Read a full transcript of Tori's MSNBC.com interview!
Updated Mon, Jun 14, 2004 - 1:19pm ET
On Friday, June 11, 2004, Tori was interviewed by Will Femia for MSNBC.com. The interview was very interesting, and if you click the details link below, you will be able to read a full transcript of it courtesy of Toriphile Shanna (nefret)! You can also still listen to a recording of the interview. The audio was placed online at www.msnbc.msn.com. You can listen to it now using Windows Media Player. For any Mac users having trouble, make sure you download the latest version of Windows Media Player for Mac (9.0). You can download the Mac version here.
The interview took place at 1:00PM on June 11, 2004 and the audio appeared online shortly afterwards. You can find a complete transcript below. They talked about the new DVD Welcome To Sunny Florida, her opinion of people covering her work, and her views on music downloading. Of particular interest was her response to the editing of Professional Widow on the DVD. She also mentioned that she was in the studio NOW working on her next album, and that the band would be joining her soon to record it. She said the album would be relationship-based and was being influenced in part by the organ. She said she would be touring in 2005, and the way it looked now, she would do the tour in 2 parts. The first part would be in late Winter or early Spring and would be Tori by herself, and the second part would be during the summer with the band if the guys are available.
Many thanks to Shanna (nefret) for typing this and sending it to the Dent!
Welcome to another msnbc.com open interview. My name is Will Femia. We call these open interviews because the question list is open to the public, and for today's guest that has meant literally thousands of questions, so with that it is my pleasure to welcome celebrated singer/songwriter Tori Amos. Welcome, Tori.
Tori: Hi, Will.
Will: Uh and you have a new release out now called 'Welcome to Sunny Florida,' and it's a live DVD as well as a bonus CD, right' It's sort of a combo package.
T: Yes, we...um...let's see the dates. I think it was September 4th that we filmed this. It was our last show on the Scarlet's Walk tour, so it was emotional for all of us, um...and if we didn't get it that day, there wasn't another show the next day. So we were kind of, um, crossing our fingers hoping that we were all in good form then I think because we were all saying goodbye to each other and rehearsals had begun about a year before that. Um, you can imagine a year being together. There were...there were tears backstage and also I think a lot of giggles, too, because we--we did get to know each other pretty well
W: As for the CD where did those songs come from' You just had extra songs, or were there things that didn't fit on the al- on the previous-- uh, was it called Scarlet's Walk'
T: Yes. I think that because, um, Scarlet's Walk is the first original work that I had written in a few years, that there was an overflowing of material, and I had had my little girl, um, and I had done the covers record Strange Little Girls, so I think maybe by listening and working with other writers' material it had kind of, um, upped the benchmark a little bit for me as a writer, and pushed me (I think it was a needed push), um, so therefore, there were quite a few songs. Some of the songs didn't really work within the narrative of Scarlet.
W: Since the DVD is a live performance lets talk about performing live. Janelle in Alameda, California wants to know when you perform live are you able to transcend beyond trying to remember the keys and lyrics and synch with the band to really connect with the song. Where is your head when you're performing'
T: Well I think because...um, let's face it you, you have a lot to remember...and just to (laughs) yeah, remembering the lyrics has always been pretty tough for me. Everybody knows that. Um, it isn't one of my best gifts. I think that, um, it is a joke and it's good that we can all laugh about it, but remembering the music is quite important to me and the rhythm, because it--for me, it all comes from the music first. Usually I will know, um, pretty much a finished work musically, and I might only have one or two words that came with the music. You know, sometimes you're writing a piece and you just know that that word has to be 'anti-christ', you just know that that word will be there. Like in Silent all these Years, yeah, that word came with that song. It sort of like certain garments come with a label, and the garment of Silent all these Years, it just ::sings:: 'anti-christ in the kitchen dadada...' but I knew that that had to be there, and so, because the music is always, I think, the tapestry for me, um, that's where my focus is. Remembering everything else...some nights are better than others, but, yeah, it does take a lot of concentration and, um, you do get swept away sometimes by the moment. Um, and it is almost like having a love affair. I don't think that you can stage a love affair, if you see what I mean, you have to allow it to be free-form, and you might not-- everything isn't rehearsed when you're making love --let's hope not--. And so that's what the live performances are kind of based around. That idea
W: Since you mentioned it, I'm gonna skip ahead in my question list here. Wish I could pronounce his name correctly. Tiboux in Bruges, Belgium had asked about your song writing. He says do you start composing with a song already in your head or you just jump in and see where it ends, and Wendy Getz in Milwaukee had asked the lyrics first' The music first' How do you make them fit together'
T: Well, usually its the music first, but sometimes, um, a song will come with the words married to the melody, um, because I try and though write every day, um... when I write every day, I don't necessarily come up with something worth saving. I think there are two things here. If you're working on being a songwriter, there is a discipline to, um, developing themes and motifs musically, and so I tape everything I come up with, and then I listen to it whether I'm, you know, working out or driving around. Um, and it might take me three hours of going through my tapes that I create and then I'll turn around and go 'ok, so there's a two-bar phrase here' which is maybe seven seconds out of this three hours that strikes me as something worth saving. So writing every day sometimes, yes, will lead to a whole song musically that just comes intact, but that took many, many, many hours to get that place, if you follow me.
