On May 19, 2009, "Abnormally Attracted To Sin," the tenth Tori Amos studio album, was released on Universal Republic, and she recently began a world tour.
The packaging shows Amos in a variety of guises, photographed in various rooms of a plush, cream-colored Victorian hotel room, by glamour expert Karen Collins. The sound of the album is typically detailed and wide, dominated by dark, rich reds and hints of silver. "I want to make audio mescaline," Tori has said.
Q: Let’s start with all the characters that you’ve channeled in your music and photos. What’s the appeal of all this transformation, and how does the process of creating these archetypes start?
A: Well, the more I studied mythology, the more I began to really understand that we as women, first of all, carry a multitude of these ancient character types – or archetypes – in our genes. And as I started allowing myself to take in some of these ancient mythological creatures through my music, through my work, what it did was it allowed me to find that in myself. Not that it’s doesn’t happen to be there in the genetics, but through channeling it creatively, you’re able to step out of the image you have of yourself, and the image that other people or your friends may have of you.
Q: How do you come up with these characters? Do they start off as little voices in your head? How do these archetypes evolve and how do you style them? It’s one thing to have a character in mind, but how do you literally translate this into your wardrobe and styling?
A: I work with this stylist called Karen Binns. She grew up in America, but she travels the globe and is inspired by cultures everywhere. She’s styled the New York show, etc.. She has been a huge inspiration, turning me on to designers that aren’t always the ones that everybody talks about. She knows almost every designer that’s out there. And so she brings me these things on shoots, she’ll bring multitudes of things, and so we’ll work with the photographer with these options to find what’s right. And sometimes, something doesn’t look right on the rack, but once we have the lighting and the hair and make-up is right, then the transformation really takes shape. And it’s all about the music – Karen always wants to listen to the music to hear what’s there emotionally, to begin to understand, well, what side of me is being reflected at the time. I think she sees that there’s more than one side to her friend. I think we as women have so many different sides to us.
Q: Who are your favorite designers?
A: Well, it changes. I’m a big fan of Viktor and Rolf. I always find something in their collection that usually makes me feel touched. Sort of like a Bordeaux as opposed to a burgundy. I was always taught that burgundy works for sex, and Bordeaux for intimacy. And to me, the best sex always starts with the intimate.
Q: What do you wear at home when you’re just hanging out?
A: I’ve picked things up in my travels. I don’t feel like anything I’m wearing right now, I wouldn’t wear back stage. I don’t feel like I have a dumpy set clothes for my dumpy days, although I have comfortable clothes. As far as designers go, I’m a big fan of McQueen. I went quite crazy with of a few of his pieces in the latest album shoot. You know, Karen was with me, and I would try things on, and she would say, “Just because it’s cute doesn’t mean you should wear it."
Q: Would you describe your style as eclectic?
A: Well, yeah I have a mix. But Karen styled the last tour – note the beaded jumpsuits. There’s a beaded jumpsuit that’s like an American flag, which I wore on the fourth of July two years ago, which was sort of Freddie Mercury from Queen meets David Bowie. I really admire the people who do that beadwork. I love the strength of their hands, because people’s hands cramp when they do that elaborate hand beading.
Q: So your style icons are people like Bowie, Freddie Mercury, and you’ve got a lot of old Hollywood glamour-meets-fetish in your latest photos. Who are some of your other style icons?
A: Barbara Stanwyck. I love the fact that in my mind she always looked like she had a padded-shoulder suit on.
Q: Who have you most enjoyed working with, and on what projects? What were some of your favorite moments?
A: Well, I really enjoyed with Karen Collins, the photographer, on this latest shoot a lot! She’s the woman that shot the latest photos for the jacket. Her lighting, the way that she framed the room….why I liked her was because she doesn’t see women in a vulgar way. And when I was trying to look for photographers with Chelsea, who is one of my managers – we’ve been picking photographers together for years – we couldn’t believe how many photographers saw women as, well you know, trashy. And you know, there’s nothing wrong with a hot woman. You know, hot. Where I’m just like, wow. But you know, I’m not a bisexual, I’m just not. However, when I look at a woman who is hot like that I feel the rain come down, and if I can just stare for ten minutes, then I have this glow on my shoulders. Most photographers (well not the ones I was working with) except for Karen, who got it – can’t deal with all these women characters, all those options.
Q: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
A: Straddling a piano stool in a beautiful beaded gown…or in a dress that’s couture. Straddling is a challenge in couture. Technically, I’m a bull rider in high heels.
Q: Do you go to any fashion shows?
A: Oh, once in a while. I went to a McQueen show years and years ago. But I’ve become a hermit. I did play a Viktor and Rolf in show in Paris, a few years ago. I had such a great time. I love Bernard Shandren. The beaded gown, on the cover of my new album, that’s one of his pieces.
Q: Tell me a bit about what your days are like? How do you balance everything?
A: We travel at night on the buses. This will be our 5th world tour so there is a routine. Usually I do radio commercials or something like that, in the morning. So I get up early, and onto the bus, and quickly get into hair and make-up. Sometimes I still have makeup on from the night before, so I just need a quick touch-up, because I didn’t take it off before I went to sleep. Then once I do that, I get there before lunch. Start getting into performance mode, and start getting hair and make-up ready to get on stage. It’s not simple.
Q: Right, people need to see you from far away. Stage make-up is required.
A: Right. And I think you have to take the approach that ‘they’re seeing you in a different way’. Face to face in the daylight, you have to walk into a radio station and meet people close-up and they have to meet you in day make-up. But, when you’re beginning to prepare for a show, especially as a female, it requires a completely different approach. And it takes a while to do all that – it’s a lot of work. And a big meal is gross. Three o’clock, and I won’t eat again until after the show. I have to have a completely empty stomach, in order to play and sing. Because the diaphragm, it goes down. You need so much breathe control in order to play like that…
Then we do sound-checks for two hours – we have to work with the main song for the show. And then I do a photo call for the media. I always prefer to do a photo call not in the show itself because it doesn’t help the publication if they can’t get the right shot, and it really upsets the audience if you have all these photographers making a circus out of the whole thing. So I always do a photo call for the media after sound-check, because I’m all ready, I have my make-up on. So I’ll just put on the dress or gown for that evening and shoot in that. I go over the set list with the band, make sure we’re all on the same page. I have a lockdown period, with no conversations with outside people coming in. You know, no phones or anything.
Q: Do you have time to exercise?
A: No, just on stage. You know, it’s a workout. My energy for the show, you know, I love performing. It’s uplifting. It’s just a magical experience. I believe in Tao. I don’t believe in living a Puritanical life. I believe in the Self. I eat what I want, but I don’t need anything that’ll make me hurt the next day. Except for my high heels…
Images courtesy of Tori Amos and the Fashion Spot forums.