KT Cloudbusting -- Kate Bush In Her Own Words


The way I've always worked is to be with the piano. I never write songs without the piano - it's always me and it and we communicate. And I always write the words with the tune - they seem to come together and it's very much a thing of moods. If the chord I'm playing is telling me something, then the words will come from that. If it is a minor feel, it will be a sad song because minor chords are very sad things. If it's a major chord, it will be a slightly maybe, rockier, happier song.

What happens is that I sit down and I start playing the piano and it's the progression of chords that comes out that actually leads to the song. Until I sit down at the piano and have no idea what's going to happen. sometimes, before I go there, maybe I'll have an idea that I've picked up from a film or just from talking to someone about something I've never known about before. You can find inspiration can click in so many different ways: it can be something completely out of the blue that you'll suddenly think ``I really want to write a song.'' I think that's how it works though. I think art is about spontaneous feelings and feedback of people, objects, whatever. It's just a continuous process of creation. (1978, Self Portrait)


I think music and love are very similar. They're both natural basic energies, they have the same kind of all embracing freedom, the elation.

The communication of music is very much like making love. If you play a piano, for example, you're so united it's really a beautiful thing. (C.1980, Music is my life)

When you sit down to write a song, do you fit the words to the music or the music to the words? Also, when you write a song, do you imagine the sort of dance routine you might do?

When I write songs I normally get the music first. They used to come together, but now the music seems to be sparked off by an idea before the lyrics, and the lyrics usually fit in just behind the music. It's not very often that I actually see the dance routine when I'm writing the song. When it's written, there are basic things there already, and in fact I find that the more I write - especially recently for this album - the more I see things when I'm writing. This is unusual, and I tend to shut them out because I can't concentrate so well on the song itself. (1980, KBC 5)


Was the dance/movement approach just a novel visual image for you, or did it actually help in the composing of songs?

The thing is, when I'm actually writing something, I can't conceive the dance at the same time. But when I'm listening and watching dance performances, I can conceive musical ideas.

There are several avenues of composing procedures open to you: Through the lyrics, the dance, the melodies, rhythms or harmonies, or even the computer. Do you follow any particular one?

Since I first started writing, the styles and attitudes have changed. Initially, it was just ``me and the piano,'' and I would write the song until it was completely finished - the lyrics, the tune of one song would take me a couple of weeks. For the last two albums [Never For Ever AND The Dreaming] it's been much looser, and I've been working with rhythm machines as well as the keyboard, and using subject matter already in my head. I'll then make up the music almost on the spot for the subject matter. (1982, Electronic Music Maker)


You gauge by feedback as to whether your voice inside is right. It says ``Do this,'' and you have to see what other people say about it. The barrier against self-indulgence has to come from within yourself. You have to see other people's criticism to be able to do anything about it. You can get a different answer to a problem from everyone you know.

Do you try too hard for mystery?

I don't sit down and try to express mystery. I worry that I try too hard to create SPONTANEITY. I can be singing a song of a calm person who suddenly becomes aggressive, and I try and reflect that vocally. Different ideas come across in different accents. (1982, NME)


There're loads of things I think about writing songs about which are too negative. There wouldn't be any point. They'd be too destructive and negative. And there're things which are too personal. I get loads of ideas that don't make me go, ``Ugh!'' so I don't write about them.

If I hear something I like, and I wish that my work could be like that because it sounds better, then it does influence me. Everything I like and respect I suppose I move towards. It's hard to be specific when we don't know what pop music is. ``Pop'' is just short for popular - it could even be popular classical music.

But I realize how lucky I am. I realized, making The Dreaming, when I was able to get Eberhard Weber to play on one track, that I was so lucky because people you like and respect will want to work with you. (1982, NME)


Can you read music now?

No, I can't - I read chords, but not the actual music.

So how do you arrange all the instrumental and vocal parts in your songs?

For most of them I literally just run the tape and learn them in my head, and then translate them. I multi-track my own voice parts, having worked them out first at home. Sometimes I can tell that they're going to work in harmony without having to put one down and then work to that, but it depends, really.

Do you work up from the root and then add the third and the fifth?

