home / interviews


Jonathan Ross radio show (UK, radio)
BBC Radio 2
December 8, 2001

Tori Amos interview Interview opens with a track -- "Rattlesnakes" -- played from Tori's new album "Strange Little Girls".

Jonathan Ross: That's fantastic isn't it? Shivers down your spine. And we've got Tori, Tori you look absolutely beautiful this morning.

Tori Amos: Thank you Jonathan.

Jonathan: Not that you don't always look good but this morning you look especially good. And you smell very good as well.

Tori: Oh, that's nice. [chuckles]

Jonathan: Well you do, you smell great and I know people at home can't enjoy that as much as I am but there's a kind of, it's like Christmas spices coming off you.

Tori: Well it's for my throat. I couldn't get, um, Tiger Balm...

Jonathan: Right.

Tori: ...so Barry the Body Worker was in the hotel this morning and had this nutmeg gingery...

Jonathan: That's what it is!

Tori: ...cream and it opens up your throat and keeps you breathing.

Jonathan: And it's nice for us as well, you know, you smell good enough to put on top of the Christmas tree.

Tori: Well see everybody wins.

Jonathan: EVERYBODY wins! There are no losers. I like your hair at the moment. You've gone back to a kind of gingery orange.

Tori: Yes

Jonathan: But that's kind of your colour isn't it?

Tori: Yeah, I wanted to be this when I was born, but um, that didn't work out in the gene pool. And I wanted to dye my hair when I was five but my mother thought it was way too early.

Jonathan: What do mothers know? [chuckles]

Tori: Yeah, I know. But see I wonder what I'm gonna do, what do you do with your kids when they're that young and they want to do stuff?

Jonathan: Well how old is your, your baby is about...

Tori: Fifteen months.

Jonathan: My four year old, um she's almost five now, I went home, she was dressed like a hooker last night when I went home.

Tori: Was she?

Jonathan: I mean not suspenders and high heels but kind of like a trailer park, you know, short denim cut-offs and I thought, and already she's talking about having lots of children.

Tori: Is she?

Jonathan: You know that game they play, the game of Life? Have you seen that board game?

Tori: No.

Jonathan: Well it's a board game and it's very popular in America and you can play it and either, as the character on the board game you can decide, you make your life choices then. It's a good game for kids to play. Do you go to school? Do you go to University? Do you work? Whenever she plays it, she doesn't even go to school, she just puts loads of babies on top of the car. [laughs]

Tori: Wow!

Jonathan: She knows where she's going!

Tori: Well then let's have her babysit Natashya.

Jonathan: That would be good.

Tori: That's what I think because after you're with her for two days you may change your mind. But you know she's learning to talk now, and um, her word of the week is minibar.

Jonathan: Well that's a good word!

Tori: Well I don't know, she's been spending a little time with her dad while I've been busy the last, you know, 24 hours and I just realised she can say minibar!

Jonathan: But that's good that you know exactly what kind of parenting he's been doing while you haven't been there.

Tori: Yeah.

Jonathan: Go help yourself, anything from the minibar.

Tori: Go bring daddy the [unintelligible, probably a drink].

Jonathan: But you know the trouble with minibars is that they're so expensive.

Tori: Do you know, I didn't know that because I don't deal with that side of things. I was wondering why the crew's always in my room! Interesting.

Jonathan: You should teach her the word "off licence". That's a much better place to go.

Tori: But do you know what's so good about the minibar? And maybe, um, Hamley's is listening. The size of the bottles, that's what she loves, it's the coloured bottles and if you just put coloured water in it, even glitter or whatever, they love shaking it and holding that. It just fits right in their hand.

Jonathan: That would be one of the big selling toys this Christmas, Harry Potter's minibar, for the kids. [chuckling] Matter of fact, if you put Harry Potter's name above anything, worming tablets, anything, the kids love it. Um, this new album, we've just been rambling there but the new album is fantastic Strange Little Girls. I really have been enjoying it and I got an advance copy from someone before it came out.

