Riff Raff Interviews TORI AMOS—Believe it!
This past February singer-songwriter Tori Amos released The Beekeeper, her eighth studio album and most apicultural effort to date. Bees this, bees that–except it’s not really about bees. In conjunction with the record, Amos’s autobiography Piece by Piece hit shelves around the same time. The book was co-written by ex-Village Voice music editor Ann Powers, who helped Amos explore the intricacies of her songwriting process. Only some of the book is about bees, but enough that it warrants mention.
Amos performs Wednesday August 17 at Jones Beach and Friday August 19 at the PNC Center, but you know Riff Raff–we gets the pre-concert scoop. Exclusive.
You worked with Ann Powers on your book–she used to edit the music section here.
I approached Ann, and we began to decide, wow, a conversation between two women that have very different perspectives in the music business–[that] could give people a backstage pass into this world which would cover creativity, being a mom, the issues that women have to face when they’re working and then want to be moms, and then when you become a mom, the responsibility and still trying to be 100% committed to your creativity, and then how do you survive the music business. She came out and hung out on the road with me for about three weeks, on Scarlet’s Walk, and this is where we’d sit in the bus and talk.
Did Ann ever get sorta annoying?
Well the thing about Ann is that she’s vicious but fair. And when I say that, when I say vicious, I mean with her pen. There is an elegance and a grace also with Ann that you also must have in the same statement, if you’re gonna say ‘vicious but fair.’
I wanted somebody who I felt could be tough and yet coming from the compassionate heart. Ann says to me, “Listen, you’re writing this work, this album”–I hadn’t entitled it yet–“How poignant if we could document the creative process to see an inception of a project and see the different stages and levels that it goes through to finally become what it will become.”
Did Ann write any of the songs on your record?
Oh no, of course not. Oh no no no no no. As a songwriter, I’m sort of a seahorse. Don’t they mate with themselves?
No I think they kill their mates.
Seahorses don’t kill their mates! Do they? The men have babies.
The men have the babies, but the women always kill the men.
The men don’t kill–the women don’t kill the men!
I’m sorry, you’re right. I get all these animals mixed up anymore.
Wait a minute. Seahorses I don’t think–
It’s a praying mantis.
It’s a praying mantis. I’m a minister’s daughter. I’m staying away from praying. As a songwriter, I join with the creative force. But I’m the sole songwriter.
Have you thought of doing a record called The Praying Mantis-keeper?
It’s scary, because as a woman, number one, I don’t see myself killing my mate, or chopping his head off after sex. You follow me?
I think so. You’re basically saying you would never really kill anyone unless you sorta had to, as a songwriter.
As a lioness force. As a lioness who’s protecting her cubs.
I’m glad we cleared that up.
But bees, we have to be clear. The drones do get pushed out of the hive. But it is a matriarchal society. But The Beekeeper wasn’t about us being like bees in every aspect. It is about that the bee represented in the ancient feminine mysteries sacred sexuality. Because the worker bee, which is female, goes and joins with the organ of the flower, then of course takes the nectar, pollinates, goes back to the hive, they create honey by regurgitating.
I believe you.
To me, the creativity that comes out of the worker bee and the sexuality aspect in Christianity, as you know, sexuality became associated with Magdalene, who was thought of as the prostitute, not as a prophet, because it was not profitable. And I’ve been trying to corollate those three words–prostitute, prophet, profitable–from the early Fathers of the Church.
Have you heard about that mystery book The DaVinci Code?
Oh yeah yeah, I’ve read that.
When you were reading it, did you know what was going to happen at the end?
Personally I thought the ending was quite surprising.
I’d be curious to see what Ann would have to say about this. We had a chuckle about The DaVinci Code just because this information has been out there for a while. And yet it seems to not be able to penetrate to the masses. You have kinds of genealogists and historians who have been writing about this stuff for a long time. Dan Brown was able to collect these nuggets of information and put it into a story form that the masses could ingest.
Which is brilliant.
You have to commend that. You have to give Dan Brown his due.
Do you think your record is better than The DaVinci Code?
Well I would never get into that. That’s like saying one piece of artwork from one artist is better than another. You’re saying that a Matisse is better than a Chagall.
Really though your record is better than The DaVinci Code, right?
But they’re such different works, you know what I mean?
Well you’ll at least admit that your record is better than Angels & Demons, right?
I didn’t read Angels & Demons, because I can’t get into this. We should get into shoes. That’s like saying that Louboutin is better than Sergio Rossi.
That’s true though.
No I like Sergio Rossi shoes! Also I have both of them.
Either way, I think it’s really fascinating how all this information was out there, and then it finally made its way into public consciousness via The DaVinci Code, and then ultimately better via The Beekeeper.
You’re being very kind about it, but he doesn’t write music, and I don’t write these kinds of book narratives. I’m not a book writer, I’m a musician. This is my form. But I will say, if people were inspired by The DaVinci Code, they need to go read the Gnostic Gospels, they need to go read some of this information that inspired that book.
Would you consider doing some sort of collaboration with Dan Brown?
I know you seem very focused on the Dan Brown thing, but the point is he helped pave the way for the masses to be open to more artists that have been singing this tune for a long time.
I’m just saying his books would be better if you helped him write his books.
I can’t do–that’s not my job. You know what, maybe you should collaborate with Dan Brown.
Only under the condition that we always work while The Beekeeper, which is superior to The DaVinci Code, play in the background.
You know, Dan Brown has sent me a very warm message. He has sent messages through the publisher that he acknowledges and honors the music, and I received that with a smile.
It makes sense that he would respect your work–the work of a superior.
I can’t go through with this anymore.