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Montreal Gazette (Canada)
Quebec, Canada, newspaper
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Tori's weird world
In sex-laden metaphors, she speaks of knowing yourself. To understand, you have to know her.
by T'Cha Dunlevy
Tori Amos doesn't waste any time. When asked to explain the concept behind her ninth album, The Beekeeper, she jumps in, metaphors aflutter:
"As you know, the honey bee represents sacred sexuality and ancient feminine mysteries," she begins. Amos speaks in a calm, matronly tone over a cellphone, as a tour bus takes her from Manhattan to New Jersey.
"In a time of not covert, but overt right-wing government," she continues, "I felt it was essential to talk about sin and try and emancipate the idea of sexuality as being a sin.
"Therefore, I decided the word 'sinsuality' needed to be planted in this garden."
"This garden is running parallel to the garden in Genesis, where, of course, woman is blamed for us getting chucked out of paradise for eating the forbidden fruit.
"Well, Tori goes to God's mother, Sophia, and says, 'Things don't seem to be working out too well in the 21st century.' And Sophia says, 'You must eat of the forbidden fruit, unlike my son, the underachiever.'
"So Tori ate, and each song is what she begins to see as she becomes more aware of her relationships ... the idea being that you cannot be convinced to agree to an agenda by your leaders if you really know yourself. You cannot be emotionally blackmailed."
To get Tori Amos, whether listening to her music or listening to her talk, you must enter her world. It is a world that she is only too happy to explain - filled with fairy-tale imagery, sexual subtext and poetic intellectualism.
But while she is ever verging on pretension in her music, and frequently in conversation, there is charm in the ease with which she tosses about lofty ideas and refers to herself in the third person.
Amos's last album, Scarlet's Walk, "was the journey of one woman. These (new songs) are Tori's relationships, but Tori is taking on board a lot of different pieces of the female psyche - from mother in 'Ribbons Undone' to warrior in 'Mother Revolution.'"
To disgruntled lover in "Hoochie Woman," to nostalgic road-trip-taker on "Ireland." In the CD's elaborate booklet, she divides The Beekeeper's 20 songs into categories with titles: Elixirs and Herbs, Roses and Thorns, Desert Garden, Rock Garden, the Orchard, and the Greenhouse.
"I've always been a student of parables, symbology and mythology," Amos says. "I'm a student of different mythologies, and Christian mythology is one of them. It's no different from any other mythology.
"In Irish mythology, for example, even though a lot of Irish are Christian, they are in touch with their ancient mythology. Having an old house in Ireland, I've really had to embrace that to understand people and communicate on a deeper level."
In the harrowing tour environment (she is playing five to six shows a week, she reports) she tries to honour both pragmatism and flights of fancy.
"You try to be present as a performer, to show up mind, body and soul and keep your feet firmly planted on the ground. Yet, you're on a magic carpet ride. You have to bring the paradox to the stage."
Having her 4-year-old daughter and two nieces (age 13 and 20) with her keeps things in perspective. At 42, Amos has found a natural balance to her life, her ideas and her music.
It all comes back to the bees. The songs on this album, she explains between lengthy pauses, were inspired by a very simple act. "Melodically, I was very much trying to create ... an effect ... that would ... embody what a honeybee does when she goes to the organ of a flower and gets the nectar ... and delicately spreads it around. She creates this prolific work, just by being a honeybee.
"I just followed the honeybees. I watched and observed, and I found an arc in their creativity, a focus and clarity." That quest for beauty was a protest against the current state of global unrest, she explains.
"I was trying to combat violence with creativity. I didn't want to mirror (the destruction around us) with discordant music. In making raw honey, there needed to be a smoothness and harmonic agreement between nature and creature.
"What I wanted to create, with organ and piano, joining flower and bee, was not conflict but procreation, in a time where procreation can be deemed as sinful ... in my garden. No pun intended, but I have a garden."
Tori Amos performs at the Bell Centre on Friday. Tickets cost $40 to $55, available at Admission. For more information, call (514) 790-1245.
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