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New Musical Express (UK)
January 8, 1994


It's easy to categorise former Viking(!) TORI AMOS as a nutty LA New Ager, but that's because she is. But under the kookiness is a streak that combines self-preservation with acute business acumen. IAN McCANN goes pink as the once plastic snakeskin-clad neurotic bares her soul again.

It's a new year, so wipe the slate clean. It is hardly the fault of Tori Amos, as an American, that she took a name reminiscent of a British ruling political party that we all know and, er, love. In fact I am told, Tori(her real name is Ellen something) named herself after a tree. Cool: my own children are called Eucalyptus, Laburnum, and Canadian Redwood. Me, Tori and probably Ma and Pa Phoenix agree that it's right to name youreself after fundamentals of nature. This Tori, therefore, is anything but a friend of Hezza.

Another thing. Let's stop getting upset about "Y Kant Tori Read". OK, so she made a crummy album when she was a young impressionable rock chick. We all make a mistake once in a while. It might have been a convenient historical rewrite that no-one at East West records thought to mention it in her biography, but everyone fictionalises their past to fit the present, consciously or not. Tori's not denying anything.

On the contrary, it might be a bit easier if she did deny something once in awhile. Instead, it all comes flooding out of the flame haired singer-songwriter like a G-spot orgasm. Here's her repressed upbringing, rock 'n' roll years, loneliness, admiration for prostitutes, theraputic return to the piano, and Christ knows what else, allinonebreath. Tori, you think, chill out a bit. She calls it passion.

Tori arrives late at the record company offices. She hasn't overslept, she's been in the studio. When you renounce the rock 'n' roll lifestyle, do it properly. In the studio before breakfast. Have hot chocolate and ice cream in licensed premises, not the famous products of Lynchburg, Tennessee. Hypnotise hacks with your icy blue eyes and tell them how you really feel, touching to emphasise points, and f---- the party line.

If Tori wasn't so anti-rock you could almost imagine her as a stung former Fleetwood Mac member, howling over a carcass of emotional disasters. But Tori's little earthquakes are behind her: she lives in a present that re-evaluates the past, picking a path through life's minefields. The trouble is, it's hard to work out exactly what the pitfalls were: no sooner have you got a handle on one of them- a repressive religous background, for example, dominated by an all-powerful grandma who only had to say "Now Ellen..." to put the fear of God into her- then she's onto something else and it all dissolves into a blur. And how does the fundamental Christian side of heer ancestry relate to her Native American forebears? And what would either branch say of the Viking part of her, revealed during a discussion of Bjork's work?

"The fascinating thing is," says Tori, in apparent earnestness, "I've always been into Vikings. In another life I was Sven the Bezerker. Sometimes that comes out...sometimes...I get in like a bad situation. I was in Philadelphia..."

Her eyes take on a wild aspect.

"...and I got really pissed off and I started banging my head in the el-e-va-tor." Tori rocks her head forward as if nutting a lift. "I don't know what happens, I just snap. I'd had enough."

Then she says, quietly, "I've never hurt anybody. I just usually hurt myself."

Your songs are sometimes about revenge, or hurting people...

"Yeah. Yeah. I do wanna hurt them sometimes. I'm very sensitive, and how I combat that sometimes is to be aggressive. Truthfully, I'm like a puppy that would lick your hand. But when I get kicked in the face by somebody who I trusted, I become a Doberman. I'd like to say, 'OK, we had a relationship but you don't want that, that's fine,' but it's not that easy for me. I can't do that."

Judging by her songs, we can assume that she's hated people enough to want to kill them; that jealousy, scorn, spurning lovers and loathsome sexy waitresses have all been her bedfellows, mentally at least. Yet, again, we shouldn't assume anything: art is life, life is life... never the twain shall meet, unless a High Court judge so declares it.


Photo by Steve Double
Photo caption: Norse! The screens! One time Viking marauder and current singer/songstress (sensitive division) Tori Amos.

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