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Time Out Chicago (US)
November 1, 2007

Tori Amos

by Marc Geelhoed

All singers conjure some persona when they're performing, and Tori Amos has given life to all sorts of characters in her songs from 1992's Little Earthquakes and before. American Doll Posse, her most recent album, made that even more explicit, when she gave names and character traits to the nominal singers of her songs, such as Pip, who's described as "expiratorial," a word that technically doesn't exist. She takes these alter egos really seriously, as we found out when we tracked her down in Florida.

Why did you create all these extra characters for these songs? What was your motivation there?

It seems to me that you pick an image, you or me or the person reading, and yet that's not the only one you could have chosen. It might have been the one that you chose to intentionally shock your family, and then you kind of grow tired of it, or it's one that the family can deal with. But yet, you don't always allow yourself to explore other facets that you could have stepped into, but you didn't.

You almost seem to go back in time a little bit and say, maybe when I was 25, I could have done things this way. Is that an accurate way of looking at it?

Well, yes, and we could go further in time and just say, Mark and Tash [her husband Mark Hawley and their daughter] got taken by aliens because it's just an easier way to think about it—some kind of tragedy. But I could step into Pip's life in a minute. I could step into that life, and her life is very much about being a warrior, and I could see stepping into that life where you try and expose the child sex-slave trade. And I could step into another life, and probably would if something happened in my life as Tori that ripped it to shreds. I could very easily change my surroundings. I don't think I would continue to live my life if Mark and Tash were gone, the way that I'm living it now.

Is there any sense of regret when you look at these alternate avenues compared to the way things turned out now?

Well, no, because I'm able to step into them. So because I can step into them, and I think that everybody finds ways to think about it. You hear about the woman at the office who is having an affair, or goes to these seedy places on the weekend. She's trying to experience another side of her personality that she never allowed to happen in her conscious life.

Was this something that was just an evolution in your songwriting, or do you see it as a complete break from some of your earlier work?

No, I think that you work, as a creative artist, you work your whole life in building a foundation for the structures that you make if we think about it like that. I don't think an architect, all of a sudden after building for 20 years, just builds something that hasn't been influenced by the last 20 years they're creating. I guess in a way, all my life I've been collecting as a composer, listening to The Doors and Bowie. It's been there, but until I really understood, say for this record, that we were playing with the female archetypes, the ancient archetypes of the goddesses, that I decided that we had to go musically to the rock gods. It was a clear-cut choice with the musicians and with the engineers that the arrangements to this, we had our bench marks, and we knew for instance, "Father's Son" was really influenced by The Doors in the production of it.

And you're working on a level of allusion that exists in your audiences' memory too, right?

Well, yeah, and if you're going to have so much of your narrative to be with the women, I needed to have the testosterone to make this work.

Amos plays Auditorium Theater Monday 5 and Vic Theatre Tuesday 6.


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