No, I never work that way - I just go for what sound right, and never think technically about thirds and fifths, because very often I think fourths and sixths could be better. I like to use parallel movement for a more medeiaeval feel, and I also sing unrelated notes against the harmony - say, dropping semitones - which helps to create a lot of tension. But I do try to avoid thinking about the technical things when I'm working - it's afterwards that I like to think about those aspects.

For the male voice parts, I just sing to them what I want them to do, and I tell them the particular phraseology and timing. Then they go out and do it, while I oversee it in the mixing room. I'm lucky in that they're not really session singers, but more friends with good voices.

There's a lot of counterpoint in your compositions. Do you find this comes naturally?

Yes, it's something that I find works in layers as well. For example, normally the song, with its basic tune and chords, would be down, and then, as things start to go on more to the track, I can just hear holes that need to be filled in a certain way.

Sometimes I would be doing this with tapes at home or during a meal break at the studio. I'd go round and round parts of the tape and sing with it.

So your procedure is to compose the piece on the piano with the lyrics and have some definite ideas for performing it at home.

For the actual tune; whilst any additional harmonies would be added afterwards using a tape with the basic piece on it. I use a Revox half-track machine to sing along with - I never put it down through at this stage - I just sing with it to see if it works. Really, it's for playback, to help me, and I would use an eight-track studio for demos. I've also been using the Teac Portastudio 144, which I find useful.

Do you have any set way of composing your harmonies?

None at all, it depends completely on the song. Whatever the song's saying, then that little hole in there that's waiting for a harmony needs something special. For example, in the `` Hammer Horror'' song, I thought out the clashing harmonies carefully, and the `` Violin'' piece came about because that was the only instrument I was ever taught. [Does this indicate that kate composed ``violin'' on the violin???] (1982, Electronic Music Maker)


*Well actually kate has very kindly brought us in a tape of a piece of music you recorded... How old were you with this one kate?

Oh, I was about fifteen.

Do you mind if we play it for everybody?

[Laughs] I'll shut my ears, ok?

Will you, ok. Would you like to introduce it?

Yeah, here it is! [Both laugh. A portion of the unreleased song ``maybe'' is played]

Kate had a very wistful look on her face. Why was that?

I was waiting for the flat note in the middle. [Laughs]

Ah, you mean we faded it just in time!

No, you caught it actually, I'm sure...

I never noticed it.


But how soon after that was it that emi found you and signed you up?

Um, it was about a year, year and a half after that.

Was it on the strength of that tape?

No, it wasn't. It was on the strength of the tape that came after that. But that song was actually on the tape that got me there. (1979, Personal Call)


*I'd like to ask kate, some time ago in an interview, I think it was with mark latshow, she said that she preferred songwriting to singing. I was wondering if there was any danger to give up singing to concentrate more on her songwriting?

Ah, no I don't think so, because I love songwriting, but I love singing even more, sometimes, you know. It's just such a pleasure to be able to open your mouth and just let it all out, it's fantastic. I don't think I could ever stop doing that. (1979, Personal Call)


*Hello, kate. I'd just like to ask you - how long does it usually take to write your songs, you know, on average.

Ah, well that depends. It depends if I've got a strong enough idea. I've always have to have some kind of idea of a subject matter before I start writing. And sometimes it will just come out, and sometimes it will take me days, weeks, whatever. It's very, very unpredictable and I just have to go with it, you know?

Yeah. Do you write the lyrics first or the music or do they come together?

Well if I've got a strong idea, I'll often have a couple of lyric lines that I just fit music to and work the rest in. But normally the music comes first. (1979, Personal Call)


*So how does she write them? And what's the secret of her success?

I take the majority of my ideas for songs from just watching and listening to people. It's people who make life, and that's where my songs come from, SHE SAYS, MAKING IT SOUND SO SIMPLE.

It's not really, I mean I have to work at it and it takes time, because I won't use a song until I'm really happy about it. (1979, Liverpool Echo)


*What particular area of your work that you enjoy or prefer doing the most, if you could do one thing - writing songs, recording, touring, working with other people on their albums, producing, or dancing? [Kate laughs] you're going to tell me that you like them all, for different reasons?

