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X Press (Australia)
free music weekly
May 12, 2005
West Side Tori
With her last Perth performance having been in 1992, Tori Amos will play a much anticipated show at the Perth Concert Hall on Sunday, May 15. Self-assured, inspiring and a little eccentric, there's something about this musical goddess that always leaves you wanting more.
By Sarah Thillagaratnam
What have you been up to in the last couple of months?
Well I've been touring and I'm out with my little girl. It's fascinating being a mum on the road with a person that can say to you, 'can we just stay in this town another day mum? Let's just leave tonight at midnight.' But she's been on the road since she's been 12 months old. But to have somebody to be able to hang out with on a day off... I'm really getting to know her. She's four and a half, we have to have her in on the decision making otherwise she says 'why don't I get to decide anything?'
Is your daughter a musical person as well?
She writes songs, she sings all the time. But we're trying to not make it like school. Mark and I talk about it a lot because he started playing drums at like four and I started playing piano at two and a half. The both of us have been playing different instruments since we were kids, but nobody forced us, and we're trying not to force her. Right now, what she does is make up her songs, words and melodies, but it's just about what she wants to eat or whatever. It's fascinating to watch. But I don't want music to become like school. Fine line.
What have you got planned for the Original Sinsuality tour?
Every tour is different, that's why I love it. Tonight I'm in Dallas and that's one of the big seats of power now in America and because of the election and oil etc. And yet there's an underground in Dallas, a very alive subculture that I find intriguing. The power, and that's what's fascinating me about this town. That's how you're able to chronicle the place, where it is at that time and to reflect a mirror on what's really going on. Closed doors, the secrets, what people's agendas really are. Lucifer is a wonderful essence, and when I say that, I mean the dark prince, I don't mean Satan, I'm talking about the shadow side of all of us. The power side of us that we don't want to look at. This shadow thing that we have to look inside ourselves and the little green monster comes out. We're having to look at America, what is power, and this is one of the roots. The big strong roots of this tree that runs into Dallas.
What have you uncovered so far?
It's complicated. Essentially, people do not choose to see the misuse of power. They choose to see their fantasy of what is justice. You go through history, and you look at leaders and quite a few of them are really solid in their faith, like William of Orange. I have a house in Ireland and the Irish have affected me. I spend time there - usually when people don't know it - to recharge and to gain insight.
One of the reasons I wanted Damien Rice to sing on The Power Of Orange Knickers and the reason I chose orange for terrorists, not because of Guantanemo Bay, but also William of Orange, and this is the idea of invasion. When people are invading, they usually think they're helping. And being brought up by my grandfather from the Eastern Cherokee nation, the English, German, Irish, French, Spanish, European who invaded thought that they were doing the Indians a service. We were savages and they could not honour our spiritual beliefs. Now there is a tidal wave in America happening underneath that, and people are turning more now to the Native American ways.
They're definitely searching for a connection to the land. With all the crisis' that have happened with mother nature, she is speaking loudly, 'you must hear me.' The Mother Revolution is already occurring and that's why in The Beekeeper, I was really trying to target some of the dark ominous intentions that are at work in America.
It doesn't seem like anyone's learnt from past mistakes.
No, because everybody is busy trying to justify that they're doing the right thing. I mean obviously there are a lot of deals going down. The problem with all that is that the mothers that are sacrificing their sons and daughters aren't a part of these deals.
They're not gaining any of the 'benefits,' it's the people that are initiating the war that will. So the song Mother Revolution is very much about trying to free the mothers up of their guilt. And Christianity can really work on your guilt and shame, and that's why this allegory, the beekeeper, takes place not in the garden of original sin, but in the garden of original sinsuality, where God's mother questions God's intentions and the people that serve him.
If you were ever to come face to face with Jesus, what would you say to him?
(Long pause) I'd ask him what his viewpoint was. Curious. I'm sure it would be incredibly insightful. But Jesus was not part of Christianity, he was a Gnostic Jew. And Chrisitianity was made by a guy, by a board. Imagine, like Jr! And with them he decided that women shouldn't preach, that Magdalene's teachings shouldn't be a part of it. That she should be defined as a prostitute, not as a prophet because that would not be profitable, and not for their agenda. So women were really kind of circumcised out of the Christian church. I did a lot of study on the gospels and that is kind of the core of The Beekeeper. The honeybee of course is there because I was reading different books on bee masters and bee mistresses and being in Cornwall... it was sort of the equivalent of the medicine woman and the medicine man. On Scarlet's Walk I was searching for the European version because that was just my quest. I didn't want a religious figure, I wanted a figure that was connected to the land - the Shaman. It took me to the beekeeper and there's this wonderful book called The Shamanic Ways Of Being by Simon Buxton who came to visit me near the end of the project. And he just made contact with me out of the blue, he sent me a book. He didn't know me. He didn't know I was writing this album.