Tori: Yes

Jonathan: And I've been bootlegging it for ages and giving it to all my friends.

Tori: Good

Jonathan: And it's just a fabulous piece of work. But it's a strange idea, when did the idea come to you for this?

Tori: When I was nursing the baby and um, I had actually a nice thought which was a place where the men were the mothers. A lot of my male friends were calling me up and wanting to know what's it really like being an ecosystem? And my women friends were much more interested in you know, get off your... I don't know what you can say. ...tail...

Jonathan: Tush.

Tori: Yeah tush, and let's go hang out again. But the men were really much more interested in this whole idea of the power of giving life and I thought of a place where the men are the mothers and that's always in creativity and songwriting. So that was kind of the nice thought. And then the other thought was, in the states there is just so much, um, I must quote what it is, bitches and faggots, kind of...

Jonathan: That almost kind of hatred that you get in rock and rap

Tori: Yeah but it's not kind of sexy, you know, let's spar and give as good as you get and it's kind of fun and you know...

Jonathan: It's you are subservient you are...

Tori: That's right

Jonathan: ...you're not a person sort of thing. It's not a nice thing. Although some times it's done kind of ironically and in the case on Eminem say, you get the feeling, or do you disagree. Do you think that isn't the case?

Tori: I'm not really, um, picking his work apart. I did a song by him that I thought was a powerful work about domestic violence and he aligned with the killer who murders the wife and I aligned with the woman he kills.

Jonathan: Well that, I think is the standout track on the album. I'm not going to play it on the show and I'll tell you why, because I think it's too disturbing, because, it's a brilliant piece of work but when I listen to it, and I played it to you [directed to co-host Andy] didn't I?

Andy: Yes.

Jonathan: I remember I came in the first day I had the bootleg copy and I came in to you and I said listen to this, this is fantastic but we can't play it and really every time I listen to it now, it chills me, but it's a fantastic piece of work. I really do...

Tori: Well, but this is just a little message to all the guys out there that are listening, if you're planning on killing your wife, um, be careful on who she becomes friends with when she's dead.

Jonathan: See, you're mixing us up with Terry Wogan's show. That's his kind of demographic. We've got the more stable relationships.

Tori: Well that's good.

Jonathan: I think so. Um, I'd like to play another track off the album.

Andy: Ok.

Jonathan: You know, I know we're going against convention here but uh, cause Strange Little Girl was the single. Did that do well? How do these things sell these days?

Tori: The album's done really well. We're pleased.

Jonathan: That's essentially...you're selling albums these days, unless you're in a kind of manufactured pop band, I guess, you're not really gonna crack the charts.

Tori: Well, my...what I always try to do is make a body of work that people wanna go and...it's like you buy a novel, not a chapter.

Jonathan: That's the deal. And you have a kind of rabid following, I mean that in the nicest possible sense. I mean they're possessive and they're crazy about you, not that they're deranged and in some way need help.

Tori: Well, if I stay true, and if I have a point of view and don't, you know, sell out as they say, then they'll be there. But if I betray that kind of trust, then you can't expect people to come back.

Jonathan: Hang around...well what are we going to play for now? I really like the version of I Don't Like Mondays and I also like Strange Little Girls. What do you think is a good track to play Tori?

Tori: Oh play I Don't Like Mondays.

Jonathan: I Don't Like Mondays. We played this track when Mr. Geldof was on a couple weeks ago and he loved this version. It is track number nine on the album. This is a cracker. Hey, I like you in a beret! I'm not just saying that out of the blue ladies and gentlemen, she's actually on the cover of the album wearing a beret, it's not just something...people might think that when the records on I just start suggesting items of clothing for guests to wear. Although you with a bag in your hand would look good Andy. Here we go...

I Don't Like Mondays is played...

Jonathan: That's as good as Rammstein if not better.

Tori: What's Rammstein?

Jonathan: It's my favourite German heavy metal band. I want to play a bit for you in a minute Tori.

Tori: Oh good.

