Tori Amos covered "Frozen" by Madonna on May 29, 2014, in Amsterdam. Tori is truly the world’s greatest lounge singer.
Tori Amos covered "Nothing Else Matters" by Metallica in Nottingham on May 14, 2014. Thanks to Adrian Steele for filming this rare performance!
Charlotte’s Gainsbourg’s cover of “Hey Joe” (originally by Jimi Hendrix) from the Nymphomaniac soundtrack. Produced by Beck.
Arcade Fire - Here Comes the Night Time (a 22-minute musical film directed by Roman Coppola with performances of 3 new songs: “Here Comes the Night Time,” “We Exist,” and ‘“Normal Person”), premiered on September 29, 2013. The film features cameo appearances by James Franco, Ben Stiller, Bono, Michael Cera, Bill Hader, Zach Galifianakis, Rainn Wilson and Aziz Ansari.
(an excerpt from The Myth of Tori - Chapter 6: To Venus and Back)
Claim your pain
I have a really good shrink but I find I don’t need her as much. When I was working with her, it was like beading a necklace. One little bead at a time. The idea that you just have a couple of sessions and brush the dirt off your hands and say, “All right, that’s taken care of,” doesn’t work. Sometimes I go to see her, just like a check-up at a regular doctor. It’s good knowing there is someone you can talk to. She knows things other people don’t know.
Violence is always violence. The circumstances might vary, but what I felt when I was raped, and what the people that were affected by a war like the one of old Yugoslavia have lived is surely the same. When you’re abused, there’s a time to cry, to be looked after, and stop the bleeding. But there will be a time that you have to look after yourself. I believe women have to get more powerful. They are always looking for the prince on the white horse or the dark prince who can lighten their dark sides.
I don’t find personal relationships hard. Believe it or not, I have a sense of humor. Men have their own battles. To be honest, their lives spin around women. Take a look at history. In the end, it’s always about who can screw the daughter. Society always allowed men to do what they wanted to do: drink, fight, rape, screw. Enough room for the dark side. At the same time, women would wait, frightened: “When will I be raped, robbed or abused?” Some of them turn as hard as nails because of that fear. You can’t reach them anymore. I was like that as well. But physically I’m in reach, of course. I mean, that penis has to get in somewhere.
One thing that bothers me is when women are cruel to other women. They become that way when their inner self is wounded. They’re almost not accessible. You can always seduce a man, but a woman will try to break that force. A woman who’s harsh is like an animal that kills, like a predator.
Women shouldn’t deny their dark side. Sometimes those demons are frightening and sometimes they’re beautiful. You’ll have to approach them. Drink a glass of wine with them, take them for a walk on the beach, examine yourself. When you’ll think about yourself for fifteen minutes a day, very honest and without a lot of criticism, you will get to know your force. Every person is unique. You have to find and respect that unique part in yourself. You can’t expect others to do the work for you. I believe a personality is like a labyrinth where you can make a wonderful journey. And that journey can take a lifetime.
In the past hundred years, issues like rape and incest are being criticized for the first time. Women are allowed to work, have an independent life and can refuse sex. Such an attitude does have its influence on men as well. Sometimes they can’t get their penis up for strong women. But it can turn around in sexual abuse as well. Sometimes after the show, children tell me they’re in an incestuous situation. When they say, “It’s Gods will,” I can cut the culprit’s throat. Abuse isn’t what God was talking about. Absolutely not. Fuck “God’s will.”
I think when you see some of the little girls that I have that have been gang raped, it’s real hard to justify that shit and say, “Her higher self wanted it.” There are a lot of esoterics and shaman that have their opinion, but I think there’s a lot of horse shit in that, because nobody is talking directly to the divine. And you can’t say she was Hitler in a past life. Those things I feel are really weak and naive – try it on somebody else.
I think there is a place where there is the aching heart. We do weep many tears. Because when some people are close to soul death, you’re so cut off from your heart that you can to that to somebody else. It doesn’t justify what you’ve done to somebody else, just because you’re in pain. And I think that it will continue until a generation rises up, claims their pain and says, “I must take the abscess, I must take the poison, and I must take the wound and look at it, and transmute it,” and that’s what the medicine women and medicine men did.
