The Herald (Glasgow)
Lucy sent me this Tori interview/article from the January 11, 2003 edition of The Herald newspaper in Glasgow, U.K.
The singer's far from silent all these years;There may have been a hiccup in the career, but Tori Amos is back and, in the wake of 9/11, defiantly attracting equal measures of adoration and bile, says John Williamson
If marriage and parenthood appeared to slow Tori Amos's career trajectory towards the end of the 1990s, then the past two years there has been a burst of activity that has done much to reaffirm her place as one of the premier American songwriters of the past decade.
Though it was Strange Little Girls - an album of cover versions - that marked the tenth anniversary of her debut solo releases, it was quickly followed last year by her first batch of new material in more than three years.
Scarlet's Walk, her seventh album, received muted reviews, but offers her most consistent set of songs since her debut, Little Earthquakes. In contrast to Strange Little Girls, in which she took on many personas (singing songs by male writers from a female perspective), Scarlet's Walk follows one character on a 3000-mile road trip across America. A map that comes with the CD gives a visual representation of which part of the journey is described in each song. In many ways it is defiantly Amos: superficially it is melodic and smartly produced, yet beneath its surface is a portrait of America that is quietly disturbing in its observations. Though not as bluntly political as Steve Earle's Jerusalem or as universally resonant as Springsteen's The Rising, it is an album that could only have been made in the aftermath of 9/11.
Though she now spends the bulk of her time in Britain, Amos is clearly addressing her nationality more than ever, and, having toured America twice in the post-Twin Towers era, she has produced her most American album.
Such touring is the most visible sign of her enduring popularity. Though her albums still sell consistently, they tend to preach mainly to the converted (Amos is an artist who still attracts equal measures of adoration and bile), and last year she quietly slipped away from her former label, East West, to join Sony.
She claims that performing is both the most rewarding and inspiring part of her work. Tomorrow's show at Glasgow's Clyde Audito-rium, like all her previous visits to the city, sold out within weeks of going on sale, and, since the release of Strange Little Girls, she has completed a number of lengthy European and American tours - mainly performing solo.
"There are a couple of aspects to touring," she says. "One side of it is the stamina, the physical effort. When you are 28 you can do stuff, and you will look like dog meat when you are 32, but you are not thinking about that when you are 28. For you to do 50 dates as a one-woman show is physically demanding. Just for the voice to stay up - there is no drummer covering you - you have to treat it like a physical challenge."
"The other side of it is the mental part. When you first break there is that excitement. You are doing the music you love and people are coming to see you.
"The high is so great there is no drug that they can make to compete with that, but to stay around like the Tina Turners and Madonnas and still be great you've got to be as hot as it was on the first date. That is what you have to achieve and it is not the first date. I think a lot of bands break up because the road is so hard."
Of course, trying to psycho-analyse Tori Amos is virtually impossible and pointless. In conversation, she is quietly spoken, attentive, and expansive in her responses, yet it serves only to draw more attention to the many personas involved. Listen to Tori Amos singing one of the Scarlet's Walk songs and it is difficult to tell how many times removed you are from the narrator.
"I have this thing with Tori Amos, where I have to give her her due. She's not really me, though I always hope that she will show up around nine o'clock," she laughs. "There is a place where you are kind of going okay, I need you to show up, be powerful and not make mistakes. There is that little bit of decadence that she wants, and you have to give her it.
"When you are backstage and you are coughing blood and you have to take steroids, you lose that side of it. You go, 'look, we went shopping today, you just cannot crap out on me tonight'. And she'll look at me sometimes, and it really is all about that relationship that you have with yourself. She'll say to me, 'if you cancel this show tonight, you want to know how much your premiums are going to go up in insurance'. And I like those shoes I bought today - there is that trade-off. I haven't cancelled a show since 1998, and that was once because I was concussed after I hit my head. I played Madison Square Garden on that concussion and I had to cancel another show to get through that one."
Following that, she was one of the few female performers at the ill-fated Woodstock 1999, performing to a crowd that was a testosterone-fuelled mob raised on bad metal and its accompanying baggage of sexism and homophobia. The outcome was an event remembered mainly for its violence, corporate sponsorship, and the four (reported) rapes that blighted the memory of the original event.
"Woodstock was a very large event, playing itself out on a grand scale," she says, "but there are a lot of events happening in small towns that are very similar. There is a lot of pent-up rage from males towards females. If your rage is pretty concentrated against a race or a sex you have to step back. And I am not just talking about the bands who are PG-13, there are women artists who are slinging it as much as these guys. I'm talking about something that goes way beyond that line: the glamorisation of rape, or the idea that rape was some kind of answer to this rage."
Her explanation for the situation is an intriguing take on aspects of American society, the kind of material that has informed much of her subsequent recording.
"The one thing in America that is different between the sexes from in Europe is that a lot of women bring home the bacon financially," she explains. "Our workplace is a lot more balanced - there is a boys' club here. A lot of my women friends are the breadwinners. That affects things. At every university, at every job interview there is competition.
"Who is the provider? You are dealing with the alpha female. In the States, a powerful male is not about who you know or your dad knows. It is about what you do, and if you are not successful you are not going to get laid. That is what the culture is based on. If the men are not able to pay the rent, this is going to impact on relations in the bedroom unless women redefine what is a powerful man, so there is also stuff that women are contributing to the situation."
She also reveals that her part-Cherokee grandfather told her before he died that one day she should travel America and follow the 500 Nations map. Though it may be stretching the imagination a little to see Tori Amos in the lineage of Alan Lomax, Woody Guthrie, and Bob Dylan, Scarlet's Walk adds considerable colour to the journey.
Tori Amos plays Glasgow's Clyde Auditorium tomorrow.
GRAPHIC: HARD LABOUR: touring, says Tori Amos, is both physically and mentally gruelling and stamina plays a key role. "When you are 28 you can do stuff, and you will look like dogmeat when you are 32."
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