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KZON, Phoenix (US, radio)
September 30, 1992

Tori Amos interview


Tori: I'm fine, I apologize.

Brad: No, no, it's no worry at all. I know how it happens so you're here now and that's all that matters.

Tori: I'm here. I'm fed.

Brad: We're looking for a great show tonight.

Tori: I'm, I'm looking for a great show.

Brad: You telling me about the show last night you played up in Boulder.

Tori: Yeah, pretty fabulous.

Brad: We were talking about before we went on here because I wasn't sure if you travel with a band or if it's just you and the piano, so no one delay the blame on if you have an off night, is it?

Tori: No, you're very alone up there, it's just me and the piano. The whole tour has been this way since the beginning. I've been out since October of last year 91.

Brad: Uh huh.

Tori: And this tour ends in December. So it will have been fourteen months.

Brad: So you're just traveling your tail end off.

Tori: That's right.

Brad: Playing everywhere you can.

Tori: I wish I could lose a little bit more of my tail end, but you know.

Brad: Well, everything that I've heard is just, it's a, it's, it's one of those shows that you just get drawn into because it's such a, from a crowd perspective, it's such an intimate performance to, to see someone sitting there, pretty much bearing their soul on the piano. Does it feel the same to you?

Tori: Well, what happens is we have a relationship that forms the audience and myself and sometimes it gets a bit uncomfortable because there are people that are sitting there that, this is not about um, there's nowhere to go. You have to sit there in your own body.

Brad: Right.

Tori: And sometimes it's very uncomfortable being in your own body, especially if you loathe yourself. So they're parts of me that I loathe and I have to call them forth and we hang out with those a while and then we, we hang out with the coward, who we really hate, and then we hang out with the one that says, 'you now what, there's a side of us that we really like and by the end of the whole performance, the monsters have come out. So uh, there are a lot of bodies in that room.

Brad: Very psychological, I, I get that from

Tori: Yes.

Brad: I get that from your music, I mean is it like a sort of therapy to sit down and write these songs for you? When you wrote the album, when you wrote the, uh, the most recent album. Was it like, like burning out some demons?

Tori: It was like a colonic. Because uh you have to you have to be willing to say, you know, whatever the outcome is, it doesn't matter what the consequences are, you see when you find things out about yourself, like why am I still in this relationship? Why do I just let people dump stuff all over my front yard? Why do I just let whoever it is say, you know, you could have been this, and you could have been that. And yet, I wasn't those things. I didn't choose to become a doctor, I didn't choose to go to college, I didn't whatever it is for you. Everybody has this in their life, even if you're quote, unquote, successful, there's the thing of, but if I'm not, is anybody still going to come to my party?

Brad: Right.

Tori: There's -- everybody has things that we're afraid of, and you know, we're not encouraged to kind of give those things a big hug. We're not encouraged to say, 'you know, I want to hang out with us for a while, this side of me that is, uh, really insecure.' I don't want to hang out with the one that's violent. Why not? We need to hang out with the one that's violent in order to understand it. That's where sickness comes from. And you know, we're growing up now in a generation where can turn it all around but by lying, we're not going to turn it around. You know how the family planners - I love them - yeah - family development - what kind of development - nobody's talking about the truth! And that's what really gets me. The reason Ice-T is saying what he's saying it comes from somewhere. This anger comes from a real place.

Brad: I think there's a segment of people that want to - I think the reason that you see the backlash that you do and this is totally my speculation is that people are afraid of that.

Tori: Absolutely.

Brad: People want to push it away, they want to say, 'well, if I say this isn't happening, then it's not happening, and that's the reason you saw him,' just totally get shunned off to the side and everybody was saying, 'well, that's just totally bogus, it needs to be taken off the shelves and you can't sell the record,' and and nobody really gets to the heart of the issue that this is going on. We need to do something about it.

Tori: That's right. And I truly believe that the visionaries of the future, they're the ones listening to the music right now, they're the ones I, I go, 'where are you?' so I can vote for you.

Brad: Yeah.

Tori: Where are you? You need to run this country. Because the Old Guard, the 60s, the 60s Guard, has let us down.

Brad: Yeah.