Really, it is bizarre. He sent his book to me some of the bee mistresses felt that I would relate to it and they didn't know why. I was writing the The Beekeeper at the time and it was just one of those... talk about instinctive. The honeybee of course, was the symbol for the ancient feminine of sacred sexuality. As I started studying the American culture, I was seeing so much more clarity in sexuality. It's puritanical. Women haven't been encouraged to be the nurturing mother and the mistress all in one being. A sacred place. So I really wanted to go after this union.
A lot of people see you as a feminist icon, but have you ever considered yourself a feminist?
Depends on how you define feminist. Because there were some people within the feminist 'movement' that were not open to men. Not just equality for women, I thought feminism was equality for all. But I think some women actually started to preach a message that was very similar to what the patriarchy did. That made me kind of not not want to be overly associated with that ideology. I think that we cannot become what was done to us. We just can't. We have to be the ones to heal ourselves. We can't look to the men to heal us from division of the sexuality and the segregation of the ancient feminine from the big three. Christianity and Islam. Even in Asia, how women have been treated we have to find it within ourselves, resurrect within ourselves and bury the divisions within ourselves. If we're looking to the outside to do it, then we will never be whole.
You've done a lot of questioning, exploring and research into religion, but have you come to a conclusion about what exactly your beliefs are?
I believe that I'm a citizen of the earth and my first loyalty is to be a caretaker of this planet and her children more than I am a taker. My grandfather always said to me, 'you're either more of a taker or more of a caretaker.' But do we get that? And some of us don't want entitlement to be here. And that's why we're destroying what is left of the next generation. There's a balance in this, there's a balance of caretaking and taking.
You've mentioned before that you need to fight for your right to have monsters. But by this do you mean wholly and unconditionally accepting your dark side, or admitting that you have these monsters and consciously ridding yourself of them?
I don't think you rid yourself of any pieces of your mosaic, but I think you have to understand part of wisdom that all of us have murderous feelings within us. All of us have rage. It's how you direct it and it's how you are conscious with it, be aware of what you're doing and your hypocrisy and what your intentions really are.
Your spiritual and physical self working together so that all facets of your wheel - your emotional body, your physical body, your mental body and your spiritual body - are all communicating. Because we all have desires. To rid yourself of them is an odd thing for me. That you have to transmute, that's very different. A transmutation of something that you have and you get it to work for you. It's really important. I mean if you look at a garden, there are all kinds of things within the garden that make it exist. If you don't have serpents, then you will have rats that will destroy your garden. The serpent, yes can be a dangerous element, but it can also save your garden. That's why Jesus always said, 'you must be as wise as a serpent.' I believe that. We look at mother nature as our teacher, all kinds of devouring essences exist, but I really believe it's how you utilise parts of your being in your life.
How exactly do you do that? How do you change what could be seen as a negative aspect of yourself into something productive?
You be honest with yourself and what you're up to. Fifteen minutes every day in your garden and say 'what do I really want?' And sometimes we're made to feel guilty about what we want. I spend a lot of time studying archetypes because on a basic level I agree with some of those great thinkers - Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung. These archetypes are within all of us to a different degree and if we're able to study these myths going through our culture, they're part of our bloodline, they're the roots to our tree. They're the secrets. You in your own being, Sarah, you carry different archetypes than I do. That's your uniqueness. And if you're able to just read about them, you will be drawn to certain ones. Artemis, Isis or Hathor.
Hathor and Sekhmet, they're very much a part of my performance self. Hathor is the musical Egyptian. But when Hathor is crossed, she is set moot which is the lioness. It's enraged a whole being. Now she is not necessarily a goddess that people love. She is able to take a stand against which she thinks is unfair, abusive. So, no, she's not the most popular. But I never have been and I've had to accept that.
I'm not necessarily warm and fuzzy and that's OK. I mean that Hathor side of me is but there's another side. And yet that other side is the reason that people come to the shows also because everybody I think wants to know what's lurking behind them. If you don't look at this, you will go mad. You will go completely mad because it's over your being and you find yourself saying things and doing things and you don't know why. Why am I such a bitch? At part of yourself that maybe your mum and dad don't want you to be or your friends, that's not their opinion of you. But you might somebody that's quite a recluse. And that side you have to nurture too.
Why haven't you been thanking the fairies lately in your liner notes?
They're there. They don't have to be thanked. They're part of the record now. It's like thanking myself. They walk everywhere that I go. But I don't see them as fairies, I see them as the spirit world. That would be like thanking the piano. But without it, it wouldn't exist. The spirit world is part of every note. I'm just a container, that's all I am.
t o r i p h o r i a
the World of Tori Amos