Jonathan: And if you're looking around for covers I suggest [names Rammstein song].

Tori: Super. All right!

Jonathan: I know you're open to new music.

Tori: Yeah, I do take requests. But I want to know something, is that your piano?

Jonathan: Uh, no it's the piano that we have here in and we were thinking you might sing and play but I know your throat is not up to it today.

Tori: I'm a little...we had a leaky pipe.

Jonathan: I'm learning piano and it's very hard. I know you've been playing it since you were three haven't you?

Tori: Well, yeah close. Mom says 2 and a half. But that's what mother says, you know.

Jonathan: My mom boasts about me, she says I was toilet trained by the time I was seven. I don't believe her. That can't be so.

[laughter]

Tori: No but tell me why is it difficult?

Jonathan: Because you're doing the left hand and the right hand going on. I'm learning properly. I'm learning the way you probably did. I'm trying to learn to read the music and to play the chords, not just play the chords.

Tori: Ok wait a minute, when you're dancing with a woman, where's your left hand and where's your right hand?

Jonathan: You don't really necessarily want to know.

Tori: But they're both doing something right?

Jonathan: Bear in mind I only dance with my wife.

Tori: Yes Jane? The lovely Jane.

Jonathan: Normally my hands are where you can't really talk about on the radio.

Tori: Well, with the piano, you have to think similarly. One's doing one thing, one's doing the other, think of the body of the beautiful Jane. And play her.

Jonathan: But when I'm dancing with her I'm not reading on a piece of paper in front of me where I'm meant to put my hands and feet. That's what's confusing.

Tori: Yeah but you shouldn't be reading. Throw away the music and just...

Jonathan: Scarborough Fair? I can't do Scarborough Fair! I don't have the music!

Tori: ...just start jamming.

Jonathan: I'm working on Jingle Bells for Christmas.

Tori: Are you? Ok. Do you have a piano teacher.

Jonathan: I have a piano teacher he's a very lovely fellow called Steve and I'm trying to do those [unintelligible] by Eric Saci (not sure if this is the way to spell the name he said, I couldn't really understand) but blimey they're tough. Your hands are all over the place.

Tori: That's the point.

Jonathan: [groan] The bass is easier.

Tori: Think of Jane.

Jonathan: I'm thinking of...no I can do that! Matter of fact, I'm one of the best in the country at that.

Tori: Oh are you?

Jonathan: I'm in all the charts.

Tori: Are you?

Jonathan: Whenever they do polls.

Tori: I didn't know there was a chart for that.

Jonathan: There is a chart, yeah. I've compiled it myself. Um, you know, the thing I like about the album as well, and the album as I said, I recommend it really highly Strange Little Girls, Tori Amos' new album, is the thing you've done with the photographs where you've become different characters, haven't you, for the different songs. Um and then remind me, what's the name of that New York Artist who puts herself in her work?

Tori: Cindy Sherman.

Jonathan: Was it kind of inspired by that at all?

Tori: I loved her forever, yeah.

Jonathan: I like now, do people come up and say they pick their favourite Tori from this list?

Tori: All the time.

Jonathan: And do you have a favourite of the characters you've done here?

Tori: Well, they're all very different. Some of them kind of scare me. Like this gal, the I'm Not In Love girl, she's really up to no good.

Jonathan: She kinda looks a bit like the sort of woman you'd call and would turn up at your hotel room for cash.

Tori: You better have a lot of cash Jonathan.

[laughter]

Jonathan: I'm not saying you're not expensive Tori and I'm not saying you're not worth every penny but I'm saying that's the kind of look I thought she had there.

Tori: Yeah, but um, I do have a price. It might be spaghetti, it depends how good your spaghetti is.

[laughter]

Jonathan: I know you're a crazy golf fan as well, I'm sure that comes into the...

Tori: Well, I'll tell you what though, it was fun being...I liked being a brunette, like dark, dark hair. It gives you an attitude.

Jonathan: But this is the fun thing about being a woman I guess, you can change your...you can play around with all this stuff.

