home / interviews
The Posse of One
by Lex Lindsay
What happens when your multiple personalities start fighting with each other? Tori Amos and Lex Lindsay discuss taking sides, keeping the peace, and the wisdom of wigs...
In the opening strains of American Doll Posse Tori Amos scribes a poison pen letter to the leader of the free world - "is this just the madness of King George? Yo George, you have the whole nation on all fours." It seems apt, therefore, that she arrived on tour in Australia just days after the US President brought Sydney to a stand still with his visit for the APEC forum. I ask Tori if she had a hand in this synchronicity.
'Well it does make you wonder about the sense of humour of the universe, 'cos really the headline is "Two Bushes Down Under." But the thing is, I chose not to make a whole record about what was going on. I decided to give the leader of America a minute and twenty two seconds, because even though he and his posse filter through the whole record, we all are part of a spiritual family. We're part of different tribes. You're either part of the tribe that wants to emancipate humanity, and you believe that everybody has a right to have an autonomous soul and to make their own decisions. And then there's another tribe that think they know what's right for you and what you should be doing in your bedroom. And if you don't agree with them, then you're damned to hell.
I, as a minister's daughter, have a real issue with that. That Jesus' teachings have been manipulated to support this controlling force that is not for the freedom of the soul.'
Tori's response was to emancipate the Self. In her latest production, Amos embodies the five band members of the American Doll Posse. Each character defined and crafted through female symbols of the Greek pantheon, brought to life with the aid of wigs and wardrobe and intimately introduced to fans through online journals. She's part way through a world tour in which a different Doll opens the show each night.
'I guess, in order to remember the Self, and have it become whole, to become part of the Devine Feminine, then I really had to dissect it. I had to pull the pieces apart and look at them and say "hang on a minute. If I'm honest with myself, I've worked a lot in my life as a warrior." So, I guess stepping into Pip (Athena) was not that difficult for me. That's something that I find... you know... the rubber fits well. But a couple of the others were trickier. Particularly Santa (Aphrodite) was hard, really the hardest for me.'
Lex: But you are quite notorious for a, umm... well, let's just say... a sexed-up relationship to your piano... You don't feel that came from an Aphrodite place?
Tori: Well, yes maybe that did, but, you know, a lot of that was the rebellious side of the being making a point. But really allowing sensuality, the feminine, to be there and not to feel that by doing it you're selling out your feminist girlfriends. You know, that's a real dangerous one - that if you step into femininity that you're betraying feminism... I think that is where, if you want to talk about a thought-form that the Right Wing Christians are thrilled about, that's it right there. Because it keeps us at each others throats.
Lex: You miss the big game by being focused on the little game.
Tori: That's right, and you're not really looking at: 'what is the energy that doesn't want you or doesn't want me, or the people that we know, to express ourselves fully as who we are?' As long as we don't force somebody else, molest somebody else, as long as we don't cross that line, I have no desire to tell my friends how they should live or be. I'm flabbergasted at how many people think it is their right to tell me what kind of woman I need to be. Or you, and what kind of man you need to be and that you are not holy and sacred. And I think the one thing that the gay community has got to get is that nobody is going to sit there and give you an awards show that says: 'okay, Gay Spirituality - the award goes to...' you all have to do it for yourself.
Through the 5 women of the American Doll Posse, Amos has allowed herself to interact with different facets of her own personality. None more intriguing, perhaps, than the character named 'Tori' (modelled upon both Demeter and Dionysus). Through the artwork for the album, we see this caricature 'Tori' presented with signature elements of the singer's previous guises: the burning of sage, the straddling of her piano, an eye-catching pose with bible in one hand, the word shame scrawled across the other while menstrual blood runs down her leg... The level of self-reference intrigues me and I ask how the 'real Tori' sees this 'character Tori' fitting into the mix?
Tori: She's the band member, but she is also the creator of this concept. I thought that Demeter was allowed to do that, and being a nurturing force, I thought she would be more welcoming of the other women and not so catty.
Lex: So she's the experienced front woman?
Tori: And supportive. She's able to turn the baton over, she's able to allow them to come in and take over and express themselves fully and not feel threatened. That was really important, because sometimes I think we can all get threatened that... "well how come they all like her better than Tori?" I mean, I'm being honest with you, you have to think this through. So I gave Tori intrinsically in her code, in her structure, the archetype that was open to the other women. Because of that, she doesn't have the bitchy bone within her. And now, if I had given her that, boy, I don't know, this would've been difficult...
Lex: It could've turned ugly!
Tori: Yeah, she'd be stealing all their clothes
Lex: Exactly, you girls have got to travel the world together for how many months?
Tori: That's right... "Get them out of first class, fuck those bitches."
Lex: So, which pieces of the real Tori got to go in, and which pieces of the real Tori did you choose to cast out of the character 'Tori'.
Tori: That's a really good question, 'cos at the time, I think I would have had a different answer for you than now. 'Cos now the 'real Tori' is being affected and changed by these other facets, the other women.
You know, one day this story has to end, and it's not that far on the horizon, it's not upon us as we speak, but all good stories have an ending. So, I know that their "expression" as we see them now will morph and shift, and yet they're not going to die, because I'm forever changed by them. I'm not the same as I was two years ago before I let them into my life. And I really don't think I can let go of the rubber (worn by character 'Pip') that easily.
Lex: Surely you'll get over the wigs though. Is that not becoming uncomfortable?
Tori: Well you know, it's one of those things. I have a lot more time now for people who do that. I understand why they like it. 'Cos I will tell you, you've got to admit, when your body is bathed in sweat but the hair is perfect. How fantastic is that.
I mean in the old days, I'm playing my heart out right, and no matter how it happens, I become a poodle. But now you're playing and you're sweating and you have this perfect coif. And you think Yes! There is a Goddess.
It's a personal fascination of mine to play with, and push the boundaries of, what we consider masculinity to be. I'm intrigued by men exploring alternate expressions of their masculine image. So, I ask Tori what she thinks it would take for Men to have a similar kind of internal revolution, akin to the one she has undergone with her Doll Posse?
Tori: I think it would be incredibly liberating if guys allowed themselves to try on different sides. I mean, Husband said to me, "you know Wife, don't try and apply this to me. I love that you're doing it but I am a really simple creature." And I thought, well how simple are you? And he said "well, I wanna be good at my gig, I wanna ride my motorcycle, I wanna watch Arsenal, and I wanna shag my wife. Let's just leave it at that."
So, you know, some men choose to be fully who they are in the image they've chosen to be. But I would surely be fascinated to see some guys say 'I'd really like to see what Odin would look like if I woke up tomorrow and took him to work', or a wedding with some very puritanical friends of friends, to take Loki with you - how fun would that be?
Lex: Maybe this is what we need to plan for APEC?
Tori: Wouldn't that be good.
Lex: Yeah, we'll go in there and we'll gather all these world leaders and dress them up.
Tori: Yeah but the crazy thing is, I think they'd really respond to it. If they allowed themselves. Because I do think a lot of people feel trapped. You know, when you think about it, this is what really spurred me on, because when we feel trapped, I do think it's easier for us to be controlled, and seduced into thinking all kinds of things. Or, when we feel trapped, our lives are so heavy, we're distracted, so we're not looking at what's happening to our world.
Bent Magazine is a lifestyle magazine which focuses on queer culture, fashion, galleries, hot men, events, parties and community in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, Australia
t o r i p h o r i a
the World of Tori Amos