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Seattle Weekly (US)
July 9, 2009
[from Seattle Weekly's Reverb music blog]
Q&A with Tori Amos
By Malia Makowicki
Will it be a perfect 10? Tori Amos is set to kick off her 10th solo-tour to promote her 10th album, Abnormally Attracted to Sin, on July 10. It will all be going down in Seattle at 7:30 p.m. at WaMu Theater.
In a moment of calm before her world-wide tour beings, Tori took the time to muse further about power versus authority, her new joint venture deal with Universal Records, and what it means to be a woman in 2009.
So this is your first album released under your independent distribution deal. How does it feel to be independent after all these years of answering to different record labels?
Well I have a joint venture deal with Universal so it means you are also one of the financial partners. You have to put into it as well, but I don't mind doing that. The reason is because at least you know what is going on. You are more involved. The team, Johnny, Chelsea and myself, do the day to day operations and are aware of what the plan is, instead of being an artist, on label, swinging in the wind sometimes and just being product. So that's what is different. We do have a really good relationship with Universal and it's in a healthy place, which is good because sometimes record deals can be unhealthy.
On your website you compared yourself to a fine red wine, "by letting myself age I think I'm better for drinking in 2009." What have you learned from the past ten albums that has helped you to improve and develop your music to what it is today?
Sense of humor. Number one. If you don't get one of those then you will be completely missing the joy of making music during the whole process. Sometimes you have to understand that it is a chess game with the music business. You have to realize that, that is part of it but it shouldn't be the center. The center should be the creation of the music. Making the music and staying true to your vision. I know that's very cliche but that is hard to do sometimes. People forget what their vision is, you see, and you can get caught up in trying to get the masses to love you, as opposed to making music that you really believe in. Sometimes you don't even realize that you aren't making the music you really want to make, instead you are making things that will give you the biggest rewards as far as success and approval.
Do you feel like you have stayed true to your vision?
Well I think that, yeah, I have made the records that I have wanted to make and I would like to think that in 20 years time I would still be able to perform and play. But sometimes there are tragic deaths that happen; you know everyone is talking about Michael Jackson right now. If you can perform, I think the idea needs to be get out there and do it while you can. I'd like to tell you that at 89 I'm going to be out there in a pair of really groovy high heels (even if I have to get crutches to get me up) and playing four keyboards at a time. (Laughs) Oh Granny Tori.
In Abnormally Attracted to Sin you talk about sin, the idea of power and what controls us. Can you tell me a little bit more about what inspired this concept?
Well I've been fascinated about the idea of when you feel like you turned your power over to another force and you don't even know how you did it. You may be in a university class or out with friends and all of a sudden you find yourself on the defensive or reacting to something and you think, "How did I get drawn into that? I know better than that." That's just a simple little example about being yanked out from your center and not being empowered anymore.
That is just a day to day little story, so imagine when you start investigating what kind of men we are attracted to, or women if you are a lesbian, and you start thinking, "Why am I drawn to these kinds of people?" And the big question is, "Why am I attracted to somebody who would want to have power over me and not want me to be an equal?" Unfortunately there are a lot of people out there that don't want you to be an equal. They can only feel "powerful" if they have some kind of authority over you. Trying to separate the idea of real power from authority has been at the center of my life.
Wow that is so true. We have seen a lot of women taking strong positions of power within our society in the last few years, however, the power balance between men and women is far from equal. What do you think is the biggest hurdle facing women today?
In the music business, for example, it is a boys club and it is known as that. There are some women, Sylvia Rhone over at Universal Motown, who are in the business but if you look at the amount of women against men, you can count the women. Why this is? I don't know. Maybe it is because you need certain men that aren't threatened by women's power to let them in the circle. There are some men who aren't threatened. Doug Morris is one of them because he hired Sylvia. He also acknowledged what I do with a joint venture deal. Which means I am really in control of my own small little fiefdom. But he is not trying to dictate to me. He is a collaborator and a mentor for me. It is a supportive relationship.
Although, there are not loads of guys in the industry that want to work with women in an equal way. We need the guys, whether it is on the political side or the musical side, that say, "Hey women are so important to the round table and we really really need their voice, their experience and their perspective." There are some men who are already saying that and I think we have to acknowledge that too.
Is there a deeper meaning that female song writers bring to the table?
I think that they bring the blood. And without blood it just doesn't work. It's our sacred chemistry. In times of deep crisis and trouble you need the women to be able to bring the tears to the table. Tears are really powerful. Sometimes men sing and speak about emotion in a different way. But they don't always speak with the idea of grieving. Women can because women can potentially be mothers and can hold a place for grieving. The idea of losing children to a war or the idea of people losing their jobs and being humiliated, women hold a place for that grieving.
Yes, I think that women are very much about looking at the emotional side of an issue. Men can look at the logical side or the mental side. I don't mean to talk in general terms, but sometimes if you give them a problem they just want to solve it and they need to solve it. The women are trying to say sometimes we are not going to get a solution. You can't solve this today. We just need to talk about it. And the men will look at you and say, "But where are the bolts and where is the hammer? We need to fix this." Women say, "Lets let it run its course and then we will see what happens." And so a lot of female musicians mirror the emotions of a time frame. I'd like to think the records that I have made since 1991 mirror what is going on, particularly in the women's community.
What do you think, in terms of your most recent record, that it is saying about current issues in the women's community?
It is saying that we are having to redefine the definitions that the patriarchy set down for us. We need to be liberated. That's the only way out of this. That is the only way that you cannot be controlled by that old outdated male authority. A lot of men don't even want to be subjugated to that authority anymore. Part of the solution is redefining power. We have to start seeing positive people that can get through a powerful crisis.
So what can Seattle fans look forward to at Friday's performance? Any crazy costume changes like previous tours?
No costume changes until encore time. I wanted to focus more on the music so it is very song based and will have many pianos. I will need four arms like the Hindu goddess. But what I like about each tour is that you have an opportunity to reflect and work with the energy that that is happening in this time.
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