home / interviews
Meebo/UStream (US, www)
July 23, 2008
Tori Amos on Comic Book Tattoo
Are we running? Hey everybody I'm sitting here with Abe. You can't see him but he's helping me read everything on the screen and it's great that you you're with us today. I'm here in CA and I'm getting ready to go to Comic Con having never been before. I really don't know what to expect so if anybody has any helpful hints that would be great.
So let's see some of the questions.
Why a comic book?
My friend Rantz, I've known him for, I don't know since, over 20 years now, and he got me into comic books and he was crashing at my place while I was writing Little Earthquakes, and he came to me about a year and a half ago with this idea. Maybe not even that long ago. Maybe it was only a year, because it was after last year's Comic Con, and he said, "Why don't we do a comic book of your songs?" And so, we talked about it, and we got together and thought about a concept, and I knew that if that was going to be any good, that there had to be a sense that the artists weren't going to edit themselves so much. Rantz had told me that a lot of writers and artists were afraid to be really creative because some of the companies that they work for don't want them to upset their demographic. And, all of you know how I feel about demographics.
Oh yeah, of course, all my songs are the ones that the stories are about, and the artists were the ones that picked which ones they wanted to do.
Why did I stop writing the doll's blogs?
I'm writing a lot of other things right now. Some exciting things, I hope! And the idea is that this project I'm working on right now will be out sometime in, I'd hope the first part of next year but we'll see how quickly I progress. I'm also writing a musical. I turned Act I in to the British National Theatre, so we're still waiting to hear what they think about that one. It was a very different kind of process working with more of a committee of people but I love the story -- it's called "The Light Princess". I have to write Act II before I get the green light so -- to be continued-
Any plan of working with a live orchestra?
Well, I think with the musical, if that, well, again if that gets the green light of course there will be an orchestra there. As far as me taking an orchestra with me or picking up players as I go, I haven't made that commitment yet, for myself. But, I'm excited about the prospect of having my work played by an orchestra every night and I think "The Light Princess" lends itself; I'm writing it for a full orchestra, so that's, again, in the works. Everything with me is in the works, huh?
How did I come up with the idea of heavy breathing in "Precious Things"?
Sometimes when we're recording, whoever's in the studio -- it's strange how ideas just hit you. Sometimes I might see or hear somebody do something and then the light bulb goes on and I think this would be great in the percussion part. When you are composing, you have, you are in one headspace, and you are dealing with basic structure and then when you are making records you need to step out of that and put your "arranger thinking cap" on. And that's when you can really start to experiment. I think it depends sometimes, the mood that you're in, but I try all kinds of things when I'm in the mix room and sometimes things work and sometimes they don't. So a lot of that is just improvisation, so much of the arrangements, we try things you don't hear, and a lot of that just gets, maybe shelved, and we bring that idea later on, maybe for a different project. So you collect these ideas as you go along. That's what I think, any time you are a creator you never throw an idea away, you just might have to apply it to something different.
Any plan of releasing the comic book as a film?
That's a really good idea, isn't it? I haven't ruled that out; I think that -- people have been talking with me about that, especially if it were done right. Or, a TV serial. But, again, you have to collaborate with producers that wouldn't want to make it so commercial that you miss what the comic book is. We were able to do this the way that we've done it is because no one was stopping the process -- I made sure I had Rantz's back. And so I put all my muscle behind it which meant that Image wasn't going to step in and say, well you all need to think about this story and that story. This way the artists had a lot of freedom, and sometimes as some of you know if you take something to Hollywood or you take it to a network then they might bring 6 writers on a project and they're trying to please the advertisers and all kinds of people. That doesn't mean that it can't be done, but you have to make sure that you're pairing with the right people. So, I'm taking that one slowly.
Will you be at Comic Con?
Yes! I'm going. I'm on one of the panels on Saturday, and no, um I thought it was, well I'd be singing. Well I'll be SIGNING, I need glasses. I will be signing, yes. We have books there, so that we will be signing.
How often do I see the family in North Carolina?
When we tour, when we go through there when we're touring we see everybody, they all come to see us.
