Marie Claire Magazine (U.K.)
October 1999

Added September 29, 1999

There is a fairly long article/interview with Tori in the October 1999 issue of Marie Claire magazine in the U.K. (There is a version of this magazine in the U.S. but it is different.) There are several really nice photos from Cornwall printed with the interview as well. Thanks to Emma Taylor + Andy Tebbutt, Ken Tough and Darrell Jones for sending me the interview and to Darrell Jones and Alamo for scanning the photos. Special thanks to Robyn White, Helen Dickens and Jody Kusnetz as well. The photos are directly below. Click on any one of them to see larger.






The past is a painful place for Tori Amos, but, as Jennifer Asiama reports, the singer who suffered rape, miscarriage and heartache, has finally found peace in a remote corner of Cornwall. Photographs by Derrick Santini

[double-page photo of T sitting by small wooden shack near shingle/stone beach]

[quarter page b&w head & shoulders photo in front of cliffs]

Tori Amos is late and she can't stop apologising. She's been in the studio all morning, she explains, fine-tuning the final stages of her new album, and got carried away. "I'm a little ant fucker," she says, confusingly and and perhaps a little bluntly. But then this is the woman who once confessed to a journalist that, at the age of five, she had fantasies of slitting her grandmother's throat with a butter knife; posed for an album cover with a piglet suckling her breast; and claims to have been a little Mexican boy in a former life.

It transpires that "ant fucking" is what she calls her minute attention to detail when recording an album. Of course. [1] From early on in her career, the press have taken a great delight in labelling Amos a 'crackpot', a 'kooky egoist' and 'ginger nut' (pertaining more to her alleged state of mind than the colour of her hair). Amos, now 35, first captured the attention of the British public in 1992, when she released her debut album -Little Earthquakes-, a brutally honest documentation of some of her life experiences. Anyone who has ever listened to the album will know its weight lies heavily on -Me And A Gun- -- a harrowing track in which she describes and relives the horrendous rape she experienced at gunpoint when she was 21. The album went platinum, and soon had the critics likening her to a 'young Joni Mitchell'.

It is difficult to connect the Tori standing in front of me--the world famous, super-rich woman--with the Tori who was born little Myra-Ellen over three decades ago and raised in the backwaters of North Carolina. Her mother was part Cherokee, her father a Methodist preacher. She was hailed as a child prodigy after clambering on to her first piano stool at three, and by the age of five she had won a scholarship to attend the Peabody Conservatory, a prestigious music school in Baltimore. Her tenure there ended when she was eleven and was found experimenting with more alternative sounds, instead of the rigidly classical ones being forced on her.

Her family were a God-fearing lot who believed a woman's virginity should stay intact until the day she married, at which time she would give her soul to the Lord. After Sunday school, this gifted, red-headed child would rush home to sit on the veranda and eat blackberry cobbler. She'd let the juice run down her chin as her grandfather told stories about his grandmother--a fiesty, full-blooded Cherokee who kept a tomahawk in her apron and managed to outwit the Yankees.

Amos's teenage years saw her being chaperoned by her father as she did the rounds of gay bars and piano lounges. When Dad wasn't looking, the waiters gave her lessons in oral sex, using a cucumber. At high school she was voted 'Person most likely to succeed'. Desperate to flee the South, she decamped to LA at 21 and formed the short-lived rock band, Y Kant Tori Read, before embarking on her solo career.

Today, Amos is in a talkative mood. As we bundle into the back of her four-wheel drive, she asks Nat, her PA, who is in the driver's seat, to take us to her 'secret place by that cliff' in a remote part of her adopted Cornwall. Then, as if someone had pressed play on the 'Tori machine', she's off. In the five-minute drive, she talks about how little time she has left to work on her new album, -To Venus And Back-. In less than a month, she'll be on the road in the States, headlining a tour with Alanis Morrisette, entitled -Five 1/2 Weeks-. Actually, the tour is a bit longer than that, she explains, but this is her 'Mickey Rourke reference'.

"I wanted to do something sexy on this tour--the feminist fist-in- the-air thing has been done. I'm hoping to blindfold the piano and rub down Alanis with ice cubes," she says, grinning mischievously. "But I'm not sure if she'll find it funny."

Amos goes silent and peers out of the window as Nat turns off a winding country lane. The car draws to a halt and Amos gets out and begins to clamber down the hill. She stops suddenly, remembering to ask if I'm OK with the steep climb. I say yes, but she holds out a hand and leads me towards her cliff. Amos' hands are tiny, childlike, warm and very, very soft. Definitely not the dishwashing kind, I muse--more those of an artist, a creator, the kind that are usualy insured for a few million.

"This is where I come to think," says Amos, sitting down and crossing her legs. "This is where I take all the information I've been given, and walk it through. It's where I talk to the artist in me." We are perched at some 300 ft above sea level. The ocean lies before us like a huge blanket, and other than the seagulls cruising noisily above our heads, there is not a living soul in sight.