W: So many of your fans have been with you for a long time, and many of them asked about how you've evolved over that time. Mindy in Hager City, Wisconsin asks do you think your music has become softer and more lighthearted--oh, particularly since you've had a child. Lot of people wrote in asking about the effect that your daughter has on your inspiration. Ross in Henderson, Nevada asked about what inspires you now versus earlier, and generally your style, how that has changed.
T: Well I think--I mean--Every record is different. I'm always changing. As a composer I think you have to, otherwise you would write the last record again. I'm in the studio now working on the next album, and I'm not trying to write Scarlet's Walk, and I'm not trying to write Boys for Pele or Little Earthquakes or any of the others because I've done those already. And I think that as a composer you have to be able to respond to what's motivating you at the time. The issues that are motivating you and just the day to day life that you have. Um, I have some organs that I've collected, some Hammonds, and they're really triggering things for me because I played, um, the pipe organ when I was a little girl, for, I don't know, maybe a year or two at the age of nine I studied with one of the church organists and, um, I hadn't thought much about it until I started hearing Hammond music, and then I kind of said to Mark, I said 'Jeeze, I-- I'm really--I'm drawn to this instrument,' and he said 'Well, why don't you get yourself some'' So I called my friend Phil Shenale who has done string arrangements for a lot of my work, and he has about, I don't know, forty organs in his little workshop, so he turned me onto people, and I started to collect these organs, and now they're really, mmm, I don't know, foundational for the compositions even though some of the songs will end up on the piano, but started on the organ, if you follow me.
W: Um, in terms of inspiration for songs, I think everyone understands that your songs are--come from a very personal place. Larissa in Bowling Green asked a question that a lot of people wondered, do you emotionally reinterpret those songs' Your songs, she says. Or do you, for a few minutes, become the woman that you were, say, in 95 when you wrote a song from 1995. Others asked, you know, we talked about where your head is when you perform, other people asked if you relive what inspired a song every time you sing it'
T: Well, good question because I can see how somebody would ask that. It's not so cut and dry. There are some nights that I think that I walk into another time. Another me. Where people that are out of my life are back in my life, but that doesn't happen as often as I see different faces that fit the circumstance, so if I'm singing China, 'I can feel the distance getting close,' there might have been a severing of a relationship that month with somebody in my little world, and I see their face instead of maybe the one that I was writing about all those years ago. That's usually more accurate. because I think you apply songs to your current life to make it honest. Um, there's another element though here which the songs are alive themselves, and I've always said that, yes, a piece of it is how I am experiencing the songs when I'm writing them, so. of course. I add my own little, um, viewpoint, but the songs are sovereign, they are their own beings. And that doesn't mean they have a head and two arms and two legs. That's not what I'm saying. It's not like this alien creature, um, like Sigourney Weaver. Um, an episode in that. It's more as if it's a thought-form that has its own conscienceness. And so, sometimes, especially in live performance, I feel like that these songs walk into my body, and I'm just there sort of like a, like a teapot, and these songs get put into this teapot, and then I serve tea. I pour them out of my being as I'm singing, and I think that that's being the most honest. That sometimes these creatures just-- I let them inhabit my body and (laugh) take over my body, sort of like 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers,' but I don't mind that. I've always really enjoyed the idea of co-creating with source, because I don't believe that, um, anyone creates alone. I believe that there is a force, a source, and that you co-create with this...source.
