And now he's here right in my face saying "If you say a different song... there'll be no more high heel for you, girl!" Do I have to answer that? I know what I'll do, I'll take a favourite b-side, because the album girls get a little sensitive. For a favourite B-side it would be between Cooling and Never Seen Blue.
21. I heard you did a song with Tom Jones that never made it to his duets LP. What was it and what was he like?
Tom Howard, Islington
Tori Amos: It was called I Wanna Get Back With You. It wasn't the duets album though. It was an album in 1995 (The Lead and How to Swing It) I didn't meet him because I was on the road so I did it in a studio in Oregon and he wasn't there. It was a wild session, it all got very out of hand because Diane Warren had written this song with this background part they wanted me to do but it was something that I just couldn't say. But I really wanted to be a part of Tom's project so I changed the words and it worked much better. He's really been a musical force, whatever you think of him. Especially with all those Christian women and those leather pants, I mean you just have to give ode to Tom. After I recorded it Tom's people asked if I changed it. And I said "Yes, and I'm not charging the royalties. And it works!" They were nervous because Diane had written it. I never met tom but he did send me a nice Cartier clock.
22. What your favourite Madonna song?
Lee Prinz, London
Tori Amos: I really think "Papa Don't Preach" is great. I love that. And "Like a Prayer" (sings) .. "I'm down on my knees/you know I'll take you there" I love "Like a Prayer", that's my favourite.
23. How has motherhood changed you? Do you understand your parents better?
Max, Brussels, via e-mail
Tori Amos: I understand why my mother would stand by the door and wait for me to come home. Being a mother I can see things from my mother's life that I never did before. I just adore my mother. Even more now that I am one. She handled things so well. It makes me more able to drop something and crawl under the floor and go "Gumba gumba gumba" which is what my duaghter is doing at the moment. It makes me angry when I think about the world she's coming into. I mean, there's a UN report that shows that one in every four women is being abused. To bring a daughter into that world? I've got three nieces and a daughter, so statistically....
Just because they're women. Or just becuase you're gay. Some women bond just because they hate men, they have a common enemy. But I don't think that's the answer. That's sad, but things have to change for all of us. And we are the ones who have to do it. It's us.
Strange Little Girls is released 17 September on eastwest records.
t o r i p h o r i a
the World of Tori Amos