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Tori Amos talks exclusively to g3
The release of multi-platinum long-player Little Earthquakes back in 1992 saw Tori Amos become a household name and female icon overnight. Fast forward a decade and it is clear that Amos, currently on the verge of releasing her ninth studio album, believes the feeling of success is as much to do with personal growth as worldwide acclaim.
Words by Lea Andrews
With record sales topping 12 million, multiple Grammy nominations and a memoir co-authored by Ann Powers entitles Tori Amos: Piece by Piece that topped the New York Times bestsellers list, Tori Amos continues to be one of the most intriguing and respected artists of our time. Knowing this, it would be unwise to drift off during a conversation with her. She may be discussing her new album American Doll Posse, for example, in quite a literal sense, but lose your concentration only briefly and you might find her verbal fusillade turn into a lesson on early female prophets and indian medicine wheels. Amos is a female marvel, truly; despite her spiritual nature and increasing industry pressure for constant reinvention fuelled by peers and record moguls. She will not dumb down her notions of music, women, history and mythology for the cause of sexy PR. Nor does she throw away her words - of which there are many - or the value of live performance, drive and personall ambition.
Very much the self-made musician, Tori Amos has often been quoted as saying it is her paino that plays her, and not the other way around. It's been a complex and enduring relationship thats's made me wonder how hard it might be to continuously nurture such a bond with an instrument she has played, written and performed with for so long. Does it require outside inspiration? Or self-motivation? "Both I guess," says Amos with a wry smile. "When I watch somebody have a relationship with his or her intrument, it can shake me into not taking my own relationship with the piano for granted. It's no different that being in a couple. When you see someone taking interest in your mate, all of sudden you are a lot more attractive!" Tori's mate is English sound engineer Mark Hawley, with whom she and their daughter Natashya "Tash" Lorien Hawley share a home in Bude, North Cornwall. "Since becoming a mother, I found a missing piece to my being that no relationship could give me. I'd had quite a few experiences, but I hadn't had the maternal experience. Having now been a mum for six years, I do see the world differently than before I was a mum. And I think being a mum has healed some wounds that were maybe quietly hiding." The press often write about about her eccentric manner during interviews, and yet she appears centred, informed and at ease with her roles as a performer and mother, as though perhaps each compliments the other. "I thought I had worked through it all, but something really happened when I gave birth. I think being able to have my body totally and completely change, watch what it could do, made me so in awe of the female body. As women we've had to find our spirituality through other ways and means, because the bigger religions do not see women as equal. There are many female archetypes that we as women haven't necessarily been exposed to. So we must, as women and mothers, gain knowledge from our great female ancestors." And when it comes to showing her respect for womankind, Amos does not discriminate.
Tori's fan base is legendary. Made up if people from all walks of life, they protect and revere her music in a spiritual way, and she has always acknowledged her lesbian and gay following with the greatest respect. It comes as no surprise therefore, that when the subject comes up she is excited and hopeful about the dawning of an age where gay parenting might become customary instead of unusual. "I find it very fascinating just hearing about it! There are heterosexual that don't want to carry a child, but that doesn't mean they don't want to be involved in a child's life. I know many heterosexual woman who say, 'If he could carry it, then I'd be really open to that.' Not everyone has that desire [to be a parent] and that's okay, that doesn't mean they won't be a nurturing force." Tori is fascinated by the concept of a child having two mothers; the various conflicts thats a lesbian couple have to go through to reach decisions on who should carry the child and where the donor sperm could come from. "This is a really important discussion," she exclaims, "because right now, where we are as a civilisation, we have to see the future generation as our responsibility. Not jusy one of them, but the lot of them."
Tori Amos has commanded the control over her success as a musician for some time now. It's a feat she describes as being "a long time coming," which surprises me for an artist so humbly self aware of her abilities and her place in the industry at large [Amos even has her own internet zine to keep her in touch with the methods of showcasing work commonly used by young unsigned girls].
What could possibly have taken her so long to arrive at the helm of her career?
"I believe that if people don't have a chance to be exposed without the approval of the major labels, it gives too much power to the corporate side of things," Tori proffered, in an uncanny bout of telepathy. "I think it's really exciting that people can have music in their life, create it and put it out there, and don't have to feel as if they're an outcast from being a musician just because they also have to work another job to put food on the table." I was beginning to see that Amos - despite years of commercial success - was still very much a woman considering her responsibilities and values, and it's feeling heavily represented on her new record, American Doll Posse.
Posse consists of Tori in a number of guises; Santa, Clyde, Isabel, Tori, and Pip, in an album that she says is a "collection of stories," Tori adds "Each story is a chapter from one of five women. The music came first. When the songs were coming to me before they were recorded, I began to notice that the style from one to the next was extreme in some cases. I have chosen things as Tori; in an image that seems to be me and what my family and friends have accepted is who I am. But I'll be honest with you, I haven't necessarily explored. Therefore when the songs were coming to me, and I realised they were coming from different women's voices, I tried to allow my body to become clay and for them to take over. I think a lot of women, if you got them in a corner and asked them, 'Are there secret sides to you, that if you didn't have responsibilities and you could just go and investigate, would you?' I think a lot of women would say yes."
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