I do actually, I do like them all very much. But I think, definitely the priority for me is the writing of the songs. It's the most challenging, frustrating, satisfying thing there is.

Would you like to write for other people?

I've never tried, but it's something that I... yes it's quite appealing. The problem is really getting time, because I normally only have enough time to scrape enough songs together myself for an album. But it's very appealing, yeah. (1982, Unknown BBC interview)


*You've got a reputation of doing absolutely everything for your shows, how many jobs do you do when you go on the road with your show?

Well, I think I try and do everything that I think I can handle and because I'm writing the music and singing and performing, a lot of things come from that which I don't think would otherwise. For instance, I don't think I'd be able to choreograph if I didn't write the music, because in many ways I know the music so inside out, and like backwards sometimes, that I already have ideas for steps and choreography that I wouldn't have otherwise. And in many ways it just goes from the song, the song just takes off, then a video needs to be made, and then a stage show. So, it's like the development of the songs, in many ways. It seems like a natural procedure. (1981, Friday Night And Saturday Morning)


*When I'm writing a particular song, SHE SAYS EXCITEDLY, I can feel a character so strongly that perhaps I'm feeling the same. WELL AWARE THAT HER SONGS PROVIDE LISTENERS WITH SOME EXTREME CHARACTERIZATIONS, SHE FINDS IT terribly important ... to make the person I am writing about come alive. Unless I can somehow live the experience I don't feel that I've achieved what I want to as a writer. (1984, Pulse!)


Where do you work your songs out?

I've had a home studio for the last few years. For this album, we put together a master home studio. The difference it makes is fantastic. The obvious difference is that we're not paying a phenomenal amount of money every hour for a London studio. That makes you feel so much more relaxed. The amount of pressure that the studio situation puts on you is quite surprising. You also feel a lot freer to experiment.

We understand that before, you'd do the demos and often not be able to duplicate the same feeling in the studio.

I think that's one of the most impossible things to do, and everyone in the business must have it happen to them. You do a demo and it's the song, the spontaneity of how you put it down, that little inflection in the voice there, or something in the demo says it all. Even though the vocals are rough and the drums are out of time, it's got the feel of the song. Them you come to master it and it's not there. It's too fast or too clean. It's just not the same. Trying to recreate the moods of something you did so spontaneously can be so impossible. What we've done on this album is make the demos the masters. We demoed in the studio so that there were no demos anymore. They've transformed into the masters. (1985, Keyboard)


Bush says that as a composer she has benefited greatly by such musical tools as the fairlight and emulator, both computerized musical instruments. She can work out arrangements more accurately with more realistic sounds and test her theories before committing them to other musicians. She says it's the best thing to happen to her since the drum machine.

You have a whole barrage of different sounds that can spark off ideas and really develop the final arrangements. I consider myself very lucky because I'm a keyboard player, and it seems like the best advances in musical instruments have been keyboard instruments. I can't write music out [Kate is being modest here - she did indeed notate the six-line string parts for the medici quartet while recording `` cloudbusting'' - ied], so I've always had to use the spoken word to communicate my ideas. Now I can compose parts I never could before at the keyboard - it lets you get so much closer to the whole song.

The whole process of writing anyway is a very insular one, whether you write books or poetry or songs. It's an intimate form of expression - a private thing, a solitary occupation.

For me, it all started with tinkering around with the piano at the age of ten or eleven. That sort of grew into songs, and my voice got better as I worked it through the songs. Then I went through the studio environment, and by the time I had got that far I realized that the studio had such a big effect on a song that if I wanted to be in control totally, I would have to produce it too. Then came the visual side, which for me in many ways is the performance aspect. All of these elements are extensions of being a songwriter, and that is what I consider myself to be. (1985, Now)


*Your songwriting is self-taught. I've read where you went to the library to find books that would try to teach you how to put word to music. How did you finally learn, just by doing? Trial and error?

Well, I think from the word ``go'' it's been just a gradual process of teaching myself what worked and what didn't. It's just through practice, really. Any time you're writing a song, you're learning about some aspect of songwriting. (1986, Island-Ear)


I'm interested in how your song writing process works. When you're trying to communicate with other musicians and tell them exactly what you want, do you give them a tape on cassette?