Jung calls this working with your shadow. There are books out there that I recommend for people that want to go into the psyche. Anything by Marion Woodman, powerful stuff. She’s a Jungian. Addiction to Perfection teaches us how to handle our emotions. We’re taught how to balance our checking accounts but not how to scream at the teller. Robert Johnson, he wrote a book called Owning Your Own Shadow, which I think is powerful. It’s about how not to put your monsters on other people or take on other people’s monsters. It’s about power. There’s a book that I’ve just gotten, which seems to be quite fascinating called The Fruitful Darkness by Joan Halifax.
And all this is about opening yourself to different information, checking in with your own instincts, and seeing what feels right and putting aside what doesn’t feel right at the time. When I mention these books, there are zillions of books, but it’s about a quest and about getting up off your ass and being part of the creative process in your own life instead of a blob in front of the TV screen all the time. Balance the TV, people. It’s one thing to enjoy it and it’s another thing to be a servant of it. Because it sucks and it sucks and it sucks your own creativity.
[pre-order The Myth of Tori]
"Popular by Design" - an inspiring song from The Polyphonic Spree's new album, Yes, It’s True, performed live at WFUV
(an excerpt from The Myth of Tori - Chapter 2: Little Earthquakes)
"Me and a Gun"
"Me and a Gun" is based on a personal experience and I wouldn’t talk about it for seven years. After I moved to LA I was raped. It was something I penned up inside me for years. There was an incredible shame that made me feel that I somehow had brought this on. I erected a huge defense around it to hide it somewhere beneath my heart. I became very, very tough. I didn’t go to any kind of help groups and I didn’t deal with it, really.
I saw Thelma and Louise in London and I was frozen as memories came flooding back. I sat in the theater and I literally could not move. I was just a mop. After seeing the film I went off and spent some time by myself. Days, days and days. Processing so much that I hadn’t been able to begin to become conscious about. And it was through gut-wrenching pain – hysteria, I think – that the music began to come. In the quiet, in the silence, being alone. And it’s like a door opened. And I began to open that door and free myself from being a victim in my head.
I couldn’t speak to or be with anybody, so I just went off to one of my secret private haunts that you go to in the world. You just leave everything you know and go. And that’s what I did. And when I came back out again, this song was walking hand in hand with me. I wrote the song that afternoon, and I wrote part of it on the Baker Lou Line going to North London. I was walking in a dream state. I went to the Mean Fiddler that night and I sang it and I’ve been singing it ever since. It became something I had to sing to move forward. I knew that it was time to deal with this.
I don’t talk about the details because I can’t, but it’s freeing to sing that song. I have to go in a trance to sing it. It gets exhausting singing it. But there’s so much going on that nobody talks about, and I just found that out with myself after so many years of not talking. And as I was writing that song I realized the biggest mistake I made was not seeking help from people who understood. Nobody was there for me the night it happened. I hadn’t talked to my mother or anyone about it. She’s aware of what happened, but I never discussed the details. I don’t think she could bear it. I just cut off the experience, not knowing that in doing this I was letting it take control of me inside.
"Me and a Gun" is about forgiving myself. Writing the song has been incredibly healing. My floodgates opened. Thank God I did. I can love again and separate the incident from other relationships. You can carry that with you for the rest of your life, really, and I’ve smashed that by writing the song.
I recorded the song in the studio in one take. The musicians behind the glass were completely speechless. After keeping it locked away for six years, writing about it was freeing. For a long time I was scared of everything. Most of all that I would never be able to take care of myself. Now I’ve learned to love myself and I don’t need anyone to tell me I’m okay. I can tell me I’m okay.
That song – it’s funny how the album was held up ‘til that one got on. That was the last one. That and “China” were the last ones to get on the album. I came out with an EP in the UK first, which was “Me and a Gun” with “Silent All These Years” on it, which got all the airplay in the UK.