Tori: They, you know, they think that holding on to their memories is enough um to qualify them to be conscious now - no. It's what you do today, and I just feel like it's okay to admit that a lot of lies have been going on but there has been a numbness. There's been this numbness of happy America, and living overseas, I've really seen this, and it's been a very hard meal to swallow, but I got some objectivity. But there are problems all over the world in every country. There is no Utopia, but one of the biggest problems with this country is the fact that it's so, um, it is so self-righteous, and it refuses to look at its guilt and its fears and its shame. Whereas you go to England, they're all ready to tell you what's wrong with it. You know they have no problems telling you where the problems are. We are so afraid of problems. Instead of saying, 'come on, hang out, let's get a cinnamon roll, and um, have a little chat'--

Brad: Nobody wants to accept the blame and we should say, because you live in England now, and you really get a perspective being somewhere else, and you're not submitted to the media every night - you don't turn on the news every night in England and you don't see the news that you see here, so if you're walking down the street and you see an American newspaper, the headlines really standout to you to be somewhere else, looking on it from the outside as opposed to be inside of it every day. Well, I'm going to play a song here. This is kind of a weird transition. I, I, should have had another one ready, but I wanted to play this song and I wanted you to tell me what possessed you to record this Nirvana song?

Tori: Um, love the song, first of all, and people get a real limited impression about what a piano is, and because I've been hanging out with pianos for twenty almost 27 years, um, I love that creature, and it's a very hardcore being.

Brad: Mmhmm.

Tori: And she has told me, 'I'm sick of people putting Danishes and cheese on the top of me at Christmas time and that's all I'm good for in their mind.' So, there was a two-fold, um, reason for doing it, one was to show a different perspective of what the piano is and that there can be uh um head ripping with that, the intensity of silence. There's incredible intensity when you're confronted with silence because you have to face yourself, which is the scariest thing. That's more scary than 118dB. And the other thing is to show what a great song it is because when you can take a song and just break it down to its bare bones, I'm paying serious homage to this tune and saying, 'what an incredible piece of music it is.'

Brad: Well, it totally takes on a new dimension to listen to your version of it. This is Tori Amos doing Smells Like Teen Spirit on KZON.

Brad: ...Precious Things from Little Earthquakes with Tori Amos and Smells Like Teen Spirit just before that, and a couple of people came in and said, you know, the song is so different to hear you do it, and I was like yeah, cause you can understand the lyrics, actually.

Tori: I don't know if they're right, but, you know, it's a good guess.

Brad: Well, I, because at the time you recorded the song, because they went back, Nirvana released a single that had the lyrics to all of the songs on the album, but you had recorded the song already by the time they did that, so.

Tori: Yeah. I didn't get any. It's scary.

Brad: Who knows. I have a friend, the Stevie Ray Vaughn song, uh, uh, this guy's crying, it says, can't you see the tears roll down the street and this guy was like singing along and he's singing Kansas City tears rolling down the street cause know it's like it's not the words to the song.

Tori: (Laughs)

Brad: But anyway, I think you got him close enough it still makes for a great song and Precious Things there, you said you had an interesting little story.

Tori: Well, when Precious Things was being written, I was living in Los Angeles behind this church and, um, I'm always drawn to churches. I don't know if it's the Minister's Daughter in me or the vampire, I haven't decided yet. But we were behind the church and a dear friend of mine, who was kind of kicked out of art school had no place to go so he came and stayed with me and was playing Ministry and all this music, Nine Inch Nails, all this stuff, and I had my piano, you know, my little upright acoustic in the corner, and he's playing all this music, candles are dripping all over the rug, I mean 90 candles in a tiny one room, Sandman Comics all over the floor. Sandman, I'm sure there are many of you, you know Neil Gaiman, who I love dearly, and the Sandman, and this is all going on, and he goes, 'Tor, you know, like, you should like really do something on the piano like Ministry or something like that.' And so, it was four in the morning and I started the (mouthing the Precious Things riff) and he was in the kitchen doing the dishes that hadn't been done in three and a half weeks and came up and said to me, 'Tor, I think you got something.' So, Precious Things began.

Brad: So out of that came Precious Things.

Tori: Yeah, began, got birthed.

Brad: Geeze, that's great. So, you were talking about your father being a minister.

Tori: Yes.

Brad: And in your bio, it also says and this is kind of weird because it also talks about your father being strict because he was a minister and then later on in the bio, it says that when you started playing club gigs when you were like 15, your dad was the guy taking you to play these gigs?

