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Time Out New York (US)
May 28 - June 3, 2009 (Issue 713)

I, New York
Bold questions

Tori Amos

Redheaded songstress, shoe deity.

by Allison Williams

You're close friends with Neil Gaiman and once organized an album by the Dewey Decimal system. Are you a nerd?

Well, I may be, but my shoe collection is not. I collect them, shoes and books. One day, if all the power goes, if you can track me down and if you can wear between size 37 and 38, you will have shoes on your feet and books to read. And trust me, there's enough light. I have enough sage and shit to burn, and wine to drink. I will keep you alive. Sort of like Jesus and the disciples: You'll get your bread, wine, stuff to read, but in high heels. You just have to track me down.

See, I'm ready for these kinds of blackouts.... You know, I got kicked out of Girl Scouts. So maybe that's what this is all about. I'm a lioness scout, for all my other lionesses.

You're very prepared.

It's odd, people come up to me on tour and say, "If anyone has it in their bag, you have it." But this whole airport [security] thing has really screwed me up, because I used to have the best travel bag. With corkscrews, scissors, everything. You could do a whole mani-pedi from my handbag on the way to L.A. Not a problem.

Your album title, Abnormally Attracted to Sin, comes from Guys and Dolls, but it's sung by the religious character, not the blowsy showgirl.

Yes, she's a repressed religious girl. I know those very well. It was a jumping-off point; when I saw Guys and Dolls again, and I heard that line, I stopped and I knew. I just knew. I've just gone into another dimension of what this means.

So you believe in sin?

I believe that the world has been imprinted by the definition of sin by the patriarchal church fathers. I think that's pretty factual. I am fascinated about how people define sin for themselves.

Would you sing about sin if you weren't a preacher's daughter?

Probably not. My father says if he were a dentist, I'd be just screwed. I was brought up not just with a religious side, but [seeing] the church from the inside out, meeting the bishops, meeting the district superintendents; some of them are quote-unquote nice people, but they believe that a patriarchal god should tell women what they should feel right about and not right about with to their bodies. I just don't get it.

Any special plans for this tour?

I like the fact that tours change. Last time was all the characters, this time it's a three-piece with drums and bass. I'm gonna be bringing this keyboard rig -- I'm some kind of creature from the '80s, I think.

You spoke out recently against Proposition 8. Are you an icon to the gay community?

I don't consider myself an icon because that's something other people have to consider you. But I feel like it's important because I'm not gay.... I feel as a hetero woman and a minster's daughter, I have a detachment. I'm not just talking about it because I want to marry someone of the same sex. I just cannot understand how we, in a free country, can tell a consenting adult who they can love or be with.

You've signed books at Comic Con. The comic and sci-fi world isn't always empowering to women, how did you feel there?

It can be, absolutely. What we put out [Comic Book Tattoo] is a very strong work. Yes, some of the songs I write are about women in abusive situations. But there are a lot of demeaning things that go on on tour buses in rock & roll -- with enemas -- but that doesn't mean that I don't go out in my tour bus enema-free. You will be safe on my bus. No enemas. You know that story, right? For a while, some of the heavy metal rock bands were known to get girls backstage, and it wasn't to have a romantic evening; it was to tie them up and shove enemas in them and see how long it lasts before they explode.

Gah! That's horrific.

Oh yeah. Famous. What I'm saying to you is, we're surrounded by all kinds of demeaning behavior in the music business or the comics business, but that doesn't mean, as a woman, you bow out of it. You put out work that inspires women to want to be a part of that.

When you're drawn to people, you're not even able to conceive of how demeaning they can be. Because you're attracted to the dark side. It's just meanness. There's been that all along, but I think as a women in the music business, you refuse to hold a place for that. You hope you have a place for people to come and feel good about themselves, to face whatever they need to.

Okay. Well, thanks for talking to us!

Just remember, in ten years, if the world gets bad, remember to track me down. Just make sure your foot fits size 37 to 38.

I'll bring wine for your stash.


Amos's newest album, Abnormally Attracted to Sin, is out now, and she appears at Radio City Music Hall August 13.


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