Tori talks about

Boys for Pele

"I was in Hawaii during the Under the Pink tour and it was when my personal life had just become completely not good. And after my separation, I fled there. And I just felt this force from this fire from the volcano. And I've tried to get it through men all my life. Through men or through fame or through something. But a lot of times through men. I mean, I have these little fangs, you know, I have these little fangs, and sometimes they just wanted boy blood. So as I got to know the feeling of Pele I was going, "If I could feel one billionth of this feeling just, without having to have any outside force, um, that's what I really really want." So the men in my life, in truth, brought me to the volcano from what, in some cases, they didn't do." [WNEW, New York - February 5, 1996]

"My relationship, which lasted for seven and a half years, broke. And that's what started the whole thing. After that, I had a few experiences with men, but I got from the frying pan into the fire. That time was not very glorious. All the fame, the money, all those boys in the locker room weren't enough to fill an emptiness inside of me. I was being attracted by men who possessed the fire, the passion, of which I thought I didn't have it. And I had something they wanted: my creativity, my power of creating. I was run by an engine. I had to learn that I had to create some kinda space inside myself where I could not only light my fire, but also let it burn, without needing the confirmation of the men in my life."

Tori recorded Boys for Pele in a church in County Wicklow, Ireland.
"The acoustics were great. Even though I was cooped up in a box for most of the recording sessions. I practically lived in it. Me and my piano, where two holes were left open. A German magazine [Keyboards magazine] even made pictures of this. But I, the ministers daughter, had to go back to the church, to where it all began. To get back what I put away, so to speak. My womanhood'." Some habitants of County Wicklow thought differently. "They liked it. They enjoyed themselves. But there are always some people around making a problem of everything. Most people thought it was very groovy what I was doing, they treated me with respect. I came with the right intentions." However good the intentions, Tori does manage to lose friends. Mostly because of the difficult subjects of her songs. "There were people in my neighbourhood who couldn't cope with my lyrics. I could never stop that loss. Those songs, my experiences, had to get out. They still do, that will never change. I keep searching for the truth."

Boys for Pele - is that a funny or a serious title?
"Oh, that image works on different levels. It's a nice summary of the phenomenon 'men', don't you think? 'Boys for Pele' can simply mean worshipping hero's; the boys that show their best in football to impress their idol, football legend Pele, but it's also a metaphor for 'going to war'; 'Boys for Pele' could then refer to patriotism: men going to war under the leadership of their hero. It's typical, men always admire other men. Girls, on the other hand, also mostly worship men. Something's wrong here."
[Humo magazine - 1996]

"This is where a lot of Boys for Pele is coming from. It's not [about] pushing the boys off the side of the volcano or roasting them with marshmallows. There were five seconds when that did occur to me, but that's just because I wasn't really ready to see the gift. I think these relationships are such gifts... It's very much working with that Pele energy, that destruction/creation energy, trying to find the balance, because I would find myself either the lovey- doveyest-woviest sweet pea, or a madwoman." [Spin - March 1996]

"Well, you know there are no victims, that's where I sit now. The journey from Little Earthquakes through Pink to Pele has been really a claiming of womanhood. And I kind of see these records as a trilogy. They work together. And this final record was about me embracing my womanhood. I call it the boy record, which means it's the womanhood record because it was really through the men in my life, what they didn't give me in some cases, which forced me to give it to myself. And they couldn't give it to me, just like I couldn't give it to them. I couldn't give them their fire, and they couldn't give me mine... I was dying. I don't care how many sold-out concerts I had. I was dying." [Everybody's News (Cincinnati) - May 31, 1996]

"In my relationships with men, I was always musician enough, but not woman enough. I always met men in my life as a musician, and there would be magic, adoration. But then it would wear off. All of us want to be adored, even for five minutes a day, and nothing these men gave me was ever enough. So when it came time to make this album, I went to Louisiana, back to the South and the old-world church, to the place that deemed wrong Mary Magdalene and the shadow-sorcerer side in the Bible. I went to reclaim that hidden womanhood. Because you can't have grace without the whores." [Chicago Tribune - January 18, 1996]

