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Tori Amos's bizarre reputation precedes her. Which explains the flurry of letters about hanging out with fairies, chatting to the Devil, tripping on hallucinogens and rain dancing. She can also testify that breastfeeding pigs is a painful business.
The smell of cow shit fills the air as Tori Amos throws open the door of her converted farmstead in a tiny Cornish hamlet. "Come in and have a cup of tea," she beckons
Here the 40-year-old North Carolina born singer has lived and worked since 1997 with her husband of five years, sound engineer Mark Hawley. The outbuildings house a studio, where Amos recently complied a retrospective set, Tales of A Librarian.
The house is a hub of activity. In a cluttered office, Amos's American assistant Chelsea taps at a computer. In the dining room, her chef Duncan Pickford serves a lunch of chicken, pasta and salad. Three stylists sit at the dining table sipping tea, on hand to ready Amos for her photo session.
Buzzing between us is Amos's three-year-old daughter Natashya. Aptly given the title of mom's album Natashya is playing librarian, arranging books into piles, one of "kids", the other for "grown-ups".
Amos has a "special place" in mind for the photos a ravine in Widemouth Bay. Natashya is crestfallen when she is told that she can't come with us, but mum has business to attend to specifically answering Q reader's questions, which she elects to do whilst driving her modest Saab the 10 miles to the coast. There is some cause for alarm when she parks on a steep hill and hops out to check the view, just pausing to say, "If it starts rolling, try to save it." But overall the high priestess of kook-rock proves a sensible driver, even when fielding enquiries about suckling pigs and indeed cutting off penises.
You once said, "if you call me an airy fairy new-age hippy waif, I will cut off your penis." Would any other description inspire you to get the scissors out?
Garry Simpson, Chigwell
When you live here in Cornwall, people don't talk about the fairies like they do in New York. It's a part of the culture. It's not Tinkerbell to them. You wouldn't say "You wussess don't believe in fairies, do you?" You're not gonna walk out of there with your skin left!
Those idiots from the city won't understand until they get a flat tyre and they end up walking that road and they never get seen again. Those sweet little fairies have eaten their eyes out.
Other things that would make me cut someone's penis off? Anyone who would attack a young girl or boy or even a mother with malicious intent then do I have a problem ripping their throat out like a lioness and put salt on my tongue to make it taste better? Not at all. There is a side to me that is not warm and fuzzy.
What was wrong with being called Myra Ellen?
Susan Shepherd, Edinbuirgh
My mother is Mary Ellen. My sister is Marie after the French Mary. And I'm Myra, after the Hebrew. My father has the need for the same name of the mother of Jesus everywhere. But I think you can only push your faith on a child for so long. It's a lot for a littlie girl to take on board, especially as Mary did not have a child through consensual sex. How can you be like Mary the mother unless, of course, you get to fuck God too?
Did you ever find out what Eminem thought of your cover of '97 Bonnie and Clyde?
Simon Fox, Northampton
When I did that album (Strange Little Girls on which Amos reinterpreted 'male' songs via a series of female characters) certain people's responses if they made were made personally need to be kept personal. Some responses were public and I have no problem sharing them, but some were personal and I need to respect that. On the case of Slayer (whose Raining Blood was also featured) they were very open and they sent us t-shirts for everyone - God Hates Us All. But other conversations that have been had through other people whether it's PR people or lawyers we'll leave it there.
Was suckling that pig painful? (as seen on the album sleeve for 96' Boys for Pele?)
D Tufnell, Hull
There were moments, yeah. It was odd, I'm not really an animal person. I have heard of a woman, a marine biologist, who swam with dolphins and eventually her boyfriend realised she was having a physical relationship with this dolphin. And it wasn't bestiality or a freak show on the Internet. When I was suckling the pig, I had feelings of wanting to nurture, wanting to be a mom. I wasn't pregnant at the time of the shoot but I miscarried soon after that.
You thank writer Neil Gaiman on your record sleeves. What's so special about him?
Fiona Young, Stansted.
Neil is one of the great storytellers of our time. Guys like Stephen King read Neil as a way into the psyche of a killer. Neil does his research. He's one of a few great writers in our time that is pushing other writers. I know him well. He's like a spiritual brother.
You're part Cherokee Indian. Would you know how to do a rain dance?
Tony Morris, Hemel Hempstead.
Rituals are something you don't mess around with.
I wonder how you feel about cosmetic surgery. Would you consider it?
Ernie Hoskings via email
There are a lot of thing I would consider. I've always experimented. Because I don't consider myself an addictive personality, I try things. So if I heard of something that I think would work for me, whether it was inside my body and would make me feel better or outside, I would consider it. But I also consider consequences.
I've noticed that you've used the word "bees" in many of your songs. What is the significance of all these bees?
Wasiem Mansour, California
I've always been drawn to bee-keeping, the culture of honey, the sensuality of how it is created. If I see bee-keepers, I pull over.
What was your biggest lie? Do you regret it?
Roma Wejman, Poland
I didn't love someone that I said I loved and no I didn't regret it.