With “Me and a Gun,” I hope attackers as well as victims are listening. As well as judges as well as lawyers. I want you to taste in the back of your mouth what it was like to be in the car with the pervert. With my music I go all the way in there emotionally. A lot of people are afraid of what I’m talking about. Abusives always have a hard time hearing from the victims.
I’m not blaming him now, and more importantly I’m not blaming myself. That was the biggest one. When I say “blame him,” I want to clarify that because you have to say at a certain point, “It did happen to me.” It doesn’t justify his actions at all, but I refuse to stay the victim in my head.
You see, I’m coming from a different place. I’m coming from – I’m mad, mad at myself to this day that I didn’t kill the man who raped me that night. You know, the wanting revenge – I can understand all of that, the way the experience of rape is so totally life-changing, totally incapacitating, the way you want to show them what it’s like. But the answer isn’t go kill. The gun is about owning and claiming your anger, claiming yourself as warrior.
People react very differently to it. In my experience, women react very differently to this song. My father loves this song – although my parents are very Victorian and very religious. My father found it was simply necessary to say what rape means. It’s a frontal assault – not only on your body, but on your soul. I think you can write about everything. It depends on the perspective you write it from.
When I wrote it, I didn’t know how many women would respond. One out of every four women who get backstage say that they have had a similar experience, and that they haven’t spoken about it. When I put it out I knew what it was. I didn’t know that I was gonna have to keep talking about rape. It would be nice not to have to talk about it, because I would like to move on, but it stays with me all the time.
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(an excerpt from The Myth of Tori - Chapter 1: From Peabody to Pop, Part 2: The Prodigy)
Things got really confrontational with the people I was studying with. To take you to the next stage they want you to learn to read, but I couldn’t express myself as a kid because I was an ear student. And the whole point is, when you’re a classical pianist, you’ve got to read music. I knew that, but there is really, I think, a way that you have to teach a child. It was the way they taught me that was the mistake. The way they did it was to try to break the ear so that it would force me to read.
The problem was: you see, I had this ear. I was an ear person. They didn’t like me playing the piano by ear but I’ve always been better at following my own feelings. I’ve always trusted my ears. I came in playing by ear and could play almost everything I heard. I could hear anything and play it back to you verbatim. And I would improvise on things, and they don’t like that. They said, “No, no, no! You have to read.”
It was a very good, old school. It wasn’t like, “Okay kids, let’s invent on Bach here.” But suddenly I was told there was a right and wrong way to play. For me, religion was about right and wrong. Methodism teaches you to restrict your emotions. Music was my outlet, and when that freedom of expression became restricted, it stopped being fun.
They didn’t know how to teach that kid. To try and break a kid’s ear so that they’ll learn how to read – and you have to read to be a classical pianist – the way that they went about it made me hate it. They started me with “Hot Cross Buns.” I knew it was all over at the Peabody as soon as they gave me a piece called “Hot Cross Buns.” I was playing the scores of Gershwin and Rodgers and Hart, and suddenly they’re trying to teach me to read music by playing “Hot Cross Buns.” When you go from Gershwin to “Hot Cross Buns” it’s a bit of a shock. I wanted to play Hoagy Carmichael! You don’t take away a kid’s ear with rubbish like “Hot Cross Buns.” I was bored out of my mind. They lost all respect in my eyes when they made me play that.
You don’t understand that this is for your good. “How could it possibly be for my good?” There’s nothing that you could have said to that girl to convince her. She had no desire to do that. “I play because I love to play.” You think you’re being punished.
You don’t take away the thing that was the impetus for this whole thing in the first place. But this was 1968, a really different time. I think it would be different now because people are more aware of child psychology and they’re more aware of how children are people. They have their own thoughts and they’re very aware of what’s going on. They can actually tell us things that we’d never even dream of.
Tori’s mother, Mary Ellen Amos, says, “Learning to read music was the first difficult thing Tori encountered. She used to offer to do her brother’s and sister’s chores if they would play her music for her, because once she’d heard it she could play it by ear. She was in a group of students who were teenagers, and there she was, this little thing whose feet couldn’t reach the pedals.”
[pre-order The Myth of Tori]