Tori Amos Details Her Forthcoming 'Venus' Set 

                BY CHUCK TAYLOR

                NEW YORK -- When singer/songwriter Tori Amos went into the
                studio several months ago to record a few new tracks for a
                planned collection of B-sides and oddities, little did she know
                she'd step out not only with a full album's worth of new material, but
                also with a second set packed with live performances.

                The resulting double-album, "to venus and
                back," Amos' fifth project on Atlantic, is set for
                release Sept. 21. It features live renditions from
                the recent tour supporting her "from the choirgirl
                hotel" album and 12 new self-penned/produced
                tracks, which are tagged with the intense,
                soul-searching lyrical textures and complex
                melodies that the platinum artist's steadfast
                base of fans has come to live and breathe.

                For the unexpected studio album, Amos says that she found
                herself confronted with a free flow of inspiration and decided to run
                with it.

                "I had originally thought we were tracking stuff for the B-sides
                album, and all of these songs kept coming," she says. "The writing
                gods decided to stop by, and you try and be there when the muse
                decides she wants to hang out with you."

                "To venus and back" will be previewed with an
                as-yet-undetermined track to hit radio Aug. 6, with a commercial
                single likely to follow. Both are aimed to coincide with Amos'
                25-date, co-headlining tour with Alanis Morissette, opening Aug.
                18 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and wrapping Sept. 25 in Los
                Angeles.

                Fans and proponents of the artist have long held her live gigs to be
                the benchmark of Amos' full creative sense of expression,
                particularly given her signature rhythm-and-writhe performance
                style, which must be seen to be fully appreciated.

                "The show that we did was about an hour and 40 minutes every
                night. We're trying to get the people that have come to the show a
                semblance of what they saw," Amos says of the album, though she
                acknowledges that it's a tough task picking which performances
                best fit the project. 

                "I hope to get 11 or 12 songs on the album, but 'Waitress' is
                9&fraction; minutes long, and 'Precious' is seven minutes long.
                We'll have to see which ones make the semifinals."

                A BAND IN TOW 

                The new studio album marks the first time Amos has recorded with
                her road band, in this case a team of four musicians she shared a
                bus with for nine months. The five play on the live album, as well.

                "You get to know who likes the pizza crust and which one likes
                'Teletubbies' at that point," Amos says. "Something happens when
                you spend that much time with people.

                "It became quite exciting, because we had no idea we were
                cutting a new record. It just grabbed me by the throat, really," she
                adds. "We ended up working around the clock and putting it
                together pretty quickly."

                Themes on "venus" range from a troubling anthem about
                unavoidable father and daughter ties on "Bliss" to a whirlwind Los
                Angeles-based fantasy about the decade past in "Glory Of The
                '80s," from which the album title is derived.

                "Looking back, I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else in the
                '80s than as a working musician in L.A.," Amos notes. "You just
                can't match that kind of decadence."

                HIDDEN BEHIND THE HEART

                "No one event shaped this record," she says of the full body of the
                project. "I sort of just let my observations take over. I realized that
                as a songwriter, you're not always going to have those moments
                where you're flying over Afghanistan and seeing fires and being
                told it's a war. You have to keep taking adventures and exposing
                yourself, but there are things in daily living that hide behind
                everybody's heart, and that's always fascinated me."

                            Instrumental sounds are even more
                            experimental than with previous efforts,
                            bordering on industrial in some cases,
                            alongside the traditional mass of sometimes
                            joyous, often deliberately chaotic, vocal layers
                            that define Amos.

                            That stamp is all the stronger with her behind the
                            boards as producer of the project. "Being my
                            own producer, no one can buy me to turn on my
                artist," she says wryly. "I also understand how they work with
                budgets, so I realize how not to get ripped off that way."

                Amos contends that making a record is very much a group effort
                that, for her, is not a single-minded mode of thinking. 

                "It's not like I don't have a team of musicians and engineers around
                me that I respect," she says. When one of them has a suggestion,
                "I will literally change my shoes and let the artist leave the room,"
                she adds. "There's the one side who writes songs and spills her
                guts out. Then she leaves, and we have to make it good on the
                other side."

                She will have the opportunity to present much of the new material
                during the upcoming tour with Morissette, which Amos finds an
                appropriate pairing -- but for reasons that have little to do with
                musical matchmaking.

                "I've never done a tour like this before -- with somebody," Amos
                says. "It was actually [Morissette's] idea. She had come to see me
                at Jones Beach [in Long Island, N.Y.], and we had a cup of tea and
                a giggle and got along really well.

                "We share a lot of the same philosophies of putting on a show,
                which is important. I'm talking about the semantics of it, not just the
                music. Having all of these people on the road together is like a
                little town on the road, where you're all part of the same tribe.
                People do it differently, and it's difficult to pull it off with someone
                who doesn't hold the same priorities.

                "I do think we're going to draw people that want an exciting
                evening," she says.