W: Let's see. Several people pointed out that on the new DVD, Professional Widow has some songs--some words-- I haven't heard it, I don't know if they're bleeped or how they're sort of cut, whereas other songs don't have that. What's the explanation for how that came to be'
T: Well, um, I wanted Professional Widow on this and then when I handed it in to Epic Sony, they came back and said 'If you want to include this, then you're going to have to come up with--we have an issue with 'fucker' on 'starfucker, just like your daddy.'' And you'll probably have to bleep me, Will, which is ok
W: I'm gonna have to ask someone. Actually were on the Internet so I'm not sure
T: No, but that's ok! Because this is my point. This is the reason I kept Professional Widow on was that it's almost, I guess you could say, the climate we're in post-Janet Jackson. (giggles) Censorship questions have been heightened since, you know, the F.C.C. clampdown, and the general atmosphere has shifted, um, for what people, um, are allowed to hear without getting stickered. Now, if I were willing to get stickered on this DVD, then I could say what I want, um, but then that kind of really does what, I think, they want you to do . Which is you knee-jerk react and say, 'I'm going to say whatever I want to say, so sticker me.' But I wanted those nine, ten-year-old kids that I felt needed to hear the message to be able to get this, because the most shocking message that I talk about is sovereignty, is going against the patriarchy and finding your own voice, your own way. That you have access to, um, source, and 'starfucker' is not the shocking thing that I say (giggles), so if that's their issue, then let them censor that, because what they can't censor is the spirit. And I wanted that to get to kids that might not be allowed to have my work, um, because I have a sticker on it. So that was one reason that I chose to allow Epic to do what they said they had to do. And then the second reason that I chose to let it stand is because I really wanted to bring the censorship question into the forefront. Sometimes, because you get stickered, everybody just accepts that we're in a sticker world, but you don't realize how many people are not allowed to get this work because a parent will say 'No, you can't have this.' I wanted a kid to go buy it without having to have anybody's permission. Because the real message, as I said, isn't me saying 'cock' or 'fuck.' You know, my eight-year-old nephew says that all the time! It doesn't take any mental giant to say that, but I did really want people to see what, in the land of the free, what it means to be able say what you want, and what the sticker kind of, um--where the bar is, if you see what I mean.
W: Speaking of laws of the land, Angela Swanson in Thornton, Colorado would like to know your feelings about other individuals covering your work and how you feel about the current trend of downloading music from the internet.
To: Well that's--obviously they're two seperate questions.
W: Right, although it's interesting that she associates the two. Music sort of as community property.
T: Yes, fair point. Which we'll talk about. I think that, um, other people covering my work is really exciting. I always--I'm really open to that kind of thing because I think interpretation is an art form, so yeah, I'm open to that. Um, 'community property' fascinates me because...let's not dodge it-- this subject --by, you know, going back and forth. The core of this issue is 'do you value this musician' Do you value this artist'' Like, when I walk into a painter's workshop, I just don't start putting thing in my purse! Because I want them to continue to create and I want them to pay people well, and, you know, not have nine-year-olds in the back (laughs) getting, I don't know, twenty cents an hour doing god knows what for them, you know, in that room where they do sculpture. I think what is important to me is that people have to look at themselves in the mirror, and they can call this 'file-sharing,' they can call it whatever they want, but you know, it's about how do you show an artist if you value what they do' By taking it' That's the question. Now that's what you have to ask yourself, because I'm very clear on it. I don't feel comfortable taking stuff because it shows that I don't value what you do. Because music is ether now, we can, you know--you can shroud it by saying 'it's sharing,' 'it's doing this,' but I see it very simply: taking is taking, and valuing is valuing. And these are the questions that we have to ask ourselves. If there's a wine that I like--wine tasting is something that I'm all for. Tasting music and then deciding 'well, do you want to buy a case, do you want to buy a bottle of it'' 'Well, I don't really want that one, but I want that one'. But then, you know, putting a case in the back of your trunk (laughs) after you've tasted it is a very different thing! Do you follow what I'm saying'
W: Sure, yeah.