"It's multileveled. There's the personal, but also there are patterns and myths, like the story of Mary Magdalene, that started to make me see. Why did I always look to these men? I was always reading where I stood by what they saw. Stealing their fire. Trying to." [NY Times - January 14, 1996]

"I wrote this record because I was trying to fill the void any way I could," she says, tears in her eyes. "After nothing worked - men, food, incredible Chardonnay, shoes - there was no anchor to hold on to, the old ways didn't work any more. I realized I'd suppressed a lot of sides to myself to be loved and understood by men. I didn't want to play seductive little girl or ballbuster any more. With this record I played all those roles until I got to my heart. To find your fire as man or woman you have to take your torch and go to the shadows." [Diva - February/March 1996]

"These songs are about the realisation that you and the person you're with are talking different languages. They're about recognising that an extreme kind of viciousness is being played out even as you exchange honeysuckle. They're about the hidden things that go on in a woman's heart - the things that are expressed and the things that have to remain hidden. They're about the breaking down of the patriarchy within relationships and the idea of women claiming their own power." [On the Street - January 29, 1996]

"I had to write [Boys for Pele] in order to even walk outside of the house by myself. It has been, for me, the shattering of a fantasy or a dream," she says about her break-up with Eric Rosse, Amos' work is what remains of this broken reality. [Break - August 14, 1996]

"I separated from a soul mate, and for the first time I started to look at my beliefs about men, women, equality, honor, disrespect, passion, sensuality - all these things. As I wrote the songs for Boys for Pele, I started valuing myself through my own eyes, instead of valuing me through the eyes of others, like the press or a lover or whatever." [Dallas Morning News - June 14, 1996]

"Pele is a volcano goddess in Hawaii, and I fled to Hawaii in the middle of the Under the Pink tour for five days when I was at my lowest, and I couldn't feel any fire within myself. I couldn't feel anything. I came to the north shore in Hawaii, and a friend of mine - we'll call her a medicine woman, a very wise woman - was there. And I felt after the San Francisco, or around those dates, I couldn't feel a sense of when I wasn't behind that piano or with a man in my life. I couldn't find out who the woman was. Some of you may ask me, 'Why did you go to the men in your life?' and the truth is I felt they had an energy force, to a flame, that I couldn't find. When I went to the north shore and I just spent time walking up and down that beach with this medicine woman, I just began to feel the presence of Pele all over the island, even though I know she's not on that island. I just felt this deep little flame start to happen." [Everybody's News (Cincinnati) - May 31, 1996]

"It just happened. I didn't try to write it at all. I had to, on an emotional level. Each of the songs became fragments. There's a story - you're given excerpts. When you hear the whole record, the story will either make sense or not. When you believe you've found your soul-mate and it falls to pieces... Sometimes when you separate you're both ready to move on. Sometimes I think you separate still loving. You don't know why you can't be a couple anymore. And a lot comes out. The record is metaphorical in that there are places within each song where it becomes very clear, I think, what the emotion is that's being claimed. Its all about the intimacies of womanhood." [Making Music - January 1996]

"This record is truly a story about a woman who descends, who finds fragments in the unconscious to bring back into the light. But I was forced to do this...You're on your knees, and you make a choice."

"I was separated from my soul mate. Just feeling that shock when half of you walks out - the songs just started coming to me." [Billboard - January 13, 1996]

"You have to know what it is like to feel desperate for somebody else's fire to really understand this record." [Break - August 14, 1996]

"It's a metaphorical work, so if you use your head, you're kind of in trouble. You have to really go from your senses. It's what things represent more than what a word means. It's association. And if you go through that way, then you're responding from your instincts and tastes and smells, that whole kind of response, instead of analytically... It's a heart record. If you use your brain, you won't get it. It doesn't matter that you're going to see different faces than I am. I'm not trying to get you to see who I'm talking about. It's about an emotion. I do hope they feel the emotion or I haven't done my job." [Everybody's News (Cincinnati) - May 31, 1996]

"There is to me, more like novel form on this, chapter to chapter. It is a story. She does descend, she goes to visit Lucifer, she finds the Black Widow, she finds Mr Zebra and some of the other characters that she takes along with her. It's very Alice In Wonderland, in a sense."

