Cloudbusting -- Kate
Bush In Her Own Words
- And I write in the studio, so from the word go the ideas are being
put onto master tape and remain in that form and then perhaps are layered on
top of. So the production for me is as much as the lyrics and the tune are to
making up what you get as an end result. (1980, Smash Hits)
- I think what's interesting for me as a producer and songwriter is
using different textures to create an image, a situation and an environment, a
mood. And everything that you get can be useful at some point in time. (1980,
- When you do start recording a song, you normally have an idea of how
it will end up, hopefully, because that's why you are going in to record it in
the first place, and a song can take so many different forms - they can take
ten minutes to do, or they can take two months. Normally, the stage at which
the album cover is conceived is by the time recording has actually begun. I
think that's quite important, because it's not until a certain stage after
you've started that a vibe emanates about how the songs are going to fit
together, what the sounds are going to be, and what the general feel of the
music is. (1980, KBC 5)
How do you manage to do the guitar, bass and drum arrangements, as
you don't play those instruments? Do you hear in your head what you want, and
if so, how do you communicate it to the session musicians?
- Mostly I have a strong idea of what I want to hear. The sound aspect
I would explain to the engineer, but musically I would suggest the mood, or any
piano lines I wanted picked up. But usually I leave the musical content to the
musician, and they always understand the atmosphere you want to create. With
the drummer, we're now working a lot with drum machines. I originally explain
the type of rhythm I want to Del, who then programmes the Linn. I demo the song
using the rhythm, and then ask the drummer to replace the feel, adding his own
subtle human adornments. (1984, KBC
Has anything ever happened while recording - say, a strange sound
by mistake which you have decided is worth keeping in the track?
- A lot of accidents happen, but usually they're re-done for the
master recordings. They seem to happen mostly at the demo stage: tracks leaking
through, odd voice phrases, a synth that wasn't rubbed off when it should have
been. That sort of thing. (1984, KBC
Does your music require a lot of editing?
- It really did this time, especially when you've got mixes that are
very complicated and demanding. We'd get the whole mix and there'd be one
little bit that wasn't quite right, or an echo plate would distort on us. Then
we'd just have to edit that in. Having got the whole field right, it seems
crazy to do a whole track again, so we prefer to do spot edits.
What's your procedure for recording?
- First we do all the backing tracks in one go, and then we'd work on
it in layers until we'd got all the other musicians out of the way, so then I
can really concentrate on my own stuff. It took weeks to do the
vocals, especially because we were having
to find the right effects and ambience for each voice. Then on top of that came
Did you work on the fairlight at home?
- Yes. I did as much work at home as I could, but it got very
difficult because I was usually in the studio all day, and when I got back at
night there were tapes of that day's stuff that I would listen to in order to
decide what to go on to the next day. So in fact I wasn't really getting much
time, and when I could, I'd tend to do the Fairlight in studio mealbreaks in
the control room.
- I suppose I could have done tracks like `` The Dreaming'' with a
large amount of Fairlight, but it does lack a little top for some sounds, and
there are some things, like loops, that can be tricky to do. I ended up using
three or four of the presets available on the Fairlight's menu, while most of
the others were sampled. What we tended to do was try samples at home, although
they would often be too noisy to use, so we'd then do them again in the studio.
I have to be honest about the instrument - I really only have a working
knowledge, and everything I want to do I can. I love the sampling facility,
it's one of the best things - being able to put your own sounds in and then
play around with them. Features like the revers play are useful too. There's
loads I can't do yet, I'm sure, but I'm taking it step by step.
