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Addicted to Noise (www)
May 1996

Tori Amos Meets The Press
She's tough, but gives too much credit to make-up.

Addicted To Noise Philadelphia correspondent Chris Nelson reports:

The publicist said the press conference with Tori Amos would take place at 4:00, but you know how rock stars are.

Atlantic Records arranged the gathering in lieu of in-depth interviews while Amos was in the middle of a three night, four show stand at the Tower Theatre. About a dozen reporters and photographers mingled and chatted in the theater lobby, waiting for Amos to show up.

I eavesdropped on the publicist as she explained the logistics of the operation to another writer. "Everybody's allowed to ask one question," she said. "And if you don't have a question," she added, looking at a photographer, "you better get one, because Tori's gonna look you straight in the eye and ask for one."

Yikes, I thought. Ms. Amos must be as intense in person as she makes herself out to be on record. She gives you the evil eye and everything. I guess this isn't like the press conferences you see on TV. Bill Clinton doesn't give anyone the evil eye, at least not in public.

As fifteen minutes late turned to into a half hour, then to 45 minutes, I was getting a little anxious. Eventually, we were led into a tiny Rock Star room in the basement of the theater. It appeared that the room was set up for both the questioning and some pre- or post-show snacking by Amos. Chairs for reporters were arranged neatly in rows, and off to the side there was a counter with Rock Star food: Nutella, Honey Combs, Sugar Smacks.

We waited there for a good while before Amos finally arrived. I'd read in several places that she was a very polite person, and she confirmed as much soon after she walked into the room by asking us to all introduce ourselves so she'd know our names. After a quick go-round with names, the press conference proper began, with each writer taking his or her turn in order down the line. Most of the folks posing the questions were young; several of them worked for local college papers. Their queries were by and large light fare.

"Did you ever expect your last two albums to have the overwhelming response you got with Little Earthquakes?"

"What if all the songs stopped for you?"

"What's your writing process like?"

"What kind of influence did Baltimore have on your music?"

While the questions may have been softballs, however, Amos swung like she was trying to knock them out of the park. Intense? That's an apt description; "penetrating" comes to mind as well. Amos really did pierce the questioners with her stare. I don't think her gaze was the dreaded evil eye, but whoa, boy, was it acute! And her answers! She accorded each and every one of these questions the weight most of us would give a best friend's inquiry about whether to get a divorce.

As my turn approached, I was nervous. In Spin, Amos discussed faeries; in Details, it was Muhammad; in The New York Times, masculine myth. I rechecked my notes and took a deep breath, hoping that I could draw something out of Amos just as poignant. My heart was beating faster than normal. I was three questions away... two questions away... when the writer before me spoke, I didn't even hear what he asked. My hands were damp.

Finally, it was my turn. Amos locked onto my eyes, and said, "Yes?" ready to discuss whatever facet of her thought-filled career I could offer for explication. As I started speaking, I envisioned myself from outside my body. I was on, and I was giving the intellectual artist the best I had.

"I was curious," I began, taking a breath before the actual question, "about who you would pick to win a battle of the bands between Kiss and AC/DC?" Phew! Done! I could breath easy now, because everything was...

"Kiss," she answered immediately.

What? Kiss?! Over AC/DC?! I was outraged! She must be kidding! Who said Amos was a great thinker? Quickly, I suppressed my indignation and demanded a justification.

"Can I ask why? Do we have time for why?" I said, looking desperately at the manager trying to hurry along the questions.

It was clear from Amos' face that she would make time. She inhaled quite deeply, and then delivered what was perhaps the most deliberate, considered, thoughtful, almost pained reply ever given to a question involving either of those bands.

"Well, because [long pause]... it was, it was an instinctive response. [Another pause.] It's, it's not that, for one minute [pause number three]... is it necessarily a musical choice... or, a volume choice... because it's kind of obvious... who would win.

"But you've got to, on some level
[final pause]... give those guys ten points for slapping that shit back on their face at 50 years old. I wouldn't do it at 32." At that point, the assembly of writers, minus one ATN reporter, started chuckling, and Amos moved on to the next question.

Inwardly, I sighed and shook my head at her answer. I had thought Tori Amos really cared. I thought she was one artist willing to tackle the issues of our day. Let me tell you, dear readers, I was wrong. When it was time to stand up and be counted, Tori Amos played the make-up card, probably the easiest out in the whole Kiss vs. AC/DC book.

The press conference was soon finished, and most writers filed upstairs to watch Amos perform for a photo shoot. I, on the other hand, hit the road, indignant, burned, but wiser. I guess you just can't believe everything you read.

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