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Heaven & Earth (UK, TV)
October 20, 2002

Tori Amos interview

part 1

part 2


Presenter: Ross Kelly
interviewer: Alice Beer

Ross: Our celebrity guest this week is Tori Amos. A rock musician with a surprising family background - Tori is the daughter of a Methodist minister and a mother who is part- Cherokee. But it was music that inspired the young Tori, and she was offered a classical music scholarship at the age of five! < clip from live performance of 'China'> But her interests were always in rock and pop, and in her teens she started to write and play her own kind of music, and her early gigs were in gay bars with her father going along as a chaperone. < clip from Top of the Pops performance of 'Cornflake Girl'> Tori developed her own very distinctive style of intermittant lyrics and off-the-wall performances. So far it's paid off, with more than ten million albums sold worldwide. Well earlier this week, Alice caught up with Tori Amos in London to find out how she's enjoying marriage, motherhood - and living in Cornwall.

Alice: Lovely to meet you!

Tori: And you!

Alice: Tell me how the music, sort of, first started coming out.

Tori: My mother tells me, I'd go over to the piano and pull myself up - up this gigantic black creature - and I'd crawl up like a little monkey, and play. She said I'd wake everyone up at 6 o clock in the morning, and my brother and sister wanted to sell me to gypsies!

Alice: Oh, cool!

Tori: But my mom said 'Let her go, let her do her thing'.

Alice: Very wise of her. Soon it became clear it wasn't just a noise you were making.

Tori: Maybe so. I tried not to be... I didn't taunt them with it because I adored them. They were much older than I was, so I looked up to them. My brother would sneak in records by Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and The Doors. My father was really into his religious phase at this point, and that was not allowed into the house. So he would play me these records - he's almost ten years older than I.

Alice: So that's how you started to be shaped, largely by your father, to go into classical music.

Tori: Or to write music for the church.

Alice: OK. So you were almost being repressed, musically - you went to a music academy where you were forced to play classical music, you weren't allowed to express yourself as you wanted - so you chose to leave music school. That must have hurt your father?

Tori: I must be honest, Alice, I don't think I consciously 'chose' it. I did some things that would make ME kick me out! But it was a blow when I was chucked out. It is a rejection, and I think... I had no idea how it was going to play itself out.

Alice: So you said to your parents 'This is how I want to express myself - I want to make pop music. Led Zeppelin and Robert Plant are my idols... and play at the gay bars'. And your father, God bless his soul...

Tori: Yeah, he stepped into the play in a big way.

Alice: ...escorted you round! Tell me about your relationship with your father at that time, it fascinates me!

Tori: I think he had this 'rebirth' ! I would watch him, and men would come up to him (and he'd be sat there with his cleric [indicates white collar]) and he would get into discussion (this was in the 70s) about all sorts of things. And I think it started to 'open his world up', in a huge way.

Alice: Probably from that point onwards, it seems to me that - something that does hold all your music together - is this consistency of expressing yourself, almost laying yourself bare through your music. Almost as if your music is a therapy for you. Is that how you feel?

Tori: I don't feel my music is therapy. Maybe it's more like... it gives me clues - to how I'm feeling. Sometimes I think it's like photographs.

Alice: I was thinking in particular about the very sad time when you were with your husband, and you miscarried, and you wrote a song that was so raw and bare and angry to the spirit of this child for not being born. That was a very personal thing.

Tori: I think, going through some things, like the miscarriages - that kind of loss - that was when I had to walk hand in hand with Sorrow, and She became real... and she helped me to let this child go. I believe life isn't just 'what's going on now', and I think that we have many lives. And this spirit isn't going to dissolve and become nothing just because it didn't come into my world. It showed me that it was kind of arrogant to me to think that life doesn't continue. It goes on, to its next port of call, its next place. Finally I had to get to the place where I loved this being enough to say 'You go to your next place'. But I wasn't ready to just walk away until I had grieved first. And I think loss is something you have to respect the cycle of, and songs sometimes show me where I am on the 'medicine wheel'.

