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WELCOME TO THE DOLL HOUSE
Words by Marcelo Dos Santos
A Southern belle as keen top talk feminist politics as she is to sing, TORI AMOS aspires to be not just a performer, but a spokeswoman for her generation. She talks to Attitude about her new album, a call to arms against the bigotry of George Bush's America
Tori Amos speaks very quietly and precisely, as if you were the only two people in the universe. If she were a fire-and-brimstone cult leader, you'd happily give away 10 per cent of your income and sacrifice your firstborn after about five minutes of meeting her. Luckily she's not -- she's lovely, but intense. After an hour in her presence, it's hard not to leave completely smitten and more than a little befuddled. Wise woman, femme fatale, feminist, patriot, Southern belle, Tori Amos lives for contradiction and no one knows this more than Tori herself. Back on form with her ninth studio album, American Doll Posse, Tori Amos is in the process of channeling five very different women, each representing various aspects of modern woman as a whole. Each woman has her own name, style, history and is credited with writing different songs on the new album. As the project progresses each will write a blog on Myspace. Sounds confusing? It is a little; but in the world Tori and her following orbit, it all makes sense. For everyone else though, the good news is that aside from the conceit, American Doll Posse is her most accessible album since From The Choirgirl Hotel or even Little Earthquakes. After the ethereal excesses of The Beekeeper, Tori has rediscovered her anger and a great deal of her sass as she storms through the album's lightning-fast change of temp and genre. She's utterly convincing and irresistible as a country rock chick (Big Wheel, You Can Bring Your Dog) and more than a little camp as a French chanteuse on the track Velvet Revolution. The album is packed with classic Tori motifs -- rumbling piano, soaring vocals, opaque lyrics -- but rarely loses its coherence or sense of purpose. There's no doubting that what links all the voices on the album is Tori's anger and compassion for an America that has lost its way.
So how are you?
I'm doing well. We've been shopping for the stage-clothes for the ladies on stage. It's been fun. Big fun.
Is there a part of you that enjoys the clothes, campery, and dolling up as it were of a live show?
The dolling of the dolls, yeah, because for the first time I'm allowing these creatures to come alive on stage. But you can go too far. To do this exercise correctly there has to be this strategy; you have to edit and you have to see when you are stepping out of the character type and when you haven't been a good channel; and that's when you've allowed your own personal life to just get involved in your art, and have to have a word with the performer as the producer and say "look, this is not working".
So: 'American Dolls', Correct me if I'm wrong, but would it be fair to say that it's a kind of reaction against right-wing extremism and the way women find themselves in these strange little boxes...
Yes. I think that's quite right. And they don't quite know how they got there.
Do you think that is a condition unique to America?
Well, because I'm from there I understand that culture and I'm part of it for good or ill. I'm a guest here, and I understand that. I'm influenced by being in Europe and in Britain and enjoy having that detachment from the States. But basically I work as a double agent and my loyalty is to the liberation of the US. There is something intrinsic about this whole project that goes back to power and the abuse of power. America has more powerful women in it than any country and it makes you wonder why women have allowed themselves to be muzzled. It's almost a quest of mine to explore the inner war within women.
Alongside what they're doing to women's rights, the Bush administration is doing awful things to gay rights as well. What's your response to that?
Ya'll have to network yourselves; you have to infiltrate, make sure you are in every possible field that you can be in -- not just fashion and art, but finance and politics. Then you'll become one of the most powerful lobbies in the world, like a Trojan horse -- which I think is quite lovely for a gay analogy. Those Trojans just moved right on in there. You have to see it as a battle of ideologies because it is, and yet we cannot fight them as they fight. They fight with violence and we have to outwit them. But if anybody thinks that regime doesn't have any intelligence then they're mistaken, otherwise it wouldn't have lasted this long, and yet I don't think it's intelligent enough to turn it around... It couldn't because it operates for its own agenda. It's not for we, the people on any level. It's not for those boys and women that are dying for it. It is nothing to do with that, and we all know that. And that's why I as an American cannot stand by, I can't be a hypocrite. But in order to address this, don't you think there are so many subjects that have to be looked at that are much more intriguing than talking about the executive branch. What we have to talk about is why we have chosen not to act?
Well, there is this rift in the queer movement between those who don't see their sexuality as a defining thing and maintain that it's not a political thing, and those that think it can't help but be...
Because my parents are registered Republicans I don't see Republicans as the 'three-horned monsters' by any means. There are a lot of really good people who are choosing to be [Republican] that aren't against gays and are questioning this war. Doesn't it seem that, as women and gays infiltrate every aspect of society, people have to deal with us on a different level, if we keep ourselves on the outside of most of society then I think it helps the right wing do its job.
There feels like there is a lot more anger on this album, particularly in songs like Fat Slut.
I think I went through my mother phase on Beekeeper and Scarlet's Walk and I needed to do that. I think it was the last bastion of the feminine which I hadn't experienced. There is a cruel side to people that is not covert anymore. I wish it would be in a way, because it's horrific the way we treat each other. Fat Slut is not about al-Qaida, American Doll Posse is really looking at the enemy from within.
Do you think people feel they have a right now to be cruel, that it is part of their emancipation, their freedom?
Maybe you're on to something, maybe there is a license to be cruel now. If we can be life to and if our civilised governments can act in a certain way, why can't we? But it doesn't make it right. I think people are frustrated. I don't think it's by accident that they haven't been able to unify. And if the masses are distracted and self-consumed then they can't. There are moments on American Doll Posse where women are self-consumed and we go into that because there is no shame in that. I think if you're a narcissist and all you do is wake up to try and expand your selfish empire then that kind of person is going to be really hard to rattle, and it might not happen until their own child turns on them in disgust. So you have to make them want to learn, you have to make it delicious and fashionable.
Onto some lighter questions now...
'Harry Potter' or 'Doctor Who'?
My child Natashya was really drawn to Harry Potter because of the possibilities of magic and the unexplained. Watching it through her eyes was a completely different experience. Dr Who, you've got to love. The theology is really quite sound, so on that level Dr Who is going to get me every time.
Favourite ice cream? Chocolate, vanilla or raspberry swirl?
Raspberry swirl [with a little smile]
You have to say whether you'd shoot, shag, or marry one of the following... Beth Ditto, from The Gossip?
Shoot. But no blood on the dress, because it would be a nice dress
That leaves you shagging the Queen...
I'm happy about that. I still have some testosterone and she was quite lovely when she was younger. Yeah, she's an older woman, but with all due respect, I thing the Queen is quite shaggable. I mean who wouldn't want to shag a queen?
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