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The Baltimore Sun (US)
January 30, 1994


By: J.D. Considine Pop Music Critic
Edition: Final Section: Features (Arts & Entertainment) Page: 1H

New York - Imagine, for a moment, that you're Tori Amos. You've spent your entire life as a musician, having been a piano prodigy at the Peabody Conservatory, a teen-age chanteuse working the Washington piano-bar scene, even a hair spray-and-spandex hard rock babe in L.A. -- and none of it seemed to work.

Dejected, you retreat into yourself, and discover within your pain and anger an epiphany. Instead of making music for others, you begin writing songs for yourself, and with this breakthrough comes a measure of passion, understanding and confidence that leaves your listeners awe-struck and enthralled. You've finally discovered who you really are, and that person is a success.

So what do you do for an encore?

That was the question facing Tori Amos at the end of 1992. After spending almost a solid year on the road promoting "Little Earthquakes," Amos knew she was moving in the right direction. The album had gone gold, her tour played to packed houses everywhere -- no mean feat for a singer-pianist in this age of hip-hop, techno and grunge -- and her fans were almost manic in their enthusiasm.

"'Little Earthquakes' was an acknowledgment of things I hadn't looked at for 15 years, in some cases," Amos says. "You tell everybody, and other people say, 'I know what that's like, too.' And there's this energy and liberation you get from doing that.

"But then what happens? Well, everybody goes home, and you're sitting there. There was a deep fall after that, because I didn't have the same feeling of freedom as when I first discovered certain things. So what do I do the rest of my life? I can't write 'Little Earthquakes' again."

Amos didn't wonder for long, though. As it turned out, the songs that would become her new album, "Under the Pink" (Atlantic 82567, arriving in stores Tuesday), made themselves manifest almost immediately.

"I didn't think I was going to go into another record so fast," she says. "But as soon as I got off the road, 'Silent All These Years' came to me -- they all live, these songs, they're all alive -- and said, 'These are the girls I've been hanging out with.'

"When they showed up, I went, 'Oh, God. I just really want to, like, lie on the hammock and stuff.' But they said, 'Well, it's cold, and you can't lie on the hammock anyway, so check us out.'"

Sitting in a conference room overlooking Rockefeller Plaza, Amos looks more like an office intern than an established pop star. Short and slight, she looks younger than her 30 years, and her outfit -- a jumble of denim and cotton and bright-colored leggings -- appears to have been assembled more for its comfort than any sort of fashion statement.

A compulsion to explain

Yet beneath that apparently casual exterior, she's all business. Amos is in New York to talk about "Under the Pink," and seems intent on making sure every song is explained, and every theme discussed.

Why does she feel such a compulsion to explain? In large part, it's because the songs on "Under the Pink" work on a completely different level than those on "Little Earthquakes."

Granted, the music is fairly similar, from the piano balladry of "Pretty Good Year" and "The Wrong Band" to the wry, guitar-flavored pop of "God" and "Cornflake Girl." But the lyrics are another matter entirely. Some are character songs that seem worlds removed from the emotional disclosure of older work like "Crucify" and "Silent All These Years"; others are so deeply metaphoric that it's almost as if Amos were writing in a language of her own devising.

"You've got to work on this record," she admits. "This is not as petal-opening as the last record. You've got to go in your own being to get this record. But I think people that are into what I'm doing are ready to take that step."

Still, Amos can't resist providing a little context. "Part of this record is dealing with the betrayal of women, by women," she says. "The history of woman has been very lonely, and when you think that we should support each other, understand each other, that makes sense to me. But the concept of a sisterhood is not real."

Amos speaks from personal experience here, having noted with no little irony that the most vituperative reviews of her work have been written by women.

"I get criticized by women more than men on how I play the piano," she says, referring to her habit of straddling the piano bench and rocking her hips as she plays. "They find it offensive." Amos rolls her eyes. "Well, this is how I choose to express myself, so if you're truly a strong, independent woman, then how could you possibly find me being a strong, independent woman offensive?

"If you go to their side and take up their cause, then you're a 'strong, independent woman.' Well, you know, I'm so tired of hearing 'strong, independent woman equals -- and there's a list. It's just another set of rules. They're no different than the men that enslave the women in the first place."

