BMG Interview: Tori Amos
Since she emerged in the early '90s with the confessional "Little Earthquakes" and the impressionistic "Under The Pink," Tori Amos has been renowned for her idiosyncratic piano style and challenging lyrics — but 1998 finds her ready to rock with her first band-oriented album, "From The Choirgirl Hotel." Rolling Stone writes, "Amos comes clean with the rock & roll that's always driven her," while Spin praises, "She's that rare rocker who can build a racket not out of dissonance but through euphonic intensity." BMG Music Service recently had the opportunity to speak with this fascinating songwriter about the new experience of playing in the band.
"I wanted a real band behind me — not a studio entity…"
— Tori Amos
BMG: On "From The Choirgirl Hotel" you chose to play with a band for the first time. Did playing with a band change the way you approached your material?

TA: The new songs were written with a band in mind, but it's interesting because some of the older tunes are getting different arrangements now that I have a band. There were certain songs like The Waitress and Precious Things — ones with clear rhythm — that became easiest to adapt to a full band; others were a little more difficult.


BMG: Is playing in a band an evolution for you, a step up from playing solo piano onstage?

TA: No, not a step up, just a step. I think that knowing I was planning to bring rhythm with me into these songs, I wanted a real band behind me — not a studio entity — to jazz them up. I didn't care about being polite or politically correct, that's not my style. I thought, if I'm going to do this, the piano has to be integrated, and yet not lost in the mix. I didn't want to do a folkie read on anything either because I'm not a folk artist. I knew when I did a noisy record like this, that kick drum was gonna have to be in your stomach.


BMG: Now that you're playing with a band, the comparisons to musician Kate Bush come up even more frequently. What do you say to those comparisons?

TA: Those comparisons have come up since I was 18. She's always been there. She came before me. You respect those who've come before you and she was great at what she did. I feel I took control of my record this time like she did, too. When I walked into the studio the first day, I asked the engineers about all the buttons they had on their machines. "Do they do stuff?" So "stuff" was something I was ready to do. After "Boys For Pele," when I took the piano and harpsichord to the church to record, I knew I was ready for this bigger experience.


BMG: You've said that your miscarriage proved to be a powerful tool in the writing of the new record. How so?

TA: After my miscarriage, I was in shock. I had been in Mommy mode for three months, I thought I was "out of the woods" with the pregnancy, before it was all taken away. I started asking questions at the time about whether I was paying a debt to someone for this. People would say, "It's God's will," or "Things like this always happen for a reason." Then I started wondering, "Where do souls go when they leave the planet?" I'd chase down any deity to get some answers. It was at that time when I was asking all those questions that the songs just started to arrive on my doorstep.


BMG: How do songs come to you? In complete form, or piece by piece?

TA: Sometimes I get one bar or two bars, then I have to spend nine months chasing the rest down. I believe that songs already exist and you pull them down from the sky when you're in a position to see them. Because of my experiences — the ones that make up me — I'll use different symbolism to make those songs distinctly my own. After that, the rewriting and editing are constant. Jackie's Strength and Hotel came to me as Siamese twins. The chorus of Jackie was really the chorus of Hotel so I had to pull them apart. Hotel actually came with three choruses (as hotels do). It took a while to realize that Jackie was a different (song).


BMG: You've been touring constantly since the release of the album last spring. What's next for you?

TA: I think there will be a live and b-side compilation, with nine or ten years of material represented in one kind or another. Some of the things aren't fleshed out enough. I wanted a break from having my work, my writing, put under the microscope one more time. That can be exhausting.


 articles & chat transcripts