Read a transcript of Tori's interview from the BBC Radio 4 show 'Woman's Hour' in the U.K.
Updated Sat, Apr 02, 2005 - 1:20am ET
On Friday, March 18, 2005, Tori was interviewed for about 10 minutes on the radio show Woman's Hour which is heard on BBC Radio 4 in the U.K. They had the show archived at www.bbc.co.uk, but it will not always be there. I now have a written transcript of Tori's interview which was kindly typed out by Jessica Hartke. Click to read the interview!
Martha Kearney: Singer-songwriter Tori Amos has released 8 albums to widespread critical acclaim, she's been nominated for numerous awards, her songs have gone platinum, and she regularly tours round the world. Her UK hit single Cornflake Girl is one of her best-loved songs.
(part of Cornflake Girl)
Martha: Tori's earlier work dealt with traumatic experiences, as she was assaulted by an audience member. She later set up a charity for victims of rape and abuse. Now living in Cornwall, happily married with a daughter, her recent work has turned to other themes. Tori's father was a Methodist preacher; she herself takes a rather less orthodox approach to Christianity. Her latest album is called The Beekeeper. I began by asking if she keeps bees herself.
Tori: Are you kidding? (They laugh.) No-no-no. No. I love the idea of what it means, the allegory, the idea of sacred sexuality. Bees being very much in the ancient feminine mysteries, the Eleusian mysteries with Demeter and Persephone. You know, women are so divided within the Christian Church, the Magdalene and the Mother Mary. Of course in the record I use a lot of symbology to bring these pieces and parts of woman together. The woman, Mother Mary, circumcised from her sexuality, and the Magdalene stripped of her spirituality. So, the idea of the bee tradition is that women would be in their sacred being with their sexuality, whole.
(part of Original Sinsuality)
Martha: Your father was a preacher. Is this now, Christianity, in a way, catching up with you?
Tori: I mean, you know, last time I ran into him, which was in New York a couple weeks ago, he said to me, 'Tori Ellen, I love you, but I do not have to agree with you.' (They laugh.) And you know, that's where I'm at with it. I said, 'Dad, the problem is, is that many other of the very Christian people that you associate with are not okay, that we can see it a different way.' And that is what is dividing America. You know, I'm not seeing Christ consciousness in any of this rhetoric. But I was saying to him, the sadness about all this is that he was the first feminist. Clearly in the Christian Church, Mary Magdalene wasn't just a follower. She had her own ministry.
(another part of Original Sinsuality)
Martha: It hasn't always been easy for your father, some of the themes that you've chosen for your songs. One song, Father Lucifer, he took exception to.
Tori: Yes, but that's because he thought I wrote it about him. And we were having baked chicken, as you do; my mother would bake this chicken and everybody had shown up. And he looked at me and he said, 'Tori Ellen, I'm very troubled about one of your songs on the record.' And I just put my fork down, and 15 people look up. And he said, 'I can't believe that you would see me as Father Lucifer.' I said, 'O, Dad! No, no, no. No. No, I was with some shaman in Hawaii and I was going deep into the Pele essence, the goddess Pele, and I was on ayahuasca, the Amazon root of hallucination, and I had a love affair with Lucifer.' And he looked up and he said, 'Well, praise Jesus; I feel much better now!'
Martha: *laughs* So that went down okay with the baked chicken lunch.
Tori: O, yeah. Yeah. Then it was time to eat.
Martha: And it sounds like you're still very close to your parents.
Tori: Yeah, I love them dearly. Without them I wouldn't be here, I wouldn't be the songwriter I am. I mean, my dad has said, 'For all of this persecution that you've been through, Tori Ellen, what would you have written about if I were a dentist?' And I think that's a fair comment.
Martha: Now, one of the songs on the new album deals with a very dark theme, deals with terrorism, but from quite an unusual perspective.
Tori: Well, how are you going to get people to see that there are those that are really pushing these buttons. Every time they use the word 'terrorist', masses of Americans agree to all kinds of things. So it seemed like we needed to undress the word. In order to emancipate a word, I find that you have to put different pictures to it. And when people have their own pictures then they can't be as emotionally blackmailed. So, as I was watching people and, especially my daughter. She asked me what 'terrorist' meant because she was watching the BBC news one day. And I didn't know what to say. And I was struggling, having a really hard time, and she said, 'I know, Mummy. It's like the bully in the playground.' And I think she's really freed from any kind of coercion. She's not seeing a guy with a turban, necessarily, or a guy with an army uniform when that word is used; she's able to apply it to her own pictures.
(part of The Power of Orange Knickers)
Martha: As you said, your starting point for the song was your little girl, your four-and-a-half-year-old daughter. It must be difficult when you're promoting an album, you're off all over the world.
Tori: She in the beginning, I think, was a lot more gung-ho about the idea. And now that it's gone on for a few months- A couple weeks ago she said, 'You know, Mummy, I don't like that Tori Amos taking my mummy away.' And I had to say, 'Tori Amos buys the dolls, lets- don't be so hard on her!' And then just a couple days ago, it's gotten to the point where she said, 'You know, Mummy, they know that they're taking you away from me, and they know that you can sing to them, but you can't sing me bedtime songs any more, and I can't handle it!'
Martha: O, heart-wrenching! What did you say to that?
Tori: Well, she just cried. Real tears, you know, not crocodile tears. And you know that you've reached your limit and everybody, every- we all know that I'm counting the hours now when she'll be with us through the whole thing. But when you're in 4 countries in one day, you can't do that to a child.
Martha: Now clearly your family are very important to you, you're happily married now after what's been certainly a difficult, turbulent life at various points. Some people have said that makes it harder for you to write songs; singer-songwriters are supposed to be wracked with pain and torment.
Tori: I think that that is a myth that has to be busted wide open. There are a lot of people, if we're honest, Martha, that are wracked with pain that write a load of old dribble, as you all would say.
Martha: *laughs* Ooh, name names.
Tori: No, can't! Might be seeing them next week in L.A. But you know, let's face it. You'd think that they have all of the stories and everything to create something. And that's why I say, John Lennon I think had made comments about, at a certain point the challenge is once you get to a place where you're not - he didn't say this - where you know the circumference from your navel to every orifice, and you know who you are as a person, then maybe you look outside your own little world. We're in a war. Mothers are having to let their sons go. And I think that they're being torn apart, thinking they're not a good American if they don't agree to let their son go. And I wrote the song Mother Revolution because I really believe that the mothers have been blackmailed: 'You're not a good American. You're betraying your country.'
(part of Mother Revolution)
Martha: Tori Amos.