                With her work on the albums nearly done and a tour on the books,
                Amos says she's ready to present her new testaments to her
                public, hoping they'll enjoy it, but with no particular mandate.

                "I have no idea what people think about when they listen to my
                work," she says. "It's one of those things where if I was a fly, I
                probably wouldn't want to be in the room. I just put it out there, and
                people can think what they want."

A Space Odyssey 

Tori offers a travel planner for select new songs on To Venus And Back. 

Suede 

"There's this moment in 'Suede' where [the narrator's] being called 'evil' by this other person because of whatever
she's done to them in their minds. But there's this side of obsession and passion where one party thinks the other
party is doing something to them - and sometimes people aren't always looking at their part in something. In
'Suede,' she knows what she's up to; she knows what she's been doing." 

Concertina 

"Do you ever feel like you walk in a room, and you don't know why, but you're just so uncomfortable you're
crawling out of your skin, even though nobody's touched you physically? That's in 'Concertina,' when you feel like
you haven't excavated enough of your different personalities that when one pops up, you're not sure where it
came from, and you try to hack it out of yourself. It shocks you that you could have this kind of fault, or that
other people could bring it out in you." 

Juarez 

"I read an article about several hundred women in Juarez, Mexico, who had been taken out to the desert and
brutally raped and murdered. When they didn't come home, their brothers would go and look for them, and many
times they'd find nothing. Sometimes they'd find a hair barrette or a sock or something they knew was their
sister's. The authorities haven't really done anything about it they get into this serial-killer theory. I mean, how
much serial can one man indulge in? So as the song started to develop, I really began taking the voice of the
desert, singing in that perspective." 

Bliss 

"Sometimes, when you express thoughts to people, you leave it open for somebody to tromp in there and start
tearing it down. I sing, 'Father I killed my monkey,' to lead off the song, which explains that sometimes you even
destroy your own so they can't excavate it. When I was growing up, I started becoming very secretive about my
thoughts and the sensory world I would go to, because there's a lot of mind control that goes on constantly.
People wanting to access: 'What are you thinking?' So sometimes I'd have my own defense going, which would be
to look them straight in the eye and make them think I've killed my imagination. But it's like, I'll take control." 


p. 68 - sidebar 

Following Her Bliss 

Despite Tori's "angry woman"reputation, her newfound contentment shouldn't come as a total surprise: Each of her
albums contains a song or two that's decidedly lighter fare, though each has a uniquely Tori-esque spin on what
constitutes "light." Behold: 

Album:Y Kant Tori Read
Song: "Pirates"
Premise: A misplaced person dreams of a better future and a place to belong, taking solace in the lights of the
pilferers on the high seas. Most Memorable Lines: "And on a dark night when you feel lonely/And the world just
can't understand you/Pirates, yeah/Pirates." Type Of Happiness: Things may seem bleak now, but Tori is confident
that this condition is just temporary. 

Album: Little Earthquakes
Song: "Happy Phantom"
Premise: A spunky Tori imagines all the forbidden fun she could have as a ghost. Chasing nuns, sleeping in
"strawberry fields" and finding out about Confucius' crossword habits are all part of her plans. Most Memorable
Lines: "So if I die today I'll be the happy phantom/And I'll go wearing my naughties like a jewel." Type of
Happiness: Mischievous, but tempered by doubts about being forgotten by mortal boyfriends or being remembered
all too well in the afterlife by the higher powers. 

Album: Under The Pink
Song: "The Waitress"
Premise: A vindictive Tori spews homicidal vitriol behind the back of an unsuspecting fellow waitress. Most
Memorable Lines: "I want to kill this waitress/I can't believe this violence in mind/And is her power all in her club
sandwich?" Type of Happiness: Of the psychotic nature. Tori may shriek that she "believes in peace Bitch," but we
all know better when she considers a quick killing "an act of kindness." Pure unabashed glee. 

Album: Boys For Pele
Song: "Mr. Zebra"
Premise: A scant minute of jaunty horns and rollicking piano chorts completed by tongue-teasing lyrics
namechecking Kaiser Wilhelm and Moneypenny. Most Memorable Lines: "Ratatouille Strychnine/Sometimes she's a
friend of mine." Type of Happiness: The twisted nursery-rhyme variety. The seemingly innocuous song mentions
"Mr. Zebra" and "Mrs. Crocodile," but underneath its lighthearted surface dwells an animal kingdom that's not so
tranquil. 

Album: From The Choirgirl Hotel
Song: "Raspberry Swirl"
Premise: Sensory overload with pounding piano beats and a heavy bass line. Perfect accompaniment to Tori's blunt
reminder for men about how they can really satisfy their women. Most Memorable Lines: "I am not your senorita/I
am not from your tribe/If you want inside her well/Boy you better make her raspberry swirl." Type of Happiness:
Selfless. By encouraging the practice of, um, giving rather than receiving, Tori communicates invaluable
information meant to increase contentedness among females of the world. 

Annie Zaleski

 October 1999 issue (#135) of Alternative Press (AP)