Alice: You go through an amazing amount of self-exploration. I want to ask you so many more things, and talk about the gorgeous little spirit that DID come into your world, your little daughter... so stay there. (To screen) Join us again later for more from Tori Amos.

Alice: Tell me about Scarlet's Walk, your latest album which is... seems to be the next step in your journey of self-exploration. How much is scarlet a reflection of you or her journey, your journey?

Tori: Well I guess my feelings are put into her, the way that my questions right now, the kind of men that I would be attracted to if I weren't married, get put into scarlet... she's...

Alice: the bad ones...

Tori: [laughs]

Alice: I want to ask you about your husband, because you must be in a different place now... this wild child, the rebel who did all the sexy things on stage, now married, with a child, living the British way of life, in the countryside, in a 300 year old cottage... what's going on?

Tori: [laughs] um... well... I guess... when you explore these, as you say, these... what is sexy? I mean that has changed for me than when I was 23, what's sexy to me now is much more about being modest and... um you know you kinda keep it here [touches chest] and we have a really solid relationship.

Alice: Did you get a sense of fate because I know you were quite struck when you met him. He was your sound engineer wasn't he?

Tori: The first moment he walked in the door I just knew. I stopped breathing for a second and I was involved in something else that was pretty involved... um... but I remember going "oh dear". And nothing happened, nothing happened until we had manoeuvred ourselves out of what we were involved in. it took time. Months and months and months and months and months and months. But by that time we had worked together, and worked well together, and developed a respect. You know, his father said to him before he died, "I always want you to do 2 things for me in your relationship" and he said "what?" He said "I want you to always ask your wife how she is first, but then you always need to say, and how's tori amos doing today? Is she okay?" and he does. He says "so wife, what's going on?" and I'll say "ohhh nananananana" and he'll go, [whispers] "is tori amos okay". And I'll go [shakes head] "not today".. and I think...

Alice: that's very clever...

Tori: he is very clever. But he's a clever Brit.

Alice: Tell me about your daughter, or more importantly, being a mother.

Tori: ohh... my daughter... is um... I could walk to venus with the love I have for my daughter. I mean she's a miracle child, after 3 miscarriages and thinking I had stomach flu, and Tash was the stomach flu and I guess I've moved on the medicine wheel. From being this sort of, run around the world, do whatever I want, hopefully being a good friend to my friends, but still.. nobody was in the centre like that, and Tash is first.

Alice: I keep harping back to your childhood, but obviously there was so much religion there and so much spiritual guidance inforced on you. How on earth are you going to work out how to guide your daughter?

Tori: that's a good question. Tricky. It's tricky. I think it's very important to give her the truth as I know it. I've found over the years that there's a golden nugget on in all these different "spiritual ways of being". And it may sound like minestrone soup, but what's wrong with minestrone soup? I don't think that's a negative. I do think exposure's important but to me it's the little things. It's how do you treat people, do you talk about things if you're hurting. You know, we talked the other day about, I'm on this promo tour, going, commuting every weekend and I said "I don't like being away" and she said "I don't like it either mummy".

Alice: aww. You sound very calm, and I suppose just finally, I wanted to ask you, have you settled now? You were this moving spirit, and I know you very strongly believe that the spirit takes a part in one body and then it moves on, it carries on moving, it's not destroyed. Are you and your spirit settled now, comfortable?

Tori: I've moved into the mother position... not that maiden, whatever fantasy we have about ourselves, the romantic lead. This is more like more of a nuturing place, a port in the storm. I'm not the ship now, that sails out and does that. The ship comes in and hopefully you guide it in safely. It's for the next generation to do, but somebodies got to be the lighthouse.

Alice: I think you're still travelling [laughs]

Tori: [laughing] do you?

Alice: Tori Amos, thank you! It's been lovely meeting you...

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