It very much depends on the musician. Some people would not want to come in to the studio without having had a cassette that they could listen to and work some ideas out from. But normally what happens is the musician comes in, we play the track, which would have the basics on it. I sort of work backwards to most people in a lot of ways in that the bass quite often goes on nearly as one of the last instruments. So the track they would hear would have the drums, piano, voice, some keyboards, even guitar sometimes. And quite often now, we have a very good atmosphere going on the tape before the musician comes in, so although it might be very rough, what's on there is a very strong mood of what it will be like at the end. It's got all the feelings in there, and it's just a matter of tarting it up!

Yeah, because you don't want to lose that atmosphere.

Yes, it's very difficult to re-create things like that, and that's why it's so good for me to be able to write straight on to tape. You might get some really dodgy things, and quite often you do; but there might be something that is so spontaneous that you won't be able to do again in the same way, and it's there on tape. (1987, MuchMusic)


How are you putting together songs now?

At least six or seven of the tracks on this new album have been done in totally different ways. There's one track that I literally wrote on the Fairlight and then re-did things completely with strings. And the drums, which were originally Linn, were re-done with a live drummer. Then there's another track that's completely different, where I'd write through a guitarist. It really needed to be based around a guitar and I can't play guitar. If I'd used a piano or Fairlight, it would've been wrong, so I literally had to write through the guitarist. That was fabulous.

What was it that made you decide to replace the fairlight and linn with real strings and real drums?

I suppose it's when I get the voice and lyrics on, they tell me what to do. I thought, um... Although the Fairlight strings were interesting, they didn't have the... the warmth and the intimacy that the song required, and... it sounded a bit bland on the Fairlight. That particular song was a very intimate one. It needed... a wooden, human error, you know, the fact that it wasn't always on the beat, and that there was this group of people working together creating that sound. I do feel that in most cases when you've got a brilliant musician and an instrument you really... I mean, what's the Fairlight there for? I think it...it's a different purpose, to me anyways. I don't feel I want to create the world's greatest cellist on the Fairlight. You know, I'd rather get a really good cello player in, and record him with a good engineer, and then use the Fairlight to do something that complimented that. The most exciting thing for me is the combination of real and natural sounds and extremely electronic synthesized ones. It's just the blend of two worlds that I find fabulous. In the next few years, it's going to be really lovely to see how people start working these things. We've been in a real synthetic era for the last three years. People have been interested in the new advances in synthesizers. It's really exciting, and I think it's got people so wrapped up in electronics that now perhaps will come the time when the blend will happen.

What about the idea that you may not be create the best cellist on the fairlight, but that you will be the cellist? It won't be pablo casals' expression, it will be kate bush's expression?

Yes, I think that could be interesting, but I also think that could be boring. On this album I've done so much of the work that I really enjoy other people's input. I find it boring, actually, to have to work with my ideas all the time. The great thing, again, you can do with the Fairlight that I enjoy so much is I can write a piece on it, say, with an acoustic guitar or a cello, and I can write it out, and then I can get a musician in to actually play that. So he's playing what I've written, but he's doing it much better than I could do. You see, without the Fairlight, I probably couldn't have written these parts before. I would have written them on the piano and they wouldn't have had the feel of the strings, or acoustic guitar. And at the same time, you know I don't think me playing them on the Fairlight is as good as these people. But it's an interesting blend.

Do you feel you have a better understanding of how these people play?

Well, certainly in my experience, it's given me the most incredible insight into composing and how instruments work. And I think it's sort of... If you're not careful it can give you an arrogance as well, where you're sort of sitting there playing all these drums and thinking, ``Hey, you know, why can't you do this?", you know - like it's so easy. On the other hand, you know, there are little inflections that would be so difficult to get on the keyboard. I mean, you could probably get it to sound very close, but it... it might... just not sound like the real instrument. A lot of natural instruments, that's what it's about. It's the inflection of the musician, the way he works it, personalizes it. I mean, you know real instruments should never die. I don't think they can. That's what all these electronic things have come from. They should go hand in hand.