T: It shows that I don't respect the winemaker. You know what' At the end of the day, I want them to keep making that wine. So they're a small vineyard or a medium-size vineyard...you know, they have people working in that vineyard, depending on that. You know, people don't think about all the people, the buses and the trucks, and, you know, the roadies and --when I pass by Texaco, I don't say 'Well, you know, you guys downloaded my songs, so give me free petrol!' It just doesn't work that way! If we were in a bartering system, and so everybody that downloaded my music came by and dropped some carrots by--
W: Sent you a pie, right'
T: Yeah! Then we'd be fine about it! We'd be clear! But, do you see, were not in a bartering system, so how do you show value' And this is a question that I'm asking you, because at the end of the day, we all have to sit with ourselves on this, and it's not 'can you get away with it' or --and I've always said 'if you don't have it...if you don't have a way to show that you value it, financially, then take it because I'd rather you have it,' but and sometimes it's just like (cockney accent) 'but Tori! I'm like drat this week' It's like, you know, 'Then take it!' But at a certain point, when do you become a taker' That's the question. And that's something a whole generation is going to have to ask itself.
W: Before we run out of time, I want to talk about the future, as well. The word is certainly out among your fans that you're back in the studio. In fact, are you literally in the studio presently'
T: Right now I am talking to you, the phone is on top of this little cord organ.
W: Oh, very exciting.
T: And, um, I'm looking at the Bosey. She's right here, she's been rebuilt. And um--
W: And what can we expect from the new album' Can you give us any insight' A lot of people wrote in asking about themes. Rebecca Nelson in Seattle said do you see any cohesive themes coming through' Paula Cotton in Halifax also asked about themes, particularly music styles.
T: Well, I think because the Hammond's are here in the room with the piano, there's going to be, um, there's a marriage there, so there's a relationship right there alone from the instruments, and, as you know, relationships can get testy and relationships can get divided, and yet relationships can also, um, stay inside you and come in and live inside you. Um, and that's really sort of the framework for the record. It's very relationship based. No different than the piano is having a relationship with the organ, and some days they get along very well and sometimes (laughs) they don't. Just like I'm sure you and your lover, or you and your friend, or you and your parents. I think everyone knows exactly what I'm talking about-- And I must say I avoided a question that I didn't mean to, but somebody asked me if being a mom has changed my music, and I think, of course! Um, but a breakup changes it. A lot of things affect the music. I'm not writing a children's record. I think that my relationship with Natashya, of course, is talked about on the album, but, um, because the album is about relationships, that's one relationship, and, of course, I see things different because of this three and half year old in my life that, um, you know, makes me see everything differently, but I'm not writing a, um, a children's album, no.
W: And you're not touring for Welcome to Sunny Florida, but you will tour for this coming one' Does it have a name'
T: For this new album, yes. In 2005 I'll be touring. With the piano and the Hammonds.
W: And, and the daughter'
T: Of course! Oh yeah.
W: Does that restrict how...' You know, I don't know if you saw the list that I sent to your manager of all the different places around the world that had written in saying 'please come here': India, Singapore, Malaysia, Lebanon, like, pretty much every country in South America. Would you do a tour of that scope'
T: Well, that's a good question. I mean, sometimes you can't go everywhere because, yeah, you have to think about-- we do take Tash everywhere and we have to kind of say 'how much stamina does she have'' We cannot do a tour as extensive as the Scarlet tour I mean, that was one of the biggest tours that I've done in a long time. So this'll be shorter. It'll be in two spurts. Um, I think one in the early, early spring or late winter. Um, that, you know, that kind of kiss that they have-- the kissing of winter into spring' Around there. Then we'll break and we'll do one in the summer. I think I'll go out with just the piano and the Hammonds to start, and then the guys, Matt and Jon, hopefully, if they're available, will come out with me, because they're gonna come here in just a couple weeks to record the new material. But, yeah, there are certain countries, of course, that you want to go to, but we have to sit down and kind of be realistic as parents, and it's not like the old days when I could just say 'Ok, lets go!'
W: Well, I certainly thank you for taking this time to chat with us, Tori, and I wonder maybe would you maybe like to wrap us up with some closing comments'
T: Well, I'd just like to say to everybody that, um, god, I miss playing...I miss playing live, I miss everybody and hearing some people and their viewpoints. Let's face it, it does make me question how I see the world by hearing other people visions. And I just, I really do miss everybody. At the same time, I've taken a lot of time to just intake, and sit and play and, um, I'm ready to stir it up again, as they say, and hopefully, um, I'll see a lot o you all out there. I really miss seeing everybody.
W: Tori Amos, I thank you very much for joining us. The new CD is called Welcome to Sunny Florida, and more can be found on toriamos.com. Thanks for joining.
T: Thanks, Will. Buh-bye. All the best.