So Amos, inspired by Alice Walker's "Possessing the Spirit of Joy," responded by writing "Cornflake Girl," a song about the trials of nonconformity.

"'Cornflake Girl' is about that disappointment," she says.

This is a transcript of the telephone interview by JD Considine in January of 1994, which was the basis for his January 30, 1994, article in The Baltimore Sun.

Tori: Whether it bums you out or not, the truth is, all this happened, as much as the first record did. But there are other characters involved a bit more. There are just other beings involved in this one.

Like "Pretty Good Year," for example, I got a letter from a guy named Greg in England. This one got to me--it missed getting to me for, like, three months. But it just got passed around to different people, and finally somebody just--I was walking through the record label in between the tour up in England, and somebody put it in my bag. They just said, "You know what, Tori? This has been sitting around here. Just take it."

And I took this letter, and I opened my bag two days later, and I read it. It was a picture of--he had drawn himself. It was a pencil drawing. Greg has kind of scrawny hair and glasses, and he's very skinny and he held this great big flower. Greg is 23, lives in the north of England, and his life is over, in his mind.

I found this a reoccurrence in every country that I went. In that early 20 age, with so many of the guys--more than the girls, they were a bit more, "Ah, things are just beginning to happen." The guys, it was finished. The best parts of their life were done.

The tragedy of that for me, just seeing that over and over again, got to me so much that I wrote "Pretty Good Year." You don't really know what my role is. Am I Lucy, or am I that eight bars of grunge that comes out near the end where I express, and then nothing, everything else is Greg's story? I found that kind of really fun. The emotion is coming from somebody else's story. And yet it touched me so much that I could sing it.

Sun: I'm sure you had at least a couple moments where you wondered, "Would there be more"?

Tori: Yeah. I related heavy. It's just, it was hard to see this so many times over and over and over again, that at 23, it's over. There isn't a hope that there was when, I think, maybe 15 years ago or something. There just seems to be this--they feel like the generation above were liars. This whole peace/love thing. Who gives a shit what you did when you were 18? You're a fuck now. You're 47. It's like, who cares? I don't want to hear what you did, the march you did when you were 19. The whole thing about, "OK, hang on a minute. You did a march when you were 18, 19, and you're telling me that I can't take birth control pills? I'm 15 years old. It's my fucking business." "But you're under our roof."

It's like, they're full of shit. Because they're not dealing with, well, hang on a minute, how would I feel if I were 15? Yeah, but I know better now. Well, I don't think so.

Sun: I hate boomer culture.

Tori: I see the effect, the general group that comes to the shows are the kids of them, the next down, and it's like, it's that there's so much anger for a reason.

Sun: Maybe we're heading into a good time, where people who are tuned in like you are taken more seriously.

Tori: Well, the good place where I'm going is, I finally understood that I didn't understand what spirituality is. After being around people that have done a Jungian study, the sweat lodges, the this, the that-- and we're not talking about just a new age fanaticism. We're talking about very educated and passionate people, whatever, again, that you could sit down and have a conversation with.

And yet, some of these people, who I got to know very well in New Mexico, were the most bitter, negative people that I've ever met. Now, then had a lot of information, but that's a whole different thing than knowledge. So it's very different. There's loads of information, and yet the heart connection was gone. Just the acceptance of, well, this is OK that I don't have it resolved. It's OK that I don't have an answer to this, and it's OK that I don't really know what I'm feeling right now. I'm a bit confused. Those things are OK. That's been a new place where I am where I wasn't before, where I thought that there had to be a resolve.

Tori: "God" is hey, buddy, I think you need a babe. Sit down. And I just happen to be around. The whole concept of God, that our institutions have taught us, whatever it is, it's not just Christianity but the whole rigamarole, to me isn't what it truly is. I don't know what it truly is. But I don't believe that what we've been taught is what it is. Most of us don't--that's not true. A few of us don't. But when you're 10 years old and being taught a belief system, you don't have the wherewithal to go, "Well, when they're putting this dried, stale cracker in my mouth, and telling me it's all going to be OK, it'll be OK if I put my little warm hand down on my little warm spot. That'll make it a bit OK." That's where "Icicle" comes in.