Do you compose on paper or right into the fairlight or tape machine?

It's really in my head first and then onto the tape machine. I only compose onto paper when it's an instance like a guitar or cello, where I play in real time to the track, and then when I like what it is, I'll write it out for someone to play. If it's me playing it, I don't bother to write it out. I work much better in my head. It takes me hours to write things out. I'm so slow. But writing it out is a very accurate way to get them to do what you want very quickly.

Kate, do your songs just burst out of you like so many athenas out of the head of zeus, or are they very crafted and do they cost you a lot of suffering and effort to construct as finished art-pieces?

It's very different every time, really. With the Never For Ever album, I had to work really hard to write most of those songs. It would take me weeks and weeks just to get a chorus or to write the words. But then, when we went into the studio, it was actually quite spontaneous and very quick. Whereas with most of the songs on The Dreaming, I just sat down at the piano, got a rhythm and just literally wrote the songs. I couldn't believe it! I mean to say, the words probably weren't there, but the idea was there, and all the tunes were there. That was the first time I'd actually demo'ed the songs while writing them. I put the piano down, put a voice down, put backing vocals down, and I had a song! And apart from `` Houdini,'' which nearly killed me, the rest were just so easy, it was really frightening. But then, as soon as I hit the studio, all that speed and spontaneity seemed to evaporate and turn into something completely different. The recording became really, really hard work, and it was very intense. With the new Hounds of Love album, the songs took quite a lot of time and effort to come out. Now that I've got my own studio, a lot of the writing process is very much the recording process so, rather than going in with a finished song, I'm able to go straight in and actually write the song in the studio, so that took a little bit of time.

So it's not as if you're so abundantly creative that we're being deprived of a whole wealth of songs that never got onto disc?

I wish, I wish, I wish! I think if I was abundantly creative, I could just sort of sit back and go: ``Ah, there's another one, how about that!'' But I just find it so hard. Usually with every album I'm in a situation where I scrape together the songs. The first album was the only one where that wasn't so, then I had literally hundreds of songs to choose from, as I'd been writing from about the age of eleven. But now it's just getting harder for me to write. I think the longer I'm around, the harder it is for me to find something convincing in my art. There are all kinds of subject-matters which I think I could probably have enjoyed at an earlier time, but which now I find trivial. So there are all these changes. You know, the more you see, the more there is to fear, and the more there is to learn. And I think that very much applies to my work.

And presumably your own criteria of perfection tend to escalate, so it gets a lot harder to reach that threshold.

Yes, I think so, yes, that's right. And also, of course, you can't really control what comes out, which is something that I have to keep telling myself. Because, you know, I think I'm going to sit down and write this or that, but it all just depends on how you're feeling or what's happening. You can't really control it. Other than rejecting or accepting things and putting them into different bits of order, you don't have any control over it. It's not something that you actually own. I could write an album very quickly, but maybe only one of the songs would be what I considered interesting enough, and I wanted to make sure with the new album that all the songs were good. Really, it's the lyrics that are like a big process that keeps on happening right from the word ``go'' till I've done the last lead vocal. I mean, still then I'm playing with little bits of lyrics here and there that maybe weren't quite right...

Is all that what accounts for the three-year gap between the dreaming and hounds of love?

Yes, it takes me a long time to write stuff that I feel is interesting enough, and also it takes me a long while to come out of the wake of one album and come into the energy of a new album. Because i would be wrong, I think, to be in the same frame of mind that I was in for the last album. And, in a way, you have to sort of say, ``Well, O.K., that was it; now I'm gonna go out and just find some new stimulus.'' 'Cause, you know, you go from one very intense atmosphere into another one, and you've got to get some new inspiration in between. But another big reason why the new album took so long is Side Two, The Ninth Wave. It was incredibly difficult to actually be brave enough to go for it. I had the feeling that that was what I wanted to do. But then I started getting scared of it - you know, I knew that, if it didn't work out, then I'd have wasted all that effort for nothing. Then I decided, though, O.K., yeah, I'm gonna go for it; but that was a relatively brave thing to do and it took a lot of time. What really consumed the time, though, was that the tracks took a long time to finish, they weren't as good as they should be, there were lots of things that still needed to be done.

