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The Wave (US)
San Francisco Bay area
free bi-weekly magazine

April 10 - 23, 2003

Cornflake Girl
Tori Amos tells us how to balance music and motherhood.

By Scott Devaney

It was obvious from the beginning that Tori Amos was born to perform. The daughter of a Methodist minister, Tori started playing the piano and singing in her father's church by the age of four. During her teen years, she was granted a rare music scholarship at the prestigious Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. But it didn't take long for her rebellious nature to manifest itself in a clash with the stoic scholars. During one school performance, Tori broke into impromptu covers of John Lennon and Doors songs.

She was expelled.

Nevertheless, in spite of her fleeting formal education, things seem to have worked out fine for Tori. But don't take our word for it. Go see for yourself when the twice-nominated Grammy singer plays at the Center for the Performing Arts in San Jose on April 11 and 12.

The Wave: How's the tour going?

Tori Amos: It's really good, but very challenging -- especially in these times.

The Wave: What's the biggest difference in the way you approach music today versus 10 years ago?

Tori Amos: Right now, we're at war and my band plays in a different city every night. Let's face it, if we're playing in Tulsa and then in San Francisco, [laughs] maybe there's a different slant to the media in those towns. Therefore, you have people coming to the show and what's consistent about all the markets right now is that people are troubled, no matter which side of the politics you're on, people are troubled. So, you make a choice about how you want to hold a space for two hours for these people, who are on all sides of the politics when they walk in that door.

When you're not in these sort of times, it's very different and you can choose to gloss over it, but I've gotta be honest with you, the songs are loaded anyway. They talk about armies, they talk about guns, you know what I'm saying. We design the set list different every night, but we start the same way -- always with "Wampum Prayer" and "Fairytale," but the fairy tale changes every night depending on what's going on in the news. There are certain songs we opt out of because we just decide tonight is not the night for this.

The Wave: What consistently angers you?

Tori Amos: About now?

The Wave: Your whole life.

Tori Amos: That people are not told accurate information and information is controlled.

The Wave: What's the weirdest thing about being Tori Amos?

Tori Amos: What do you think it would be? Maybe I can steal your answer.

The Wave: Hmm. Probably that you have to be a responsible mother on tour with a two-year-old child, but you're also a performer who wants to cut loose sometimes.

Tori Amos: You're very close. It's being in a safe place as a mom and being in a safe place as a performer. I come with a warning when you come to my show. I cannot come with a warning as a mom. Do you see what I mean? I'm not one of those people, as a musician, who says, "I'm cushioning my views so radio is okay with it." Everybody knows that. So, when you come to a show, if you've heard "Fairytale" on the radio and you don't know what I've talked about for seven years, then you might be a little surprised. I am a minister's daughter and I'm questioning anything I think needs questioning. So, there might be some mother dragging her daughter out of there when I play the new version of "Father Lucifer." But as a mom, when I'm holding play group at my house, I don't sit down and play "Father Lucifer" to the other moms. That's not my interest. I don't need to do that.

The Wave: What's your favorite Led Zeppelin tune?

Tori Amos: (After some thought, Tori begins to hum/sing "Going to California.")

The Wave: How do you go about your life differently when our nation is on a level red terror alert?

Tori Amos: I wear my red Adidas shoes. But let me add something to that -- terror according to what source? Right now we're on a red level every hour, every minute. As far as I'm concerned, we're at level red no matter what because our moral compass is in a questionable place as a nation and our reasons for why we're doing what we're doing are in a questionable place of internal terror. So, it's red for me all the time.

The Wave: What's your idea of a good time?

Tori Amos: You know, friends and family having a yummy meal together.

The Wave: How do you feel about the current state of radio with regards to issues of censorship?

Tori Amos: They probably shouldn't play "You Dropped a Bomb on Me, Baby." I just think that would be a little off color (laughs). But, if you don't play "Imagine," like they didn't right after 9/11, then it's like hey, wait a minute. We're back into the McCarthy times. Who's making these decisions? Then it's the question: What is good taste and what is controlling? I think people are taking advantage of the situation and just deciding we don't want to play anything that might make somebody become an individual and think for themselves.

The Wave: What's the best make out album of all time?

Tori Amos: The best make out album in my opinion is the Cocteau Twin's Blue Bell Knoll. It's a really wonderful make out album. So is the Zeppelin box set, the whole thing.

The Wave: Is hate a valid emotion?

Tori Amos: Sure, they're all valid. It's what you do with it. There will be rage in everybody, but it's what you choose to do with your rage and anger.

The Wave: What's the strangest encounter you've ever had with a fan?

Tori Amos: Oh, dear. Well, imagine being on an airplane with your daughter and husband in the shmoozy class. And you sort of figure that nothing odd will happen, at least for that few hours. But little did you know that someone would come up to you and decide to tell you what you should have done with your songs for the last seven or eight albums. For nine hours! I was held hostage in first class. Also, a policeman pulled me and a friend over. I was in the navigator's seat. And he said: "If I wasn't a policeman, I'd be a stalker. I'd be your stalker."

The Wave: Last question, and please be completely honest: Do you find my voice sexy?

Tori Amos: You have a very good voice, but you see, this is the thing, you know that. People have told you that. So, why are you doing print?

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