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WHFS Press (US)
(radio station publication)
Spring 1994

tori amos
potomac's own becomes the anti-darling of modern rock

interview by bob waugh

With the release of Little Earthquakes Tori Amos proved herself to be not only an exceptional pianist and vocalist, but a confessional songwriter who could be right at home in the company of Silvia Plath and Anne Sexton. Bob Waugh sat down with Tori (originally from the area, and whose family still lives here) to talk about religion, her new album (Under the Pink) and cooking for Trent Reznor.

Bob: The religious overtones that were so evident on Little Earthquakes... you haven't abandoned them completely.

Tori: Everything seems to be religious sometimes when it comes to me and my work, and this record has got a few more things than religion in it. Only a few, but... I don't know if I ever can [abandon religion] because the subject fascinates me - how affected I am while I'm still trying to work through the way I was told I should behave. I was taught a belief system where there wasn't really any room to discover my own belief system.

Bob: Your dad being a preacher (Tori groans)...

Tori: Yeah. This is not big at the dinner table.

Bob: You sit around that table (Tori groans again) and there's dad and he's gotta say...

Tori: Well, I'm going to tell you something cute about my dad. I called him from the studio and I said, "Look, I need a quote from the Bible that shows the raw deal women got." I call him back, and I'm in England 'cause were mixing, and I just needed this quote and my father says, "Would you like to hear my quotes?" He gives me two pages of quotes form the Song of Solomon which says, "Thy globes are like ripe sweet berries; thy navel is like a cup which poureth spring water." It just goes on forever and I say, "Dad, no, this is not representative of what I'm talking about." He says, "Yeah, but these are beautiful quotes." And it was very interesting to me how my father, bless his cotton socks, just can't acknowledge the way that the Church has treated not just women, but people in other cultures - it's hard for him as a minister to see the other side of Christianity and what it's done in the name of God.

Bob: On the last album you dealt with some highly personal subject matter. Are these new songs born through exorcising new demons or are you coming from a different place now?

Tori: Well, I think there are always demons, you know? If you want a Halloween party just call me up... This record was more exhausting for me. The last one was very liberating. What I thought was "spiritual" a year ago, isn't what I really think now. It's changing for me a lot. I'm more confused than I was, but that's not a bad thing. I'm kind of excited by not knowing.

After I wrote "Me And A Gun" (a song about rape), I had to start waking up every morning going "Okay, I've acknowledged it. Now how am I going to start healing this?" I can't want to keep murdering. I can't want to keep getting him back. I can't keep equating violence and sex. I can't unless I don't ever want passion or joy in my life again. And I want those things in my life. I have somebody to help me work through it, a man who's very understanding and doesn't allow me to lie and get away with stuff. It's like "No. We're going to keep the lights on, and we're going to deal with this, and I love you. What is my name? Say my name."

Bob: One of the big themes on this new album is about women betraying women.

Tori: Women can be pretty vicious, especially towards each other, and it's done mostly in secret. It's the shock of the sisterhood turning against each other. Hey, I know there's no sisterhood. I know there are more women picketing outside [abortion clinics] who are anti-choice than there are men. And you've got to go, "Hang on a minute here! These aren't women. These are lizards who have put on tits... This is not fair." Because there's no compassion with women towards women anymore. Then you get your other extreme. If you wear a lacy bra or you want to be feminine in any way then you are not a "strong independent female." I find that really interesting because it's like there's an equal sign now. Strong independent female has to talk like X and look like X and deny themselves X. That's not okay, either.

Bob: What about Trent Reznor helping you out on this album? He is featured on a song called "Past The Mission."

Tori: When I was writing the song, the song said, "I think Trent Reznor would be really good to sing on me." So I made it happen, and I met him. I flew into Los Angeles and I went up to the Sharon Tate house where he was staying. It's a very spooky house, not in the way it looks but just because you know what it is.

Bob: You told me a story about cooking chicken for him in the Tate house, which gave you an indication that maybe things were kinetically strange there.

Tori: I can make this chicken. Whatever he tells you, ever, the truth is I make really good chicken. It's oven fried and I've been making it since I was a little kid. It's awesome how it dribbles down your chin and the butter - yummy. I was worried about his health because he's not eating a lot, it doesn't seem like he is, and I just said, "Let me make some chicken. I'd feel really good if I could do that." And so he said, "Yeah, come on up and make it. I don't believe you're really as good as you say you are." And I said, "No, I make good chicken, Trent." And so I brought all the ingredients and I swear to you for the life of me, I couldn't make this chicken. HORRIBLE. It's not like I'd been proven wrong. But anything that is cooked there, my chicken being the only experience I had, of course... Nothing bakes. So I don't know what to tell you, but I think it's a very weird place because - I promise you, I know how to make this chicken!

Bob: About your tour. I think people who've seen you perform live are left with the feeling that Tori Amos likes to get into people's faces. You see these stunned looks. They don't know what to do with their hands. They don't know where to look at times when you deal with some of the stuff in your lyrics.

Tori: Well, I like to stir it up. I mean, I feel like in my songs I stir things up... But I don't think it's intentional being in people's faces. It's more about trying to get (the audience) to bring something to the performance, to - getting them to bring a piece of themselves 'cause that changes my show. I mean I get really boring doing the same thing with myself every night - it's very exciting when other people show themselves. I only just do thins so other people can show themselves. Then it starts to get really fun.

Tori and her piano will be touring 250 cities in support of Under the Pink, this year.

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