But with "God," I think that the energy force of creation feels really pissed off at this usurper that humankind has created is misusing that force, you know? I think it's really pissed off.

Sun: The story you tell a 10-year-old kid, well, that's what our notion of God is. It's a story that we tell ourselves so we can understand this concept that's greater than our understanding. The trouble is, people, instead of seeing the story as a means to understanding, see the story as the end.

Tori: Again, the end. That's so free, when we can release the end, that it's just a continuum. The idea that I'll never stop writing, because I've been doing it, I think, before I can remember anything, that is just part of my expression, and I understand things better when I write something. I can see it better. But I don't think there's an end to when people would say, "What are you going to do after ‘Little Earthquakes'?" Well, I'm going to do what I did before "Little Earthquakes," which is what I've done since I was two and a half, which is write songs.

Now, sometimes I put on plastic snake pants and hair spray, like with Y Kant Tori Read. I go through different phases when I'm not willing to face things or when I am. But there isn't an end to the creative process. Which is not what even in our industry, there's a high point, and then there's an end to it all, instead of, I'll still be writing in my living room if nobody shows up for biscuits or not, I'm going to still be doing it.

Sun: Is YKTR ever going to be reissued? There are people paying, like, 100 bucks a copy.

Tori: Isn't that the funniest thing that you ever heard?

Sun: Particularly since I remember seeing it as a $5.98 cutout at Tower.

Tori: They were a bit kinder. It was, like, $1.99 in other places. It's a collector's item. It's hilarious, isn't it? It's only a collector's item because there aren't any more. There were only 10,000 in the whole world. So that's why. When you have such a small issue, and then people just collect things, because of all my imports, if they have that, it makes their collection complete. That's kind of like why they do it. I think that they could use it for, like, dog paper, but that's a whole other thing. It's expensive dog paper. You know, knock yourself out, whatever. I find it kind of amusing. No, they won't put it out again. More than anything, because I'll have, probably, eight EPs that'll come over from England on this record. I do imports. So I'll do that.

Sun: There's this mailing list on the Internet called Really Deep Thoughts.

Tori: Right. I've heard of them. They're good people.

Sun: They had, what did they call it, Torimas--

Tori: Hah! Oh, Oc-Tori-Fest, wasn't it? They're so funny. The thing is, they won't bring it out, because I've moved on, and the company's moved on. We want to make more music. That's not where I'm at, anyway.

Sun: Eventually, when you get to the box set period?

Tori: I don't think so. I think that's it.

Sun: I can't imagine how you'll pull off "Bells" in concert.

Tori: It's a detuned piano. It's Eric Rosse demolishing a piano.

Sun: Having that audible distance makes the whole thing work. If you don't have the distance, the concept is not--

Tori: That moment is a moment, that song as you hear it was written as it was recorded. I'd been feeling something in my belly all day, and I told Eric, "I'm feeling something." He goes, "Like, when? Do I need to set the mikes up now or what?" I said, "I don't know, but later. I've got to eat first." It was around four o'clock, and he said, "Are you feeling something yet?" I said, "Not quite yet." He goes, "Well, like, feel it now, because I've been waiting for six hours and I need to record this." And I said, "Uh." He said, "Just go into the piano. Just go in."

So I went in, and I was listening to the sonics of the detuned acoustic. All of a sudden, this thing has started that was [inhales deeply] and it came in that moment. Words, music, everything. And for one second, my head went out of it and had to come back in. It was during the instrumental part where I was going, "I can't believe this is happening." And when it was over, it was like, "Did you get that?" And he goes, "I got it." He pushed Record. It's like, thank you for pushing Record. I have to relearn that. I haven't relearned it yet. But I gotta relearn it to play it live.

I dictated the words right after I did it to understand what was being said, and I understood it. I felt it when it was coming through. The words and the music are trying to translate what the feeling was. I think it does, but the main thing about "Bells" is that there is no resolve, and that's what that whole song was saying. "Can't stop what's coming, can't stop what is on its way." All I can do is respond truthfully, and the concept that we'll always be friends, or we can always work it out, I would have bet you that I could have worked anything out with this person. I would have bet my hand I could have worked anything out. I'd be missing a hand right now. It'd be the one-armed Tori tour. I couldn't have foreseen this. And I think, how many people, in marriages or families, and they're going, "Wait a minute. I'm a rational being. This is a rational being, so we think."

