KT Cloudbusting -- Kate Bush In Her Own Words

Breathing (Album Re-Mix)

``Breathing'' is a warning and plea from a future spirit to try and save mankind and his planet from irretrievable destruction. (1980, KBC 7)


It's about a baby still in the mother's womb at the time of a nuclear fallout, but it's more of a spiritual being, [Kate explains, gesticulating with her hands, drawing a picture in the air to demonstrate].

It has all its senses: sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing, and it knows what is going on outside the mother's womb, and yet it wants desperately to carry on living, as we all do of course.

Nuclear fallout is something we're all aware of, and worried about happening in our lives, and it's something we should all take time to think about. We're all innocent, none of us deserve to be blown up. (1980, Smash Hits)


``Breathing'' and ``Army Dreamers'' are social comment songs, which you ain't really done before, have you?

No. I've thought a lot about the political aspect - this is when people label them as Political Songs. But it's only because the political motivations move me emotionally. If they hadn't, it wouldn't have gotten to me. It went through the emotional centre - when I thought: ``Ah...OW!'' And that made me write.

The nuclear situation is such a real danger, the fact that buttons have been pushed and planes have gone into action. It's something to be scared of, it really is. None of us wants it to happen. We're the innocents. Saying something about it from the heart is not going to change the world or anything, but at least people can think more about it.

It's good that you've got a big following among very young kids and are doing this, cos they'll have to know more than just janet and john books and tiswas soon... [tiswas was a british television programme which was ostensibly made for children, but which eventually attracted a large adult audience, as well. - ied]

So many of them knew, you know. They hear a lot more than the media generally give them. They really understand the song, and I don't think it frightens them, but it really upsets a lot of them. That's good - it's not nice but it's good that that actually got through to them.

When I wrote the song, it was from such a personal viewpoint. It was just through having heard a thing for years without it ever having got through to me. 'Til the moment it hit me, I hadn't really been moved. Then I suddenly realised the whole devastation and disgusting arrogance of it all. Trying to destroy something that we've not created - the earth. The only thing we are is a breathing mechanism: everything is breathing. Without it we're just nothing. All we've got is our lives, and I was worried that when people heard it they were going to think, ``She's exploiting commercially this terribly real thing.'' I was very worried that people weren't going to take me from my emotional standpoint rather than the commercial one. But they did, which is great. I was worried that people wouldn't want to worry about it because it's so real. I was also worried that it was too negative, but I do feel that there is hope in the whole thing, just for the fact that it's a message from the future. It's not from now, it's from a spirit that may exist in the future, a non-existent spiritual embryo who sees all and who's been round time and time again so they know what the world's all about. This time they don't want to come out, because they know they're not going to live. It's almost like the mother's stomach is a big window that's like a cinema screen, and they're seeing all this terrible chaos. (1980, Zigzag)


Talk gets onto ``Breathing", her best yet.

It's great to hear you say that. From my own viewpoint that's the best thing I've ever written. It's the best thing I've ever produced. I call that my little symphony, because I think every writer, whether they admit it or not, loves the idea of writing their own symphony. The song says something real for me, whereas many of the others haven't quite got to the level that I would like them to reach, though they're trying to. Often it's because the song won't allow it, and that song allowed everything that I wanted to be done to it. That track was easy to build up. Although it had to be huge, it was just speaking - saying what had to be put on it. In many ways, I think the most exciting thing was making the backing track. The session men had their lines, they understood what the song was about, but at first there was no emotion, and that track was demanding so much emotion. It wasn't until they actually played with feeling that the whole thing took off. When we went and listened, I wanted to cry, because of what they had put into it. It was so tender. It meant a lot to me that they had put in as much as they could, because it must get hard for session guys. They get paid by the hour, and so many people don't want to hear the emotion. They want clear, perfect tuning, a 'good sound'; but often the out-of-tuneness, the uncleanliness, doesn't matter as much as the emotional content that's in there. I think that's much more important than the technicalities. (1980, Zigzag)


I wanted to write a song, and I came up with some chords which sounded to me very dramatic. Then up popped the line, ``Outside get[S???] inside,'' as I was trying to piece the song together, and I thought it would be good to write a song about a baby inside the womb. Then I came to a chorus piece, and decided that the obvious word to go there was ``breathing", and I thought automatically that it had been done before. But asking around, I couldn't understand why it hadn't, because it's such a good word. Then ``breathing'' and the baby turned into the concept of life, and the last form of life that would be around - that would be a baby that was about to be born after the blast. It was a very personal song. I thought at the time that it was self-indulgent, and it was something I just did for myself, really. For me it's a statement that I hope won't happen. (1980, KBC 5)


Do you actually read up and research for your songs, or is it information already in your head - especially ``breathing''

This really depends on the subject matter of the individual song; but in the case of ``Breathing", most of the information came from a documentary about a man who had been following up the negative results of nuclear products. (1983, KBC 14)


It got to the point when I heard it [Pink floyd's the wall] I thought there's no point in writing songs any more because they'd said it all. You know, when something really gets you, it hits your creative centre and stops you creating...and after a couple of weeks I realized that he hadn't done everything, there was lots he hadn't done.

