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Same Same (Australia, www)
November 17, 2009
Tori Amos interview
by Christian Taylor
[watch on youtube]
(Tori on inspiration...)
Tori: I might be watching people as I travel. I get a lot, a lot of ideas when I'm traveling because I'm out of a routine, and if you're stuck in a routine, sometimes -- unless you've never written about that routine, and a lot of people write their diary, and that works, but it works one time.
Tori: So, otherwise you're just writing about your routine every time. My buddy Neil Gaiman travels a lot to write. In fact, he does take over my houses at different times -- not that he doesn't have his own houses, but in his houses, he's a dad, and there's a routine. Not that he doesn't write in them, but then, when goes to other people's places, you see, he's out of his daily routine. That's why touring is so good for me because I collect a lot of songs while I'm out here, and "Putting the Damage On" was actually written while I was traveling in Australia during that time -- more than that song, but I played that last night and that, that's something I wanted to tell somebody. When I was playing I was thinking, "Somebody should know that I wrote, that the birth of 'Damage' is here."
(Tori on Australia...)
Tori: When you play Radio City in New York or the Opera House, you're playing these iconic places, and there are few of them in the world. I'd have to wrack my brains and come back to you with a few others because then if I do more than those two then I start leaving others out. There, there are a few others. But these are venues that are not just places to play. They mean different things to different people. They have a history. Now, and to be a part of that history is very moving as a performer. It's just not another gaffe, you know, that you walk into. And I think this city has really become what I think America was maybe in the Sixties, San Francisco, and I don't mean the hippie movement. I mean, you have brought together, it seems to me in Australia, the best parts of your mother country -- England, Ireland, Scotland -- and the best parts of America at this time. I think this is just a special time for Australia where you are not...when you are the superpower leader in the world -- you and I go back to that word, the, the hubris of all that, and the agendas -- and sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees. You're trying to fix everybody else instead of fixing yourself. And I think that can happen when you look at being the greatest superstar in the whole world opposed to being somebody like me, who -- I have no complaints, I do just fine. I'm happy having my little iconic Sydney Opera House around me.
Interviewer: I think you're doing quite well.
Tori: I'm doing fine. And yet I'm in a place where I can be creative and artistic and the record company's happy for me to do that, the critics are happy for me to do that. They don't always like what I do but they respect that I'm -- I've made my deal, everybody knows what it is, and I'm allowed to do that, and I've had to fight very hard to do that. But when you want to be playing, you know, 50 shows at the Millennium Dome, whatever that is, that's a different deal with the devil you make. It's called the devil of commerce, and you can't then just talk about anything that you want because you're having to appeal to an audience that is not going to accept some of these criticisms towards the Pope or his new sins that he's put out. Well, as a minister's daughter, it's my job as a writer to, to write like that. Emerson, Thoreau, Dickinson, Rimbaud, Baudelaire: They wrote about stuff. That's what I do, and I'm kind of really fortunate that I can flirt with the pop world and live in that world but let's not kid each other: I'm not a pop artist.
(Will homosexuality ever be accepted by the church?)
Tori: Not by this church. I'm sorry.
Tori: Let's not...
Tori: I'm -- I'm sorry, I know too much. Because, don't you see, I think that it would bring up their shadow behavior to them. There, there have been a lot of abuses, especially within the Catholic Church, but not only the Catholic Church; the Protestants have their hand in the, in the pie, so to speak, and the cockerel pie. And it does seem to me that for the Church to embrace homosexuality, then they'd have to raise their hand and look at the desires within the priesthood itself. There is so much sexual and spiritual denial. I've thought of it as spiritual eroticism that is lacking. Because of course, the early church fathers got rid of and edited a lot of Jesus's early, early teaching, which you can find in some of the Gnostic Gospels. Because they edited that out and only allowed us to, to get a, a Christianity that was based on a male authority, where they knew in order to control they had to subjugate. And if you subjugate people across the board, particularly women and, and gay men, then the shame element is created. Women have been fighting for a long, long time to be able to integrate their sexual and their spiritual self. If you look at how much porno there is, a lot of women will say to me in confidence, "I cannot have a sexual relationship unless I step into my hardcore porno self. I'm top shelf; that's the only way I can happen in the, in the bedroom." So you and I go back to, unless they're subjugated sexually, they can't come. Now, think about that. How is that any different? I've said it jokingly but it wouldn't surprise me if a dark side, you know, the black ops of the Catholic Church or even the Protestant Church created the porno industry because it's a way to, you see, to keep people subjugated and, and segregated: the sexual self and the spiritual self integrated. And I'm always trying to say the two Marys -- we're divided as Christian women. You either step into the Magdalene, who, who was she was stripped of her spirituality, or you step into the Mother Mary, who her, her sexuality was circumcised from her. She couldn't be sexual even with her other children that she had, besides Jesus -- even if you want to stay with the virgin thing, although we know virgin means a whole different thing than, than the whole about being unimpeded -- but if you step into that, you have to think "OK, so this women, woman had these other children -- well, how did she get those, then? Did God do it with her, too? Well, why don't we hear about them? Where's the angel Gabriel with the other four? Isn't that worth talking about?" Or the other three; I'm not sure. So what I'm staying is, women have had, in Christianity, it's one Mary or the other, and I have been trying to -- I think we talked about it -- marry the Marys within the being, and that is the way to wholeness within you as a being as a woman. As a male, you have to do this with your own poetry. But the idea of the church embracing homosexuality, I don't see it happening because