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Simon Mayo Show (UK, radio)
BBC Radio 2
September 17, 2006

Tori Amos interview

(plays "Cornflake Girl")

Simon: ...and that of course is Tori Amos, and specifically from 'A Piano: The Collection', quite extraordinary box set, which I think Tori should tell you about herself. Hello...

Tori: Hello Simon.

Simon: This not just any old box set, cause anyone goes to their local record store, they'll find there are hundreds of the things, just ah, do you wanna describe what I am looking at here...

Tori: Well, you get more of an octave with this piano. It's umm, keys, and you open the keys, and inside, umm this box there's the music five discs and a picture book really. Not, not a pamphlet, but a real book.

Simon: A work of art...

Tori: I, I hoped people would think that.

Simon: I'm thinking Christmas?

Tori: Yes.

Simon: You're thinking Christmas as well?

Tori: I am too yeah. Yeah I am because it's umm, I think its 15 years put into I love as you know love the piano she's my lady, and I wanted people to feel that way about her.

Simon: Piano's a she, is she?

Tori: My- mine are.

Simon: Right, why is that?

Tori: Well, have you seen the shape of their body?

Simon: Well it's got a curve in it.

Tori: The hips it's very Marilyn Monroe.

Simon: Is it?

Tori: Oh yeah mine are.

Simon: I was just thinking of it, you know...

Tori: You need to come down and visit them.

Simon: Really?!

Tori: Yesss!

Simon: The only disappointment is you can't play it. It looks like a piano, a little bit of a piano, but the keys don't work.

Tori: Well, the Chinese told us that if we did make it that way that they would probably break, so I couldn't take the risk.

Simon: The Chinese made it, did they?

Tori: The Chinese made it. Part of it was made in China, part of it was made in Mexico, and the third part was made in Pennsylvania.

Simon: You've worked very, a long time on this, haven't you?

Tori: Ah yeah, a little too long, can you tell?

Simon: Yes, so this is a career retrospective?

Tori: Correct.

Simon: We've had best ofs, we've had kind of compilations before,

Tori: Yeah.

Simon: The thought behind this is, I mean this is kind of like a collected works, this is the back catalogue.

Tori: This is it. Yeah.

Simon: All of you is here?

Tori: The end of an era.

Simon: Really?

Tori: Yeah really, yeah really.

Simon: Why?

Tori: Because I think you pull it all together (what I've tried to do anyway) Is to pull all these pieces The Minister's Daughter umm, The Pianist that was going to be a classical something-or-other and wore black dresses that were way too tight and became a hussy and it didn't happen, and the side of me that umm, went through some violent things and survived it and then there's the side that became a Mum, and all of that is in this work that's A Piano, and then I'm...I'm gonna do something different.

Simon: So when you say 'end of an era', you really do mean that?

Tori: Yeah I do, I really do, I really do,

Simon: So you're gonna stop?

Tori: I'm doing something different, no I'm not gonna stop, but this is the end of the last 15 years. 15 years of my life.

Simon: So what do you do next?

Tori: (mysteriously) We'll see.

Simon: You must have an idea?

Tori: I've got something up my sleeve.

Simon: You know what the problem is, it's Cornwall, that's what's got to you.

Tori: (giggles)

Simon: You know while you were in the States everything was fine, you settled down in Cornwall and all of a sudden you're thinking of other thoughts.

Tori: Well, I'm thinking of high-heels, and creating and I'm thinking that my daughter is 6 now, so she can understand that there's a Tori that can't go to school. You can't take that, to school. You can take Mummy to school, but there's a side that has to now go confront certain issues in America that need to be addressed.

Simon: You're not running for president, are you?

Tori: No, I would never do that to myself (pause) Plus, I don't think anybody.

Simon: You're being very enigmatic.

Tori: I only have a certain kind of Bush,

Simon:, not the kind that would win a presidency in America.

Simon: This is turning into a typical Tori Amos interview, isn't it? Umm, you talked about going back 15 years, and you talked about you in the past, in the black dresses and being the daughter of a minister, the first time you realized that you enjoyed music was when?

Tori: Well, I guess when I was a really little girl, I would run to the Piano because it was the only place where people didn't tell me what to believe a daughter of a preacher, who I think really, I think he was really good, if I'm honest with you, I think he was good. I think he was grooming himself to be the next Billy Graham and wasn't and with that though comes a lot of pressure on the family to tow the line and to be a certain way, and the trouble is I don't see the Bible or religion like they do, so the music was the place before I could leave home where nobody could catch me, they couldn't walk into my worlds of music, they couldn't find me there. They couldn't wash my mouth out with soap, the couldn't take the devil out of me at communion, because I was listening to that 'devil music'. When I would write music, the didn't know how to find me there, even though they could touch me, physically, they couldn't find me I was thousands of miles away.

Simon: So were they disappointed?