Del: I think it all really depends on what the context is. If the content wasn't too deep, then it could all be done very quickly. It's when you're trying to create a specific atmosphere that it gets difficult.

Kate: It does, it depends on what the songs themselves demand. And the best thing about having the studio was not having the pressure of being in a studio that was costing nearly a hundred quid an hour. We do like to experiment, and sometimes it takes a while to make an experiment work. So we were able to take the time...

But is having your own studio a two-sided coin, in that, while it makes life a lot easier, you don't feel under the same pressure, and it's therefore much harder to complete things and tie them up?

Well, I thought that might be a problem but actually, the way we worked, I don't think it was, there was a pressure all the time because the album kept taking longer and I was very concerned that it should be finished.

I think, only naturally, a lot of people are wondering to themselves why there's been a three year interval since the dreaming, and they're fearful they'll have to wait another three or four years before the next album. Was setting up the studio responsible for some of the delay?

Yes, yes it was, to set up base down here rather than coming up to London all the time. As well as actually getting the place together, it takes some time to actually get ahold of and accumulate all the equipment, so that you've got what you need at hand. Also we made the step up from 24-track to 48-track while doing it.

You don't think that if you were in an urban environment you'd be under a different pressure, under a different stimulus, and you might be more productive?

No, I think there're more distractions when you go into an urban environment, and I think that was one of my big problems.

Del: I think you've been more productive since you've been living out here.

Kate: I have, absolutely.

So then the bottom line is that, even if the bottom were to fall out, now that you've got your own studio you'd be able to keep on making new records?

Del: Yes, but I think there'll always be a market for kate's music.

I think so, too! But even if worst came to the absolute worst, with the studio you'd be able to keep on recording even if only for your own edification. Once an album finally exists, can you enjoy it or will you have nothing more to do with it?

I couldn't with the first two albums as they didn't turn out the way I wanted them to, so obviously when I listened to them it was quite disappointing for me because I kept thinking of all the things I'd have liked to have done. But the third and fourth albums, yes, I could listen to those and be quite critical about them and yet feel quite pleased about some of the things on them. Artistically, I was especially pleased with The Dreaming. I achieved lots more on it than on the earlier ones. But then the songs were, in a way, more accepting of that kind of emotional style because they were so intense and demanding. The new album, which is the one I'm most happy with, was a very different energy. It was summer last year and I felt I wanted to write songs that had a very positive energy rather than staying in all that intensity of emotion that was so strong with the last album. I think it's important that each album should be different, otherwise you're not going anywhere and exploring but staying in a rut. But then it takes time to carry yourself over from one energy to another because you tend to get into little riffs and phrases and so on that perhaps you've got as some kind of theme on the last album, even if that's not obvious. And it's important, I think, to start writing in a slightly new style. Now that it's all done, I can sit here and enjoy it, especially here in the studio because this is the optimal way to hear it, because this is where it was all done. As soon as it gets onto vinyl, onto disc, sounds different. And now I can just sit here and relax instead of taking notes, you know, like to remind me I've got to study that bit and so on...

Del: Yeah, you should see the notes! There's two files, this thick! Full of notes, you'd never believe it.

Kate: Yes, they're little memos and scribbles and charts on takes that are good.

You don't have staves with whole lines of music written out?

Well, no, the only time I did that was for the cello parts in ``Hounds of Love'' that's the only time I've ever written out a part. I stayed up all night to do it and wasn't sure if I could. But I worked them out on the Emulator and wrote out the chords that I played in the treble clef. Then the cellist Jonathan Williams - he's such a great player and so into the music he was - helped me out by working i [??? Delete the ``I"] an octave lower. (1985, Musician)


