Cloudbusting -- Kate
Bush In Her Own Words
writing material for my new album - the songs are almost complete now. I hope
to start recording in a couple of months when I've finished writing and
tightening up the lyrics. (1984, Pulse!)
- This album all started last summer in my music room at home, with an
eight-track Soundcraft desk and tape machine, my piano and the Fairlight.
- The first song I wrote started with a musical riff and Del
programming a Linn pattern. From that moment, the album ``process'' has
steadily rolled, and Del has been there from beginning to end.
- The album has been treated as two halves: the ``A'' and ``B'' sides.
The ``A'' side is five songs, the ``B'' side has a theme linking several. When
most of the songs were in some form, we moved from the home studio to the
``big'' studio, and continued to demo the rest of the songs.
- It reached a stage where it was ready for drums, so I rang Paul
Hardiman to come and engineer, and Stuart Elliot to play on drums.
- Paul is great to work with, a very good engineer: quick, and with a
natural feel for sounds. Stuart's drumming is the most emotional I know. He's
always interested in the songs and the lyrics, and has a way of creating the
right mood for the track. The most difficult thing was working out the
compromises between the Linn drum already there as the demo, and Stuart working
with it, or indeed, as in some cases, taking over completely but working to the
- In some cases we keyed Stuart's sound off the Linn, it was the only
way to really make it sit. It some cases, we kept the Linn patterns and Stu
worked in some delicate toms around them. He broke plates and saucers for one
track, and became an army of military snares in another, sprinkling fairy dust
hither and thither.
- The next stage was recording all the pianos. The home piano on the
demos was an ``upright", and not good enough quality for professional
recording, and so had to be replaced by a grand piano. Some of these tracks
would be taken to Ireland to do some work on.
- We wanted a very delicate piano sound, these tracks being very empty
and sad. Paul went for a very live sound - reminiscent of Erik Satie, Chopin:
the empty ballroom after the party when everyone has gone home.
- The next stage was some Fairlight, and concentration on the tracks
that would possibly go to Ireland within a few weeks' time. Rough B.V.s and
lead vocals were put down on these tracks, and copies of the twenty-four-track
masters were made by our maintenance man and cavalry in sticky situations: Jim
Jones - and a very nice chappy he is, too.
- During the trip to Ireland, I hoped to write the lyrics for as many
of the songs as possible, a lot of it being little odds and ends, which are the
hardest to get, I suppose because you're so limited fitting in a couple of
lines within a context, rather than creating it from scratch.
- However, the main reason for going was to work in Windmill Lane with
Bill Whelan. We met in London, and I played Bill the demos, and he started
thinking about ideas.
- We agreed that we'd need a couple of weeks up front to go through
all the arrangements and sort out the musicians and studio time. Not only was
Bill a dream to work with, but he made us feel very at home, and we got to see
Ireland in a really fun way. We worked with Liam O'Flynn, a beautiful musician
and person, and Donal Lunny, whose spontaneity and ideas filled us all with
- Bill introduced us to John Sheahan, the fiddle player and
multi-talented musician from The Dubliners, who was like Santa Claus. He played
a piece that Bill had written, and it was so moving and he played so emotively
that I started to cry and felt silly, but what a nice experience. I highly
- One of the tracks [" jig of life"] we worked on was inspired
by a discovery that Paddy had made of a fascinating Greek ceremony that he
managed to get on tape. He knew it would get in to the inspiration centre, and
that's what it did. We played the tape to Bill, Liam, John and Donal; and
Paddy, who was on his way to the West Coast of Ireland to visit the Lakes,
stayed with us in Dublin and joined in the general fun, and as a non-stop shift
of Irish musicians put the magic of their race onto the songs, we danced and
whooped in the control room.
- We consumed the information from Pad's tape as much as we could. I'd
only finished writing the song the day before on Bill's piano while his wife
brought me cups of tea and biscuits (thank you, Mrs. Whelan). We used Bill
Somerville-Large as the engineer. He worked on the Irish sessions on the last
album. He has a way of bringing out the natural beauty of acoustic instruments,
and it's rare to find an engineer with perfect pitch! And we worked with a nice
man called ``Pearce'' as our assistant.
- Windmill Lane is a great studio, very efficient; and they are all
lovely people. We all felt relaxed and happy, which is definitely the only way
to feel when recording and creating.
