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Montreal Mirror (Canada)
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August 25, 2005
Minding her beeswax
Tori Amos on Mary Magdalene, Eminem and the sacred sexuality of the shamanic honeybee
by Lateef Martin
As the skies darken and gas prices soar, the USA's grande dame of folkloric pop, Tori Amos, unleashes the wisdom of her eighth album, The Beekeeper. The album's lush "gardens" address relationships, not only with ourselves, but with the gods and goddesses who rule over us and our planet. The Mirror caught up with Tori between soundchecks for a bit of honey.
Mirror: You think the planet's gonna rebel eventually?
Tori Amos: She's already rebelling. The tsunami and those hurricanes - don't you think she's talking to us? We're just not listening.
Mirror: She's been talking, now she's starting to scream.
Tori Amos: I'm with you. What's it gonna take? If we don't start listening, we won't hear her anymore because we'll all be gone.
Mirror: Have recent world events shaped your message?
Tori Amos: Of course, because the leaders have harnessed Christianity in a way to get the masses to agree with their agenda. So I wanted to take the seed and symbology of Christianity and create a different garden for people to walk into, where the feminine sits at the round table equally to the masculine. And I wanted to try to unveil Jesus's teachings, not how they've been hijacked and tarnished, but to go back to the Gnostic gospels and try to weave that symbology and message into a work. The gospel of Mary Magdalene was discovered in the late 19th century and that's worth reading because you get a sense that Magdalene was not a prostitute but a prophet, and that was not profitable.
Mirror: With the primitive scientific belief that bees shouldn't be able to fly, I see a beekeeper as someone who tends to impossible creatures.
Tori Amos: Impossible is an intriguing word. I see impossible as: dream the impossible dream to fight the impossible foe. The foe not being the bee - the honeybee has never let us down. He has given us light with wax, sustenance with honey and propolis, which is antiviral. But mainly, the honeybee represents sacred sexuality. It has transcended religions. If we look at the big three - Islam, Christianity and Judaism - honey and the honeybee have permeated all three, but stayed independent and held its shamanic quality. I felt it was necessary as part of our parable. And this is our garden parable, not the one in Genesis where the woman is blamed for sin and is chucked out of paradise, but an alternate garden where Tori goes to God's mother and says, "Clearly things aren't working out so well, we're in trouble, what should we do?" And she says, "You must eat of the forbidden fruit from the sea of knowledge, and only through consciousness will there be a ship. But first you must go with your own relationship with Tori." So each song is what she begins to see after she eats of the forbidden fruit in this alternate garden of the beekeeper.
"You want to play, motherfucker?"
Mirror: Speaking of tending to impossible creatures, being a mom now must have a huge influence on your music.
Tori Amos: Yeah, but it's also a sense of responsibility. What used to be important was important to me at the time, but what's important now is because of being influenced by younger lives depending on you.
Mirror: By the way, I enjoyed Strange Little Girls, where you covered songs by men, particularly Eminem's "Bonnie and Clyde."
Tori Amos: A lot of people were listening to his work at the time, and if I was directing the male psyche, I had to take him, as an artist, on board. I decided that this track needed the mother's point of view. It was really irresistible for me - I had to do it. And I saw these people at the time dancing in the blood of this woman. And I decided: if people think they like hardcore, then let's play. You want to play, motherfucker? I'll play with you.
Mirror: So what's next for you after this tour?
Tori Amos: I've always wanted to write a musical. I've been approached, but I just need to think about it because it's very challenging and you could get it all wrong. We'll see...
With the Ditty Bops and the Likes
at the Bell Centre on Fri., Aug. 26, 7:30 p.m., $40-$55
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the World of Tori Amos