Tori Amos interview

The multi-award-winning Tori Amos talks about sin, tour bus horror and surviving the end of civilisation

Interview, Music feature

You’re close friends with fantasy author Neil Gaiman and organised the greatest hits album Tales Of A Librarian by the Dewey Decimal system. Are you a bit nerdy?
Well I may be but my shoe collection is not. I collect them, shoes and books. One day, if all the power goes, if you can track me down, and if you can wear shoes between size 37 and 3 you will have shoes on your feet and books to read. And, trust me, there’s enough light. I have enough sage and s*** to burn and wine to drink. I will keep you alive. Sort of like Jesus and the disciples – you’ll get your bread, wine and stuff to read – but in high heels. You just have to track me down. See, I’m ready for these kinds of blackouts… You know, I got kicked out of the Girl Scouts. So maybe that’s what this is all about. I’m a lioness scout for all my other lionesses.

You’re very prepared.
It’s odd, people come up to me on tour and say, ‘If anyone has it in their bag, you have it.’ But this whole airport [security] thing has really screwed me up, because I used to have the best travel bag. I used to have corkscrews, scissors, everything. You could do a whole manicure-pedicure from my handbag on the way to LA. Not a problem.

Your album title, Abnormally Attracted To Sin, comes from the musical Guys And Dolls, but there it’s sung by the religious character, not the blowsy showgirl.
Yes, she’s a repressed religious girl. I know those very well. It was a jumping-off point; when I saw Guys And Dolls again and I heard that line, I stopped and I knew. I just knew. I’ve just gone into another dimension of what this means.

So you believe in sin?
I believe that the world has been imprinted with the definition of sin by the patriarchal church fathers. I think that’s pretty factual. I am fascinated about how people define sin for themselves.

Would you sing about sin if you weren’t a preacher’s daughter?
Probably not. My father says if he were a dentist, I’d be just screwed. I was brought up, not just with a religious side, but [also seeing] the church from the inside out, meeting the bishops, meeting the district superintendents; some of them are quote-unquote nice people, but they believe that a patriarchal god should tell women what they should feel right about and not right about with regard to their bodies. I just don’t get it.

You’ve signed books at the San Diego comic convention. The comic world isn’t always empowering to women, so how did you feel there?
It can be, absolutely. What we put out [Comic Book Tattoo Tales] is a very strong work. Yes, some of the songs I write are about women in abusive situations. But there are a lot of demeaning things that go on in tour buses in rock ’n’ roll – with enemas – but that doesn’t mean that I don’t go out in my tour bus enema-free. You will be safe on my bus. No enemas. You know that story, right? For a while, some of the heavy metal rock bands were known to get girls backstage, and it wasn’t to have a romantic evening; it was to tie them up and shove enemas in them and see how long it lasts before they explode.

Gah! That’s horrific.
Oh yeah. Famous. What I’m saying to you is, we’re surrounded by all kinds of demeaning behaviour in the music business or the comics business, but that doesn’t mean, as a woman, you bow out of it. You put out work that inspires women to want to be a part of that. When you’re drawn to people, you’re not even able to conceive of how demeaning they can be. Because you’re attracted to the dark side. It’s just meanness. There’s been that all along, but I think that as a women in the music business, you refuse to hold a place for that. You hope you have a place for people to come and feel good about themselves, to face whatever they need to.

OK. Well, thanks for talking to us!
Just remember: in 10 years, if the world gets bad, track me down. Just make sure your foot fits size 37 to 38.

I’ll bring wine for your stash.
Abnormally Attracted To Sin is available in stores.

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