Hear Richard Kingsmill's most awkward interview ever

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Richard Kingsmill opens up about his fascinating interview with the great Tori Amos.

Tori Amos is a loony. That’s pretty much what I thought after 10 minutes of speaking with her. But the rest of the interview simply painted a picture of an artist who no longer felt like playing the game. Not just with me, but the whole media circus that surrounds any musician these days.

Tori Amos is honest both in her songwriting and in interviews. She’s sung about traumatic experiences in her life – an instance of sexual assault committed by a fan after one of her shows inspired ‘Me and a Gun’ off her debut album, Little Earthquakes.

She has also spoken openly about how religion (her father is a Methodist minister), dreams, food and relationships have fed her art.

Born 22 August 1963, Tori (real name Myra Ellen Amos) was always destined for a life in music. A child prodigy, she won a scholarship to study classical piano at a Baltimore Conservatory at the age of just five.

She graduated from high school in 1981, voted both Homecoming Queen and Most Likely To Succeed (Female).

In July 1998, I had the chance to speak with her for the first time. We only had 20 minutes to cover as much of her career as possible, plus talk about her new album, From the Choirgirl Hotel.

The preceding years had been pretty chaotic and eventful for Amos. There was constant touring over ’95/’96. A relationship break-up with her partner of eight years, Eric Rosse. A miscarriage and then marriage in 1998 to Mark Hawley, her sound engineer.

She sounded tired from the outset. She obviously had had some trouble with previous interviews and recent articles written about her. That wasn’t immediately apparent though. I never found out what exactly made her so wary and weary from the word go, but by the halfway point she was requesting this interview be played on triple j unedited. The desire for accurate representation when talking to the press seemed imperative to her.

Normally, I would scoff at such a request. The idea of playing a 20 minute interview straight to air not only went against all the agreed notions of good radio, it also was something I’d never done before – and have not done since.

But this interview was different.

She obviously wanted to be understood and not mocked. Anyone can respect that. And for me, the ongoing task during the conversation was to try and gain her trust and to find her headspace so she could feel understood to express herself further. 

I think what really took place was a venting of frustration towards interviewers past, present and future. Maybe she got the chance to tell me everything about the interview process she despised.

The interview couldn’t have been edited fairly for either of us. The silences – the most telling part of most interviews – had to exist to feel the tension and awkwardness between us. After speaking briefly with her manager, I was put through to Tori. This is the conversation that went to air, from the time she answered to the time the line went dead.

Hear Richard Kingsmill's infamous interview with Tori Amos on The J Files podcast.

This article originally appeared in Richard Kingsmill's 2002 book The J Files Compendium

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