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Rip It Up (Australia)
April 28, 2005
Roses And Thorns
by Scott McLennan
In her 25 year recording career, Tori Amos has been many things. Hairsprayed rock chick, prodigious pianist and enigmatic lyricist are some of the deliciously strange little masks this girl has worn. However, after nine solo albums and with an enduring fanbase around the globe, it is the role of mother that currently brings the brightest glow to Tori's face when she speaks. On the eve of her first tour of Australia in over a decade, Tori conversed with Rip It Up about her thrill that daughter Natashya will be making the journey Down Under with her.
"I'm bringing my little girl," Tori noted while relaxing in her Dallas hotel room prior to the 11th show of her world tour. "I couldn't come without her and that's why it's taken so long. Being a mum has changed me more than everything I've ever done. I think it was the missing piece of the puzzle to me becoming a complete woman. Some women need to travel to become a complete woman and some need to become artists, but I've been an artist since I was two and a half so being a mom was my missing piece. It's funny how it works!"
Tori's devotion to Natashya is apparent on latest album The Beekeeper's emotive Ribbons Undone, a track not lyrically dissimilar to the beautiful Winter from Tori's 1992 debut Little Earthquakes. The Beekeeper is also stirringly personal due to both the title track and album closer Toast covering the death of Tori's brother Michael in a car crash.
"With my brother's death it was very sudden," Tori offered softly. "The song The Beekeeper was in process when he had his tragic accident. I didn't have the background vocals done yet and I was able to weave into The Beekeeper the sorrow and the loss of Michael on the song, as well as the infinity dance of the honey bee. The honey bee represents sacred sexuality and represents transmutation from one plane to the next. The subject matters - including Michael's death - were really transformational."
Described as one of the most prolific touring musicians in the 1990s, the birth of daughter Natashya in 2000 inevitably saw a reduction in Tori's live commitments. Back on the road and playing to packed houses in the United States (plus recently being a surprise addition to the UK's massive Glastonbury Festival bill), the artist formerly known as Myra Ellen Amos is thrilled to be back performing to packed venues.
"I'm really enjoying it - I'm learning a lot about telling different stories depending on the cities I'm in," Tori explained. "The setlist changes every night. I start the same way obviously because that's the story, but we're in the garden of Original Sinsuality and that's what we find there - we find different things every night. You must tap into the vortex of the city. I'm in Dallas tonight, but if I was in Sydney tonight I would have to use the language or frequency of that town. When I'm in Sydney or Melbourne you have to work with the symbolatry or lore of the town you're in, otherwise you're not chronicling time."
While she has been based in Cornwall for many years with her husband, sound engineer Mark Hawley, Tori stated she stayed attuned to her Cherokee roots.
"I have a house in Florida and it used to be Seminole Nation land a long, long time ago," Tori detailed. "Because my Mom picked it out it takes me back to her line of ancestors. I am connected to my mother's lore through the house and the land she picked out for me and I go there quite a bit in order to rejuvenate. The Carolinas is where my mother's people were a long time ago - always when I'm there I pick up on the essences and the stories."
With her album The Beekeeper recorded at her home studio, Martian Engineering, Tori finds she mainly shies from mixing with the Cornish community at large.
"Do I interact with my neighbours much?" Tori questioned. "Not really. I have my friends and I go to school and stuff, but I'm a recluse you see. How are you going to be Tori Amos in a country town? It just doesn't translate. The land is what it's about there and you have to be humble and low key. Otherwise you would stick out like a sore thumb and look garish.
"I try and act like my mother would," Tori continued. "My mother is more of a Jackie Kennedy type person - very much a Southern lady - and she's the centre of my teaching. I try and act like my mother would. She is always very gracious and quiet.
"I'm not saying I am at all!" Tori laughed. "I'm saying I'm afraid I won't be so I try and hide myself - I don't want to be embarrassed or be the person who shows up uninvited. I love being in the country. When I'm touring everything is 1000 miles an hour and is so out there that when I'm in Cornwall it's my hive - I'm just creating and writing music. It's one of the most beautiful places in the world - and I've been all over the world. My husband went here as a boy, so this is his power place. I can kinda live anywhere - I can adapt. I'm like a lizard. Jim Morrison was the lizard king - I'm the lizard lady."
During the recording of the Nine Inch Nails opus The Downward Spiral Tori attended former collaborator Trent Reznor's LA studio and attempted to cook the rock star a chicken dinner. Allegedly the meal was ruined by bad spirits in the house, the site of the Manson murders of 1969. Tori assured that no bad spirits are currently causing trouble in her Cornwall home.
"If there are, our chef Duncan Pickford cooks them and puts them in the soup," Tori giggled. "Put in some garlic then lovingly stir to make a delicious brew. You're not only drinking with the spirits you are drinking the spirits. He makes delicious stews and soups - especially in the wintertime."
Alterations to her studio will soon see Tori offer the premises up to musicians wishing to record their own material there. While she's open to any takers "serious about making music", Tori suggested party animals need not apply.
"If you need nightlife and if you need to be a bit of a… um… young prick then you probably don't want to be there," Tori stated of the studio's rural surrounds. "If you want to be a cool prick and don't need clubs and nonsense celebrity then come put your music on tape and be a cool prick down here in Cornwall - do something interesting for a change!"
Whether it be suckling a pig during the Boys For Pele shoot, walking through a frigid creek in the Spark video or laying on a photocopier to create From The Choirgirl Hotel's cover image, Tori Amos has always been exceptional in using eye-catching images to market her music. Tori noted she still enjoys having a hand in the creation of each new release's visuals.
"I choose people I think are very tapped into the sonic vision and are able to listen and help translate this into a tangible visual," Tori mentioned of The Beekeeper's garden imagery. "The art director and photographer worked with my manager Chelsea Laird and myself on what the six gardens were. I named the gardens and wrote about what the gardens were. Kevin Mackintosh is one of the great art directors in England and has the lighting and ability to capture and tell a story. He's worked with Italian Vogue and he's South African. I usually have an international crew because I want a vision that's global. The director of the Sleeps With Butterflies video [Laurent Briet] was French and we had an Asian illustrator [Aya Kato] for the video. I draw on visions from all over the world. I'm drawn to artists who deliver a strong visual but it can't just be visual for visual sake - it has to fit with the context."
Tori's metamorphosis from album to album almost makes her a living canvas for the accompanying visuals of each new musical pursuit.
"This plays to the idea of archetypes," Tori agreed. "A medicine woman told me years ago I needed to read Joseph Campbell. For the longest time mythology played a part in society, but now we are very detached from the different myths that have made American culture. We have celebrity, which is intriguing to me. It's modernness taking place, but if you know your ancient myths that's what we're tapping into. We all carry different archetypes in our being. When I studied Carl Jung, James Hillman and James Hollis - Swamplands of The Soul is very interesting – it made me want to find the different archetypes in my being, therefore I do make myself a canvas so that these myths have an outlet."
While a successful 2003 compilation, Tales Of A Librarian, recounted her favourite musical moments from her recording years with Atlantic, there are numerous Tori Amos songs that remain unavailable. Fans pay stupid money for rare copies of her debut single Baltimore and the album from her shortlived 1980s rock band Y Kant Tori Read. Tori laughed when asked if re-releases are on the cards.
"You're funny!" the songstress chuckled. "Sometimes I think it's better they stay rarities. Otherwise they are not special any more. Some things need to stay as little gems. If you mass market them they can lose their charm - part of their charm is having to find them. I love a good caper!"
Tori Amos plays Her Majesty's Theatre on Mon May 16. The Beekeeper is out now through Sony/BMG.
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