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JAM Entertainment News (US)
July 22, 1994

(a free magazine for the Florida music scene)

Tori Amos: Exposes Her Hidden Corners

By Dave Hall

According to Andy Warhol, everyone gets their "fifteen minutes of fame." According to Dave Letterman, an encounter with one of the famed ones nets the individual a "brush with greatness." Given that singer/ songwriter/ pianist Tori Amos is getting her fifteen minutes of fame in three-year doses, the following interview might be considered a "fifteen-minute brush with greatness."

Thriving, sprouting, mushrooming, greatness. Tori Amos's willingness to expose the hidden corners of her psyche has won the acclaim of an audience apparently hungry for honesty and the anguish of heartfelt life-experience. Amos's prodigious pianistry has earned the respect of even the most particular musicians, and her last album, Little Earthquakes, also earned her multi-platinum sales.

Her latest, Under The Pink, firing both engines on the strength of two hit singles, "God" and "Cornflake Girl," is already platnum in the U.S. alone. Her two-hundred-city-plus tour is sold out in most venues, and in the performer's spare time, she's managed to coordinate a nationwide 1-800 Rape Crisis to aid the hundreds of thousands of rape victims whose cries might have otherwise remained silent.

In the outgoing quest to bright the reader up-to-the-minute, cutting- edge music journalism, nine hundred seconds of valuable time was eked out of Amos's restrictive schedule and thrust upon this hurried, harried writer. What follows is our (mostly) unedited conversation.

Jam: Is there anything that gets under your skin that you get tired of hearing, that you hear over and over again?

Tori: I know there is, but I try and forget it. I always like challenging questions. Things that have thought behind them challenge my mind. Things that don't have thought behind them, I know-I smell it in five seconds. Not to make you nervous, but some people just don't want to dig and be a little archaeologist, which I think if you're a good journalist, that's what you're doing and you're looking at things from a different perspective...

Jam: In fifteen minutes we certainly don't have time to go through what's already in the bio. What do you think people misconceive about you, what's the greatest misconception about people's image of you, especially as a result of all this press?

Tori: Um, [pause]...that I'm depressed. My crew finds me very funny. I think if you ask them, you know...but they had that impression too, before they all came on board. I think they were all walking on eggshells, and I'm like, 'dudes.'

Jam: ...Lighten up!

Tori: Get a sense of humor! There are days when I think my humor is one of my better sides to myself. Even in my work, I think it comes out a lot. I think people just don't catch it sometimes. But it's everywhere.

Jam: Does it ever bother you that so many of your songs seem to have a down side?

Tori: I know that I'm not like, 'party music.' I don't have any illusions about when people listen to my record. If I'm having a Fourth of July night, we won't be playing Under The Pink or Little Earthquakes! But somebody's gotta go into the basement. I kinda go into the basement and tinker around with stuff - with emotions that I hide. It gives me so much freedom and release. When I walk offstage I feel really invigorated, maybe a bit empty sometimes. I strike a chord that's a bit tender, but there's a feeling of freedom there because when you're not hiding - like nobody can nail you. You know? They can't nail your 'self.'

Jam: Are you afraid that after exposing so much of yourself openly, in the music, in the media, that there's not going to be anything left for yourself? Are there things left that you're hiding? Are there parts of you that aren't getting out?

Tori: I think that with each step you with Little Earthquakes I was the chicken coming out of the egg, alright, and Under the Pink, I'm like the little rooster walking around. You know what I mean?

Jam: More confidence...

Tori: Well, I'm getting into seeds that got dropped from the big old rooster, and I'm stealing a little seed here and a seed there, and I'm looking at another chicken and I'm saying, 'do you have an in-ny or an out-ty,' you know, stuff like that with Under the Pink. And the old rooster's like, 'I have that chicken, I wanna peck her eyes out!'

With each stage, if you start discovering stuff, I don't believe that there isn't more to discover. I really believe that. On one hand, I know there are only twelve notes. And I know that there're only so many emotions. Once you deal with fear, cowardice, desperation, adulation, joy, and what all these things cause, you go, 'Well, haven't I already covered that?' And you keep seeing emotions differently with new experiences.