What's this-somebody's just read Piece by Piece-and um, the marriage between Mary and the Magdalene -- how to unite the two symbols of woman?
That's been really tricky, over the years, to find that balance. Maybe I'm- I'm not suggesting that anyone becomes a parent to find that, but when I became pregnant and I carried my daughter, I started to have a whole different view of a woman's body. And somehow, some way, all these kinds of taboos and feelings of shame that maybe I had taken on board as a minister's daughter and through the Christian philosophy -- it just fell away. It didn't fall away in a day, but as I got bigger and bigger, and became as big as a beached whale, I felt, um, I don't know, more at peace with my physicality and the spirituality. So being a mom made me realize that you can be sexy, you can feel that way, only YOU can feel that for yourself -- somebody else can see you as that, but if you don't feel that about yourself, then that to me is key, that's the only way that you can carry both. And the question of course I hear some of you say, well how do you feel that way about yourself? And I think, I had to get rid of those old programs. People are- can be so vicious, and I don't know if they think they are being cool by being vicious but it is SO easy to be vicious isn't it. It's the easiest thing in the world.
What's that? It's going so fast -- the song you soundchecked in Bonn -- oh my god! -- will you bring her back?
I soundchecked in Bonn, yes! I remember that. Well you might be surprised. We'll see. I remember it. It doesn't have a title, but I remember what it was, and it has been visiting me lately.
How do you see the next 20 years of your life?
Um, you know I don't know, I think the next 20 years it's important to create while I can. I haven't really slowed down yet. I think leaving Sony was a, gave me a lot of strength and it also gave me, maybe you can say, a reason to wake up in the morning and know that you are writing things that you are not handing over to people that don't really care about it. So that's really important, because so many people that create turn it in to somebody, whether it's a publisher or an editor, and they don't want to turn it in to that person. And I didn't really want to turn it in anymore. But now that I've left that kind of old established model, and that structure, I feel pretty rejuvenated. So that's given me a lot of
(reads question to herself)
Yes I will be voting. Are you kidding? Are you kidding?!? Of course.
(deciphers next question with Abe)
Oh you know I don't know, I think as far as doing another comic book, we just need to take a breath from this. There was so much work that has been put in to this from so many people in order to take it from the stories and then make this beautiful thing that you are going to be holding. A lot of the artists didn't even know what it would look like, the book itself.
And so, I knew Rantz told me when he held it he couldn't believe that it was what it was. Even he was surprised. So it took a lot of people to make this book happen, um people behind the scenes that- some of them are standing right here that don't get a lot of credit. And ooh is this it? Oh good. OK OK I get to show it.
So this is the book. It's big! You can see how big it is -- see? Ah! And okay, lemme see. Okay, Chels, if I- (starts flipping through the book) That's Marianne, should we give them -- This is Flying Dutchman. First one. This is the first story. And I wrote the song for Rantz when he was 19. And then you get, so you get a sense of the artwork, and then I'll jump forward -- that's crazy red-headed person, who knows .. Bouncing Off Clouds, Merman -- I mean I'm jumping around obviously -- Marianne. So you can see,.. It's so big! Wait a minute.. ugh! Thanks guys- Then you get different, I mean you are getting such different styles, if you look. Chick with a mohawk's at fights, then you get -- so you have all these different kinds of approaches to the songs. What's that -- Programmable Soda. You get stuff in here that Tash got her hands on and I had to say "Hey! You shouldn't be looking at that." She said, "Why not? Why are these women kissing, Mummy?" I said, "Just, because they do, sometimes. Now, just, turn the page." So that's Jackie's Strength. I love this one -- Little Amsterdam. This one's completely spooky. So you get that. Different style again. I'll jump around a bit. I love that one as well. Um, you see how different- okay.. AH! See! Women kissing!!! There it comes! Yay! There they are. Okay and it keeps going on and on -- Snow Cherries from France, how cutie they are, cute cute cute- Tash was allowed to look at that one. Okay and then it goes on and on and on, so you see -- Oh, the murder story. Yep of course, it's a red-headed woman doing that. Figures, huh. And okay, so you get a sense of the scale.
So people are asking me about the American Doll Posse DVD.
