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Sound Station Seven (US, radio)
WBRU, Providence, Rhode Island
November 17, 2002
Tori Amos interview and live performance
songs: Crazy, A Sorta Fairytale and Pancake
Dil: Thank you so much.
Tori: Hi Dil.
Dil: How are you?
Tori: I'm really well.
Dil: You exude the most beautiful energy. I think we can all agree to that. It's very captivating.
Tori: Oh, I had a good bagel this morning.
Dil: Is that what that was?
Tori: Yeah! Just down the street. No, they had a really nice bagel.
Dil: Oh really? Ok.
Tori: Yeah! Sesame. She toasted it. She kinda looked at me and said "You know, you're asking a lot."
Dil: It's the perfect toast. It really is. It takes that perfect...
Tori: Oh yeah...yummy yum.
Dil: It's the small things in life. Well, I wanna get to some questions, I know you guys all have some things to say. So, but first, I know that you discovered your musical talent at a very early age, what was it that brought you to music? What was your first introduction experience?
Tori: I don't...maybe...um...It's an odd thing I think, that, um...there was this huge black upright in our house at the time, and my father was hell-bent on being Billy Graham, and bless him. I...Really, no...my father, he's a good buddy of mine. He...as he gets older we can kinda giggle. But, at the time there wasn't a lot of giggling going on. So I think I went to the piano a lot. To escape. So he was pretty strict. And, that was where nobody could chase me...was when I made up these songs that I could walk into.
Dil: And I think for anyone who's ever played a musical instrument, it's that same feeling. I know, sorta going through those formative junior high years, I turned to the piano a lot. And started writing a lot of songs. But one day I sat down and felt like the songs weren't there. And I think I started to resent the piano. Do you ever come to those moments where...you sort of either feel a creative block or you sort of start to feel almost some sort of resentment and negative energy from this thing you've been creating for so long?
Tori: Well, those are two questions, right there, so...The one about a creative block, of course. I think that's part of being a songwriter. There's an intake period and an output period. So sometimes when nothing's really being generated that isn't crap, then I pull back and say "OK It's time to go to..." I go back a lot to visual artists. 'Cause I don't wanna steal from my...compatriates. My other musician friends. I listen. I listen to more than I think I listen to. But I usually listen to other people's music collections because I figure what I would pick up is not what I should be listening to. So I have a crew...that has all sorts of musical interests, and they're very nice to me and they kind of let me raid their CD collections. It's sort of like a library check-in, check-out thing. And they know I'm good for it. It's not like I'm not gonna...So, um, that's how I listen to music, but I must be honest, I really go to visual artists to kinda develop my style. If you go to other mediums sometimes, for example: I might listen to horn players to work on my singing style. I might - to work on my melodies or the structure of a song - I might look at the structure of a photograph. So... I go to other forms and that is, when you talk about a dry period, that's when it's time to go research. And start taking in.
Dil: That's a really fascinating way to look at it. It's really nice. Uh, when you look at each album...I know, when I look back, i think all of us can agree, we'll hear a song and it takes us back to that memory. With yours especially, it's very distinctive moments of our lives. Do you look at your albums as the continuation of your lives? Sort of different chapters? Or is each a rebirth of sorts?
Tori: No. I think that each album is a reflection of where I was at the time. So when I put on, say, Pele, it was a very different time than Choirgirl. I hadn't miscarried on Pele. And I don't get that energy at all. That was a "boy" record. That was a real...getting out of negative relationships. And going to Pele, in Hawaii, I was there...and, um, you know her story, where she had feelings for this man. And her sister went to see him, and they fell in love, and Pele got angry, and I think charred 'em both. But I think it was really about understanding autonomy, and devouring, and when you pull men in your life (or for the guys who were listening to Pele at the time, they pull women in their life), that are just these...black holes. Voyeurs who can sit there, and just suck. And suck. And suck everything out of you...and you let them do it. You know, You just...open your neck and say "Ok, take some more?" And I think that's what that record was about and when I listen to it I still...I still hear that. So when I have a little bloodsucker that's coming...coming up to me I usually put Pele on. But Choirgirl is a completely different thing. It's about a woman trying to...deal with her loss of this creature. It's a very different love, and it's a very different loss. So when I hear that record that's what I get from it. So yeah, the records reflect where I was at that time.