Tori: Yeah you could too. You could do drag.

Jonathan: Yeah but it's not...no I couldn't do drug, drags

[laughter]

Jonathan: I couldn't do either! Now that was a Freudian slip.

Tori: Yeah it was wasn't it?

Jonathan: I'm so buttoned up I wouldn't want to do any of these things, I'm repressed. I don't think I wanna do drag though. I've put a bit of make-up on occasionally.

Tori: Yeah. Well I'll tell you about the guy Kevyn Aucoin did the make-up right, everybody's heard of him, he's the make-up artist who does the characters...he does everyone. But the thing is, to make the different characters, and ladies if you're listening, he was tying parts of my face. They have...I'm not supposed to tell this but um, a lot of the celebrities in photographs, they get their faces tied. They're pieces of tape with strings that you put under the chin and around the cheekbone and around the forehead and you give people a mini lift.

Jonathan: So you pull it back and tie it around the back.

Tori: Around, and it goes under wigs, it goes under hair and a lot of people, um that you know, go do television, you don't even know...

Jonathan: And they wear that when they're on TV?

Tori: Well, if it's say it's a concert and it's for TV and they can hide it with wigs, they can really do a lot and it can change everything.

Jonathan: What a terrible thing if you then forget to take it off when you go out for a coffee afterwards.

Tori: You don't forget to take it off. It's one of the most painful...oh yeah. Yeah well, it's torture. I mean think about it, your face is getting tied in knots, but the thing is, that's how the women were created to be different ethnicity or from different places, different stories.

Jonathan: I like the New Age girl you're doing there with the glasses on.

Tori: I like her too.

Jonathan: That's always a good look.

Tori: It's the librarian. See, I've always had a fantasy librarian kind of secret life.

Jonathan: I could be a librarian for you if you wanted.

Tori: I wanna be the librarian.

Jonathan: Well can't I be the librarian first?

Tori: No. No that's not the fantasy! Why don't you come and we'll...

Jonathan: I don't just want to be a customer in the library, coming in and being told to keep quiet! I wanna be in charge! Can't I be in charge for five minutes?

Tori: I don't know, is the librarian in charge? She's just looking for good books.

Jonathan: Oh yeah, the librarian's in charge, that's late! Stamp it!

Tori: Oh that's not the librarian I wanna be. I wanna be in a little heel climbing up the ladder getting a really great original book.

Jonathan: I tell you what though, as soon as you've mentioned you up the ladder, I'm sold, you can be the librarian. That's ok, I'll be the customer. Do we have time for another track?

Andy: We have to say goodbye and I have time for a two and a half minute track.

Jonathan: All right. Tori, it's always a pleasure to see you. I haven't seen you for what? About fifteen years I think.

Tori: Yeah but you were my first television show, like for real.

Jonathan: I know that was a long time ago wasn't it?

Tori: Yeah, and I was so scared that day. On the TV right? I was going oh my God, will that girl keep singing if I stop playing? And so I don't know if you remember, but I stopped for three seconds and Neil Gaiman was there and said "Oh my God, when you stopped I thought it was over" and then I saw that the girl stopped too, and I went "oh no, she stops, I better keep going".

Jonathan: You see, that's what's happening in people's minds when they're on TV. When I do those long things when I stop talking for a while, I'm worrying about what's going on as well. That was fantastic though and I remember that so fondly. It's lovely to see you again. Congratulations on this album.

Tori: Good to see you.

Jonathan: And you're flying off today I believe...

Tori: Yeah, I'm off to Berlin.

Jonathan: Ok well have a great time in Germany...

Tori: Ok.

Jonathan: ...and while you're there, if you get a chance to catch Rammstein, I'm telling you, they're dynamite.

Tori: Fantastic. Bye-bye!

Jonathan and Andy: Bye!


[transcribed by Gretchen Curtis, Cass, celerity & Nina Miller]


t o r i p h o r i a
the World of Tori Amos
www.yessaid.com