- This track was built around John Sheahan. Bill conducted him, I
played chords on the piano and Donal played bodhran (a small Irish drum). We
did this in one studio, baffled off from each other. We got a good take
quickly, and John overdubbed fiddle. Then Donal overdubbed more drum and
bouzouki; and then, John playing whistle and Liam playing pipes, they jammed
together on the jig that Bill had written for the end of the track. Bill is
very talented, as they all are, and I think his arrangements and ideas are
fantastic. It really is fun working over there.
- On returning to England we started again with Stuart to work on the
tracks from Ireland. Unfortunately we only had a limited time with Paul, as he
was committed for another album, but we had four clear weeks.
- We started on some B.V.s, and did bits of Fairlight, and Paul's
ideas for sounds were invaluable not only then, but later on when Del came to
work on my vocals.
- The next stage was bass guitars. Del played beautiful bass on some
of the tracks, knowing them as well as myself - I always find Del's ideas are
so in tune with the songs. And I asked Danny Thompson to play on one track and
Eberhard Weber to play on two of the songs. There are a few songs with no bass
guitar at all.
- With Danny we used a quite live sound - you can hear him plucking
and pulling the strings in the ambient room, which we found attractive. Paul
got a great sound and balance between the sound of the bass and the ambience of
the room, and Danny got a fabulous feel for the track - like a jungle cat, and
very moody. Danny is a very sensitive player, and again, he loves to know what
the track's about, and who or what he's meant to be; he has a real ``feel''
- Eberhard Weber came over to England for two days. I am a big fan of
Eberhard's, and it was really a pleasure to be working with him again. I'd sent
him a cassette up front, with lyrics and notes on the ``vibes'' of the tracks,
and he came prepared with manuscripts and ideas. One of the tracks was
demanding, as it required so much space: he used beautiful bowed notes that
sound like a plane, and in the other track he soars and dips like a stalking
panther... oooh, it's lovely.
- Next came Paddy's bag of delights; the dijeridu, given to Pad by
Rolf, was captured, and joined the track that he'd originally sparked, so
Australia joined hand in hand with Greece, Ireland and England.
- Next he played shimmering mandolins that waxed and waned. He sang,
he dijeridued, as ever waving the magic wand that only Pad can wave.
- The next musician was John Williams. There was one track in
particular which I hoped he would play on. He was lovely to work with, and full
of enthusiasm and interesting stories, and it took very little time to get what
he wanted. (I've always dreamed of working with him.) John played to a rhythm
machine, which is not always easy when the track is delicate and needs to sound
light, but for him it proved no problem at all. Paul got a beautiful sound in
quite a live room and close-miked John's guitar, using the ever favourite
Neumann U87 microphone.
- Unfortunately, Paul's time was running out, and his commitment with
another album was due. It was an interesting situation. I had not really
approached any engineers, as we'd reached a stage where I needed to work on
ideas and just listen to the tracks and what we'd done up to that point.
- There were still Fairlight ideas to put down, a couple of tracks
needed real drums and lots of vocals to do on all the tracks.
- We were at a stage where I wanted to start on the vocals, to try and
get as many as possible done before I'd call in another engineer. The one
outstanding thing was a track that needed strings - real strings. Admiring
James Guthrie's work on The Wall, I asked him if he'd engineer the
session for us.
- Luckily, he had a free day during a busy schedule, and I rang Dave
Lawson to confirm the date. (Dave arranged the strings on ``Houdini'' on the last album.) I had
written this song with Fairlight strings, and they need transcribing and
writing out for strings rather than a synthesiser. Dave suggested
the ``Medicci'' players,* and obviously I was into that. He thought a great
deal about the arrangement and ``construction'' of the sextet, and he decided
on two violins, two violas, two 'cellos, and was also present on the day to
help out with any changes in the scripts or any problems that might arise.
- It was a big day for us, and it is always exciting working with
strings, and especially when they are such respected musicians.
- It was an extremely hot, humid day, and between takes everyone would
rush outside to breath in the slightly less hot humid air before returning
inside to continue the recording.
- We got a very warm, close sound, which was appropriate for the
weather, and James remained cool and calm, and the strings grew and grew, and
everyone was smiling. And I got an autographed ``Medicci'' album - it was
great. James is an extremely positive, talented engineer, and it was a pleasure
to work with him. [* - ``Medicci'' players: I have checked all the uk
musicians' union records and found no listing for a ``medicci'' group, but
kate's great respect for the group makes it seem likely that she's talking
about the medici string quartet. The misspelling would not be the only one in
the liner notes of kate's albums, as many fans have discovered... Working
against this theory, however, is the fact that kate's part was arranged for
sextet; But since the six-part arrangement was apparently developed by lawson
independent of the medici players' own configuration, and since kate describes
how ``the strings grew and grew", it seems pretty clear that overdubs were
used. This problem can best be resolved by the players themselves, of course. -
- The next layer was voices. Del and I had been working a lot on
voices on the demo/masters (which were now really masters). Some of the voice
sounds were demanding, and some of the performances (especially from an
emotional aspect) were quite difficult. I really enjoy working with Del, I
think especially on the voices. I always feel very relaxed and uninhibited,
which gives me a head start compared to normal studio situations, where I'm
fighting my nerves until I can settle down.
