Tori talks about

to venus and back

“After the Plugged tour, I sort of walked into a fierce calm. I didn’t need to be someone’s daughter, wife, or mother - even though I am a daughter and a wife, and motherhood kind of just slipped through time and space for me. The record is just about being a woman and waking up every day... Most songs didn’t come until the title was in place. My friend Natalie looked at me at one point and said, ‘You know you would go to Venus, or that you’ve been there.’ If you’re gonna approach the Venus realm, seduction lives there, obsession lives there, trustworthy lust lives there, decadence lives there, control lives there.” [USA Today - October 1, 1999]

“The songs are individual films, I think.” [Pulse - November 1999]

“Everything seems to be moving so fast. Tragedies seem to be moving so fast; almost before we are able to ingest one, another one happens. Information travels so fast - but I don’t know if the heart adjusts that fast… I’ve been around the world seven times, and I’m always trying to go behind the heart, to the place where the unconscious lives. I don’t think it lives in the brain; I think it’s behind the heart… I can literally see Venus circling around the girl who’s singing, circling around her heart, seeing different perspectives.”[Alternative Press – September 1999]

“Venus could be anybody; she could be Cindy Sherman. The strange thing is I knew it was called to venus and back before we started working on it, because I had been hanging out with a couple of girlfriends. I knew I wanted to go somewhere and back from somewhere, and after a nice bottle of wine, one of them said, ‘You’d go to Venus, Tori, if you could.’ Well, once I decided I was calling this to venus and back, it was almost as if the songs from Venus decided to say, ‘These are fragments of Venus she’s willing to show you at this time,’ and I felt like I climbed up on this little satellite and started roaming around her heart.” [Wall of Sound (www) – September 1999]

“This is the fastest one [record] we’ve ever done. Sometimes it just takes you longer to do something; you can’t hear it or see it, and you’re kind of half-present. But we were very tweaked, and we were very present, and this record was demanding us to be very present. She was so seductive none of us could sleep - none of us wanted to. It was like some Dyonisian frenzy. We didn’t want to stop. It was a fierce calm.” [Wall of Sound (www) – September 1999]

Where did To Venus and Back come from?
“I was having a great bottle of wine with two girlfriends, and I said, ‘I have to go to somewhere and back somewhere.’ So we went from everywhere to everywhere. Sonically, I was going a bit more galactic, so one of them said, ‘Do you have to go to Venus?’ And I knew that’s where I was going.” [CNN Online – September 29, 1999]

“We put everything into the Venus record. I mean everything. Nobody slept; we were on a high. You have to imagine, we were at Martian Engineering, making the venus record. Venus [the planet, that is] was in the sky in that part of the world, in spring and summer. And there are no lights where we are. It’s really in the middle of the fields and there was some elixir... and it wasn’t just the wine, because we never partook until we were done….”

“There was a place where the [album] title came to me, inspired by a great bottle of wine with my girlfriends. [My friend] Natalie was the one who looked at me and said, “You’d go to Venus if you could.” And I said “Wherever that is.” Of course, we know the planet - and we’re all looking galactic because of where we’re going - but there’s also the mythology of Venus, which is the feminine. So it just came to me.

“When the title was in place, the songs just seemed to storm through the door and say, “sit down.” It was an onslaught. A few of them came at the same time. We had “Lust” on the boards and “Spring Haze” on the boards, and I’m trying to figure out who’s living in what camp. I’m getting limbs of women and I’m trying to figure out what goes where. This nipple doesn’t belong with that woman. I was a sculptor. You get confused and drunk with it at a certain point…”

Was it difficult to balance all the music - the new material, in which you take such a different approach, and the live songs?
“No. The engineers are really theoretical, they come from that place. I come from a real emotional place. Things have to add up geometrically for the engineers. I mean, they’re not just guys who play with buttons. Engineering is their life passion. A lot of things were designed - effects were designed - by hand. We were playing with eq’s and compression, using compression as an instrument, taking it to new levels for me. It was not just about any cheesy programs. That wasn’t acceptable. If we were using a program, it had to be right for the character.”

The music rewards headphone listening.
“The engineers planned that. That is the gift from the Martian.”
[VH1.com - 1999]

“In actuality, we were sitting there putting the live record together, thinking we were going to record maybe three songs with the band. They were all booked to fly in. Matt [Chamberlain] was coming in April 1. In February, we were [sorting through the songs] like an NBA playoff: 120 shows, a ranking system of one through four—one being the worst—finding what are our strongest performances, and playing them off against each other. At the time, I was writing stuff, thinking I was gonna pick three songs [to put on the album], and having the B-sides sent in from all reaches of the land. And we were going to remix everything, because it needed a bit of a tart-up, especially the B-sides. Some of them were done very quickly, and not with the best care.