I would have thought the fairlight was almost a ``trademark'' for
you, because it can conjure up aural images while you're making the visual
- Absolutely, it does work so well for me. As an educational
instrument, too, it's fantastic. Initially, I thought a lot about buying one
because it was so much money. When I started this album I did try hiring one
in, but it was costing me so much, and I knew that to do everything I wanted
I'd need it more or less all the time, so I decided to buy it, and haven't
regretted it once. I'm also interested in the new rhythm facilities now
[All of this is in reference to the fairlight cmi series ii
machine. Kate later graduated to the series iii, and she now owns at least
three fairlights in all. Also, she has more recently discussed her use of the
fairlight both in composing and arranging songs, not only as a sampling device
in the studio. -ied]
- Coming back to The Dreaming album, we certainly enjoyed using real
sounds, as well. The title track in particular has Rolf Harris on the dijeridu,
Percy Edwards mimicking animal noises, bull roaring from Paddy Bush and crowd
noises by Gosfield Goers!
Which drum machine do you use?
- I've got a Linn drum machine, which is very good for demos, but I
don't like it to be used in the finished thing. I think you can tell it's the
Linn - it's got a very specific sound - and I can often recognize it on the
- Some particular sounds that might stand out are the ``car crash",
which was a ``screech'' on the Fairlight; plus several recorded ``bangs'' mixed
together. It was in fact the engineer's car door miked up! ["Bang! Goes
another kanga..."] There's also fluttering birds, and an orchestra chord
sampled on ``The Dreaming'' track, and plenty of others elsewhere.
- I like to be involved with everything that's going on the album, and
I do have a lot of interest in the technical problems that crop up as well -
that's really happened over the last couple of years. In a way, the technical
side of what is happening is as inspirational as what you get out of it. (1982,
Electronics Music Maker)
You play the piano track on all your recordings, right, but then on
- Well, on stage, because of course I'm dancing and doing all these
other things, I used a guy called Kevin McAlea who was an incredible find.
Because I've never met anyone else who plays the piano, or who can
play it if he wants to, so like me. My style is really quite simple, and that's
the problem. Professional pianists tend to sort of flourish
everywhere, and that doesn't work in my songs because I use a simple style. I
did play two or three numbers on stage, the ones that I thought were important,
but the rest of the time I was up front. Obviously, though, because it's the
instrument that I always used to write on, it made sense for me to put down all
the piano arrangements on record. But most of the songs on the new album I
wrote on the Fairlight. I'm sure, though, that I'll still continue writing on
the piano, somehow it's such an extraordinarily versatile-sounding instrument.
Actually I'm a little intrigued by the fact that, while so much of
your music tends to sound so natural and organic, you're often exploiting all
the technological wizardries of the studio, and the fairlight even, yet without
there ever being any clash or contradiction, musically speaking.
- Well, although the Fairlight is called a synthesizer,
so many of its sounds are actually of natural source. And I think really that's
why I like it so much. I think there's perhaps not such a great gap between the
Fairlight and natural music as there is between synthesizers and acoustic
music. The Fairlight really seems to be a huge bridge between all
kinds of music, it's not actually so removed from natural sounds as you might
think. Like what you thought might be a koto near the start of ``
Cloudbusting'' was actually a banjo which I played on the Fairlight. And, as an
album, Hounds of Love was really quite different because the Fairlight was very
involved, rather than, as on the last albums, all the tracks being written at
the piano. But `` Waking the Witch'' I actually wrote through a guitarist, Alan
Murphy, because it needed to be written from a guitarist's point of view, a
piano was just so wrong for that one. And he was brilliant about it. I mean, it
was very hard for us because both of us felt a little embarrassed. And then we
said, look, let's just go for it. And I said, play something like this - this
is actually in the studio, he just came in for the day, and all we had down was
the drums and hand-claps, he had nothing else at all to play with. But I told
him the idea that I wanted.
In the studio these days, now that you're producing yourself, is it
a kind of benevolent dictatorship where what you say goes and the musicians
just take it? (paddy falls about laughing, suggesting that the true state of
affairs might not be too far different.)
- Well, quite honestly, I think it is sometimes. But I
think, in most cases, I really do know what I want...
Presumably you must command the respect which induces all these
fellows to willingly subordinate their own egos...
