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April 7, 2015
TORI AMOS INTERVIEW
by Lane Delany
Oh boy oh boy oh boy. The ever-awesome Tori Amos popped back into our lives recently (not that she ever really left, let's be honest) with the news that her first two albums, Little Earthquakes and Under the Pink, would be re-released in one super-deluxe, extra special package. Huzzah!
The exciting bundle is due out worldwide on April 17th, and to celebrate the reissue -- and our imminent flood of feelings from many moons ago -- we had a bit of a chitchat with the legendary lady. Read on for Tori's take on the language of music, revisiting old work and the real purpose of fans -- as well as a sneaky stream of both the remastered albums.
It's been more than 20 years since you first released Little Earthquakes! What are you most proud of over your super-lengthy career?
That's a difficult question, because I look over the 20 years in different ways. You can look at particular time pockets, but I think I was most excited when Warner contacted me and wanted to make complete time capsules of [all my work]. That's how I see them, really. So we worked with Jon Astley and brought together the B-sides as well as the A-sides and some live tracks to make a complete capsule -- almost like going back in time to 1992 and 1994.
What's it like to listen back to your early music? Does it still feel right, or does it make you feel a bit cringey?
Because I've been producing, I've started to develop a producer self. In order to be really objective and make strong, clear decisions, you have to not let your personal feelings in. That might sound weird, but when you're the artist, you do that. I was listening back to [my catalogue] on one hand as an artist, and that's a different relationship because you can judge yourself, and you remember your feelings at the time and who these songs were written about -- those memories are not so far deep from the skin. But then the producer has to step in and not be so emotionally drawn into things. The producer can't think about the relationships and whether they went wrong, or how you feel about those people now. You can still love and treasure a song without getting drawn into the emotions of it.
Do you feel much pressure from fans to always play the 'hits'?
Everybody has all kinds of names for the word fan. I'm a fan of certain things in life too, so I don't see that word as negative, but I kind of see the people that come to my shows as collaborators, instead. My partners in crime. And so they challenge me to do things. They'll usually tell me a story about a song and how they see it -- it's not bribery, but it's about reminding me that the song has a life other than the person that I wrote it about in the early '90s. We've all had those relationships where we think "I don't want to think about that anymore!", but if you have a song that ties to that person, sometimes you have to find a way to exercise it from that person's clutches. My collaborators in crime give me wonderful fillers and stories to replace some of those.
If you could choose anyone in the world, who would you want to collaborate with, and why?
The way I look at it is that you will if it happens to be. I worked with Robert Plant and Trent Reznor and Peter Gabriel in the '90s, and those were really great moments. They were real learning times. I worked with some of the really great musicians of our time. They seemed to just fall into place. I'm not saying you don't have to be proactive, because I think you do, but sometimes you fall into these projects. So I don't want to say somebody in particular, because somebody else will probably come along!
Why do you think music is an ideal platform to talk about things like sexuality, feminism, religion, etc?
Because it's its own language. Sometimes I've found people around the world might not understand English very well, but they can understand what the song is saying because they understand the language of music. I think that language speaks to us in ways that goes beyond just reason. It taps into something that critics can't always explain away. If you have a critic who doesn't understand a score musically and they're only talking about the lyrics, that's only one level of the story. If a score is done right and written correctly, if you shut the words off and you had people who really listen to music, they could tell you what was happening. They understand the feeling coming from the music.
How do you feel the role of women in the music industry has changed since she first started out?
There are more women than there were, but there are less singer-songwriters than there were. If you really go back to that time, there have always been dance entertainers: you had dance acts that were happening all through the '90s in the club scene; Cher was as sexy as she was, which was shocking in her time. And yet we had to bust through the patriarchy -- there weren't a lot of piano singer-songwriters in the early '90s, we had to break that door down. That was a battle that had to be had, to rethink the image of the piano. Now it is in our canon -- the piano is everywhere.
Back then, sensuality and sexuality was not the only card. It wasn't something you had to have to shock -- it was part of your paint box. But if you didn't have that and you weren't beautiful, you could be quirky. What worries me is that there are a lot of very good singer-songwriters out there who, because they might not be "shocking" with their image, they're not getting those record deals.
Do you have any guilty pleasures that you're willing to share with us? Silly TV shows, unexpected music choices?
I'm not keen on talking about guilty pleasures, because somebody always gets hurt with that. What I really love and look forward to though is the stuff my teenage daughter shows me every weekend. Not necessarily stuff that the radio's playing -- she scours the internet. She shows me all kinds of things; stuff she finds all over the place. And that's how I do some of my research for my next project. What I love is that teenagers are finding all kinds of things from the last 30 years that might not be mainstream now, which really fascinates me. That's the upside of the internet -- they're not just held hostage to what the advertisers want you to listen to on the radio stations. And I'm a child of the radio! Teenagers are going underground, and the advertisers can't control them, and that gives me hope for singer-songwriters and bands that are budding. The kids are your saviours, because they might find you.
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