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MUSIC : She's Taking Pain and Her Piano on the Road : Tori Amos is touring to promote her second album. She talks about what's really 'Under the Pink.'

August 25, 1994|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Tori Amos, the Princess of Pain on Piano, will fill the Arlington Theater in Santa Barbara on Sunday night. Amos, with the Peg Bundy red hair and a much stronger work ethic, is touring in support of her second album, "Under the Pink."

Born Myra Ellen Amos on Aug. 22, 1963, to a strict Methodist minister in North Carolina, she was a child prodigy on piano. Writing songs at 4 when most other girls were going through their Barbie phase, Amos received a musical scholarship to the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore at age 5. Kicked out for the inevitable creative differences at age 11, she toured piano bars in Washington and Baltimore, playing old standards for old geezers.

Next, she tried the rock star thing in L.A. for a few years, released a rock album that flopped in 1988, then moved to England. Her "Little Earthquakes" album in 1992, went gold, garnering all sorts of complimentary adjectives from the press, heavy rotation on MTV and a bushel of fawning fans who hang on every word in lieu of hanging themselves. Her bio speaks of "outrage and sensuality," "oppression and self-liberation" and "innocence and experience." Amos spoke for herself during a recent phone interview.

So you've been playing as much as those old blues dudes?

Tonight I'm doing my sixth show in a row, and my 109th show since February. I'll be touring until Christmas, then after that, I dunno.

Did it blow your mind to turn 30, and also, are you going to play on your birthday this year?

I'm going to be 31, and I'm in the best place I've ever been in my life. I'm feeling very independent, and that's a very strong feeling. I'm not playing on my birthday this year, but I have before.

Who goes to a Tori Amos show, a lot of serious women in black?

No, not just them; everybody goes. It's pretty equal between men and women.

I read this interview you did in BAM and the guy ended up talking twice as much as you did. What's up with that?

Well, sometimes, that's how it works. I've done these things before. Sometimes I even get a new question.

Do guys try to hit on you after the show?

Of course they do, but it's not a problem. My fans are different. It's more of a respect thing--they respect me and I respect them. If a guy brings me flowers, I look at it as a token of respect.

On your "God" song, you suggest the Almighty needs a female co-pilot. So you're saying God is not a woman?

I'm talking about the Christian conception of God, and he's definitely a male. If anyone ever studied Christian mythology, it's pretty obvious that God doesn't lactate, and you can see that this is a patriarchy. He definitely needs a babe to give him some advice. Hey, I got no problems giving him advice.

No band, it's just you and a piano on the road?

Look, I make a lot of money and I could afford a band. But if I had a band, every show would be the same, and I improvise every show. Unless you've had players you've been with for a long time, when you improvise, it's a bleeping train wreck--that's what it's going to be 95% of the time. With a band, you have to be very rehearsed, and you can't add anything at the spur of the moment.

What do you expect people to get from one of your shows?

A sense of freedom. You guys in the press get jaded by talking to all these rock stars, but for me, playing is just part of the gig. You're either a road dog or you're not. I mean, Metallica doesn't have to be out there, but they are. Plus, I have a nine-foot piano and none of them have anything that big. I'm not doing this for the money, it goes beyond that.

Is there anything distinctly Southern about your music?

The romanticism in general, I think, because there was something until just recently that was Southern about sitting on the porch smelling the honeysuckle, drinking some tea with some mint in it. There's something very much Southern in that.

How did you like living in L.A.?

L.A. was a trip, all right. I went through my band phase and learned how to tease my hair. I was there 6 1/2 years, which was long enough. I moved to England because no one wanted to know about me in L.A.

You have Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails on your album, harmonizing quite sweetly and not screaming. Won't that spoil his image?

He doesn't just scream all the time. Trent's a very deep cat.

Can music change the world?

If the world wants to be changed, it can be. But I think it's a bit arrogant to try to change people without respecting their opinions.

What's most misunderstood about you?

That I'm depressed.

The bio sheet for your first album was quite elaborate, while the new one is merely a single sheet. Why?

I told them the sophomore record would have to stand on its own without a lot of hype. Of course, they listened to me. We have a very clear relationship.

Do redheads have more fun?

I dunno. I'm a dyed redhead.

Details

* WHAT: Tori Amos.

* WHERE: Arlington Theater, 1317 State St., Santa Barbara.

* WHEN: 8 p.m.

* COST: $20.50.

* ETC.: Call 963-4408.

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