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The 'flame-haired-kookstress' comes clean about sonic orgasms, pies and regret. By Lucy O'Brien
Disproving the record company execs who said that "the girl with piano thing" wouldn't catch on, Tori Amos first sprang to notice as a solo artist in 1992 with her album Little Earthquakes. Chart success with luscious, piano-led singles like Crucify and Cornflake Girl followed, and she went on to explore everything from dance music (Professional Widow) to impenetrable baroque (Boys For Pele). An outspoken artist who refused to make her sometimes abstract output more radio-friendly, by the mid-'90s Amos reached a stalemate with her label, Atlantic, before switching to Epic for 2002's Scarlet's Walk. Featuring elastic funk grooves and grainy, vaudevillian pop, her tenth studio album, American Doll Posse, is released in May.
What's the new album about?
"This record is rebelling against the two extremes of how the world currently views American women. From female vulgarity -- the types who flash their panties and release sex tapes -- to women who take on male personas to compete in business and politics. These are the type of women the world sees as the American female. The record is an opportunity to reclaim the segmented pieces of the female psyche that were cut up within them centuries ago, and reunite them."
The celebrity-driven gloss of female pop -- why is this so prevalent now?
"Whether they're selling perfume or a song, people have decided they're a brand. Because mythology is no longer taught, you get watered-down versions of the Greek goddesses in pop stars. Hollywood did a good job of creating icons in the '30s and '40s, they understood a story. Now, give 'em a haircut and some clothes and they think they can pull off Aphrodite. It is icon-lite. Then you have situations like Britney shaving her head. I don't think her sweet, saccharine image was close to who she really was, and she rebelled. The idea that someone willing to have their life excavated in this way reminds me of ancient Rome, where people watched others getting killed. There's no blood and gore, but it can get very messy."
Will some people be offended by this album's cover image of you holding a Bible and blood seeping down your legs?
"I'm a minister's daughter, I've grown up in the church I'm confident about what I'm tackling. I'm questioning how Jesus's teachings have been used. Right-wing America is not honest about why we went into this religious war, and they're still not being held accountable for it."
Why the beef with downloading?
"Firstly, I think artists should be paid. I believe in supporting everyone who makes something, whether it's fabrics, pies or a record. Secondly, I object to the fact that people might listen to my music on these tiny headphones. It can only be a disappointment. I created it for you to crank it up and have a sonic orgasm! And with downloading we listen to everything in bits. Could you imagine what Charles Dickens would say if you said, 'Could I just have one chapter?' [NB Many of Dickens' novels were in fact serialised before publications as books.] You're creating a short story culture. What happened to narrative? That's why I made American Doll Posse a double album on vinyl. It's a real concrete structure."
You've been at it for over 20 years now -- do you think you could have been a bigger star if you'd done things differently?
"Maybe for a moment in time I could have taken it to that level. But it's very hard to maintain that. Only The Rolling Stones, U2 and Madonna have managed it. you can manipulate your image, but an audience senses if it's not authentic and they turn off. When you change your stripes to cash in, they know it. I prefer that I've always done my own thing."
Have some people had the wrong idea about you?
"Yes there were some dark days. but now in my early forties I feel that, by staying true, I've never had better treatment. If you're gonna fall it'll be in your thirties. In your twenties you're the new car, but in your thirties you're the new car from five years ago, and there's nothing good about that. If you can make it to your forties, you become a classic car. You're that sexy Jag that nobody can get any more. You have a story to tell."
Do you have any regrets?
"Yeah. When I was going up against some of the big powerhouses in the music industry I could have played a craftier game. But I had to prove my point and stand up for women's rights."
Tell us something you've never told an interviewer before.
"Ha ha! That I like interviews. You get pushed to answer questions. Sometimes in having your feet held to the fire you get a better under-standing of what you believe in."
Tori's songs of power
David Bowie -- "Queen Bitch"
The Pretenders -- "Tattooed Love Boys"
The Specials -- "Ghost Town"
Jimi Hendrix -- "Are You Experienced?"
Billie Holiday -- Anything
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