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The orchestra doesn’t wait for you. It’s like being on a train speeding at a hundred miles an hour – if you fall off, they can’t stop!
Sarah Kirkup spoke with Tori for the venerable classical music magazine Gramophone and the resulting article was posted on October 1st. In it, Tori discusses the making of Gold Dust, reworking songs for the record and performing with the Metropole. At the end of the piece, Gramophone has also included five songs from the record, with little quips about each from Tori.
Mon 1st October 2012
To Tori Amos, her songs aren’t just songs – they’re women. ‘They’ve only ever been women,’ she says emphatically. ‘Some of them might have different sexual preferences, but they’re always female.’ Not only that, you wouldn’t want to mess with any of them: ‘Mutiny will happen if I choose a favourite,’ Amos says, in all seriousness.
Thus the decision to take existing songs – or ‘song creatures’ as Amos calls them – and orchestrate them for her new album, ‘Gold Dust’, was not one to be taken lightly. ‘You have to get a sense of the soul of the original – what’s her tone and geometric shape? It’s no different to what an interior designer does – you need to study the architecture of the building before you go in and do a remake.’ Some songs didn’t lend themselves to the process: ‘When you look at the structure of the songs on the album, they’re built to handle something like this,’ she says. ‘”Cornflake Girl” isn’t – she’s not designed like that.’ Other songs, such as Amos’s hit record ‘Silent All These Years’, have only had minimal tweaking: ‘She didn’t want a huge remake,’ says Amos, ‘but she wanted to be brought into the 21st century.’
‘Gold Dust’ has been two years in the making. In October 2010, Amos was invited to play with the Metropole Orchestra in the Netherlands. This was the orchestra with whom Amos would record ‘Night of Hunters’, an album of original songs based on the works of classical composers, and her first on Deutsche Grammophon. ‘There was a chemistry that had been developing with the Metropole in rehearsals,’ recalls Amos. ‘Alex Buhr from DG was there and he said, “I recognise these songs but they’re different – we must document this”. And that’s when the idea came to make a record.’
Amos worked closely on the orchestrations with John-Philip Shenale (or ‘JPS’ as she calls him), her long-time arranger. ‘We work so well together,’ Amos enthuses. ‘I build the compositions and then talk to JPS about the soul of them, even referencing visual art sometimes. He’ll then go away and work around the piano/vocal recording. We’ll talk about what he’s done and I’ll suggest more woodwind here – woodwind have a magic quality I think – or more brass there. Then he does a demo and sends it back to me. After that, there’ll be one more revision and usually that’s it.’
The full forces of the Metropole Orchestra were at Amos’s disposal – woodwind and brass sections, strings, percussion and harp. ‘I’ve had very little harp in my work,’ muses Amos, ‘so that seemed like a subtle thing to use, to work it around the piano, and to make sure we’re not crashing into each other.’
The performance two years ago, at the Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam, made a massive impact on audiences – and on Amos herself: ‘The orchestra don’t wait for you,’ she says. ‘It’s like being on a train speeding at a hundred miles an hour – if you fall off, they can’t stop!’
The exhilaration of playing with a live orchestra is about to be repeated with Amos’s ‘Gold Dust Orchestral Tour’, which starts today, October 1, in Holland and ends in Berlin on October 15, taking in a gig at London’s Royal Albert Hall on October 3. On each occasion, Amos is accompanied by the Metropole Orchestra under Jules Buckley, the same forces with whom she made the recording. ‘I was playing the piano this morning, looking out the window at the Royal Albert Hall,’ she confides, ‘and my future self was looking back at me saying, “You practise girl!”’. This is one train Amos clearly has no intention of falling off…
‘Although the energy is similar to the original song, the instrumentation for “Flavor” is very different’
‘There’s something that happens once the bridge begins – the “circles” part – it’s much more technicoloured now than it ever was; it’s not just synths and strings –there’s timpani, too’
‘Very different altogether from the original!’
‘This has really changed energetically from the original. So many other instruments are involved now, and it’s a much more detailed and involved story’
‘I actually wrote this while it was being recorded, so the vocal and piano parts were married in the mixing process. It’s taken me years to learn it’