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May 9, 2009
Tori Amos: Stealing music is disrespectful
by Martin Jan Stepanek, pressetext.austria
photos by Julia Fuchs
Martin: While the major labels take action against illegal downloads, many artists shy away from the controversial discussion and maybe even offer free downloads as a counter measure. Are the artists to lose out on all of this?
Tori: The possible danger is that if the public is naïve enough to think that when you go to a wine tasting you can put the bottle of wine in the bag. If you start doing that the vineyard is going to shut down. There has to be some kind of exchange. If you're going to take a song, you need to give back -- if you value it.
Martin: You could argue, though, that more people will show up at your concerts, if they like the music they downloaded.
Tori: That doesn't keep the records going. That only keeps the petrol in the buses and the crew paid. To me, this is about respect. What if I come into your house and start putting shit in my bag? Wouldn't you think that I'm crossing a line there? Where is my respect for your home?
Martin: But do you see a way out of this?
Tori: Consciousness. It's not about rules. We're talking about something far more serious here. This is about a generation trying to find a way to show value. If I'm taking from an artist and all I do is taking, then this is an unhealthy relationship and I'm a parasite. I don't like the idea and I don't think the public likes the idea either. At the same time it's also about being respected by the artist. Neither side can take each other for granted. The artist has to make sure too that they are giving enough and acknowledge for the fact that everyone worked hard to be able to buy this ticket or special package. This is something every artist has to develop with the public. I think it's a very individual thing.
Martin: During your last US tour you put recordings of many of your concerts online for sale shortly after they finished. Did that pay off and are there any similar plans for this tour?
Tori: It went very well. So, we're planning something again, but it might be Europe this time. It's a very involving thing, because you have to work with the venues and promoters.
Martin: The new album turns out to be quite diverse in style.
Tori: Because the compositions were so diverse, it sort of set the blue prints for the building. Early on, Mark and I were hammering out concepts for arrangements. Then Mark and Marcel were hammering out sonic direction, so when all the players came in, they would be working within the blue prints. After having done American Doll Posse, for which I needed to have a more of a band kind feeling in production, something like this was encompassing twenty years of my composition style. Even though it wasn't going back to "From the choirgirl hotel" it grabs styles from each period of my career.
Martin: Apparently, the role of the piano on the albums has changed quite substantially over the years. Where does she stand nowadays?
Tori: In making records, you have to grow and there is the composer side of the self that will not battle with the instrumentalist, but say 'look, I have to compose things that are not just designed for the piano anymore' and that's the side that has been more blossoming in the record making process.
Martin: Your early albums seem to mirror your personal experiences and emotions in a different way than albums like American Doll Posse or Scarlet's Walk, in which you take on different characters. As an artist, do you feel more detached from your private self than when you were younger?
Tori: I'd say that as a composer the process is similar in the sense that the experiences have to be there in order to write. Sometimes I don't see, how people cannot see that. There is no way I could write the songs unless I knew them first hand. But talking about the details and the 'whys' and the 'whos' is just not going to keep you in a 20 year career and keep you having a personal life. It gets ravaged. I think I allow a lot and so much of me is out there in the open -- completely. But how it is applied to my personal life just isn't up for discussion.
Martin: Do you compose differently now than you did ten, fifteen years ago? With some of the new songs, it's quite hard to imagine you composing them at the piano.
Tori: Yes, definitely. Songs like "Police Me" or "Strong Black Vine" might start on an organ. Within the process it gets tracked, so Matt and Jon can get their performances. But sitting back, listening back, we would find out that the keyboard doesn't sound right or the composition doesn't really offer enough room for the piano being the central character. But that's fine. She's always there and I'm always working things out with her as a conspirator. At the same time, the relationship between her and me is so secure that now I feel I don't have to force to have the piano on everything.
Martin: In the Little Earthquakes and Under the Pink era you were known to be a harsh editor, trimming down the albums to roughly 12 songs. All of your latest releases clock in over 70 minutes with 17, 18 tracks...
Tori: Yes, but then you got the b-sides, which have always been some of the favourites of the public. You don't get that anymore. So if you're working with a 12 song record nowadays then there was so much music being edited out that was worthy. Despite, I'm a very harsh editor more so. 'Cause you don't know what doesn't make the record!!!
Martin: So, you're saying that nowadays you rather put one or two songs more on the album, even if they don't fit too tightly in the overall concept?
Tori: That's right. Absolutely.
Martin: Thank you so much.
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