Well sometime next year is the plan. There's a lot to do to mix it and get it done and get it there but it should be out sometime in 2009 -- before the end of 2009 -- promise! For sure! There's a LOT to do for... um...
How much footage from both nights?
Well, as much as we can use, without repeating ourselves.
Where am I right now?
I am at my friend's house, Johnny, who's having a cookout after this, and some of the people who are here with me right now are... they left Sony as well. And so they're all here, we're having a party, and some are people working on the comic book, some are people that I've met while working on other things that are coming. And we're having, um.. what are we having? Johnny's on the grill (someone off camera says salmon and chicken). We're having healthy food because I was really naughty this week and Johnny is so mad at me, as is Rantz, because I always end up at the greasy places when they are not there, so we girls, I ended up at The Apple Pan, which are just the best burgers in L.A. by the way, in my opinion. I used to go there in the '80s. I know, it's still there. And so I went, and took one of my friends from London who was just over the moon about it and I went TWICE, twice in 24 hours! Shocking! Because I was in the middle of filming something, so I had to get something late, and the idea was we couldn't have any more burgers. How many can ya have in one week before you pour yourself into some leather contraption for Comic Con. I mean, you know, what is it, 98 degrees, pouring yourself into leather? I don't know, it very well could be faux leather but it is still bloody hot, that's what I'm tellin' ya. So, if I eat any more, I'm not going to get into my outfit. So it's healthy food. Very good wine tonight. In my dreams we're going to have Ravinia. That's what I'm hoping he's got. So a Californian red for sure. I'm not a white drinker. I used to be, but it's too sweet. Champagne now, that's nice. But we can't have any of that until it's much later, or otherwise we'll be like the British, hah! Drinking far too early. Okay, what am I doing-
(reads question) I want to see your complete outfit, stand up!
It's not that exciting, (gets up and tries to turn around) oh the skirt, I'm stuck.. Shoe is just important. Should I do that? (stands on chair to show the shoes) Can you see it? (holds up foot to show the whole shoe) There that's my complete outfit. OK so you know it's live right! You know this is really happening live. Okay now, but I have a pillow or I'm too short. Ok you just answered my question, see what I do for you guys. Um, I can't read that language. What is that? By the way everybody loved playing Israel, how great was that. So inspirational for us. That was just the most wonderful.
Do songs come to you that are just for you, never for anyone else?
Yes! A song came to me this morning, "Naked As The Lamb". Uh, unless I'm doing a Christmas record, with Tash, it probably shouldn't show up.
Besides "Honey" are there other songs you kick yourself for leaving off a record?
Yes! "Sugar". "Sugar", "Honey"get the picture ah, um- "Here. In My Head", this song from Bonn that somebody's brought up but I'm gonna do something, I'm going to correct that.
Do I write songs for myself?
Yeah, yeah I do. But they don't always make the cut because they might be repetitive of something else. Sometimes when you are just fiddling around you don't realize, Oh my god, I just wrote that a few weeks ago but in another form.
What about bootlegs from old shows, especially 5 1/2 Weeks?
That's a really good idea! Um, it's about time, because you have to go through those tapes and you have to edit them and then mix them, and it takes a lot of time to get that right. But it's not, it's not as if we are not considering it.
Any plan to visit Mexico and South America?
Let me ask Chelsea -- Any plans? (Chelsea says, Not this year) Not before Christmas. But the thing is, we said we would go to Poland, and we did; we said we would go to Australia, and we did; we said we would go to Israel, and we did. So maybe the next place we need to say we are going to go to is somewhere south of the border. It's always about getting our crew down there and making it happen, and sometimes you know we just have to carve it out.
So okay, what else is going on? Do you ever plan on making a children's album?
