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The Stranger (US)
Seattle's free weekly alternative arts and culture newspaper
July 16, 2014
Vulnerable and deep and more than a bit witchy.
Hypothetical Bong Rips with Tori Amos
The Elemental Alterna-Rock Siren Talks Technology, Turning 50, and What the Hell Is an "Unrepentant Geraldine," Anyway?
by Adrian Ryan
"Hi, Tori Amos! Good morning!" I practically scream into the phone. I was a little excited. In reality, my "good morning" was a ridiculous faux pas -- she was calling from Istanbul, which is 10 hours ahead of regular old Seattle time. But who cares? Good morning, good afternoon, good night -- good what-the-fuck-ever. Tori Amos!
"I'd always imagined talking to you sitting on beanbags with a great big smoldering bong between us!" I confess. She laughs, generously enough. Such a darling laugh! I imagine that she smells like strawberries, patchouli, and a fresh summer breeze.
"Hello, Adrian! I am so happy to be talking with you!" Oh, really. Tori Amos is so happy to be talking with me? Well. You know what this means, naturally. I can die now. "Well, let's pretend we are on beanbags!" she says. "My beanbag is in Istanbul right now, and your beanbag is in Seattle."
Istanbul (Constantinople in some circles) is a one-night stop on her worldwide Unrepentant Geraldines Tour, on her way, inevitably, to Seattle (that would put our hypothetical bong somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, I think). It's the first time Tori has played Istanbul (or Seattle) in years -- two far-apart cities she often includes on her far-too-infrequent tours.
Unrepentant Geraldines is Tori's fourteenth album, her first in two years (since Gold Dust, if you recall), but the only one since Scarlet's Walk (2002) that really counts. It harks back to an earlier, deeper, more elemental Tori Amos -- the piano-rich, heartbreakingly plaintive Tori that we all fell in love with in the first place. Vulnerable and deep and more than a bit witchy, full of melodic contradictions and classic Tori Amos themes: the devil, moonlight, love as well as hate, unapologetic feminism, and a mythical Aah-am-er-her-her-ICA that exists only in her head. Classic Tori. So what the hell is an "Unrepentant Geraldine," anyway?
"Well, to be honest with you, the reality is I was thinking, Okay, 50!" she says, making an exasperated OMG kind of noise. Tori turned the big five-oh last August, and she seems quite moved by that fact.
"At a certain point, you get to a place where you realize that maybe what you are thinking this week might be different than how you saw something last week," Amos explains. "And you realize you don't always have to be right. You just have to be open to growing and changing. And it's important to be unrepentant about that.
"Maybe your opinion has expanded somewhat, because you've run into someone who has exposed you to something you didn't know last week," she continues. "Everyone is Geraldine, when you come to accept that you are open to changing and growing every day, and I don't have to be right. It's okay!" I know exactly what she means. Maybe. I'm pretty sure. [Imaginary bong rip.]
"I wasn't there when I was 30," she emphasizes. "When I was 30, it was important to try to be right. To be accurate. And when you have a teenage daughter, you hear about something every day that you didn't hear about the day before." Tori's teenage daughter, Tash, appears with her on the song "Promise." Is that her favorite of her new songs?
"Well, I find it changes by the day, because I am getting to know them. I think when you finish your record, it is very raw and all those emotions are exposed. It left the studio and went out all over the world within 24 hours because of technology -- the fastest that's ever happened. It was very strange for me to be in the middle of nowhere in Cornwall, England, knowing that those songs were already all across the world!" Tori lives in Cornwall with her daughter and husband, album producer Mark Hawley. "In the old days, I'd have six weeks to turn around an album, so I'd finish it and take a breath, and I'd have a buffer of time to figure out how I felt about the songs.
"Even with the live shows, it's the same. I got this request when I was in Russia," she continues. "And I didn't know the song -- this was in Moscow -- it was a song by t.A.T.u. called 'Not Gonna Get Us.'" Oh yes, the faux-lesbian duo that caused a bit of ruckus with their pro-gay anthems. "Somebody asked me to play it, and said that they thought it was really important to play it in Moscow, because of the message. Within 24 hours, I had to learn it backstage at sound check -- that's how much times have changed!
"They were coaching me to do the main phrase in Russian -- it was a lot to remember," she says. "Music, lyrics, rhythm, and Russian! But it was important to do that, not just for the LGBTQ community, but for all of us as people to acknowledge what is going on over there." Tori remains, of course, a huge ally to the LGBTQ community. "Someone even asked me to do Conchita Wurst!" she says, referring to the now-famous genderfuck drag queen who got international attention by winning the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest. "And I did that! In Austria! And she sent me a message! It was really exciting!" I love Tori Amos.
Alas, our time had flown too quickly, and Tori had to prepare to hit the stage in Istanbul (it's nobody's business but the Turks!). But before she fled, I had to ask, "So! Tell me. Did you ever kill that waitress?"
"Ha! That waitress! I often wonder what happened to her..."
I can die now.
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