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Oor (the Netherlands)
Dutch music magazine
November 2, 2002
by Britt Stubbe
[translated by Arjan Welles]
On her latest record, Scarlet's Walk, Tori Amos mentally travels through the land with which she shares a lifelong love-hate relationship, her native land. For these travels she took the appearance of the peacful warror and met Native American women with tomahawks, girls with names like Britney and Christina who consider showing their red thongs as their strongest act of womanhood and a president who deliberately hides the truth.
It won't be much of a surprise for a fan that Tori Amos made a post September 11 record. Amos likes concept albums and the new America naturally provides a grateful red line for the singer-songwriter, originally from North Carolina. And besides that it allowed her to drop some of her personal major issues on this record she baptized Scarlet's Walk. The main life-lessons of her Native American ancestors for instance. Her everlasting mission to find the truth and where it is being held back. And her personal favorite: the surpression of women and how they can arm themselves against the desired ideal weight and the Hollywood culture in which young attractive women are always below forty.
These are also the themes that OOR Magazine discusses with Amos. Or to put it better: that Amos discusses with OOR Magazine. Because if there is one thing this red-headed talker is good at it's telling HER story - both in music and in interviews. That story can seldomly be characterized as uninteresting, but the way she tells it very often can be called vague. If you go for clarity then Amos a bit too often falls into clichés. But even then she keeps your attention, even though she's not the intellectual she wants to be. But a strong woman she is; intruiging and adorable on the one hand, forcing and agressive on the other. When the talks come to the inevitable September 11 and the attacks on Afghanistan, followed by the question if she thinks, as a peaceful warrior, this was a justified reaction, Amos' aggressive side pops up immediately. Fiercely she says she cannot make a judgment about this.
Hold on, hold on. First of all this wasn't a question demanding a judgment. And secondly: why would I as a non-American not give my judgment on the way America strikes back?
'Yeah, I am sorry but I turn out to be rather fierce when it comes to fights. After September 11 I became so sick and tired of all these pacifists and extreme left people who condemned the Afghan attacks right away. What was America supposed to do? Drink a cappuccino with the Taliban? Let me tell you this: if someone attacks my daughter Tash, I will rip his throat out. And that is exactly how America responded: as the mother of the American people.'
What comes around, goes around seems to be Tori Amos' new motto?
'I only tell you that when someone would attack my child I would do everything I can to deal with the person who did it. Of course, otherwise I wouldn't be a good mother. The funny thing is pacifists still would admit they would want to kill the killer of their own child. But they have a lot of trouble admitting you have to strike back with full power when people enter your country and slaughter your people on large scales, purely because they hate the West. In that case pacifists lose the power of speech. Then no-one will listen to their motivations anymore.'
So, because of hypocrisy?
'And saying 'I am against violence' is too simple to me. Yeah of course: basically I am against it as well. But when someone would bomb my town then I expect a strong response to this. Maybe that's because I am a Leo, which gives me the strong feeling I always have to watch over my cubs. Besides, I have a Native American background. The Cherokee culture taught me to respond to injustice immediately. Indian women always carry a tomahawk around their hips, because they know they have to fight in life. When a man from my ancestors' tribe would rape a woman he would be punished by being locked in with the women of the tribe. They would solve the problem with him.'
One would punish a raper by chopping off his dick with a tomahawk. Something like that?
'For example, yeah. The Cherokee women also used to tie a raper to a tree and let the animals solve it. Anyhow, what matters is that a line has been crossed and that brings along consequences. If you want to be taken seriously on the negotiation table you cannot walk in on your toes and say to the Taliban: ' Excuse me? Could you guys please stop mutilating your women's genitals? I would really appreciate that.' What bothers me is democratic nations oppose so much about America attacking Afghanistan, even though they know people were severely suppressed, and especially women.'
You defend Bush's attacks back then but I know you do not advocate his ideas.
'No, but that hasn't got anything to do with it. Again: when you're being attacked you have to strike back to prevent even more victims from falling. Let's say a group of soldiers would drop in my town proposing: 'Women, if we could fuck you all we leave your children and husbands alone. See, if that would be the solution - great - we would screw them all. But it won't stop there. They would go on and fuck your daughter anyway and kill her eventually.'
You have a lot of cruel metaphors.
