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As if Tori Amos could get any cooler

posted by Chrysanthe Tenentes   Apr 04, 2019

I must have been reading the wrong magazines as a teen, because I only recently found out that Tori Amos has been quite open in interviews about being into psychedelics in the 80s and 90s (and I was VERY into both Tori and magazines in the mid-90s). Most of these mentions only live on via old websites where fans painstakingly transcribed the interviews, so to preserve that fanzine quality I’ve left the typos intact. But first, a little primer on Tori, in case you weren’t an alt kid in the 90s.

The flame-haired daughter of a Methodist minister who grew up in Maryland, Tori was a piano prodigy from the age of 2 who left the church behind for music. She moved to Los Angeles in 1984 at the age of 21 and by 1986 was frontwoman to the synthpop group Y Kant Tori Read. The band was a flop by 1989, so in order to fulfill her contract with Atlantic Records she went out on her own. The resulting solo debut, Little Earthquakes, included a song honestly portraying her rape, alongside many solid, singalong-worthy tracks. She was a bit more raw, confessional, and vulnerable than the other female singer/songwriters who came up in the 90s, and thusly became a goddess among alternative rock-listening girls of my post gen-X cohort. You may just want to cue up Boys for Pele now (the third track off her 1996 album, Father Lucifer, was said to be written after an ayahuasca journey) . Ok, onto the drugs.

tori-Q-magazine.png

From a Q magazine article in 1998:

“Yeah, there was a period in the late ’80s where I was working with different shaman,” she says. “Myself and a friend Beene would take Iowaska - but it wouldn’t be in the liquid form, it would be a freeze-dried pill - and mushrooms. Some of those trips were eighteen hours long and I’ll never forget, once I ended up sitting by the bush trying to ask the flowers why they didn’t like me. It’s like, Why can’t I be your friend? I was crawling out of my skin at that time. In my twenties I was really…I was just losing my mind.”

In Esquire UK in 1999, when asked if she’d done hallucinogens lately:

Not very recently. I have Datura in my garden, but my gardener told me that some people oversteep it in water and then it’s poison and you die. I did a few 18-hour trips with a Shaman in the canyons in LA in the 80s. I’m glad I did it. And I’d do extasy journeys with women friends, Things are said that I couldn’t have heard or have said over a cup of coffee.

Q magazine, September 2001:

“It’s not like I’ve never done cocaine but, on the whole, if I can’t see dancing elephants I’m not interested,” she said.

“The drug which had a big effect on me was ayahuasca. It comes from a vine in the Amazon and you ingest it. You know that stuff they take in The Emerald Forest? It’s like that. I was hanging around with some medicine women and they suggested I try it. I was very lucid but felt like I was walking around in Fantasia, having a conversation with myself.

“It isn’t like acid. It’s more emotional, more mental. But it can grab you by the balls and just shove you up against the wall. I’ve been in a room with a woman who was literally trying to bite her own arm off. And this lasted for 15 hours. I wasn’t scared — just scared that I’d make a fool of myself. The funny thing was, I kept laughing and laughing, rather than sitting in the corner being intense. Then, every so often, I’d say, I’m in a really rough patch. And one of the medicine women would come over and reassure me that everything was going to be alright…

“I haven’t taken it in a couple of years now. You can only really do it once in a blue moon. But the wild thing is that sometimes I only have to smell something and I’m right back there again, high as a kite.”

Apparently I just needed access to UK magazines, which were certainly hard to come by in mid-90s Vermont. Also, this feels like the right place to thank Becky G. for giving me a tape in calc class (fall 1995?), titled “Becky made a tape for you / and gave you Tori Amos.” I would love to close this post with a scan of the Polaroid of me, wearing a classic Ben & Jerry’s tee, posed with Tori on her summer 1998 tour when I won tickets to a soundcheck and meet-and-greet before the show. Still likely one of the most surreal moment of my life. She told me she liked my name. Thanks to my local radio station WEQX for the tickets and the memory.