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World of Music (WOM) (Germany)
May 1998

Happy panting from Cornwall

After "Boys For Pele", with which Tori Amos dealt with a failed relationship, her follow-up "From the Choirgirl Hotel" is a much more optimistic album. Yet during this conversation full of intensive insights into her own world, the 34-year-old shows us that she had to work through some of the most painful experiences of her life, for this record to come to light.

Q: "Under the Pink" was created in a hacienda in New Mexico, "Boys for Pele" in a church in the south English coast. Did you continue your liking for strange places with this record?

Tori: I recorded all songs in an old farmhouse in Cornwall, near the south English coast. I needed a different surrounding, because this time I had a different aim. I wanted to integrate the beat, the rhythm into my piano-playing. Until now, I had always recorded the piano and my voice first, and let the instruments find their place around them. There was no interaction.

Q: Did your relationship with the piano change with that?

Tori: Oh no, she (her beloved Bosey) and I have a close relationship; we are bound by a strong inner strength. Together with my drummer we turned that into a strong interaction. With the singing, piano and drums we created an intensive triangular relationship.

Q: With the new songs, I have the impression that you make your heavy breathing and sighing a trademark, just like David Coverdale.

Tori: I'll tell you something: In the beginning I didn't even notice that! But at some point I looked at my technician and said to him: "Oh God, this breathing is driving me crazy!" But he said: "Leave it Tori! That's how you sound".

Q: It has a lot of sex appeal.

Tori: I think it sounds more like the panting of a water buffalo!

Q: What is the song "Spark" about?

Tori: Well, after the tour I noticed that I was pregnant. I was looking forward to becoming a mother, and started getting used to that idea. Then, after three months, I lost my baby. This happened around Christmas 1996. I lived through a never-ending, deep sadness, because of my loss.

Q: Which you worked through with your songs?

Tori: Each piece became a hiding place, because you just feel emptiness after you've had that spark of new life inside you. Although I lost my child under very painful circumstances, for one short moment I had the ability that taught me to love. That changed me forever.

Q: With that, your song "Professional Widow" experiences a painful new quality.

Tori: With "Professional Widow" I immerged and understood that Lady Macbeth lives and breathes in me. I also know that I - like her - can be cruel. I have the strength in me, to become very angry. But as I wrote this song, I learned, that I can also find my strength in myself, instead of stealing it from someone else.

Q: In lyrics such as "iieee" or "Spark" you have dealt with anger and sadness on a very personal level.

Tori: The anger lies in each of us; it just depends on how you deal with it. You have to dive into your own psyche, to find out who lives there. Most of the time, the monster that hides inside you, is the one you let loose on others. I'm not afraid of sadness. Yet even when you cry, until you can't cry anymore, you get to the point where you decide, for example, that you want to play with a drummer. Sadness lets you wear stilettos, sadness lets you dance in the moonlight. She just has dark rims around her eyes.

Q: Where do you get the strength that lets part of your new record sound so joyous?

Tori: Well, I learned to cherish the wonder of life. Sure, I've always loved life, but never understood the secret of how wonderful it is. This experience has changed me forever. I had joy living again.

Q: Do you have an explanation for the discrepancy between the extremely rational lyrics and emotional music? And how do they find each other?

Tori: I think the interesting aspect lies in leading together music and contents. The songs developed their own character, another structure, which tells a story. This time even the rhythm takes over it's own life, all song structures behave on their own. It's actually like "Peter and the Wolf".

Q: Did you have similar problems like with "Boys for Pele" in putting down the order of the tracks?

Tori: No. Because this album isn't a musical journey. "Boys for Pele" was a joyride through the underworld. But this time there's no elevator going down. "From the Choirgirl Hotel" could have numerous different beginnings. We could for example start at the presidential suite and check what SHE is doing. After a while you meet all girls and receive an image of how and who they are. This time around, I just needed to decide through which door you go first. Then you can explore the hotel just the way you want.

Q: You explore the different rooms like in an Internet game?

Tori: Exactly! Good thought! Can I borrow that one from you?

Q: Of course! You speak of your songs in the third person, as if you're the choir-leader of real existing people.

Tori: Yes, because each one is a part of me. Sometimes the girls let me be part of the choir, sometimes I was just their leader. But slowly I got to know the girls. They gave me a lot of joy and hope. Soon I will go on tour with them for 9 months. Let's see how that goes.

Q: I could imagine that some fans have difficulty with the partially strange song-structures - people who still see you as the romantic "Cornflake Girl", sitting at the piano.

Tori: I can't think about who will accompany me on my journey. Those who want to come along are welcome. Those who want to split others will take their place. I can't change what my muse and I do with each other, and I especially can't think of what the audience wants to hear.

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