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Sessions at West 54th (US, TV)
November 14, 1998

Tori Amos interview and live performance

"Precious Things"


"Past the Mission"

"Caught a Lite Sneeze"

"Take to the Sky"


"The Waitress"

* Filmed in New York City. First broadcast on PBS in the U.S. on February 6, 1999.

David Byrne: Her songs of personal release and deep down rebellion dig own and have touched a huge audience. Although she is known for moving audiences with just herself and a piano, tonight she is joined by her brand new band and expanded sound. Please welcome Tori Amos!

set list:

Precious Things
Past the Mission
Caught a Lite Sneeze
Pandora's Aquarium (not broadcast)
Take to the Sky (solo)
Hey Jupiter (solo) (not broadcast)
Northern Lad (not broadcast)
Crucify (not broadcast)
Spark (not broadcast)
The Waitress
Cooling (solo)
Raspberry Swirl (not broadcast)
Cornflake Girl (not broadcast)

interview by David Byrne

Part 1

David: Do you think when you changed your name or what they call in the old days took a stage name, do you think that was a kind of a way of self determination of saying I'm gonna be reborn as this new person?

Tori: Well, I think it is also correcting a serious mistake my mother made. I mean, I am screaming from the womb, "No, mother!" Myra Ellen, that's the worst. I hated that name especially what boys can do as a 9-year-old with the word Myra. On the East coast with their accents, they are horrible anyway, but Myra. Myra, it was just the worst. Everybody called me Ellen instead, but "Elwyn" because they drop the L's. I gotta tell you, I wanted to torch them, too. And so I went through some really bad names when I was going through my name change period. I almost became Sammy J. [laughs]

David: That's not bad.

Tori: Ok thanks because I was watching Dallas, or no Dynasty.

David: I didn't know that was one of the characters.

Tori: Yeah, Sammy J. She was Heather Locklear's character or, anyway, I was getting into the whole Sammy J thing, and thank God one of my friends' boyfriends came and just said, "You're a Tori," and I said, "You know what, you are right."

Part 2

David: I wanna ask about RAINN -- that you founded, right?

Tori: Yeah, with other people.

David: What's the ongoing work? We know about benefit concerts and that kind of thing, but what's the ongoing work?

Tori: Well, what RAINN really is, is it's a group of people that make sure the phone line is running. It's a 1-800 number and the number is 1-800-656-HOPE, and uh RAINN picks up the bill that when people call from anywhere in America to a rape crisis center. The rape crisis center can't afford the collect calls you know, they're just they're funded and they have to take care of their bills. And there are about 600 rape crisis centers now that the phone line takes the caller to a counselor at one of these places and RAINN is able to do that and it works out of the DC rape center. That's where the hub of RAINN is, part of the DC rape crisis center is RAINN now.

David: Knowing that an ear on the other end of the telephone exists, does that help people call and say what's happened to them?

Tori: Well, I have been told that we've now had over 225,000 calls since 1994. That's a lot, a quarter of a million people. That's the good news and the bad news. But I've had people come up to me and say that they were really helped by RAINN because it's not like just a friend who is sitting there going, "Yeah, yeah," or kinda going like this to watch the TV show, or they've heard it enough and you feel like you're imposing, and those people at the other end of the telephone are really there to talk about that, and to direct you. Some people need medical attention, some people need legal advice. Some peple need therapy, they really do. Some people are very ill, you know, very ill.

Part 3

David: The decision to work with a band, was that influenced by people doing dance remixes of some of the songs?

Tori: A couple things happened. Before all that happened, on Boys for Pele, Manu Katche played drums.

David: Yeah

Tori: And he goes to me, "Listen..." I used to record almost all the tracks, piano/vocal or piano/harpsichord live to tape, and then all the musicians would play on top of that rhythm. Because I'd had, kind of, trouble with, not all drummers, but I'd had trouble kind of surrendering that and trying to, you know, finding the time, where she songs didn't get pushed.

David: Yeah, and it's a lot to surrender to make room for other people's parts.

Tori: And you've got to trust this drummer that he knows your internal rhythm and who this -- the songs, I call them girls -- who this particularly one is, and when she wants to pull back and when she wants to push. It's not about, you know, I've always said, "You don't fuck to a metronome."

And the thing is, it's like, I was going, "Manu, I don't know if I'm ready." And he said, "Listen. I'm not talking about me." And this is why I loved him so much. He said, "But you need to find a drummer that you can trust, that for some reason you have that thing." Because he's one of the greatest drummers in the world and he said, "It's not about that. It's about some kind of secret language you have."

And Eric Rosse, who produced Under the Pink, who I lived with for a long time, called me up after I lost the baby and just said, "I know the guy." And he said, "This is Matt Chamberlain, you've got to play with him." He had just worked with Matt's band. And Matt came to the tropics, and we hired a drum set, and we jammed. And it was like, "I know you," and he goes, "I know you," and that was it. And I think that was a real huge turn around.

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