Tori: Yeah, he's a bit like Sybil, my father. He's a, there's a side of him that I think always wanted to be James Dean. He says to me, 'Honey, I was before James Dean. I'm older than he is.' But my dad, he's a minister and very conservative when he plays that role and he's sincere being a minister - he's very virtuous. I mean, he's very, very, um, what do you call it? He's, he's a very respectable man. There's a side to him, though, that is real interested in the youth side of things. He likes to know what's really going on and doesn't judge it. He can be really open-minded at the MTV Award who you were stating in the same hotel as Pearl Jam. And he was wearing my t-shirt and he'd go in and I was gone finishing a concert and he'd walk around and go, 'Hi Pearl' and they would say, go, 'there's Tori's dad,' and he was talking to their road crew and when they played at the awards, he turned and said to me, 'those boys are so good, I'm so proud of them.' I'm really proud that my father, being a minister on one hand, is able to acknowledge, um, the truth, and another culture that he's not really involved in, he's 65.

Brad: Right, does he, so he doesn't have a problem with you career whatsoever?

Tori: No!

Brad: What does he think of, does he like analyze the songs and really get down to the lyrics and do you guys discuss the songs and and what your mindset was when you were writing them?

Tori: Some things we discuss, we don't have the same ideology as far as, as you know, he's a real big believer in heaven and hell. I mean, you know, my father is a Methodist Minister. And I see things differently. I believe in living more than once, I don't believe in that kind of finality. I'm a big believer in faeries. So we, it's okay though that we don't agree and we're very dear friends.

Brad: Yeah, it's not necessarily a bad thing that you don't see eye to eye. It's probably more conducive because you can discuss and grow from that.

Tori: When I was thirteen, it was hard because it was absolute. He couldn't deal with the fact that um, I had questions, you know, your parents have a hard time when you're thirteen and you don't agree with him because you know what? It makes them feel insecure, it makes them feel like they're losing power. Now if the parents are feeling secure, they're able to go, ' you know, this is exciting that my kid is developing their own beliefs.' That's an exciting thing. And we need to remind them, 'hey!' I don't need to change your beliefs and we have to really go, hang on a minute, why should we need our parents to agree with us? But why should they need us to agree with them? We have to be able to say, 'free thought, man.'

Brad: Yeah, I think it goes back to what we were talking about earlier. Everybody has this burning desire to control.

Tori: Yes.

Brad: They want to be able, they want to put their thumb on you and say, this is what you're going to do as opposed to - you look at what happened in Los Angeles in May, as opposed to everybody coming together and saying, okay, you think this way and I Think this way. Let's get together and work this thing out. Everybody wants to be the controlling factor and you, you wind up going nowhere.

Tori: Well, the interesting thing is how you worship is your business. If you want to be a fundamentalist Christian, hey, I can totally respect that, but don't even think about um coming into my home and dictating, dictating, what that should be about or what goes on in my bedroom. You know, I'm just waiting for the government to put cameras in the bathroom - can't do that! Can't do that!

Brad: There was an article in in the paper a couple of weeks ago, you're being uh, you're being watched at work, cameras in the bathrooms.

Tori: Yeah...It's, it's getting, you have to wonder - wait a minute, how far away are we from fascism, how far away are we and that's why I just encourage the youth of this country to understand that the power is going to be turned over to them for no other reason then guess what? These people are going to die.

Brad: Yeah.

Tori: And so, read as much as you can, be a visionary and understand that um, we can become that which we are fighting against if we don't become compassionate and be open. You know, militant is militant, no matter what color you are, no matter what your belief system is.

Brad: Right.

Tori: And I'm waiting, I'm waiting to vote for you, whoever you are. Hurry up.

Brad: Well, thanks for coming by Tor, we're going to let you get out of here, you got to get ready uh, the show's coming up tonight. Joe Myer's is going to open. People have been calling all day and I wasn't sure who was opening. Joe Myers goes on at 7:30 and then you'll follow and--

Tori: Yes.

Brad: You and the piano and play on into the night, so. Couple of sold out shows for you at the Valley Arts Theater and it's good to see you, thanks for coming by.

Tori: Thank you, Brad.

(Plays Silent All These Years)

[transcribed by Kristen Loftis]

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