"The men in my life at the time... inspired me to go to the hidden parts of the feminine. Well women are not the only beings that have hidden parts of the feminine. The Feminine - throwing a little Eastern, you know, 'talk' around - the Yin, that very important side of the whole that hasn't really been passed down. More in this century than before, I think more in the last couple decades. The sixties really opened that up a lot. And it's about all of us going to the places underneath the heart, behind the heart, in the unconscious, where we give our Fire away. We think somebody else has access to 'power' or freedom or life force, and we don't have that except through them or if we know somebody or we get invited to this party. I find so many people kind of talking to me about, when they get fame, just 'when I get this everything's gonna be alright. When I just get this or when I just get her, it's just gonna be alright, everything'll be fine.' And the funny thing is, you get fame, you get a few of these things and unless you have access to the underside of the heart, which we all do, and yours is unique to you, mine's unique to me and I can't give you yours and you can't give me mine. Kinda just that freedom to express. So it's not about women, it's about the Feminine, which you [men] have just as much as I do." [World Café (radio) - March 1, 1996]

"This is the dark side of my heart, the hidden side, you know? The little pearl that sort of got pushed away cause she wasn't as shiny as the white one or the black one." [CNN Online - February 1, 1996]

"The album is a journey... It's about bringing the demons home... the fragmented demons of my womanhood." [Elle - March 1996]

"I've talked to a lot of women about this and those that have heard this album understand it as exposing the female part of the game in the relationship, in humour of fury, vulnerability and rage, and women who are becoming their own force felt very akin to it, understood this person. But I don't think men really know the extent women have looked to them for support, acknowledgement... passion and yet compassionate love. I don't know if men really know what happens on the other end of the phone-line when they hang up; when its getting uncomfortable yet when its time to communicate. It's just that I found it so hard to get into their heart sometimes, to get to the place of openness. At that point, maybe they just didn't trust me. I don't know of I was really trustworthy then. It's really difficult to have a relationship when you need something from a person. When you want to share, that's different. I didn't see it when I was doing it until everything began to fall to pieces and it wasn't there anymore" [Making Music - January 1996]

"It's not a revenge record but a releasing record. I've been angry at myself, too, for getting into certain situations with men. Anger is healthy, but out of balance if it doesn't have compassion." [Spin - March 1996]

"This record I'm calling my 'boy' record, which means it's my womanhood record. Because, um, whatever you think of this, the truth is that when I wasn't behind the piano, I lived through the men in my life in certain ways, not as a creative force, but I looked for my woman's worth through their eyes." [Live105 San Francisco (radio) - February 7, 1996]

"Well, it's [the cover of the album] a reference to Me and a Gun, a song I wrote that was on Little Earthquakes. And the idea that there's a dead cock on my right and a live snake on my left. And the idea is that death and life... creation... what it's taken me to get here with men, and I don't want to be angry anymore. And you turn it over and you put the gun down, but I'm not pretending what it's taken to get me here. But no more resentment." [Live105 San Francisco (radio) - February 7, 1996]

"Harpsichord represents a time that holds secrets." [New York Times - January 14, 1996]

"I don't think Boys for Pele is abstract at all. I think Under the Pink was an abstract work; it was meant to be. This one is more like when you're in a relationship where there are things that are hidden but are definitely underlying the conversation; you're interrogating him-over a glass of red wine and a fire, but you're still trying to get information. And you feel more than one thing at one time." [Spin - March 1996]

"Well, an emotional work like this is inspired from an emotional place; it's about stealing fire from the men in my life. [Laughs] I guess I didn't realize how much confidence I have in certain areas of my life, and just so little in other areas. It seemed as though everywhere I turned was to male mentors or emotional involvements. I became a vampire needing to feed, needing their energy and I didn't know how to access it. When I was onstage I could, but when I walked off that stage I began to see that the woman was completely divided and segregated from the work." [iGuide - January 1996]

Was there ever a long period of time that you weren't involved in a relationship?

