Saturday 10 December 2016

Q&A: Tori Amos

Published 21/10/2011 | 05:00

Hello, Tori. So it's great to finally speak to you.

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Hi there. Sorry you've been waiting. Don't worry -- you'll get your full interview time. I won't cut you short.

Well, that's really sweet of you. Anyway, your new album is a Celtic song-cycle inspired by Bach, Chopin and Debussy and produced in conjunction with classical label Deutsche Grammophon. Not exactly going after the Lady Gaga market, are you?

I think Deutsche Grammophon saw the dangerous side of it. It was going to be a challenge. I've had a successful career. But if you get things wrong, you get it really wrong -- as in publicly. To avoid that, I knew there had to be a lot of research. I thought it could be done.

Your daughter Natashya sings on the record. She's also studying at Sylvia Young Theatre School in London (Amos lives in Cornwall with her husband). Are you happy for her to follow in your footsteps?

It's a brutal world, the music business. It's not fair for me to say 'you can't do it,' that's not right. I've told her all the down sides; you expose yourself, instead of making music for the joy of it you open yourself to being criticised. She says, 'well you do it'. And I say, 'yeah -- and I'm telling you I don't know if you really want that'. She says that it is her decision, which of course it is.

You've sold 15 million albums. Surely you are immune to criticism by now?

It can be very destructive -- if you start reading the good reviews you have to bad the bad ones. So you can't read the good ones.

Alongside the new album you're working on a musical for the UK's National Theatre. What has that experience been like?

I have to tell you, it really hit me. As a composer you hear criticism, yes -- especially live. But in this [the theatre] world, it's just so different. I've been at auditions and the things you hear -- 'she's too old', 'she's not the right body type'. There is more criticism there than acceptance.

It's 20 years since the release of Nirvana's Nevermind. Your cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit gave a lot of people goose bumps. Was it nerve-wracking to tackle such an iconic song?

There are certain pieces where it is almost as if the piano grabs me by the ankle and says, 'there is a different perspective on this, the composition can hold it'. Certain things can handle a different interior design. When you are able to bring a different viewpoint I usually get a signal. The Bossendorf [Tori's choice of piano] ... she will wink at me and say, 'you should give me a shot at this'.

Armand Van Helden's remix of Professional Widow was your first number-one single. It's quite a radical re-imagining. What was your response when you first heard it? [Amos is rumoured not to be enamoured of Van Helden's hard-house interpretation]

It was different, right? I remember hearing it for the first time on a bus crossing the States. We knew we were going to listen to it. So there was a margarita party going on. There we were, on a bus dancing up and down through the mid-west. I appreciated what it was. I understood. It's such a different art form, the construction and putting back together. It isn't something I do. At the same time, they couldn't have done it without the original.

Ed Power

Night of Hunters is out now. Tori Amos plays Grand Canal Theatre, Dublin, on November 9

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