Dil: There's sort of been an influx again, of women who play their own musicians [sic]...and a lot of it in the younger generations, you know, like Vanessa Carlton playing the piano, and Michelle Branch, but I think it's a lot of the commercialization of sort of the "youthful beauty" and "young talent"...how do you think (the younger musicians who are going out there) how is their experience different from yours and...forging that way for female artists?
Tori: Well I guess right now, we're in troubled times. And I think when you're in troubled times, the poets usually step up. I mean, if we go to war, this is a very unpopular choice with the rest of the world. I've just been in Europe, and...you think we're friends, right? We think that they're our friends. No! This is a place if we're friends and you look at me and say "I'm gonna do this" and I say, "Look I'm your friend but I can't stand by you on this. This isn't right. This is a personal vendetta. This is not what you say it's about, Dil." And we're gonna fall out. And That's what they're saying! And i've just been there. I mean, they're practically burning american flags. So, it's one of those things, where...these are troubled times. There's a generation now...this generation in university will be left in a world that you're going to either want or not want. And many people are not taking a part. It's a generation that can light it's torches. This is when you find the poets...stepping up. Or, not. And, it's a choice. If the radio stations play the poets, or, not. I always think it's good to have a balance, cause let's face it, you need a little party music. But, if all you're doing is having a party music scene, you're gonna wake up in a year and go "wait a minute...hang on a second. These decisions got made, and...and where were we?" Well, you're the greatest networking generation in the world! What are you doing? What are you networking about? You need to read your information. Cause when you're inside america, it's not the same as when you're outside. I'm from the next generation. I'm not part of the greatest networking generation in the world. But I think it's our job to hold a space for you all to claim your power. That's my position. These young songwriters coming up, they're of that generation. So we have a different place at the fire.
Dil: I'd like to take some questions if anyone...don't be shy...come on!
Tori: What about the bagel shop in Boston!
Dil: I'm looking at Emily...
Emily: Hi, thanks so much for coming to play. Just as a segue we were just talking about the difference in the perception between being in Europe and being in America, and I know that Scarlet's Walk is very much about being in America. And I was just wondering what different perspective you had making the album as someone who's lived abroad for years and then coming back, and how that informed the process of writing and you know, really engaging with America.
Tori: Well I have a foot in both continents. So, I have, you know, a [french brand?] Boot in America and I have an Adidas tennis shoe in Europe. And so, with one foot in each place, I decided I wanted to be a citizen of the world. I think the world -- that's what felt right for me. And being exposed to the way other people see things...made me, maybe, do my research? I think that because I tour so much in the States and I spend a lot of time in places in America that most people don't go (I spend a lot of time IN flyover country.),you know, the coasts are very popular. But I spend a lot of time in, you know, towns that you can spit from one side to the other and think that you wouldn't wanna stop there, well I've played there. And I think it's kind of part of Scarlet's Walk, meeting up with different characters like I did on the last tour. After the Twins went down, we were touring, and it seemed like being out there at that time, when people were asking questions, that I hadn't heard asked in a long time -- questions like "if tomorrow doesn't come, what would i change today? What do I really belive in?" And I began to see something in people. A relationship with America, more Native American, where people saw her as a friend...or a mother that had been wounded. So within the mass murder, people felt her alive. The Land. She has a spirit. The Native Americans always believed that. We as Americans sometimes look at her as an object. We haven't thought about, you know, we're caretakers of this place. Do our leaders really see it like that? And do we really see it like that? We've handed all this power over...would you hand your mother over to our leaders?? Just ask yourself that question. And if you would...then hand her over! Go send her down into Pennsylvania Avenue...let's just ship 'er...Fed Ex! See how she does. Personally, I wouldn't send my mother down there. This is a question Scarlet's asking herself. She cannot answer it, however, until she becomes a mother herself. For her, until she becomes a mother, she doesn't realize that she has to mother her mother. Her true mother. Who's sick. Who's not strong. Who's made some choices. And as the daughter, it's time...to snap...out of it. Look, Scarlet's got four lovers on the record, she's got enough time to keep busy! She can be a bit naughty and still look after her mother! She'll be fine.
