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Triple J (Australia, radio)
Triple J FM, Sydney
February 23, 1996
Tori Amos interview
Angela: We're talking to Tori Amos on Triple J. Hi Tori, how are you?
Tori Amos: I'm really well.
Angela: Where are you? I believe you're on tour tonight.
Tori: I'm in Ipswich (UK) and it's actually the morning.
Angela: I beg your pardon. Now, we have an Ipswich in Australia but you're not there are you?
Tori: No no. Two hours north-east of London.
Angela: Oh, OK. So we've been playing your new album here on Triple J.
Tori: Oh yeah I know about Triple J...
Angela: And um, I was wondering aloud one day on the radio about the actual title, 'Boys For Pele', and a listener called in and, ah, said he'd been to Hawaii to the big island where there was a volcano, and ah, is that where the title came from?
Tori: Yeah, Pele's the volcano goddess.
Angela: And young boys were sacrificed to the volcano, is that right?
Tori: Well... I think that did happen when she got a bit angry. But, um, in truth it's really about claiming your own fire. And the men in my life, um, actually brought me to claiming my own fire, with what they gave or didn't give in some cases.
Angela: Well musically it's a fantastic album and just so interesting. Um, the first thing that struck me about it was the use of the harpsichord, which is such a sort of, I dunno, medieval almost sounding instrument. Ah, you know, is it a favorite of yours?
Tori: I played it when I was kind of younger, when I was studying classical music and I played some Oscar Lardi (??) program on it. But I didn't respect the instrument because it didn't have sustain. You know it's kind of like, um, red lipstick when you're 13. You know, you don't appreciate beige lipstick yet. So, I just had to get to a point where, um, I could honour the instrument for what it is, and it's taken me a long time 'till I was ready to do that.
Angela: Well, it's very, you know, brave of you I think to mix it with the instruments that you have. You know, ah, in one track (Professional Widow) it's almost a sort of grunge-punk track, and there's this harpsichord. It's a great marriage.
Tori: Well she kind of looked at me, the harpsichord, and just kind of winked from the corner and she said, 'Baby give me some ass', and I said, 'Oh it's about time, let's go'.
Angela: (laughs) I think it must be the first time.
Tori: The harpsichord felt, if you will, very New Orleans to me. Which was... In New Orleans the food is like nowhere else in the world, because it's a mix of that French. Classic French and that West Indian Cajun feeling. And I really felt like the harpsichord was ready to kind of take her place, with um... you know, with some heat.
[Professional Widow plays]
Angela: We're talking to Tori Amos on Triple J, who's on tour in Ipswich in England. Now Tori, there's some *very* provocative photographs in the, ah, you know, little, ah, album booklet... the CD booklet. One in particular that takes my eye is you suckling a pig for god's sake! I've seen this in the highlands of New Guinea. Have you.. Have you seen this?
Tori: That's interesting. And what is the reasoning that they do that in New Guinea? Is it to keep the women, um, so they're able to keep breast-feeding?
Angela: I don't think so. I think it's because pigs are valued so highly. This is up in the, ah, in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. And pigs are a valuable possession. And I would go so far as to say it's to, ah, to nurture and nourish the pigs.
Tori: Wow. Well, there you go.
Angela: (laughs) But so was it really sucking your breast?
Tori: Um, that day, the little critter was 4 days old. And he was with me for hours. And was scared, and hungry, and um, just kind of, ah, fell right in on there. And um, I think more than anything the picture represents what I wanted to show. Um, the record is very much about exposing that which is hidden in the unconscious. That's why a lot of the record is kind of, um, metaphorical work. Um, nurturing that which has been hidden, non-kosher if you will.
Angela: (laughs) Tori, ah, does this sort of thing...You know, is it a sort of tiresome result of being a successful performer, having to talk to the media all the time?
Tori: I didn't understand that until really when I was on tour, on 'Little Earthquakes' which was my album 2 ago. That was a few years ago. And people would come up to me and say, 'I read this interview, and it really, you know, inspired me to move out of the situation I was in and, you know, take my life in my own hands, and um, you know, follow my own path'. And I kind of looked and said, 'Well, sometimes I do think that the media can reach people, and inspire people'. And, ah that's why... a big reason why I do interviews, also to let people know that the music is out there and, if we're cruising through town, come say hi.
Angela: That was big news in Australia, because Bjork just arrived in Bangkok and obviously lost her cool with a young Thai reporter who greeted her with a welcome to Thailand, and actually got hit by Bjork as she arrived.
Tori: Well, I don't know about that. I mean, from what I understand... and Bjork is a good acquaintance, and a *lovely, lovely, lovely* lady. And I've known her for a while, and never seen her lose her patience. And her son was with her, and I think that you saw the mother lion come out protecting her cub. That's what I truly think happened from what I gather. I think people saw the mother come out as Bjork, and nobody's really seen that. You see the playful, young, quote-unquote woman, but the mother is quite, ah, powerful, wonderful and protective. And I think any mother would protect her child the same way if she felt it was being harassed.
Angela: We're talking to Tori Amos on Triple J. Tori, ah, Jimmy Plant and Robert Page have just arrived in Australia. Ah, they we're kind of dismissive about most new music, except for yours. Are you fans of theirs?
Tori: Well they know I steal *shamelessly* from them. Absolutely shameless. And, you know, when I was studying at the Peabody, I started in 1968.
Angela: This is studying classical music?
Tori: Oh yeah. And it was pretty strict. But I was *obsessed* with 'The White Album', 'Sergeant Pepper' and Zeppelin. And all I could do was go over and over and over, um, to Jimmy's playing and his phrasing. And as a piano player, I studied him, and I studied him, and I studied him. And I said, 'I'm gonna bring this to the piano'. Because he was the bridge, I felt, from classical music to contemporary playing. He understood that. And Robert of course... is the *Goddess*. (both laugh) I mean, Robert understands the energy of the feminine. You're looking at a bit of Merlin... and when you understand that, you understand what their power was... about the sensuality of the Goddess, that's what their music was about.
Angela: And Tori, they've been often copied and covered, and no-one so *beautifully*, in my opinion anyway, as you did with that, ah, song 'Thank You' that was on a little EP of yours. Just the most beautiful cover of one of those... Interpretation of one of their songs.
Tori: That's good. I think it's great that Zeppelin is getting played a lot, I think they've inspired so much music....and people go back to those records, because they are a bench-mark, no different than the Beatles. It's very similar. Well I try, again, when I do a cover, I try and approach it from... OK, the piano will look at me sideways and she'll go, 'How can we put this in our language, and honour it?', because their version is always, you know, the definitive. And now how can we bring it to this instrument? The piano, which I think has been stigmatized. The piano isn't given her due. And a lot of times she's relegated to sappy-crappy pop music, or you know, just strict classical music.
Angela: Tori, do you have a name for your piano?
Tori: No, just... They're just the girls.
Angela: (laughs) They're just the girls. Tori, it's been a delight to talk to you. Thank you so much for, ah, chatting with us today.
Tori: Oh absolutely. OK Angela.
Angela: Have a good day now.
Tori: Thank you.
[Caught a Lite Sneeze plays]
Angela: The amazingly adventurous - musically and in every other way, Ms. Tori Amos. That's the first single 'Caught A Lite Sneeze' from her brand new album 'Boys For Pele'.
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