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The Wave (US)
San Jose, California, magazine
March 9-22, 2005
Volume 5, Issue 5
Tori Amos makes more sense when she's singing.
By Tom Lanham
You really have to hand it to Tori Amos - one thing this British-based artist never skimps on is the songs. Her new multi-layered opus, The Beekeeper, is nothing if not generous; it contains 19 songs, revolving around the trusty tones of her Bosendorfer piano, and was recorded at her 300-year-old barn/studio in rural Cornwall. The themes are so diverse and deep, it takes a bonus-disc DVD just to explain them all. Amos (who, with Ann Powers, has just published the autobiographical tome Piece By Piece) bounds inquisitively into such subjects as: Bush's re-election, the war in Iraq, Christianity's depiction of women as subservient, traditional English pirate lore, the joys of motherhood and the centuries-old art of beekeeping. Only one track, "Ireland," is about what its title implies. You think the album covers a lot of ground? Read on as Amos shifts effortlessly between a host of topics. And all we did was ask her about where she lived.
The Wave: So you also have a place in Florida. Did you vote last year?
Tori Amos: I did fly home to vote, because I felt like it was a really important thing to do. ... And since November 2, the album took a different direction, mainly because there were a couple of life-changing things that happened. One was that all of us had to come to face the reality of the next four years, and the choice. And then I lost my brother in a tragic car accident - he'd just turned 50, and it was one of those stormy nights. But because things have taken a turn... well, maybe some of us were hoping that a certain way of thinking would shift, and that was the hope: That violence wouldn't be the answer to everything, and that using the idea of terrorism to get what you want - whoever you are - would again be a thing of the past, for our leaders, anyway. But because people are made to be afraid of anything and everything, so that they're not really analyzing who's benefiting from this war, I decided to write a song called "The Power Of Orange Knickers." [It's] about "What is a terrorist? What is that idea?" And the key was to crawl inside the cell of the word itself and how it's being used, to invade the idea of it. And orange seems to be in a lot of places these days, popping up. But I couldn't contemplate making this record last August, because I had to stay neutral on what I thought the outcome would be on the election. But my songs are current now, and they're about ways of thinking.
The Wave: Is there any hope?
Tori Amos: [Pause] Well, there are consequences. And we're already beginning to feel them. I think over the next four years, if we were protected from any consequences before the election, we won't be protected from 'em now. And that's where artists chronicle time. I've always been drawn to music and visual arts when I wanna look at an age, because it's sort of your template of the time, like a pulse. At this time, there seems to be a Biblical faction going on in the world, similar to religious wars of hundreds of years ago. So I decided to go to the beginning of the Judeo-Christian world, in songs like "Original Sinsuality." If there's a climate right now where people are holding up Bibles and making decisions based on them, then as a daughter of the Christian church, I needed to... you know that saying, "If it's too loud, turn it up?" I needed to walk into the Christian ideology that's controlling the country.
You ask me if I have hope. Well, I don't know. Other civilizations have come and gone, and this could too. Death is a possibility. The idea of somebody being here one minute and gone the next is a reality to me right now, in a big way. So it could be a reality that all of us aren't here one minute. Hope? I'm not as encouraged as I might've been for the planet being in a healthy place in 30 years. I'm more discouraged than I was six months ago. But I'm looking long-term. I'm thinking about my daughter's children. I believe there cannot be a civil war, like there seems to be in America, based on the right and the left. We have to be effective, not right, if we're going to appease this. We can't be drawn into some of the battles that've lost us the war, because in the end we'll all lose.
The Wave: Who knew that the most important piece of motivational art last year wouldn't be Fahrenheit: 9/11, but The Passion Of The Christ?
Tori Amos: But that's intriguing, because it makes sense, in a way, if you think about how people are reacting to the terrorists that are so committed to their religion. I think people needed something to hang onto. It's strange how we find strength. People were terrified by these people who were very devoted to a religion, and they needed something that felt like, "Well, this is our banner, and it's older than yours!" When you've been invaded, physically and psychologically, then you reach for something you can reach for. It doesn't have to make sense.
Tori Amos performs April 24 at Davies Symphony Hall. 201 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco (415) 421-TIXS
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