- We really did have a lot of work to cover, and in some cases I had
to put down the ideas and leave them for a few days in order to know what I
really thought about them. Coming back to them, I might want to play with them
a little - liking the basic idea, but needing to change it somehow.
- The majority of the vocals were recorded using an 87 Neumann mike.
Del has a natural feel for the sounds I like, and has really good ideas, so he
would get the sound quickly, and the time would go on me getting the
performances and us experimenting with ideas.
- In a couple of cases the B.V.s on the demos had just the right sound
and atmosphere, so we kept these and maybe added to them. Often ``demos''
create problems like this, and that's why we decided to make the demos the
basis of the masters, keeping the feel, the speed, and keeping as many of the
Linn drums, Fairlights and voices as we could.
- When we had covered a fair amount of ground, I contacted Haydn
Bendall (who, again, worked on the last album), and he came in to engineer.
Haydn is a very gentle, lovely person and we've been friends for years. Again
the atmosphere was relaxed, and Haydn set about cleaning up. We had lots of
voices to bounce (which means, for instance, taking four tracks of vocals and
recording all four of them onto another two tracks. Then we wipe the original
four tracks, leaving us with more to record on, and making the voices easier to
handle in the mix.) We also worked on some more Fairlight, keeping most of the
original demo Fairlights where the quality was good enough. Haydn is very
excited by the Fairlight and works with it a lot. This was nice for me, as it
does take me a while to work out the 7231 Fairlight arrangements sometimes, but
Haydn is very patient and enthusiastic, and it's just what I need in that
- We always have the Fairlight going through some effect or other,
even if it's just a bit of equalization and a nice echo, but it seems to need
it, and it always compliments the effect you want.
- There were still a couple of tracks that needed drums to be sorted
out, and Charlie Morgan was the man for the job. I last worked with him on the
Lionheart album, and it was very exciting to work with him again. He is very
open-minded and is well up to date on all the latest drum-sampling equipment,
etc., and also happens to be a great drummer.
- We worked with Charlie for two full days, and had him pop in for
half days to do some more overdubs at a later stage.
- We then got into a pattern of where I would work with just Del for
two or three days a week, and Haydn would work the rest of the week compiling
and bouncing the ideas we'd worked on in the earlier part of the week. This
worked very well, as I was uninhibited at trying out the ideas with Del, and
Haydn could come in objectively to them. Quite often I was very nicely
surprised when things I felt might be a little too obvious, perhaps, were
nicely disguised. It is impossible to remain totally objective, especially when
the ideas need to be subtle - you mustn't make them too subtle or no one will
- We continued to work this way for quite a long time, and then
reached the point where Haydn was again working full weeks.
- Paddy came in again and did some vocal overdubs. At the end of the
tracks on the ``theme'' side, Paddy did some beautiful harmonic singing. This
is something you have to see to believe. Just hearing it might not convince
some people that it's just Pad! they'd swear that there was a synthesiser in
there whizzing through the harmonics, but it really is just Paddy's voice, and
it's quite celestial - I can't wait 'til you hear it, so you can hear how
lovely it is.
- The tracks were still growing, though retaining their ``space", and
two tracks cried out for guitar. Alan Murphy, as I'm sure you all know, has
played some wonderful guitar on the albums, and this was no exception. We
worked one long day, and it was very exciting to hear how the tracks blossomed
with every overdub. There is a good musical communication between the two of
us, and I find that inspiring.
- We wanted a very ``heavey'' - sounding guitar, so we
used Al's amp in a very live room and miked up the amp. Haydn got a
frighteningly raunchy guitar sound, and Al did the rest.
- Sound effects, little pieces here and there. Lose this, lose that,
create a little space here, a little something there to help the crescendo and
all the recording is at last finished.
- I thoroughly enjoy working with people, especially when they are
musicians, engineers and friends of a calibre that I am honoured to be with.
- A big thank you to all of them, a special thanks to Haydn for all
his work and feedback, and a Happy Christmas to all of you. And a big thanks to
you for your communication and support - I'd be lost without it.
(1984, KBC 17)
Cloudbusting / Story /