“As I played these new songs to my producers, what they said to me was, theoretically speaking, this will sound like a random hodgepodge of bits and pieces, because sonically, the new work lives in a world by itself. I just looked at them and said, “N-n-n-no. What are you guys saying?” And they said, “This is a record unto itself, and you really can’t break it up. It doesn’t work geometrically.” I called up Matt and said, “You’re not recording three. See ya tomorrow.” And he goes, “Let’s go!” [laughs] So all the guys came in, and we made a new record. I didn’t have lyrics to a second verse, and we were cutting it, and they were all there, tuned up and ready to go. I’m tearing my hair out, and books on the floor. I don’t know how it all happened, but it came together, and it wanted to be what it was. So there it is.”

Did playing with more musicians affect the way you wrote the songs on to venus and back?
“It was a different structure as a songwriter. I approached it really differently. Kind of right now, the way that I see the new album is like there’s this satellite orbiting around Venus’ heart, and that these songs, for me, were just different fragments that were being filmed. Little short films. “Juarez” is probably the place where you’re severed from your heart. It’s based on the murders that have happened in Juarez, the 200-300 women that have been killed. When I was going through Texas on the last tour, one night I was sort of jolted out of my bunk. It was dark outside, and I opened the blinds. It became very clear to me that...I hadn’t written it yet. I was just starting to hear it in my head. I knew I had to take the point of view of the desert. It was made very clear by the voice that I needed to hear the last breath of the girl. I needed to hear the violator, the music that they were listening to. I crawled into this space and did a lot of research about that whole thing.

“That’s a place on the record where...I started the record with “Bliss” because, instead of “Father, who art in heaven,” it’s “Father, I killed my monkey.” It’s very much about the control, whether or not it’s God the father. That kind of control—especially having done a lot of biblical study of women and their bodies—of the shame, of the division of the physical and the spiritual. You know what I mean? That kind of concept of, even when your father—your human father—says to you, “You can’t go out with that guy. I can’t imagine you with that guy.” It’s like, “These are not your bits!” Then you go into “Juarez,” which is when you’re really severed from your heart, and you can do that to another person. And then the record moves into different places. But I knew as I was approaching this whole realm of Venus, it got very...as a writer, I got the shit kicked out of me in a sense, because I couldn’t just address the passionate side of things and the seduction side of things. It’s hard to go against your instincts.” [Dallas Observer - September 22, 1999]

“At the start, the idea was one cd live and one cd of rare and unreleased tracks. In the end, it’s a new album that goes with the live. Artistically, this began to make sense because the live disc is a collection of songs throughout the years. These are the best performances of the last tour. There are bootlegs circulating, but they don’t give a faithful image of my music. Then I wanted to add B-sides, for all those who had troubles trying to find rare tracks, but new songs came. I added them and the engineers told me: “These songs have a particular sound; if you mix them with b-sides, it’s like mixing characters from two different movies.” It was quite hazardous.” [Best - October 1999]

“I didn’t know which B-sides to choose. It was getting too random. It started to become neither fish nor flesh, and that’s not good for a mermaid…”

“After the Plugged tour, I sort of walked into a fierce calm. I didn’t need to be someone’s daughter, wife, or mother - even though I am a daughter and a wife, and motherhood kind of just slipped through time and space for me. The record is just about being a woman and waking up every day.

“Most songs didn’t come until the title was in place. My friend Natalie looked at me at one point and said, ‘You know you would go to Venus, or that you’ve been there.’ If you’re gonna approach the Venus realm, seduction lives there, obsession lives there, trustworthy lust lives there, decadence lives there, control lives there.” [USA Today - October 1, 1999]

“The nudist [Marcel van Limbeek] said to me, ‘Sonically, this cannot live in the world of B-Sides. It will be separate thoughts.’”

“It’s a shape. It’s circular. And it’s not like you take a trip - it’s more, like, in constant orbit. And I like the idea that there’s this camera that orbits around the heart and sees things she can’t see - yet. And then they form themselves into songs and they can work as a reflector, and then she can hear it through the image but not necessarily as the camera sees it. She being the character. What’s hidden behind the heart fascinates me, I’m fascinated by everything that isn’t said.”

“I think my marriage has changed me a lot. I don’t really throw myself into situations like I used to. I would just go and observe as I was writing this record, and observing makes you write different things.” [Spin - November 1999]

The people in your life come and they go. Mark has lost his father this year and you know what the strange thing is? I found it very difficult to help him. Sometimes, there’s just nothing to say. You can not just take away someone’s pain.” Tori stares pondering in the distance…  “To be the flame that warms the both of you, to be capable of loving someone that much I think that is the reason that this record finally became the Venus record. It’s about all these aspects of the heart. Here, in the country, where you don’t have those lights that distract you, I begin noticing the rise of that planet to the sky. And it seemed appropriate to make a trip to Venus, in this stage of my life, wherever it may be. You understand?” [Aloha - November 1999]




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