of what it will bring up in them. Why should you want to be part of a path that's in so much denial of what you believe in? That means you're trying to be part of a belief that doesn't believe in you. I don't want to be part of it. I'm not banging on the Catholic Church trying to accept me. I'm banging on the door saying, "Give some relief to these poor women who are having nine children, half of them are dying. You're creating murder. You are murdering these women because you won't let the women have birth control. There's so much blood on your hand, brothers. Why don't we sit together, hold hands, and speak." I'm a daughter of the church as well as a daughter of the Earth, but I am a daughter of the Earth, and I will not stop speaking because the Earth is crying for her children. And what these mothers are, are having to do, the shackles that they're in -- and my father will sit here right with me and say everything I just said about the birth control and the shackles because, believe it or not, my dad is a Christian feminist, but he is a minister and he can't get away from the Four Gospels. And he will embrace my homosexual friends, men and women, but he will have a hard time because he is trapped in the gospels that were edited, trying to see it as, you know, "This is the law," and I have to tell you this: He and I had this little funny moment when he and my mother were running my publishing -- which they did forever -- and he created this anthology years ago, 'cause he was running the, you know, the sheet music side with, with Music Sales. And so I got it and I said, "Dad, there's no 'Crucify.' There's no 'God.' I mean, these are singles, you know -- they should be there. There's no 'Father Lucifer.' That's a choice. There's no 'Professional Widow.' Why?" He said, "Well, I was the editor." And I said, "Okay. Let's talk about who edited the New Testament. This is what I'm trying to tell you: Somebody made a choice! Now why did you make this choice for the anthology?" "Well, because I put together what was the most important." I said, "Yes, and that's how the New Testament was put together." And if the world could see that, in little Tori and Ed's story -- that, it's exactly the same. There was a committee of guys that edited it together and if they didn't agree with it, it was out.
(Tori on the next chapter of the gay movement)
Tori: So the gay community must, must become political. You need to run, be in office, make rules, make laws -- it's in the law. The Church is not the only law. Be, become active. I was saying once, "Okay, I love your parades, go to them, but spend less time on your silly little floats -- which I love! -- and elevate us." Run for office. Get smart. Find where the power is. You put yourself, seed -- you need to seed yourself, seed your oats into positions. And change the law. Or uphold the law.
(Tori on performing live...)
Tori: An hour before the show, though, I step into a different space. I have to clear out the dressing room except for those working so that I can -- I'm not the person who's mom and the daughter and the friend anymore. I have to step into being more of a container for the music. And that's a different energy. You can't, I can't just be me and do what I do. And that's where I think some performers really get it wrong because if you think it's just you, then when you come off, you have to deal with the hubris of that, and you don't want to come down. The great thing is, I was trained and taught to understand that unless you come down back into human form -- you're not a container for the all these energies anymore -- then you're always trying to get that high again. And it's, it's impossible. You will die trying to do that, as many people have done, because you can't; you can't continue that and be a human and live your life and be a mom and, and, and get your hands dirty and your feet wet and all that stuff, and deal with the day-to-day life, which is really grounding and good, to be able to, to, you know, you need to be able to change diapers.
Interviewer: Yeah. (Laughs) True.
Tori: Although husband did that. But I nursed! You know, you have to be able to, to get your hands dirty and be a mom.
Tori: The show changes every night. There are three that are, part of my theme for the Australian leg. It's just something that I chose while I was sitting on a beach in, you know, Hawaii, on the Big Island, and I thought to myself "What story do we want to tell right now?" And I see it more as a bard, especially -- I do, even with the band, there needs to be a narrative in the story. But what works for me is that, I would lose my mind if I were doing eighty shows that had the same setlist. I really would lose my mind because I cannot conjure like that. You see, I'm not then responding to the day. My setlist is based on every night what I've seen that day. And I use songs to tell that story of what happened in Chicago when I ran into somebody that I haven't seen in a long time and this happened, and we talked about somebody who died, and then we talked about somebody who ran off with somebody's husband, and then you know, all these things came up, and then I went back, stepped back into my life, and all those thoughts that came, and then a phone call that told me something else -- so that's the Chicago show, along with seeing what was going on in Chicago, reading something that they've been dealing with the last few weeks. What's going in Australia at this time, you hear stories from people: that will be tonight's show. Tonight's show is different from last night's show because all kinds of things have happened and transpired; by the time I take that same stage again, it won't be the same. But I do have markers that get me to a place of deep questioning. You know, there's a death in the show; it happens every night. There's a loss, and we have to get to that loss. And it can mean different things for different people. Some people are getting divorced who are coming to the show. Some people have lost somebody. Some people are leaving their job. You know, it's...
Tori: Sometimes it's a little loss, like "I want to lose this habit that I have." So it's death and rebirth in the show. But how we arrive there every night is different, so I use my catalog to do that. When I'm with the band, I have different elements I work with. Their strength is rhythm, so it's a, it's an instrument-heavy setlist when I have Matt and Jon. I mean, when you have one of the greatest drummers in the world, you play to their strengths. "Winter" is not the strength of a drummer as a song structure. Therefore I don't load the show with those kinds of songs. Without them, it's more orchestral because the piano is more of an orchestral instrument. So that's what, that's what is the reasoning behind that.
[transcribed by Michael Morrison]
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the World of Tori Amos