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Morning Becomes Eclectic (US, radio)
KCRW, Santa Monica, California (89.9 FM)
December 17, 2002
Tori Amos interview and live performance
Nic Harcourt: It's 20 minutes after 11 and I'm Nic Harcourt. Its Morning Becomes Eclectic at 89.9 KCRW. Tori Amos is in town for a show at the Universal Amphitheaters and in Studios of KCRM this morning. Welcome!
Tori Amos: Hi.
Nic: Nice to see you.
Tori: How are you?
Nic: Congratulations on the new record. Its Scarlet's Walk and obviously your out touring and do all sorts of things around it so we appreciate you taking the time to come in and play for us this morning.
Tori: Its fun. It's something different for me.
Nic: Good, well I'm going to let you play and then I think we are going to come back in about 15 minutes and see what we end up talking about.
[Mrs. Jesus, Pancake, Strange, Wednesday]
Nic: Its Morning Becomes Eclectic at 89.9 KCRW with selection of music from Tori Amos' new album; Its called Scarlet's Walk. Tori's in the studio's with us this morning. Thanks for coming in as we said.
Nic: I'm guessing you don't get to much of an opportunity to perform these songs solo, at least right now cause your on tour with the band, right?
Tori: Exactly yeah.
Nic: Um, but you write the songs on the piano, and I'm imagining you sort of sitting in your house in England, sort of working these songs out. Can you tell us a little bit about this collection of songs.
Tori: Um, some of them started when I was pregnant with my daughter Tash, Natasha, and um little seeds would come. I played a lot when I was pregnant and um, she seemed to like it. And uh, it wasn't cohesive at the time. So when I was on the road last year, touring strange little girls, things started to come together. Maybe because I was on the road and it all started to make sense.
Nic: How old is your daughter now?
Tori: She's 2.
Nic: 2 years old, I remember, its actually a long time since I interviewed you but the last time I interviewed you, before I even came to LA, the last part of our conversation at that time is that I was asking you what you were going to be up to next, and you said, "I want a baby." I think it happened about 6 years after I interviewed you but...
Tori: Yeah probably, it was a long road...
Nic: What kind of difference has that made to your writing?
Tori: Well maybe um, becoming a mom made me think about mothering my own mother, my true mother, which is the soul of the creature we call America.
Nic: Well, lets talk about that then because the album and the way the album came out and a lot of the songs really is, very much a reflection of that isn't it?
Tori: Yeah, I guess my grandfather, he told me stories. He was eastern Cherokee and he would tell me stories about his ancestors escaping the trail of tears and their walk and their spiritual beliefs and they felt they were caretakers for our true mother. And it was instilled in me but I guess I didn't think about it in this way until I became a mother myself. And I always hear his saying in my ear, ya know, "I've put a chip underneath your skin and you will remember."
Nic: The stories that he told you when you were a kid, little girl growing up .
Tori: So I started to tell her some of the stories when I couldn't get her to sleep. In the other way, I mean nothing worked. I even tried AC-DC to get her to sleep... So finally I would just talk to her and tell her some of the stories that I remember and she would just calm down and I think that my relationship with the country, especially I guess being in NY on the 11th of last year, I began to see people relating to America as an alive being. And I crossed the country touring at that time, and a lot of people would speak about it. Speak in ways that they don't normally speak. So that was different, the way that people started to talk about her. Whether it was a mother or a friend or a creature that was alive. She wasn't an object anymore. And the main thing that people were brining up was, "Is she in the right hands?? Are we putting our true mother in hands that are protecting her??" Good question.
Nic: It certainly is a good question... And as you finished writing these songs then I'm guessing that they were already infused with what you were talking about earlier, the fact that when you were pregnant you started writing these songs and then you started telling some of these stories to your daughter and then obviously this momentous event happened in September of last year. How did that shift the direction of this collection?