Of course, I'm a little--I'm partial, but I would have thought, yes, we could work it out. And when it got to in the end "blankettes," and the spelling changed, and when I was writing it down, I did it "blankettes" as in--well, what it means to me is just blank women, chicks. Yet they were making mudpies and creating and it's void now. And if you talk to people that know her, they think she's a together, great babe. And if you talk to people that know me, I'm a together, great babe. And yet we just couldn't do it. So there is a triangle on this record of the betrayal of women. It's not just that relationship. It's many other things in the other tunes.

Tori: With "Past the Mission," there's hope. "Past the mission, I smell the roses," and Trent sings on it. I wanted him to sing on it because of his energy. I love Trent's work. "Past the Mission" wanted him to sing on it.

Sun: Parts of "Past the Mission" reminded me of "China." There seemed to be little bits of Elton John.

Tori: We love Elton. "Past the Mission" has--yeah, I can see that. George Porter Jr. from the Meters played on the whole record, and there's a lot of him on that, as much as Carlo Nuccio from the bottom end. I did the piano vocal first, but they played the track, which gave it that--especially in the verses, that New Orleans kind of church meets Otis Redding meets, and they had a lot to do with bringing that out of the piece itself. Trent, obviously, it's nothing like he does in his work, which I found an interesting choice, because it wasn't for him to sing on something that was his, why do that?

"Past the Mission" is a love story. It's kind of a strange one in that it's me again, still trying to find pieces that I've left other places. It kind of breaks my heart when I hear him sing with me, "I once knew a hot girl." Where is she now? She can come back again. It's that same thing, where in "Pretty Good Year" and "Past the Mission" and "Space Dog," where everything is reclaimable.

Sun: It's also very easy to see the horizon as a dead end.

Tori: Yes.

Sun: I do think that there is something endemic about the way our market-driven society works, where they want us to see the horizon as a dead end. Otherwise, why would we stay in our little salaried positions to pay our mortgage every month? It's not as if people just don't see it.

Tori: Yes. That's how the whole thing's set up, isn't it?

Sun: Like Douglas Adams' idea that there are things you don't see because you won't let yourself see them.

Tori: Yes. I think there's also a bit of the Mary Magdalene/Jesus relationship in "Past the Mission," because I was reading "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" at the time. It has a lot of thoughts. It's a very long book about a historical viewpoint on everything, with the Cathars and all that happened in the Pyrenees, and the Merovingian dynasty and the whole nine yards. It's an interesting read. It opened my mind up a bit. More than anything, it was the sexual relations, even if it's just with yourself, surrounding the oppression of the church, and that's where "Past the Mission" again -- it's really freeing to me, that song. I've always kind of-- there's no resolve, either.

Tori: "Baker Baker" is kind of tragic in a way, because--I've had to look at how I treated men, and on this record, I think with "Baker Baker," to deal with a man that truly loved me, but that I wasn't emotionally available for. You know how women always say men aren't emotionally available. Well, a lot of women aren't emotionally available. It's like, if you're vulnerable, we say, "Look, we need you to be sensitive." So you become sensitive, and yet we go, "You've got no fuckin' backbone," and we kick you in the face and run off with a ski trainer.

Sun: Needing love, wanting love, is easy for anyone to understand.

Maintaining love is much more difficult than most people realize.

Tori: Yeah. I didn't maintain it very well. But you know, I'm learning, I'm trying.

Tori: You know, I played a piano bar in Washington for years, and I used to know some hookers. They would come into the hotels. I love hookers. I love them. It's a past life thing for me, Paris in another time, when it was a bit more respectable. Let's think about it. You were either a wife, or you were quote-mistress. You can call it whatever you want, but the truth is, you're taking money for your--

Sun: You're a sex professional.

Tori: Right. But at least you have say. If you were good, you had say, instead of Daddy marries you to some gangrene-toothed lech. You could say, "Uh, I don't think so, Harry. No, I got enough clients." But it's not looked upon that way anymore.