"Not really. As I recall, for the most part there was usually a changing of the guard [Laughs] ... Probably the guy walking out gave the guy walking in a cigarette [Laughs], and said, 'Good luck with her.' Half the time I was obsessed, and half the time I was bored. It was always extremes. But still, someone was there, it was important to have someone there, and male, definitely..."

Didn't all the recognition and success help give you strength and a sense of self-worth, whether you were with a man or not?

"Let's be real honest, when somebody says, 'Couldn't you just accept yourself ? Lisa, you're speaking Chinese. When I'm on my knees in Oklahoma City, even though logically, 'love and let go' seems really beautiful…"

Oklahoma City?

"That's where I was literally at the bottom. I was on tour when all this happened and I remember Oklahoma City being totally rock-bottom. 'It was like I was thinking, 'Just you wait, Henry Higgins,' and as I sat there on my knees in Oklahoma City, waiting for the phone to ring needing to feed, I'd reached the end of my rope."

Had you felt this despair in other relationships?

"Never like this. You get to a certain point where you can't keep the game up. I guess on some level I've grown as a person. What I used to do was have this way of working; sometimes being absolutely in love and then at the same time just not being an individual anymore, just fusing with one person. And I've hear Marianne Williamson say, 'Love and let go,' and I'd say, 'Give me a map to love and let go.' To me, it was just rhetoric that didn't mean anything. I wanted tools; all I knew was I needed blood and I needed boy blood, and I needed to feed."
[New York Post - January 12, 1996]

Then they talk about Louisiana... "What came in, the gospel music, the West Indies, the spices, the sugarcane, the sweet potatoes, all this made up this, an incredible repression, and incredible heat." [Fanzine (French TV) - March 1996]

"My feelings about men are very different than they were because i don't need to drink their blood like I used to." [Fanzine (French TV) - March 1996]

"You ask any girl on the planet, you know, just the idea of dancing a tango with Lucifer : and he dances wonderfully , and just gives you a wonderful kiss, has a delicious honey taste of Bordeaux, I mean come on, it doesn't get any better than that..." [Fanzine (French TV) - March 1996]

"For whatever reason, for quite awhile I pulled men into my life that were very fascinating and had access to things that I felt I didn't." Amos speaks clearly, confidently and forcefully ; it's clear she's done a lot of self-analyzing. "We're talking about energy, or the ability to allow oneself to experience things that I wanted to and didn't know how to get there. There was no map." [What - February 1996]

"The whole record is about stealing fire and stealing fire from the men in my life. I wasn't able to admit that at first, I had to kind of have my head held down to it. You know how when you've just thrown up, it's right in your face and you go 'I couldn't have eaten at Burger King, I'm a McDonald's person!" [What - February 1996]

"Pele is a volcano goddess and the idea is that, pyro that I am, I seem to be lighting myself on fire and not able to find my passion. The men in my life and what they gave and didn't give brought me to that." [What - February 1996]

"First I wanted to sacrifice all these guys to the volcano goddess and roast them like marshmallows," Amos laughs. "Then I decided they gave me a really wonderful gift." [What - February 1996]

"I wanted diversity on this record. So there are over 75 musicians, from the London Symphonia to Caribbean percussionists to gospel choirs to different Louisiana brass bands... I just kept pulling it together. Working with all these people... it's going from an instinctual place and getting all the musicians to know the sounds and tastes and smells, know the characters. I'm translating for them; it's like getting to know your lover, what's in their underwear drawer in the little jack-in-the-box, the make-up case, the perfume they wear... you guys better know!" [What - February 1996]

"I just trusted that, God, if I'm so consumed by this, someone else is going to want to come to the party too. And if they don't, well, it's a party I had to go to." [What - February 1996]

"The 14 major songs on Boys for Pele-which at 70 minutes runs much longer than either of her two previous albums-symbolize the 14 body parts of the Egyptian god Osiris. In the myth, they were collected by the goddess Isis. If Amos is Isis, whose parts does she need to collect and reassemble? She recently broke up with Eric Rosse, the coproducer of Little Earthquakes and Under the Pink, whom she was with for over seven years." -Francesca Lia Block [Spin - March 1996]

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