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Tori Amos Goes Political
by Christine Fortier
The great preacher Tori Amos is back with Scarlet's Walk, a controversial portrait of the United States, one year after September 11th.
Tori Amos doesn't have fans. She has disciples. The wide-deep blue eyed and fire haired musician has been bewitching her adepts for 10 years with her sensual music and her provocative poses at the piano. Besides, she never feared controversy, even by talking of Mary Magdalene's holy sexuality and by breast-feeding a piglet in a picture.
But it doesn't mean that she isn't being careful with the words that she tells us from her Toronto's hotel room, during the promotion of her most recent CD, Scarlet's Walk, recorded at Epic/Sony, her new record company. Most of this work was inspired by what she saw and heard in Europe and America after the September 11th events -- except for Taxi Ride, written in tribute to Kevin Aucoin, former makeup artist who made the 13 different looks of her precedent album, Strange Little Girls. "On tour, we have been confronted with the European perception of the September 11th attack," she says. "We barely believed that we, Americans, weren't really up to date about our own foreign policy. When such a huge event hits a nation, people are inevitably asking themselves serious questions."
Scarlet's Walk is made of Tori's best: incantatory melodies, carried by a bewitched voice. The artist proposes nothing less that a voyage that initiates people through the United States' history. Amos, who has Cherokee blood and whose father is a preacher man, often uses the expression "body map" or "soul map" to talk about destiny. "America's soul map was traced by people established there to run away from persecution", she says, "but they became persecutors themselves at the end."
Surely because of her many Celtic mythological references, many people think that she's British. But she was born in North Carolina. Since a few years, she lives in England, where she recorded Scarlet's Walk in her private Cornwall studio. "Peter Gabriel told me once that I should build my own workplace", she confides. "My husband, (Mark Hawley whom she married four years ago) is a technology maniac (he's a sound engineer), so it works very well." At 39 year old, she gave birth to a girl two years ago, after three miscarriages. She affirms that her 35 year old were much more painful that her forties because then she was afraid of not being able to have children. "I was thinking that it was now or never, and the pressure that resulted from that was poisoning my life. Having received a Christian education, I was even wondering if it was the price to pay for my success."
She compares the creation of Scarlet's Walk to a risky pregnancy. "I was so afraid to make another miscarriage when I was pregnant with Natashya that I didn't leave home. I was just playing piano, conscious of the force that demanded my generator role. And when I was on tour (after September 11th), feeling all sorts of emotions, I simply said to myself: 'Take again your generator role.' So I looked at the stories in my head, and the songs just came by magic."
Birth: August 22nd, in Newton, North Carolina.
Studies: Tori is the youngest student ever to have been admitted at the Baltimore Peabody Conservatory. She was thrown out of it few years later because she refused to follow classical music sheets, and that's where her first group name, Y Kant Tori Read, came from.
Houses: Because Little Earthquakes' style was too much different from what was playing on American radio stations at this time, Atlantic people suggested that she installs herself in England, where she had instant success. In 1997, Tori moved to Cornwall with her husband, where takes place King Arthur's legend. She also owns a residence in Ireland and another one in Florida.
Distinctive trait: She is well-known for her very personal interpretations of often tough songs written by men. Recorded in 1992, Smells Like Teen Spirit was the first one of a long series. In 2001, Strange Little Girls included a surprising lecture of Eminem's '97 Bonnie & Clyde. Without changing a word, Tori was sneaking into the wife's skin who is dying in a car trunk.
Humanistic interests: Rape victim, she founded in 1994 the Rain, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN). During its 8 years of existence, the phone aid network almost closed down many times, but is still working, thanks to the singer's generosity.
Weakness: Because she has no culinary talent, she hired the chef Duncan Pickford, who already worked for the British singer Robbie Williams.
Fans: They're called Toriphiles.
Favourite sin: She would do anything for a new pair of shoes.
Piano: It's a Bösendorfer.
Idols: When she was a teenager, it was Robert Plant, from Led Zeppelin. Today, it's Chief Joseph, from the Nez Perce tribe, in Idaho. According to Tori (whose mother has Cherokee origins), his philosophy is like the Dalai Lama's and Gandhi's.
Favorite March 2002 albums: Proxima Estacion Esperanza, from Manu Chao; Rooty, from Basement Jaxx; Discovery, from Daft Punk; Black Market Music, from Placebo; Goodbye Country (Hello Nightclub), from Groove Armada.
In concert in Montreal November 20th at the Bell Centre.
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