Sun: There's an interesting book that talks about how the Victorian era turned all of that. What all anti-sex movements boil down to over the years is using the control of sex to reinforce the position of patriarchy. It posits that sex is only safe for men.

Tori: "The Wrong Band," that's what it's about. I don't know if you got that. "The Wrong Band," with Heidi and Ginger and me, we're all sex professionals in "The Wrong Band." My character, although I say she, who's really written about a woman that I knew that had to leave for Japan. She left to be protected, because she was involved with somebody in the house years ago. This was years ago. She got in too deep. She just knew too much, and she was really afraid that they were going to kill her, they were going to set her up and kill her. She went to Japan to be protected by another powerful man, but she didn't have too many choices at that point, and he was powerful enough to hide her in Japan. I never heard from her again. I don't know what happened. And I knew her for three years.

You just get in too deep, and when the Heidi thing came out-- whatever you do to open your mouth or cause it or whatever it is, it's just kind of a shame that, again, it's that control of the patriarchy. That goes back to "God" again.

Sun: I interviewed Billy Joel, who said that the bane of his existence is that he dreams music.

Tori: I know what that's like. The songs are so good in the dream.

Sun: You feel like such a fool trying to get them onto tape when you wake up.

Tori: It just doesn't have--it's so complete in the dream. I was actually conscious when these visions happened, but it's very intangible, because I can feel something in my belly, but I haven't lived it yet. Like "The Waitress." I got a sense of what was coming, but I hadn't lived it yet. So I had to go--these experiences all did come to me over an eight-month period, but I didn't know at the time what it was going to be. The Pueblos have a saying that the mountain spits you out if it doesn't like you, and the mountain was spitting me out, like, every 30 seconds. We were in New Mexico--that's where this everything was written and recorded.

Sun: Why New Mexico?

Tori: Just called there, just called to it. The Wild West. There was something about it, something really rugged and raw. Obviously it was supposed to happen there. It's funny, because after "Little Earthquakes," I really didn't know what I was in for. I didn't think about it.

Sun: You were saying that you were worried, having gotten through something with "Little Earthquakes"--

Tori: What's next?

Sun: Did you set yourself up for trauma again so you'd have something else to work through?

Tori: What I didn't understand at the time was that "Little Earthquakes" was an acknowledgement of things I hadn't looked at for 15 years, in some cases. There is another step that I just hadn't gone through that after you acknowledge something, like, you tell everybody, and other people say, "I know what that's like, too." And there's this whole kind of energy charge you get and liberation from doing that, and then what happens? Well, everybody goes home, and you're sitting there, and then you have to do the work. You have to apply it to your life. There was a deep fall kind of after that, because I didn't have the feeling of freedom as when I first discovered certain things, and it was just, would I still kind of have these same feelings?

Sun: With analysis, part of it is recognizing the mistakes you make over and over again, and part of it is learning not to make them.

Tori: That's right. That's the hard work. So what do I do the rest of my life? I can't write "Little Earthquakes" again. The rest of my life is devoted to not making those, putting myself in situations. Just being present, being conscious of why I do stuff, and this record was just about living every day.

"The Waitress" is the next step in "Cornflake." I don't have them in order. It doesn't work like that. "The Waitress" is how I can't control my violence, and in this one situation, we're both equals, we're both waitresses in this song. I don't go into the details of why. Why isn't the issue. The issue is that I thought I was a peacemaker, and this violence has totally taken control of every belief system that I have. It's a very scary thing, especially after you talk about anti-violence.

Sun: Belief in anti-violence--you couldn't have a belief in anti-violence if you didn't have a sense of violence anyway. If there weren't sin, there'd be no need for salvation. It's frightening to feel in yourself what you despise in others.

Tori: Yes, especially after the "Me and a Gun" experience, where I was so--it's about healing for me, that whole experience, and that's all through this record too, with "Baker Baker" and healing in "Anastasia," "We'll see how brave you are." But to be on the other side of it, it's not an analogy to "Me and a Gun." It's just to feel the feeling of rage, because I've been on the victim side before. It was just shocking for me to have to deal with that part of myself. First, of course, you acknowledge it, and then you go, if I don't control it, I could end up in jail with a broomstick up my ass for the next 30 years. That's no fun. I could, like, go to Italy and have good fettucine. That would be a drag, and I'm sure that there are people out there that just snap that one millimeter more. I mean, what is it that keeps us--there's something obviously in us that keeps us from taking that step.

