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Dallas Voice (US)
Gay & Lesbian newspaper
April 18, 2003

Scarlet Fever

Tori Amos encourages gay community to step forward and penetrate culture

By Lawrence Ferber
Contributing Writer

Perhaps taking a cue from Jack Kerouac, flame-haired myth-loving songstress Tori Amos hit the road-less-traveled for her latest album, Scarlet's Walk (Epic). Through the experiences of an everywoman alter ego named Scarlet, Amos touched upon every state in the nation -- connecting with people and the land itself. Boasting Cherokee blood (from mom's side), Amos' journey is both spiritual and physical, and Scarlet takes part in soul-searching episodes with young porn stars ("Amber Waves"), manic-depressives ("Carbon"), a 9/11-inspired plane crash ("I Can't See New York") and a gay friend who dies ("Taxi Ride"). The lattermost song touches upon the loss of Amos' real-life gay friend, acclaimed author/makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin.

It's a dense album -- 18 songs -- and possibly her best, a melodic and passionate kiss to the USA. Coming off a root canal ("ice cream sundae and Percocet," she recommends as post-op treatment), Amos and I spoke about Scarlet, Aucoin and how queerness fits into her -- and everyone's -- United States of America.

This is the first album of yours, that I've been aware, in which you openly address gay people and gay matters.

"I don't know -- I think over the years there have been references to all kinds of sexuality, but on this record there are characters that Scarlet runs into. Her friend, Taxi, is gay, and he dies. I think a core theme running through, though, is the outer betrayal versus the inner betrayal. The polarity of that, so in 'I Can't See New York' [in which Scarlet witnesses a plane crash in midair], we see the culmination of outer betrayal that may have stemmed from some kind of inner betrayal. But then in 'Taxi Ride' the inner betrayal is taken to friendship where, at his death, Scarlet's having to look at everybody that's there and question were we really a good friend to him when he was in need?"

Do you feel you were a good friend to Kevyn Aucoin when he was in need?

"I question myself every day."

On this record, you're taking this trip to figure out what these things mean on a whole in relation to the land -- what we give and what the earth gives us. How do gays fit into America?

"I think it's something that may be being redefined right now. You all suffered quite a loss of a lot of people in the '80s, as you know -- a wealth of intelligencia, artists who were the core of your fabric. And now the next crop is stepping to this metaphorical fire to plant the seeds, to hold spaces for others to come. It seems to me anyway, from the outside, it is about community now and networking. Because those making choices for our world now are networking just fine. And they're making decisions we may not agree with and may not be good for our true mother, our earth or us. It seems to me that sometimes in name only we're the land of the free, and this is something the gay community.... It's feet to the fire time. There must be a stepping forward about what you all feel. How you penetrate, say, the culture."

Do you feel that right now gays give something to the culture?

"Yes I do, but I think there can be more. I think it's time to stop shying away from your place at the fire of wisdom. I think gays have been very shamed, and I know you all feel you can give in fashion and art, but it's time now for perspective. But you all have to do that work."

Do you mean on an ecological level? Political?

"I mean every level. But that comes from thought, not just from style. Maybe the thought has to be put forth with a bit of style! But I'm talking about people's projections and you must as a group make peace with that.... I think you all can bring a temperance but not if you're holding everybody's guilt. It's not your job any more."

You almost create different split personalities for each song. Have you ever inhabited a gay persona or character?

"That's a good question. I think some of the little girls in my songs are gay."

Which ones?

"I have to go talk to them. But they certainly aren't... they don't all have one orientation, that's for sure. And they all don't get along either."

Is Scarlet queer perchance? Bi-curious maybe?

"Right now I think more than anything she's about being a good friend. Whether Amber does whatever she's been doing and Taxi's been doing whatever he's been doing, they're some of her closer friends and that's where that sits."

NextStage, 1001 NextStage Dr. Grand Prairie.
April 23 at 7 p.m. $37.
214-373-8000.


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