Tori: Well with some of these songs, I was seeing seeds that America was a character in the story. So that the story, it's a sonic novel, the is story is scarlet, who is any person, any women really. The men are very tera firma in the story and there are quite a lot of them in the story. HURRAY! Husband asked me about that but we ironed that out now. And so, it starts with Scarlet seeing her friend Amber Waves. She gets a phone call and amber is a porn star, not doing so well. And so Scarlet goes to see her. And she has no idea that that's going to change her life. Amber Waves is, of course, America personified and a real woman flesh and blood. And you see America showing up in the other female characters of the story. Slivers of women, America embodying them, shape-shifting, the Native American concept that you can shape-shift form.
Nic: Now you have lived in England for quite some time now, and record most of the time over in the UK as well right?
Nic: When you are sitting in the studio and obviously pulling in other musicians to help bring your ideas to fruition and adding other element to the music, now we change a little bit because we got the story and the lyrics but then we've also got the music. How did you approach the music and tell us about the kind of people that you brought into to help you flush out the songs on this. You use guitars on this record probably more so than in the past.
Tori: Yes I Did. I used a lot of guitar players, 3. First Matt Chamberlin was brought in, who's a long time collaborator. My favorite drummer in the world.
Nic: Great drummer.
Tori: And he um, he had been hearing about the story and I had been talking to him about it and when he showed up, he showed up alone first. And, we looked at it geographically and we looked at it culturally and the different cultures that had put there heart and there live into the land that the songs were tired too. So the songs were tied to the land, very much like song lines. So, we would build the rhythm based on where they were born. He is part Navaho so both of us were, I think, tapping into this the way of looking at rhythm how it is tied with the land. And then Jon Evans, long time collaborator, base player, he was the next to come in. And then the guitar players Robbie McIntosh, David Torn and Mac Aladdin. Matt introduced me to him. And it was so great.
Nic: So everybody basically came in and the music built as everybody's coming in and contributing on top of what you started off with, which was obviously the rhythm of the piano and the percussion.
Tori: Yes, but they all knew where it was occurring. There were maps everywhere. There were Native American maps so there were layers of the maps to see, the people that held the land and hold the land opposed to the people that own the land. But that's also integrated, too.
Nic: Well I'm interested now that the record has come out and you being criss-crossing the country again, this time around with this record playing these songs, you've been out for what 6 weeks or something like that. Umm, I'm sure that your fans are there at the shows and they are going to enjoy the music regardless, but is there anything specific or perceptive that you have noticed form the people coming from the shows this time around. Because this is post 9-11.
Tori: Yes, but this is pre-scary stuff too. We are in the middle of scary stuff, as we all know. So people are maybe not as bashful to raise their hand because as we all know, there was a tone, there was a feeling that if you questioned what our government was doing post 9-11, then you were betraying your country which I found very offensive. She's my true mother and sometimes to protect our true mother we have to ask questions, "Is this right for her course?? Is this the direction she needs to go not for the agenda for us?" Sometimes what we need as her children what we want, what our desires are different than what her needs are. And this is something I begun to see. We do round tables at a lot of the shows, colleges are coming. And there is an activism that I'm seeing in the university, a torch is being picked up that was not picked up previously.
Nic: You answered my question... my next question was going to be, "Are you sensing any shift because I'm kinda sensing it out there and I guess you are as you are traveling.
Tori: Across the country, yes.
Nic: Well, we don't have that much time left and I would like to hear the rest of the music obviously so I think ill throw It back to you. When we come back at the end of the next set, we have a giveaway. We are going to give away a few tickets for the show tonight as well. How much longer have you got left on this tour? Then I guess you are caring on in Europe is that right?
Tori: Yes, we do LA a couple of nights, San Francisco a couple of nights then we start in Europe and then we come back for our second leg in America in February
Nic: Oh, ok. Well I'm going to let it go back to you and its Tori Amos live on Morning Becomes Eclectic.
[Your Cloud, Carbon, Amber Waves]
Nic: Its Morning Becomes Eclectic at 89.9 KCRW Tori Amos our guest this morning. Thank you so much coming in. It's good to see you again.
Tori: Thank you Nic.
Nic: And good luck with the rest of the tour and thank you for speaking about the truths that you feel in your music. Appreciate it.
[transcribed by Heather Mayes]
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