Sun: I don't think it's fear.

Tori: I think that divine law of--there has to be a part of us that's either in alignment or not alignment with some kind of divine law. Now, who am I to quote divine law? It's not anything that we have written down on the planet. But we all know that if you take another person's choices away, we've crossed the line. That is the line. And you know, we all know it. Anybody on the street knows it. If they take somebody else's life, or if I slap you for no reason, I've just crossed, I've just taken your choices away. And instinctively we know that. Now, I think a lot of it depends on--no matter how Viking I can get, you know, with my battle axe and stuff, there's something innate in my upbringing in this lifetime that was, as far down as it may be, "Love your neighbor as yourself." The karma that that brings you.

Sun: I think of this stuff in terms of resonance. You know that there are notes that will go, and there are notes that won't go.

Tori: You break divine law. You go against the harmonic structure.

Well, "The Waitress," she's a real good friend now, that song. That's not hiding in my closet anymore. That's one thing that, at least, I'm kind of--

Sun: You've found a context for those notes.

Tori: Yes. And "Bells for Her" is the loss of a friend. From "Cornflake" to "The Waitress" to "Bells," "Bells" is the loss of-- and it's all kind of backwards. I do the last first, and then the first last. But "Bells" is the spirit speaking, not the ego speaking, but the part of me that still loves a friend that for whatever reason you can't make a resolve. You just can't do it. The big lesson in this whole year has been that there isn't a resolve for many things. Life isn't about, well, if I just get to this mountain peak, it's over. There are like 5,000 peaks in the distance.

Tori: You've got to work on this record. This is not as petal-opening as the last record. This record is, OK, you've got to go in your own being to get this record. ‘Cause I'm real clear what this is. I don't have to spell things out this time. It wasn't conscious or unconscious; it's just people that I think are into what I'm doing are ready to take that step.

So "Cornflake," "Bells" and "Waitress" are a triangle together. Part of this record is dealing with the betrayal of women, between women. These three, "Cornflake" is, I've been reading "Possessing the Secret of Joy" by Alice Walker. I don't know if you read that. It went in depth of just women betraying women, and how the mothers really sold the daughters to the butchers, and had their genitalia removed, et cetera.

A lot of memory came to me. Just social memory, not necessarily personal memory--collective memory of how women have turned on each other. And the concept of a sisterhood is not real. I think that hurts me more than most concepts, because the idea that-- we've been, women have had obviously very little say in their lives, and it's been a difficult road. See, I believe in past lives, so I've been a man making it hard on women also. Just if we look at it from objective viewpoints, just the history of woman has been very lonely, and when you think that we should support each other, understand each other, that makes sense to me. You would think.

Sun: One thing being oppressed teaches you is how to oppress others.

Tori: Yes. It's been--again, it's the victims become the abusers, it's that whole--which is explored in "Waitress," too, where I become the one who wants to slice this person's head off. But the thing is, it's been, it's so disappointing for me when I feel betrayed by another woman. So "Cornflake Girl" is that disappointment. "This is not really happening, you bet your life it is. Never was a cornflake girl, thought that was a good solution." Cornflake being white bread, closed. "Hanging with the raisin girls," you know, whole wheat, multicultural, open, a little more going on. "She's gone to the other side, giving us the yo heave ho. Things are getting kind of gross." I think that's clear. "And I go at sleepytime, this is not really happening. You bet your life it is."

The second verse, it just supports that whole thing. "Rabbit, where'd you put the keys, girl?" Rabbit, in certain Indian traditions, it represents fear. "Rabbit, where'd you put the keys, girl? And the man with the golden gun thinks he knows so much." Well, those are my God references again.

Sun: There seems to be a small but growing movement of young women who realize that the trouble with feminism was that it was articulated as politics, and it's not about politics. It's about being feminine, and all that being feminine entails. Some of the stuff that you've dealt with is very much of the same cloth that [singer] Liz Phair and [comic book artist] Julie Doucet deal with ... but their most vituperative critics tend to be women.

