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The Word (UK)
June 2007

Mavericks -- How to survive in the music industry without losing your soul

by Sylvia Patterson

"I have a tomahawk on my hip and it's singing." - Tori Amos

Since 1992, Tori Amos -- yodeling, flame-haired, profoundly intense -- has filled a minority role of one as the world's lone, piano-pulverising, folk-art crusader specialising in such whistleable pop themes as rape, miscarriage, masturbation, religion, patriarchal rule and uncompromising, hardcore feminism. Her imagery, meanwhile, has compromised even less, her 1996 opus Boys For Pele seeing her suckle a pig at her breast and her latest album, American Doll Posse, depicting her brandishing a Bible while blood seeps down her legs in a role-playing double-album inspired by Greek mythology. Tori Amos is 43 years old.

"The maverick has to demand to be one. There are a lot of mavericks in training that may never get to be one. You have to pass through Maverick Boot Camp; there has to be struggle or you don't know how to do it properly. And the struggle, a lot of times, is your greatest lesson. The most important thing is: what are you willing to do to take it to the world? You have to do things that are pretty ballsy. There are consequences to everything and you have to say, 'Am I ready? Can I swallow that?'"

"Prince, for instance, is someone whose approach I admire. I fell out with my record company [Amos split acrimoniously with Atlantic in the mid-'90s], who were far more interested in their stock shares than music. Prince fell out with his record company, yet was able to find other ways to continue to make music and be a force. I respect that. He had a very serious battle he had to fight. My attorney said to me, "Why don't you write something on your face?" but I didn't think it would have the same effect. He wrote 'Slave' -- I'd have written 'Cunt.'"

"I've been asked to tone it down over the years. It has been, word for word, "We need to get into K-Mart and Wal-Mart -- will you just stop making the right wing angry?" The industry has a board to answer to. Advertisers and their ideologies and their alignments to religion. As a minister's daughter, I figure I have rights too, so if it's too loud, turn it up. I have a tomahawk on my hip and it's singing."

"The public doesn't know -- and I guess don't need to know -- that a lot of people have been fired and numbers have been cut in every record label. They can't develop artists. Artists are on their own, so it's up to themselves. So I am my own backer. I back all my own tours. Record labels aren't in the business of being creative, so we created our own creative team. We're self-contained, we have our own marketing plan, we've become our own fiefdom and we don't answer to anybody."

"I still love touring, without a doubt. It's almost a Native American fire ceremony, a pow-pow. There's lots of people, you're all partaking and yet you're individuals. It's not a love-in, it doesn't slide into that Californication, but there's nothing like it in the world I've ever experienced. Somebody said to me, 'Even making love?' and I say, "Well, it's as good as the best love I've ever made. When it's good. And it is good."

"Advice? Sage yourself (she mimes sprinkling the herb all over her head). You know sage? Native American sage, when they've been around evil! You can't be afraid to walk into unsavoury situations. There's nothing to be afraid of, is what I'm telling you. What's the worst that could happen? That you wake up with your integrity intact? But be careful in how you do battle. You can't out-fight anger. But you can outwit her."

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