Do you ever wear a disguise in public to ensure a little privacy?
Courtney Campbell, Wyoming
I downplay sometimes. That's easy to do with a hat. I find that people are much more interested in their own lives if you don't call attention to yourself.
You're no one in the entertainment business until you've got a couple of stalkers. What's the strangest experience you've had with an obsessed fan?
Ezette Underhay, Oxfordshire
The stalkers can get a little harrowing. Sometimes they do get violent so I'm not gonna downplay that. When you've got the FBI people calling and saying you're at risk you can make a joke about it because of nervousness, but its really not funny.
But it's a little strange when you're on a plane in schmoozy class and you're with your new kid, and you're next to this person who's made their money in computers. And for seven hours, they're drinking and telling you everything that you should have done in your career. And husband is sitting there ready to shove yogurt up his ass. You can't get rid of them because you're thousands of feet up. Thankfully he drank enough to knock himself out.
You've stopped thanking the fairies on your albums. Why?
Jenny Comperda, Illnois
You don't need to thank people that are at your table every night.
If you were a man, who would you be and why?
Rami Turk, Beirut.
I've been watching (1967 Julie Andrews musical comedy) Thoroughly Modern Millie with Tash and there's this much older Chinese guy who's with Carol Channing. I'm not quite sure of the relationship, but I don't think they're lovers. I could see myself as him. There's something in his eyes. He watches over people. Being an old Chinese man, smoking my pipe and drinking my tea that's alright.
Tori, if you could transform into any mythological creature, which would you choose?
Lia Booth via email
If I can change back, then Sekhmet - Egyptian, part lioness, part woman - I could use her this week.
In Tear In Your Hand, you state that you and Charles Manson like the same ice cream. Is this true?
Katie Lance via email
I can't imagine why we wouldn't like the same ice cream. On one level we are very different sides of the coin but that doesn't mean you can't agree on something tasting good. I think that people who kill could enjoy a hot fudge sundae. That question is a very literal interpretation. I like homemade maple ice cream.
How much of Me and A Gun is fiction and have you ever regretted recording it?
Janet Simm, Brighton
Me and A Gun (a harrowing song sung from the perspective of a rape victim) is based on my life and I don't regret it now. There were times when I did because people needed to pick it apart. I felt like I was under a microscope. Even when I went out for dinner, people would be probing.
In another interview you mentioned meeting the Devil in a South American ceremony. What did he have to say?
Saxon Macleod via email
He said a lot. He I said I needed to stop wasting my time with baby demons. Dark princes don't defecate on women. They've graduated from that.
Do you ever play classical musical?
John Delgado via email
At the piano? Not as much. I've been composing in an early 20th century mode because I've been asked to compose for film (Amos won't be pushed on specific projects, but she recently contributed music to the forthcoming Julia Roberts movie Mona Lisa Smile.)
Has your stance on hallucinogens changed at all since you became a mother. Can it be a sacred experience?
Drew via email
Anything can be sacred if you approach it with that intention. However there are consequences to things and since I became a mom there are certain risks that I will not take. There are times for things in your life.
I heard about your rumored relationship with Trent Reznor. What went on with him and for that matter Tool's Maynard James Keenan? Do you still talk to either of them?
Bradley Berman, New York
People come into your life and sometimes, I think you meet up with again later and sometimes you don't. But they've affected the way you see the world, the way you see yourself as a woman. I carry fond memories of all of it. Trent and I are both recluses. We live in different parts of the world and don't cross paths much. Maynard loves good red wine. And if I have a good one somewhere in the world, I'll send him a bottle as a fellow lover of wine.
You're often pictured with only one shoe on. Is there a reason for this?
Danyale Phipps, Arizona.
Is that true? Goodness gracious I don't seem to know that. Maybe when I'm playing piano. I usually have shoes on because I like them so much. I have them on as much as I can. If I could wear them in bed I would. Yeah, yeah I know I could!
You're releasing a Best Of album. Are you retiring already?
Raihana Halim Selangor, Malaysia.
That's funny. It's more an autobiography of this woman's life so far. A little group of stories while I'm still able to remember the intentions of those songs.
After all these years as a redhead, would you ever go back to your original color?
Sarah Prindle, via email
I'm not a brunette at heart. I can't see me doing that now. I did enjoy wearing all those wigs for Strange Little Girls, because I took on the identities of each woman. It wasn't just about changing my hair color.
You had a brief spell in an 80's hair-rock band before becoming a highbrow singer-songwriter. Where do you think you'd be now if that band had actually made it.
Maxine Roper, High Wymcombe
Ha ha. That is scary, isn't it? Some people lose their way in the middle of their career, I lost mine early on. That's the way you want to do it. I have a copy of that record (Y Kant Tori Read) you know, people will talk you into doing anything - and nobody at the end will say, "That was my mistake." I was doing the highbrow singer-songwriter when I was five and got talked out of it and into the retail slut trade. I believed them. And if I hadn't, I wouldn't have seen what happens when you listen to other people and not your own instinct.
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