Tori: I know. That's "Cornflake Girl" right there. It's that incredible--"All the sweeteaze are gone, gone to the other side, with my encyclopedia. They musta paid her a nice price. She's putting on her string bean love." Anorexic. They just put it on. If you go to their side and take up their cause, then you're a strong, independent woman. Well, you know, I'm so tired of strong, independent woman equals. And there's a list. Instead of--well, hang on a minute, the most interesting word here is vulnerability, that's getting left out, because it's associated with weakness. You don't dress a certain way to be a strong independent woman. It's fascist, and it's the same--they're no different. They're just the other extreme.

I don't feel a part of any kind of sisterhood. Again, it's the most disappointing thing, where I get criticized by women more than men on how I play the piano. They find it offensive. They find it offensive. I'm just going, well, this is how I choose to express myself, so if you're truly a strong, independent woman, then how could you possibly find me being a strong, independent woman offensive?

Sun: If you're playing the game, which they are, it threatens you to discover there are people who realize you don't have to play the game.

Tori: That's the core issue. It's just another set of rules. They're no different than the men that enslave the women in the first place. They're enslaving women. That's this triangle of women enslaving women.

If we sit down, to have a cereal is no coincidence, because cereal is a very interesting word to me. To go to breakfast and to go to grains, all those things, and to segregate me as a cereal, especially since I did do a cornflake commercial, and since I do call the song "Cornflake Girl," and I say "Never was a cornflake girl," there's a real rub there. Because in honesty, I used to say, "I'm not violent, I'm a peacemaker." And here I am in "The Waitress" with no problems ready to rip her head off.

Sun: That was the best part of the song. "I believe in peace, bitch."

Tori: Yes. Well, I think that if--it's funny, I kind of find it all pretty clear. I can see how "Space Dog" is tricky, and I'll come through with that one. But Space Dog's a mushroom trip anyway. It is supposed to be kind of--

Sun: I thought it was a "Ren and Stimpy" episode.

Tori: Ha, ha! Well, fine. Same thing. But the thing is, with a lot of the language, it's not like ahead thought out, but it's kind of like a camera, again, where I'm filming myself in these experiences. And the best way I can describe things sometimes is like how I'm tasting. With tangible things. Not just to say, "These girls betrayed me, and I really feel bad now."

[All Tori said about "Icicle" is that it's about "masturbating to stay alive."]

Sun: I found "Cloud On My Tongue" to be, again, about your sensory self.

Tori: Yes, totally sensory self, that doesn't know--there's a wonderful acceptance in "Cloud On My Tongue," an acceptance of being in circles and circles again. That's its whirlpool vat. It all leads to that.

Sun: Why Borneo?

Tori: Because I travel a lot around the world, and I went to all sorts of places, and I ran in to different people. Borneo had something that I didn't have. It was a very free, hot, jungly place, and the people that, or a person that came from there, had something that I didn't have that I desperately wanted, which was this no rigidity. When I say "Leave the wood outside, what, all the girls here are freezing cold, leave me with your Borneo."

Sun: Having the wood becomes beside the point.

Tori: Yeah. Or don't leave me with your Borneo, because I've had it before, and that's why I need the wood, because it just--you can go now, you're already in there, whether it's pregnant or whether it's just infused. You don't even have to hang around and watch me disintegrate, because you've already done your job. You've already accomplished what you wanted, which was another scalp on your belt, and you did it. That's not one of my more favorite men songs.

Sun: It's much truer to the way men generally are. Most of us could go now, and the race would continue on without much difference. You could fill this cup with semen and propagate Manhattan again.

Tori: That's so awesome. Yeah. My only problem was, I said "You can go now" after he was already in there. I mean, it had done--it was already planted, so whatever it was, that's where I think "Cloud" balances out "Baker Baker" a bit, because it's the shadow side. She's not ignorant. She knows exactly what's happening.

Sun: You can have things happen you didn't want to have happen to you and still be in control. Like you're driving along and make a wrong turn; it's not as if you can't get out of the wrong turn, but you know you've made a wrong turn.