- Well, there are never really any serious problems because the
fellows I work with are great, and I think they just find amusing all of the
things that I like and ask them to do. And they're fabulous, really. I mean,
I've never really been able to communicate properly, like those producers you
see sitting there talking about A-flats: ``Now take it from the A-coding,'' and
all that. I don't find that comfortable at all because, for a start, there
might be one of the band (like me!) who doesn't know what you're saying. So
what's the point? Because everyone needs to know. So I talk in really basic
language. Obviously I have to identify chords and things like that. But in a
way, the most important thing for me, I feel, is if I can convey to them the
atmosphere of the song, the sort of feeling which I
want them to produce. Then I feel that they will give me what I want. As long
as they're in tune with the song on the same level as I am, then I'm gonna get
what I want. So, rather than saying to each of them ``You do this,'' or ``You
do that,'' I spend an awful lot of time trying to explain the story and that
sort of thing. 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. (1985,
Is production exciting for you? As exciting as writing and singing
- Yes, it's totally a part of it for me now, and it's just become a
continuation of the writing process and it's through that control that I feel I
can afford to spend the time on the stuff. I don't feel that there are that
many people who could be as patient as I am with the work, because I can hope
that at the end of all these mad ideas something will come of it, and perhaps
it would be harder for someone else to have that kind of faith in my ideas; and
I feel I can then spend as long as is necessary to make the song better.
How often did you have to go back to a song and do a little extra
- Never. The structures of the songs were as were, except for ``The
Big Sky,'' but that was just because that was re-written several times.
So you knew exactly what you were going to do with each song before
you went into the studio?
- Well, yes. The songs were written in the studio. What we were hoping
for as well, with this album, was that the demos as such no longer existed, in
that they were the masters.
The demos were the masters?
- Yes. So everything that I wrote went straight onto master tape, and
then we built on top of that. So from the word go we had one take, and that was
what we worked on and built upon.
That is in itself very unusual.
- I think it is, and I don't think I could have done it a while ago.
It's the involvement of working in studios. You just find you can put things
down and they either work or they don't, and again that's why I think I can
leave songs in an unfinished form, knowing that they're not going to be as good
as they could.
Obviously, having your own studio to do everything makes an
- It's the best decision I think I've ever made, certainly to do my
work. (1985, Homeground)
Well, you found a magic formula there, since `` running up that
hill'' is a worldwide success, your first hit in the united states, and since
the album stayed at number one in england for a month.
- It's extraordinary. You can't imagine the pleasure that brings me,
after having worked so hard, to see that the public receives this record so
Do you think of the public when you're in the studio?
- I think that one always writes a song for oneself. You let yourself
be swept away from your environment and you listen to your ``interior voices''
The only censure consists in knowing what works and when. But ultimately,
you're on the watch for the opinions of others: the musicians who come to play
their parts, the engineers; you sense immediately if their interest is aroused,
and maintained, when they hear what you're working on. Everything is public.
(1985, Guitares et
I understand that you've built your own studio and you're working
from that now.
- Yes, and the difference that makes is phenomenal. One of the best
decisions I've ever made is to get that studio, because automatically I'm
relaxed, and can put the ideas straight onto tape, which again I just could not
afford to do when working in a commercial studio. It's so expensive; you have
to work out a lot before you go in and there's not time to experiment and
change things as much as you'd like. Or if you do, the pressure of what it's
costing I think actually becomes anti-productive. (1987, MuchMusic)
Then, the only people she still had to convince were the musicians:
I think the basic fear in everybody's head was, ``god! Does she really know
what she's doing?'' but you have to trust your own decisions. When everyone
else is saying, ``no, that's dangerous,'' there's always a little voice in my
head saying, ``yeah, yeah, it's all right.'' (1989, Q)
- It's a layered procedure. I take a lot of time writing, and
thinking. [she emphasizes the latter as she sits back on the couch,
describing the process by which she produces her musical strata]. The
actual performances from people are got very quickly. So hopefully, there's a
tremendous amount of spontaneity performance-wise. But I have taken a lot of
time between to change bits of the songs.