'That's because I know how cruel the world can be. But about Bush: I don't support his ideas, because he's looking for war right now. He's lying to the entire nation right now. It's scandalous. The threat of war is around based on false pretences. Even the CIA offically declared, I read in The Guardian today, there are no direct signs Iraq would use its present weapons, except when being attacked. And now Americans even tell the CIA to shut up. That's how strongly they have started to believe the propaganda of their president. This man is trying to indoctrinate his people in his hunger for power. And indoctrination is always a bad thing.'
On your new record you fanatically look for your own truth and you don't automatically assume what other people tell you. Is indoctrination an important theme on Scalet's Walk?
'You might say so. Because I pose my own questions and find the answers to them in my journey through America, by doing the examination myself. By checking several sources and not automatically following other people, regardless of this being your president or your family.'
Or Britney Spears that sends out double signals: crying out she's a virgin, but making such sexy movements in her videos that you find it hard to believe she is a virgin. Dangerous or innocent?
'Mostly I find Britney embarrassing. She ought to be ashamed of what she does right now, saying things about keeping your virginity, and that airheaded sexbomb appearance of hers. But of course it starts to become dangerous if a lot of girls adopt her weight and behavior as their example. The young girls that come to my show are very often desperately looking for an alternative of the Britneys of this world. They can hardly eat less than they already do and still they don't look anything close to the Vogue girls. They never go to McDonald's, but are simply built heavier. That is extremely frustrating and a lot of women are looking for ways to break with these thoughts. Sometimes I meet gorgeous girls who are constantly focused on what they weigh and who don't see their own beauty. Sometimes that really pisses me off and I talk to them fiercely.'
What strikes me is that almost each and every female artist on MTV is a gorgeous young girl. As if female beauty and success are more than ever connected.
'All those Shakiras, Ashantis and other Barbie-dolls. Even tough 18-year-old girls with guitars are pretty dolls nowadays. This way bad seeds are sown in these young girls' heads at an early age. Seeds that will come out as bulimia and drug addiction. A lot of girls are only consumed with their looks and not with the inside, because they notice beauty is rewarded and cleverness is not. Successful women we see on TV very often are pretty models, smooth singers and handsome actresses. Generally these are not the biggest lights of this earth. This causes these girls to be acknowledged in the fact that being beautiful will get you far. I sincerely hope a new generation will stand up that says, 'Let's develop our brains and not our bodies.' Girls that will say to a Christina Aguilera, 'You think you're a strong woman because you show your red thong? Get a grip and put on some clothes.'
Is it hard to reach younger women now that you're forty and cannot show as a pretty thing in a video? That can almost be called crucial for a lot of media attention.
'Hmm, good one. Painful question. I am aware of the fact my videos are played less and less as I get older. That's how it works, but still it can be painful. But I also get the feeling more and more that no-one wants to listen to women of my age anymore. Bacause they don't have any sexual attractiveness anymore, so to speak. And what is even more sad is the fact this very often is the only thing that interests men. Men can pretty perfectly date a woman half their age when they are fifty. That's also what all those Hollywood movies show. Richard Gere can very well be doing Winona Ryder, but when she's fifty you won't see her play the girlfriend of a 28-year old actor. That's why women are afraid to get older. There's nothing against trying to keep up your weight and remain fit. Just as long you keep in mind it's the inside that counts.'
Recently I saw this item in the rather superficial women's magazine In Style, that mainly focused on the revolutionary 2,000 calories-mascara and the colored rouge Tori Amos uses. In that item, a lot of beauty and hardly any content.
[Starts to laugh] 'I KNEW that rather shallow item would be used against me one day. Those reporters spent an entire day at my house, but only focused on cooking, clothing and make-up. And even after I told them about the new album broadly... but they probably thought my looks were more important. But some parts of the article tell about what I want to reach with the album and if those In Style women pick that up, well great. And I don't make it a secret I like designer's clothes and I use make-up. There's nothing wrong with that as long as you are not convinced you have to conquer the world with it. And you start to believe that if you have Britney Spears as your biggest example.'
Because when she would gain 50 pounds and have a scar on her Barbie-face she can forget about her career?
'Right. Then no man wants to fuck her anymore and also the urge of women to be just like her will dry up. Then Britney won't be of any use anymore, because she can't sing and she doesn't have anything to say either. And that's sad. Mainly for her, though, because it must be frickin' scary to be so dependent on your looks. I sincerely hope in music a new generation of women will stand up that have something to say. It's about time.'
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