Tori: I think she went into the wrong state. She went into Borneo.

Wrong continent.

Tori: As far as "Space Dog" goes, it was a drawing on a mud wall in New Mexico. It was a shape, and it really was, if I could take a picture and show it to you sometime, the whole record was recorded in mud, mud walls, adobe and wood ceilings, wood floors, because Eric really loved the sound, which is why it sounds like it has that warm womb thing. Well, in one of the rooms, there was this-- it's Space Dog. A feather on his head, and it's this sharp nose. It just really is. That's how so many of these songs came, in this "Under the Pink" world. If you rip all your skin off, we're all pink, and it's about what's underneath that. That's how I see it, anyway.

Space Dog would come and visit me, just as my alternative deity, so to speak. The idea that everybody puts their faith in, I don't know, this yogi or this channel or this god or this saint or this whatever, well, Space Dog was like, hey, it's my deity.

I was flying over Chicago. Before I got into the city, I was flying over, and I just felt this scene happening by this 7-11 I could see way in the distance. It was a very cold night. It was in March, and I was going in for a signing at Rose Records. I was flying in, and I felt this young boy, 13, 14 years old, with his family. He's eating peas. His family is like, some of those people that show up on "Oprah Winfrey" sometimes, that you just go, My God, if I had to go home with them, I would contemplate, like, eating Pledge. And I just felt his presence. I felt him just opening himself up to another possibility, because his world was just so closed. The best thing he had near him was the 7-11 goddess.

I was just watching from the--I was in the window seat, and I was just watching, like, way down. I felt "Space Dog." I've been talking to him, and I felt Space Dog going, "Lemon pie. Coming through, lemon pie." It was very Agent 99. I kind of felt like Agent 99 going, "Oh, Max." And this young man responded. There is something out there.

The idea, again, with "Pretty Good Year," there's a lot of triads in this whole record, and "Pretty Good Year" and "Space Dog" kind of kiss each other, where--let me focus my thought. In the bridge, "Deck the halls," going back again, to, again, not having resolve. "I'm young again. Somewhere, someone must know the ending. Where's Neil when you need him?" You know, that's all in that. "Is she still pissing in the river now?" Patti Smith. "Heard she'd gone, moved into a trailer park." Concept being, somebody that had all of these beliefs, and then just numbed themselves.

And Space Dog's philosophy is, well, together, when I'm hanging out with him, it's, "So sure we were on something. Your feet are finally on the ground, he said." That's Space Dog's philosophy. And in the counter-vocal in the end goes, again, the betrayal stuff, mostly girls, and yet, if I'm in the present, and I'm on something, which is on the earth, on the ground, then I have total opportunity to decide what my reaction will be. I can't decide anything else, but I can decide if I'm going to let something totally take over my life, which it did in "The Waitress." But by "Space Dog," I'm going, I do have a choice. It's part of the growth.

Tori: When we get to "Anastasia"--I had some visitation on this. I was in Richmond. It was after the Washington show, and I had food poisoning. Very ill. I was in Richmond the next night--

Sun: Which is where she died, isn't it?

Tori: Around Richmond, Charlottesville, yes, that area. And her being visited me, and said, "You need to tell my story." And I'm like, "Oh, come on. I'm losing crab at both ends. [Tori had eaten some bad seafood] Can't we, like, negotiate this?" And it was a bit of--that's where my experience from the violent kidnapping that I went through with "Me and a Gun" kind of made me able to understand the horror that she went through, and yet, the incredible understanding that she came to, which is the first half of "Anastasia," that whole, "Show me the ways to get back to the garden" and "Driving on the vine over clotheslines. But officer, I saw the sign." You're very aware of what's happening, that you're being changed and that you're numbing yourself, but how do you turn it around?

And that's where "We'll see how brave you are"--when you're 18, you know everything, and it's, yeah, I can handle anything. Well, any of us can be brought to our knees real fast. And with "Anastasia," I would be looking kind of down on myself through different parts of my life, going, "We'll see how brave you are." And I get such hope from that one.

Sun: It's sweet, not just because it's got the orchestral part. It does have a sense, it's like, now you're in Panavision.

Tori: Yeah. We're storming the Parliament building by the end.

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