[quarter page flash-lit profle at dusk on beach]

I am curious to know what it is about Cornwall--or, more to the point, the tiny town of Bude (population 7,000)--that has captivated her. There is not a designer store in sight and Buffalo Bill's is the only place you can get a meal after 9pm on a Sunday. Even then, last orders must be in by 10pm. This town is probably as far away from rock 'n' roll as it gets.

Yet it is where Tori and her British husband of eighteen months, Mark Hawsley [sic], have decided to set up home. Against the signs for clotted cream and deck chairs, she is as exotic as a rare bird in Trafalgar Square. They met while Mark was working as a sound engineer on one of her tours. "I looked up to see who was responsible for this amazing sound and saw the beautiful calves that went with it."

She knew instantly that "he was the one", but the timing was out-- they were both "in lives with other people". So she decided to let things run their course. Eventually he proposed and they were married last year in a medieval theme wedding. They live in a farmhouse, with a state-of-the-art studio built by local craftsmen in a 300-year-old barn.

"What I like about it here is that the people are pretty direct," she says. "You don't have to walk around constantly editing yourself. In some cities you visit, the people are just simply too cool for the room. Cornwall isn't like that--here, no one puts on masks." She also loves the history of the area. "Places speak to you, and I think the land holds its secrets here. Sometimes it gets really foggy and the locals might speculate about whether there has been a shipwreck. You start fantasising that maybe the Guatemalans got lost, and there's a kilo stranded out on Midriff Bay and maybe we should check it out just in case..."

But Amos is not all jokes today, nor any day when she recalls the rape she endured at the age of 21. "The past haunts me," she says with a sigh. "I'm constanty trying to understand what I've gone through, it's... it's like, trying to release an incident that's been locked inside. I have a shrink, I have friends--one who is an incest survivor--they help me, so I'm lucky. I guess everybody has a story to tell."

It happened in 1985 when she offered a lift to a man after one of her concerts. -"It was me and a gun and a man on my back and I sang "holy, holy" / as he buttoned down his pants,"- recall the lyrics.

It was living through this monstrous ordeal, and reliving it through the many letters she has received from other rape survivors, that prompted her to do something to help. The turning point, she says, came when a hysterical young girl was brought backstage during one of her concerts and begged Amos to take her on the road with her. "She said, 'My stepfather raped me last night. He'll rape me tomorrow night and he'll rape me when I get home tonight. He's been doing it every night for seven years." Amos tried to help, but was told she could be arrested for taking the thirteen- year-old girl over the border.

"They were willing to arrest me for trying to help her, but who was there to protect her at home? That just blew my mind." So the girl stayed, and Amos co-founded RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network). Based in Washington DC, the organisation operates as a telephone helpline, and victims can dial 1 800 656 H-O-P-E for advice, medical help, or merely just to talk to someone willing to listen. Since its launch in 1994, the centre has received a quarter of a million calls. As Tori says, "That's a lot of people."

Earlier this year, Steve Madden, an American shoe designer, created the "Tori Amos shoe", and the profits for each one sold will go directly to the organisation. Calvin Klein did the same thing with sunglasses two years ago, and front-row ticket sales from Amos's tours are also donated to the charity. Last year, she rasied over $300,000.

In 1994, Amos received the Visionary Award from the Washington DC rape crisis centre, an accolade given to those who have fought for a world free of sexual violence and other oppression. "Everyone does their bit," she insists. "It's not just me." Pain and suffering, and memories of her rape and mutilation are just a few of the subjects on Amos's latest musical offering. They were songs that just kept coming, she says.

Tori sings about life. Life through her eyes; the bad and the extremely sad. Sometimes her compositions come while she sleeps; at other times they keep her awake and she finds herself at her piano in a trance-like state. Like a stone carver, she sculpts away at them, shapes them, sometimes storing them away for later, trying to capture "that place". Sonic architecture, she calls it.

"I'm an emotional hunter, but that's how I write my songs. I hunt for things that hide behind the heart." Love, heartache, miscarriage and pain, lots of pain, all milestones in her life, all documented for public consumption on her albums.

You get the feeling that Tori's OK, that she's getting to where she needs to be in her life. She still does great rock, but is relishing the rustic existence she and Mark have made for themselves. The one that allows her to eat homemade bread in her kitchen daily and run around in her green wellies and old shorts talking out loud to flowers. An existence that allows her to be artistic, kooky, complex. We wouldn't want her any other way.

RAINN can be contacted at:
635b Pennsylvania Avenue, South East Washington, DC 20003,
USA (00 1 202 544 1032; fax: 00 1 202 544 3556).
In the UK, contact London Rape Crises Centre on 0171 837 1600.

[1 - "Ant fucker" is a dutch expression which she almost certainly would have picked up from Marcel van Limbeek or Rob van Tuin. Much like "sifting (sorting) mosquitoes"--ktough]

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