Emily: Thank you.
Dil: They're being shy.
Tori: They don't need to be shy.
Dil: 'Cause I talked to them all on the radio and I know that they had a lot of questions. So, come on, this is your chance.
Dil: Going back to being a mother, now that you have a family of your own, how has that changed your musical writing and your experience in music?
Tori: Probably in ways that i'm not even aware of. You just... it's different for different women. Some women take a trip. And that's what it is...that changes--I keep saying this--their position at the fire. If we look at a metaphorical fire and we come together like they have for thousands of years where we all exchange stories, and you kind of know your place at the fire? Some people are the funny ones, some people, yes, they bring the levity, some bring perspective, some people are the ones that always, you know, giving you the downer information. But you gotta love them cause you go "OK, I didn't think of it like that, fair enough!" But you need a break from them, and you don't want to sit next to them through the whole night... And then of course...sometimes...you kinda say "well, maybe I needed to put somebody else first." And I don't mean a lover because that's really dangerous dangerous stuff. You know, that has to be a give-and-take. If two of you don't bring something to the table, this is just gonna be stale bread. Real quick. Both of you have to be bringing somthing yummy. You know? Or it's gonna be painful. As a mother, it's different. You put them first. They are first. It's not about...are your needs met? You have to sort that out yourself. Maybe I needed to put something else first other than, you know, should I write this song...yada yada yada...I'm gonna stay up all night...and write music...and no! I've gotta change a...she's sick, and, you know, she pooed all over herself. And what are you gonna do? And she's crying, and she doesn't know and she feels terrible and she's "Sorry Sorry Sorry Sorry" and you'd say "Oh, it happens honey." And it happens! And you don't do that session that night, and you don't record--It doesn't happen. That's the difference. And maybe, unless you get a sense of humor, then you're really gonna be...just stinky.
Dil: You need a sense of humor to dress up like a plant.
Tori: Yeah she was...
Dil: You can tell the story. Tori was a plant for halloween.
Tori: She made me a plant. She decided she wanted to make me green. So she---I didn't know, I thought I was gonna be a monster. And she looked at me and said...I said "So I'm a monster?" And she said "NoNoNoNoNo Mummy, you're a plaaant." So OK. Fine.
Dil: Anyone like to make any...so whats next, in the next coming years, where do you see yourself going...any side projects, anything else you'd like to work on?
Tori: Right now, it's really about touring. It's a really, it's really about, Scarlet's Walk, we're taking it to the road. So it's art being taken to real life. And when we're in a different city, like, Providence for example, the setlist will shift and move depending on the cultures here. What's happening here...historically and also just now, on a day to day level. And what happens personally, I mean, sometimes you get off the phone with somebody and it throws a whole show! Sometimes you get a call and one of your friends has just...you know, been in a crash or something. That shifts the show. So it's really about...this whole tour for me...is about the metaphorical fire. You come to the fire. And you exchange with each other. The real information. Not what the media may be manipulating us to think. But this is how i'm getting my information: people are coming, bringing information. And they're exchanging information. And in the show, after I read the letters, I don't do my setlist 'til it's...I'm changing it back stage before I walk on while I'm putting on my lip gloss. It's like, "Nope! We're not doing this, call the light guy on the headphones." So if I walk out a little late, it's either I'm changing a song or I didn't get my lip gloss color right. One or the other. Priorities, you know?
Dil: Last comments?...Thank you so much.
Dil: Thank you truly. And on behalf of 'BRU, thank you guys for coming out, and I hope you guys had a good time.
[transcribed by Bill (The Liberated Busboy) for yessaid.com]
t o r i p h o r i a
the World of Tori Amos