Tori: (pause) Yeah, I think they were for a long time. But you see that's because they had an idea of who I should be as a child prodigy, and it didn't really work. Songs such as Father Lucifer, didn't work within that belief system, and I think, you know my Dad looked at me once and said, at dinner we were serving chicken after Sunday church, I'd a had many records by then and I was sitting there and he said "You know Tori Ellen, I just have to ask you this and it's really bothering me" I said "Sure dad, what is it", he said "How could you see me as father Lucifer after all these years?" and I put down my fork, I said "Oh my god" I said "Nooo Dad, I was in Hawaii having an ecstasy trip with a shaman woman and I had sex with Lucifer, and it has nothing to do with you." And he said, "Oh praise Jesus, let's eat."

Simon: Right, I could imagine most fathers not being particularly reassured by that answer.

Tori: Oh, he's thrilled. (giggles)

Simon: Let's play a record, umm can you, lets play something that umm, is inspirational to you, something you know, if it's a grim old day in Cornwall, and there's one or two, and things aren't going quite so well, what would you put on the CD?

Tori: To me, the greatest rock band that ever lived... (pause)

Simon: Chas and Dave?

Tori: (giggles) ha! Well you know...I do love Chas and Dave, covered some of their songs, love them but....

Simon: (giggling in background)

Tori: has to be from the band that taught many Christian girls how to move their hips.

Simon: The New Seekers?

Tori: (laughs then sings) Oh my mama gonna make you move, gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove

Simon: You want some Led Zeppelin?

Tori: Yes that's what I want.

Simon: Okay, well we'll do that then.

(Plays Led Zeppelin Song.)

Simon: A special request of ah, of Tori Amos, Led Zeppelin, but that's very good, I quite like you doing that.

Tori: Well thank you.

Simon: You need to rock out more.

Tori: (giggles) You know, that's a really good point, I think you're on to something.

Simon: Is this the next phase that you're referring too?

Tori: Maybe, maybe it should be.

Simon: Tori Rocks?

Tori: Maybe, why not? At 43 years old maybe it's time.

Simon: Why did you find Cornwall a fantastic place to be? It is one of the most fantastic places anyway; I don't think many people need telling that, but how is it that an American discovered Cornwall?

Tori: Well, Husband went there as a boy, and he loved it and we couldn't make up our minds where to live in London, cause he wanted to live in South London I couldn't do that cause I couldn't write music down there so he said well let's leave then cause I'm just not going north of the river. So we left, and in Cornwall it's a mixture as you know, surfers and farmers. What a group of people, to hang out with these two groups, farmers sons, surfers daughters, it's the greatest thing. I love being there; the people are like none that I've ever met before. There isn't umm a forced spirituality, it's not as if you run into these umm, crystal shops and King Arthur, and I've got nothing against anybody's desires and beliefs and that, but there's something so umm authentic, these people it's almost as if they have roots that come out of the soles of their feet and into the land, and they're chiseled out of it.

Simon: So you can write songs there?

Tori: Yes I can write songs there.

Simon: Anyone looking through your previous albums, and looking though the track listing on this collection, you talked about the fact your father was sort of disappointed with the way you'd turned out from a spiritual point of view, but spiritual language comes through almost everything that you do.

Tori: mmm (agreeing)

Simon: So what kind of spiritual person are you, if any kind of spiritual person?

Tori: Well, I mean...

Simon: I can't imagine that you would fit any kind of label particularly.

Tori: Well, I really tried to get my Dad to read the Gnostic Gospels. You know as a place as a bridge, a place for us to kind of meet at the round table, and he said "As far as I'm concerned, If it's not in the Bible, then it doesn't exist," and I said "Yes, but Dad, let me take you back to a time when you put together my anthology, and you edited out some of the most important tracks, I think, of my career. So Crucify, God they weren't on there, so why couldn't then a man of the church edit out certain things Jesus said that he didn't agree with? Stands to reason, doesn't it?" Well the conversation ended there, and I guess having read the Gnostic Gospels now, and growing up in the church as I did, I could see that maybe Jesus' Christianity was very, very different, how he saw women, to me he was the first Christian feminist, umm and that Christianity is not what I was brought up with.

Simon: Yeah I was right, it doesn't fit any label, but it's, it's the way you see it. What does your Dad think?

Tori: Well I think that now my Dad, he's getting older now, and it does trouble him that women aren't looked at as worthy of being disciples. Where are the women prophets? I mean if we have Emily Dickinson, if we have Jane Austen, if we have all these poets and now in my time Joni Mitchell, if we have all these people, Sylvia Plath, where are they? They were there, they existed. So, when I began to read the Gnostic Gospels in my twenties, and I was able to see that yes they were there, umm it made me see that this Christianity that my family had been so committed to edited out what I thought was a huge part of, well I'm a woman, my place in the religion, so as I woman I felt we were edited out.

Simon: Let's play another track from this collection Tori, do you want to choose one?

Tori: Well why don't you play "God", because we've just talked about religion, why don't you play that?

Simon: Okay, we'll do that. So when do we get to talk again Tori?

Tori: Maybe April...

Simon: That soon?! Okay, Tori Amos, A Piano: the collection, and you'll know it when you go into the shop because it's got a great big flippin' piano on top of it.

Tori: (laughs)

Simon: Tori, thanks very much indeed.

Tori: Thank you Simon.

(Plays "God".)

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