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Daily Mirror (UK)
January 10-16, 2003
SHE'S ONE OF THE MORE INDIVIDUAL TALENTS IN ROCK, BUT ARE AUDIENCES LOSING THEIR APPETITE FOR TORI AMOS'S SOMEWHAT ECCENTRIC FLIGHTS OF FANCY? BY GAVIN MARTIN
She has always operated in that small but tantalising area between madness and inspiration. Tori Amos, the piano-playing daughter of a Scottish Preacher father and a part-Cherokee mother, has mined infatuation skillfully. And since the Caroline-born prodigy launched her career with Little Earthquakes in 1992, she has sold 12 million albums.
Prior to her debut's release, journalists had already been introduced to Tori's unconventional style during intimate performances at her Knightsbridge apartment. The gentlemen of the press peered intently at their shows as Tori -- clad in billowing, revealing gowns -- attacked her beloved piano and hollered songs about rape and sexual abandon.
An embarrassing spectacle, but not for her. In the years since, she has taken hallucinogenics with a Mexican shaman as part of her advanced spiritual study, and has told journalists how, in moments of need, her piano talks to her.
Tori, 39, also believes that in a previous life she was a Viking warrior called Sven, and has recorded in the LA mansion where Charles Manson and his followers murdered Sharon Tate. Close to the edge? Possibly.
"Madness fascinates me," she admits. "One of my favourite sayings is no one knows the weight of the straw that breaks the camel's back."
Tori (real name Myra Ellen Amos) has excelled at pouring all her fears and craziness into her music, but the songs have not always been enough to ward off destructive impulses. Her split with an old boyfriend, producer Eric Rosse, was documented on the Boys for Pele album, and when it ended she embraked on a series of degrading and damaging relationships.
"I'd find myself crawling to the telephone. I became a piece of meat," she says, "the object of someone else's disgust." The pattern changed when she met her future husband, sound engineer Mark Hawley.
"It was one of those moments when time stands still but also speeds up," she recalls. "Only a few seconds, but you know that your life has changed forever."
But, despite meeting a soulmate in Mark, there was more deep personal trauma around the corner. Before they married, she had a miscarriage, followed by two more after the wedding, experiences which she drew on for the tortured tunes on her From the Choirgirl Hotel album.
"I felt my body had betrayed me," says Tori. "I tried to play poker with every God from every religion to ask what I had to do for which of them to keep a baby. I waited to see if any of them would show up to talk to me. But no, they were all playing golf."
Eventually, her prayers were answered and, in September 2000, she gave birth to Natashya Lorien Hawley. "I needed her in my life more than I knew, " beams Tori.
Indeed, her daughter's arrival seems to have coincided with a new era of blissful calm and contentment. Amos, husband and child split their time among homes in Ireland, Florida and Cornwall where they live in a 300-year old farmhouse, complete with state-of-the-art recording studio, near the aptly named village of Crackington.
Tori still finds time to raise funds and awareness for RAINN (Rape Abuse Incest National Network), the charity she set up after being raped at gunpoint [sic] by a fan -- an experience documented on "Me and a Gun." But Cornwall and her new domestic setting have proved a rich source of inspiration.
"It's Arthurian country, full of tales of chivalry and wizardry," she twinkles. "You must respect its power. Walking over Bodmin Moor I often leave presents such as a necklace or tobacco."
Her new-found contentment and devotion to Mark has meant a change in some of the more extrovert aspects of Tori's character.
"There was a time when I wore short skirts and no underwear, flashing the whole of LA," she admits, "but now I like modesty. My body is my prize and my husband gets the prize at the end of the night."
But the new stability means that in her music Tori can be more extrovert, outspoken and ambitious than ever. Last year's cover versions album, Strange Little Girls, was a bold attempt by the "warrior female" to reclaim male songs by Slayer, 10cc and, most surprisingly, Eminem.
"When people are dancing to words about cutting people up, something needs to be done," she explains. Even so, it seemed curious she should choose to add to the controversial Michigan maestro's bulging piggy bank by covering one of his songs.
Her latest album, Scarlet's Walk, is a sprawling "sonic novel" which shows Tori at her most musically compelling and thematically impenetrable. A travelogue through post-September 11 America, some of the gobbydygook here would take teams of trained analysts several eons to interpret.
The album's disappointing sales and the mixed reaction to a recent American tour suggest that audiences may no longer have the same appetite for her unique but bewildering style. But Tori's hinted that her next project will be a childlike musical inspired by her daughter's love of Mary Poppins and Doctor Dolittle.
Talking animals and a talking piano? It will take more than a spoonful of sugar to pull that one off.
* Sunday, Glasgow, Clyde Auditorium. Monday, Manchester Apollo. Tuesday, Wolverhampton Civic Hall. Thursday, London Hammersmith Apollo.
[article provided by Lori Christie]
[transcribed by jason/yessaid]
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