- You'll do something with people that works out really well, and it
works out so well it starts taking you somewhere else. You think, ``I wish that
worked so well that I could do this with the song.'' So times I do
that - take the song away and make it become something better. Working with
other musicians is often the key. What worries me is that although the process
is very spontaneous, I always feel that it sounds complicated. (1989, Option)
She ponders a question as to whether she is trying to create an
aural environment with her densely textured songs.
- Yes. That's kind of what it feels like and I'd hate to sound
pretentious, because it could. It's like trying to paint a picture. Each song
is like a little picture, and you've got to have the hill there, the right
proportion. [her hand motions toward an imaginary landscape]. When you
look at a painting, even a simple painting, it's still got to have the
proportions and everything that goes with that. Some songs will be so quick and
easy to write. Some lyrics will be so quick. And yet on other songs they won't.
They are all individual, and each one has a tricky bit.
- I suppose from a production point of view, the main thing I work
toward is a sense of texture. When a song starts, you probably want it to be
just sometimes quite small. And then you want it to get very big here so that
there's a real sense of climax, and then bring it down again or keep it
building. All these thing have shape and texture, [she continues, as if
visualizing her music in front of her]. I suppose that's just how I work.
It's like trying to give the song the right proportions so that when it's big,
it's really big and not too big and not to small. Instruments, different sounds
and flavors, really affect all that. (1989, Option)
- I don't think I could work in commercial studios anymore. The reason
we got studio together is because it was getting so prohibitive to try and
spend the time I wanted to spend in writing. In a commercial studio we were
paying God knows how much. So for Hounds of Love we had our own studio. And I
think it's actually been the best move I've ever made creatively. It gave me
much freedom. Suddenly I was a relaxed person, working and writing in a studio,
and this was completely new to me. I was able to take half a day off if things
were absolutely awful.
- Quite often, in a commercial studio, you feel the pressure to keep
working, and sometimes you don't get any work done at all. For lots of reasons
it became a more intimate process. By having my own studio, I didn't have
people popping in at all times. The studio was always set up. And particularly
important was the fact that I was working with Del, whom I know so well, on a
more extensive basis. By the time we were working on this album he actually
recorded everything. He was the recording engineer. So I was in a
position where I could write material in the studio with Del. I couldn't really
do that with anyone else. It's a very private thing. I couldn't really write in
front of other people. (1990, Option)
- Because Del plays the bass, he's very good at rhythms and he'll
often get the rhythm tracks together. Then I'll build up the song. As soon as
I've got an idea, it can go on tape because Del's there. Now for me to actually
try to put that on tape, it's so complicated. On occasion I've tried to do it,
and it's a joke. [she laughs]. It's impossible. And I don't think I'd be
able to do it with another engineer because I wouldn't feel relaxed. I really
do have a tremendously intimate creative working environment. I think it's had
a very good effect on my music. I feel so much more...too brave sometimes. And
that almost frightened me on this album where I actually felt ``This is going
to go out to the world!'' It's like my private music. But I do think that's
good. Music and art, if possible, should be as personal an expression as
possible, as well as a group expression. [Kate looks to Palmer, who has been
sitting across from us].
- Del palmer: You're
actually giving me far more credit that I deserve. The thing about what kate
does so well is that she makes the musicians actually work hard. Most musicians
never really have to work hard. They are always working on their own level of
expertise. On kate's music they do work exceptionally hard. And that's why I
think most people really enjoy working with her, because they're made to work
more than they are used to...
[Laughing, bush cracks an imaginary whip over our heads. ``hyah!
- Del: When it works, they feel an incredible sense of release and
satisfaction. They've done something they have never done before.
- What's great for me is that this is our sixth album, and we've been
working with a lot of the musicians for years now. They're old friends. We
really don't have a band as such, but it's much easier to communicate with
someone who knows what you want. Our drummers never freak out now. Nothing
seems crazy to them. (1990, Option)
Cloudbusting / Subjects / Recording