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September 20, 2011

Tori Amos Challenges the 'Hardest Fucking' Metal Bands to Musical Throwdown, Praises Mick Foley's Work With RAINN

by Dan Reilly

Tori Amos' Night of Hunters, a classical-inspired song cycle that's out now via Deutsche Grammophon, has quite the complex concept. Set in Ireland, it's the story of a woman named Tori who, over the course of one night, sees her relationship disintegrate. While that may sound simple enough, the songs span 3,000 years and involve a shapeshifter, ghosts and dark forces.

But, as Amos explains to Spinner, the songs are rooted in the way we all experience relationships. We recently caught up with her to discuss the album, its real-life inspirations, her friendship with pro wrestler Mick Foley and how she'll take on any "fucking heavy metal band" with her emotional lyrics.

This is quite an ambitious album. Where did you begin?

When Deutsche Grammophon approached me about it, I said, "That's a lot to process, but if I'm going to do it -- and I need to have red wine before I'm going to say yes -- then [you've got] to send me reams and reams and endless amounts of classical music, because I've got to have plenty to pick from, because many won't work for all kinds of reasons." So, that was the beginning step, hearing the music.

At a similar time, I was touring and I started taking note of the 21st century -- what are things that set us apart from the century before us? One of the things that kept coming up is that lives can change, and I don't mean because of traumatic events. I mean because of day-to-day events. People's lives were being turned upside down, it seemed. I've been touring 20 years now, and I've never heard so many stories of such change in such a small amount of time. That kind of began to make me see that this woman needed to have a transformation from dusk 'til dawn, in a very small amount of time.

How would you describe the character of Tori in this story? How much is like you and how much is just fiction?

Well, you know, you walk a thin line as a writer. What you write about, you have to emotionally understand it. A lot of what the woman is going through in one night has taken me 20 years to go through, in some ways.

There's a theme of persevering through "out-creating." Is that something you've had to do in you career, particularly with critics?

I don't really think about what the critics think, because posterity will see things differently. I have a lot of friends who study that, and it changes some of the projects they choose to do, and I think you have to really work from an intuitive place [rather] than reacting to people's opinions. You don't even know why sometimes people have opinions. Do they really understand it? You and I can argue it. You have to let people have their opinion and in some ways, it's none of my business. It's their right.

Over the years, I've had to create and allow it to live out in the world. We can all get into a destructive place, and the only way to deal with destruction is to out-create it. That's something I think quite a few of us have learned over the years. Once you start becoming destructive back towards somebody or something, nothing positive happens.

How has your marriage influenced the album?

Well, when you've been together for as long as we have, and you work together, you've got to figure that it fizzles up sometimes. But I think it makes it passionate, and we've found a way to make it work, to work together and live together. It'll be 16 years in October since we started dating, and we've been married for 13 years. During that time, you're going to discover all kinds of things about yourself and how to communicate and how not to communicate, and all of those lessons are pretty much in this record. I mean, he looked at me at one point and said, "You know, everyone's going to think we're living in separate places," and I said, "They can think whatever they want. I don't care. As long as we're still kissing inappropriately in the kitchen and [my daughter] Tash yells at us to get a room, it's fine."

On another topic, former pro wrestler Mick Foley is a big fan of yours and a supporter of your anti-sexual assault organization, RAINN. How did you guys get to meet and have you developed a friendship?

He's great. My nephew is a wrestling aficionado, and somehow I had heard through RAINN that he was doing some really great things for the charity. I met him, and he had heard that my nephew was a wrestling fan, and it kind of went on from there. He's been really beyond stellar to the charity. He's really given.

He's a really liberal, creative figure too, and I think there's a side to him that has always been sort of the poet of the wrestling world, where I wish we could read all his journals of everything he's experienced because I think he's quite a writer.

Were you surprised to find that a wrestling superstar was one of your fans?

Well, look, sometimes you don't know how music affects people. I embrace that because I don't think that just because I talk about emotional stuff that it's not motherfucker stuff. I'll stand next to the hardest fucking heavy metal band on any stage in the world and take them down, alone, by myself. Gauntlet laid down, see who steps up. See who steps up! I'll take them down at 48. And they know I will. Because emotion has power that the metal guys know is just you can't touch it. Insanity can't touch the soul. It's going to win every fucking time.


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