Jam: Fame causes you to see things differently.

Tori: Fame... [long sigh] Nobody teaches you to be famous, that's for sure. There's no courses, no 'Fame 101.' Some people don't deal it well, they can end up very... [trails off]

Jam: I imagine that people approach you with questions on two angles, on Kurt Cobain's tragedy, and also because of your outspokenness about female abuse - the O.J. Simpson thing.

Tori: A lot of questions about Kurt. People haven't brought O.J. up to me -- much. Mainly because I haven't done a lot of interviews since his arrest. Umm, but you know we're doing the 800-number, which I feel very strong about. I feel like, hopefully, wherever you're calling from, you call this 800-number and it connects you with the closest Rape Crisis Center, and there's a trained person there 24 hours a day. People who have been through it - most of them have been through it - and they're compassionate but not debilitating. You need somebody to say, "Tori, you've gotta look at this side of it. You've gotta look at where you're not making choices in your life that are healthy. Yes, this happened to you, this experience happened to you - you can't change that - but we've got to look at what this experience has done. How you haven't looked at your anger, and now the choices that you're making. Why are your relationships still abusive? Let's look at that" So there's a lot of it, I call it "Wonderfully yummy tough truth." You need that, you really need that, or you're never going to heal. And I feel that you're way more willing to take tough truth from a stranger than you are from a friend.

Jam: Strangers are more objective, more able to be tough when they have to be, whereas friends tend to be flowery, more mushy, or...

Tori: Well, they're so afraid to lose your friendship that they don't wanna through a sore spot. But hey, if your sore spots aren't being touched, no work is getting done! So you either wanna get to the point where you don't want to jump off that bridge, or you want to jump off that bridge! There's no middle ground!

Jam: I noticed this in your clippings - does it concern you much of your recent press deals with sex and abuse? Do you wish people would concentrate more on the music? Do you care, or how do you feel?

Tori: Well, right now, whatever it takes to get this 800 number out to people where they feel they can turn somewhere... If they don't talk about the music for a while, that's okay. I get enough press. People have been talking about the music, and they have for three years, to where we have a sold-out tour, two hundred shows. So, at a certain level, I've gotta go, "Really Tori. If people don't mention the music, sometimes you just have to understand that the focus is somewhere else." And it's important right now. I mean, sometimes you just a little bit - you know - hard to get away from, from my point of view. But that's the commitment I made.

Jam: Of all these accomplishments, of your work, of your social activism, of what accomplishments do you take the most pride in personally?

Tori: My live shows. Because that's a place where people come and I would like to think, walk out feeling like they've had the "Ayahuasca journey of life," that Brazilian vine that was in The Emerald Forest, that gave that boy vision...

Jam: You've got me. Tell me more.

Tori: "Ayahuasca" is a vine in Brazil in the Amazon - I've had it freezed dried a few times-but the point is that it gives the medicine men vision down there, and I'd like to think that my concerts are like a journey you get from Ayahuasca; that you go through an emotional journey. Some people - not everyone - leave differently than when they walked it, and they leave inspired. That's why I do it, because I don't think of my concerts as something for you do to because you have nothing else to do. But if that's so, then whatever. But if you can clean your house and do the Lemon Pledge scene on your furniture during Under the Pink well, hey, I've served my purpose. But for the most part, I think that when people leave my concert they walk away seeing things a bit differently. 'Cause they get emotionally charged, like they just put their fingers in the 220. I'd like to think that anyway.

Jam: Sounds kind of dangerous for the audience. For you as an individual, you have to continue setting goals for yourself. Your next set of goals - where are you now?

Tori: You know, I've been a musician for 28 years. I'm always trying to challenge myself musically, and sometimes I don't. I'm not always achieving that, but I'm always writing. So I want to spend time before I put out the next work and explore things. There are things I've always wanted to explore, and it takes time. It's like being an archeologist. I have to go in there musically and explore things. I hope I'm always doing that for the rest of my life. That's what I live to do, just pushing new frontiers for myself.

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