I don't know. I don't know. I'm not sure about that. It's a good question. I think "The Light Princess" -- children should be able to come, but I'm not just writing it for children, it's not a Disney piece. Um, I'm not against Disney; Tash loves going to see "Beauty and the Beast" and I thought the stage production was really great. But, "The Light Princess" is based on a 19th century novel and yet we changed it a lot. Of course we're going to add things in there that might relate to what a teenage girl goes through today, that wasn't talked about in the book in the 19th century. So you know that I'm going to be pushing for certain elements that Disney might not include or they would include it in a way that would be acceptable. And I like to push it a little bit, because even though Tash loves some of those programs from Disney, she's 7 years old, and being exposed to it has helped me because you begin to see, What is it that she's staring at? Why, Why is Tash, and Barry, my hair and makeup person, um, why are they Disney Channel addicts? And the two of them will be sitting there for hours and hours and hours, watching these things over and over and over again, watching these things and I'll stick my head in there and say, "What happened to you two?" and so I begin to see what it is that is seducing them. So, when you're writing something for an audience, say, 7 til 75, um, then you have to think about having meanings on both levels. And, it's not strictly for children, no, "The Light Princess." I would like to think that if you are going out with the girls on a date or you just want to have a fun night that you can come to it and get something out of it. But also if you want to bring your child, that you're not saying, God I wish I hadn't brought that, that's not what I wanted my child to be exposed to. But they have to be open-minded.
"Bouncing Off Clouds" -- where did I get the influence?
Sometimes the songs just come. I don't know where they come from, uh, I really don't. I think maybe when you're reading lots of art books and you're living your life and you're having experiences, they collect. You become sort of a walking encyclopedia as a creator, whether you're a novelist or a poet or a painter or a filmmaker or a musician. You collect these experiences and you must, if you're present, then you just file them away and you're not even aware of it. And then they come, sometimes when you're not even thinking about them literally. I do set aside time every day to compose. Even if I'm just walking down a street I don't have to be by an instrument to do that. I can be walking -- I'm here in California -- I can be walking down the Strand or by the water or just alone to my hotel room and I put aside time to be creative. You know you have to put aside time to be creative; if you just wait for the muse to come, well maybe she just isn't (snaps) gonna do all the work for you. I think we have to do some of the work and then maybe the magic just comes out of hours and hours and hours of discipline. So "Bouncing Off Clouds" was probably a mixture of the last couple of years before it was written and it hit me on that day. It was a very blustery day and it had been tumultuous, it had been a tumultuous time for a couple weeks and I just think all those images came together.
"Come to Israel! Come to Israel!"
And we loved it. We've been, and we've love to come again. Wouldn't we. Yay! Abe needs to go to Israel. Abraham needs to go to Israel. Okay.
(reads question to herself)
Um, the art on Comic Book Tattoo was really about Rantz making that call. He's a great artist himself, and he illustrated a few stories. But I think what Rantz knew, our concept was, the two of us, had made a commitment -- to push the boundary as far as we could, of, of a big comic book compilation. We wanted to do something that hadn't been done before. And that meant, it wasn't just one style. We wanted every style represented that we could. And so we didn't just go to one genre of artists or storytellers, and for me, that was key. Um, the other thing is, we kind of wanted the artists to push each other, so he had created a website that you could upload your initial drawings. So you know they're going to peek. And you might say to me, well is that really good to incite that kind of competitive spirit? But they all had the gig, it's not sort of like, um, American Idol where you're gonna beat the pants off of someone else and they're not gonna get the contract. Everybody had the gig that was given the secret password to put up the work. So this meant that you could kinda get a peek at, well what's so-in-so pushing, or what is this person putting forth? And what that kinda did is make somebody think, Oh wait a minute, I have to raise my game a little bit. And you know, that was one of the, the things that I saw. Um, things started to improve as the stakes got higher and higher and people started bettering themselves and it makes you want to be the best that you possibly can, not just, what can I get away with. They started to know all their contemporaries were out here, or people that didn't know who they were, if they were kind of newer artists. And they thought, you know I can hold my own against them. I can do this gig. So, yeah, we wanted to create a book that had never been quite like this one.
Okay, they're telling me it's time to go to the cookout now, and um, thanks for being there guys. It, it really means a lot. Especially in this time where I left a major label and uh, I don't know where I'm going, I'm just kind of finding my own way, and it means a lot that there's so much support out there. So, that means a lot.
Thanks, and I hope you enjoy the book.
[transcribed by toritattoo]
t o r i p h o r i a
the World of Tori Amos