And after that it became an inspiration. ``Breathing'' was definitely inspired by the whole vibe I got from hearing that whole album, especially the third side. There's something about Floyd that's pretty atomic anyway. (1980, Oct 10, Melody Maker)


And I think the one that was the most difficult, but the one I was most pleased with was ``Breathing'' - that was an epic. We spent three days trying to get that backing track. And the silly thing was that we had all the riffs and everything by the second day, it was just that no-one could play as if they meant it, because we'd been playing it for so long.

We're both agreed it was a great artistic success, why was it not such a commercial success?

Well, actually, I think it did incredibly well, it got to number sixteen in the singles charts in this country. And it was without any promotion and everyone thought, gosh, it's far too uncommercial. But I think sixteen is pretty good. And also what is nice is that, although in a way it didn't really get that much attention at the time, it's one of those tracks that people are still talking about now, even though they may have ignored it when it first came out.

Oh, I hope so. That's a brave record. I see it's been included in a new compilation album put together for greenpeace [Was this rainbow warriors???].

Yeah, Greenpeace approached us asking us would we like to put a track on it, and we felt ``Breathing'' was the most relevant to what they were trying to say, it was quite a conscious track, we thought. (1985, Musician)


We mentioned the old videos and you said you would like to see ``Breathing'' What was it about particularly about that one that you felt was a success?

I think it's one of the few that I've done that I can say that I'm quite happy with some of the things we did in it. It's one of those things. The way you make a video, quite often the song isn't lending itself to the kind of visual ideas you'd like it to. And with ``Breathing,'' I think it had such a strong story that it was easier for us to visualize something that we'd felt was powerful.

The song sounds like it was built of visual ideas to begin with, to some extent.

I think when I'm writing songs, I do have quite strong visual ideas, but they're not necessarily video visual ideas if you know what I mean...


I think in order to get to a place, or to consider yourself in someone else's position, you try to imagine an environment. And i think in some ways you think quite visually about that. (1985, Muchmusic)


Is it worth playing a ``message'' song like ``Breathing'' in a medium which normally trivializes anything of issue status?

There was a point in people's lives when the imminent prospect of war was scaring the shit out of them, and that resulted in a lot of anti-war songs. At that time it was worthwhile. When I wrote ``Breathing'' it seemed like people were sitting waiting for a nuclear bomb to go off. Nuclear power seemed like...Someone was getting set to blow us up without our consent. I felt I wanted to write a song about it.

If it was something that was bothering so many people then yes, I think it was worthwhile. Songs or films or little individuals don't do anything on a big level. Big things need bigger things to change them. (1982, NME)


*Kate, that's a total departure from the sort of romantic songs you've been associated with in the past. Now is there any significance in that?

I think only significance in as much as it's a subject that's very real and it's obviously more outspoken then a lot more of my songs, yeah.

When you said real - to you personally?

Um, I think to me personally and especially to the public.

Do you seriously believe, for instance, that the world is drifting towards war and that concerns you?

I hope not, I hope that we're not drifting towards war. But it does concern me tremendously, yes it does, as one of the one of the human beings on this earth. I think we should be very concerned about looking after each other [Rather] then destroying each other, which we are doing gradually anyway.

But what do you say to the criticism that might be put that actually that kind of song is a commercial exploitation of difficult world situation?

Yes, absolutely I think that's people would.. they're quite likely to say, and I would expect that of people, quite rightly so. But, in fact, when I did write the song it was from a purely emotional personal point of view, that I was incredibly struck at what we were doing to each other. And that just one button, one bomb, could do one hello of a lot to any of us. And I thought it was just something I had to say. And at the time it wasn't something I was thinking of commercially it was purely an emotional exercise.

Do you think in any sense that it marks a return to the kind of protest songs that were so familiar in the sixties?

Yes, I think that's a very interesting angle, I think. People were very aware at that time of what could happen. And I think at this time again, people are even more aware because there is such a real shadow of it happening, all over the world. (1980, Nationwide)


In your creativity there can be quite deep attitudes, and I think it's got to be linked somehow with the unconscious that you're tapping into.

Which of your songs particularly connect with this form of spirituality?

"Breathing", I think, was one of my first, what I would call spiritual songs. The subject matter isn't necessarily, but the spark is. When I was writing it, it felt like: Hang on, I don't think I'm writing this - this is a bit too good for me! Rather than the song being my creation, I was a vehicle for something that was coming through me. (1990, Q Special)


Your song ``Breathing'' seems to be written from the point of view of a fetus about to be born into a post-holocaust world. One might think from this and from your being a vegetarian, that you would be opposed to abortion. What are your feelings on the morality and legality of abortion?

I think that is a very difficult subject and something that's far too easy to generalize about. But I think that life is something that should be respected and honored even in a few hours of its conception.

Do you think that abortion should be illegal?

I don't feel that I want to comment on that.

Okay. (1985, Love-hounds)


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