Well, complex, yes. But I mean unfamiliar. your songs just aren't so easily sing-able, they're not very easily predictable, in the manner of most indigenous american music. I mean, once you've heard one verse and a chorus of an american song you've as good as heard the whole thing. And I think that's what so surprises me about the comparative success of the dreaming in the states, as so much american pop music is incredibly trite, so much of it has to do with stupefaction rather than revelation. But, you know, in one or two of the american reviews of the dreaming, your music has been described as ``schizophrenic", and to tell you the truth, I feel I can well understand why people have said that. You know I'm a historian concerned with freud and psychoanalysis. And it seems to me that, in a manner of speaking, your music represents a virtual compendium of psychopathology; I mean to say, it is alternatively hysterical, melancholic, psychotic, paranoid, obsessional, and so on. And yet, in your case, such traits obviously proceed out of strength, not out of weakness, they represent roles which you're assuming, or states which you're simulating, for the sake of a given song.

Yes! Well, I think that's fabulous that you should say so. You see, while I'm maybe not scientifically interested like you, I am absolutely fascinated by the states that people throw and put on. And, you know, I think that that is the most fascinating thing there is to write about really, the way that people just distort things and the things they think and the things they do. And it's really fun for me if I can find an area of the personality that is slightly exaggerated or distorted and, if I feel I can identify with it enough, then try to cast a person as perfectly as I can in terms of that particular character trait, especially if I don't really show those kinds of things myself. Take anger for instance: it's really fun to write from the point of view of someone who's really angry, like in `` Get Out of My House'' on the last album. Because I very rarely show anger, although obviously I do sometimes feel it. And it was the same sort of thing with `` Waking the Witch'' on the new album. What fascinated me in doing that song was the idea of a witch-hunter hiding behind the priesthood, as a guise, and coming to get this woman who isn't a witch, but he wants to make her so. The girl closes her eyes to get away from it and goes to a church where it's safe and secure. You know, churches are supposed to be places of sanctuary and their doors are never shut, even perhaps for people being chased by the Devil; but the priest turns out to be the witch-hunter. I didn't really have any heavy experiences like those that the song is about. It's based very much on other people's imagery of Roman Catholicism which I've found fascinating - you know, the kind of oppression, even madness, it can create, I suppose, in some people. And it's much more that, really, than any personal experience of my own. My school was Roman Catholic, so there was a big emphasis on religion, but it wasn't incredibly strict, and I didn't really go to church an awful lot, so I don't think the experience of religion was as heavy for me as for a lot of people...

So you're able to live those things out vicariously through your songs?

Yes, and it can be really fun.

But then, does this ever backfire on you? Do the forces which you unleash or the identities which you assume ever start gaining their own strength and begin taking you over?

No, I don't think they ever take me over. While I don't believe there is very much of me personally in these characters, obviously there must be a bit, or I simply would not be able to come up with them. But I think hopefully I'll recognize that most of them would not be beneficial to me; and, as long as I can recognize that, then I don't think they'll take me over. But, you know, I'm by no means a perfect person...

But you do allow them to take you over, to become you, for as long as you're actually writing or recording a song?

I can feel very affected by them, but I don't think they actually take me over. I think I was very much affected by `` Breathing;'' and, when I was making the last album, I was very affected by `` Houdini.'' Because it was really sad trying to be Houdini's lady, because he had died and obviously he must have been amazingly special as a person, someone trying to escape not only throughout his life, but also in death.

And were there any such role-playings on the new album?

Um...yes. I think `` Cloudbusting'' was quite like that. It must have been nearly ten years ago, when I used to go up to the Dance Center in London, that I went into Watkins' occult bookshop for a look, and there was this book and it said, A Book of Dreams, by Peter Reich. I'd never heard of his father, Wilhelm Reich, but I just thought it was going ``Hello, Hello,'' so I just picked up the book and read it and couldn't believe that I'd just found this book on the shelf. I mean it was so inspirational, very magical, with that energy there. So when I wrote and recorded the song, although it was about nine years later, I was nevertheless psyched up by the book, the image of the boy's father being taken away and locked up by the government just for building a machine to try to make rain. It was such a beautiful book! (1985, Musician)


What about when you write your songs, though, do you try them out on your family? Do they get a chance to hear them?

Yes; yes, they do. There's a small group that is around the family obviously including Del and a few friends, and they're really the people who hear it straight after I've written it and I suppose their reaction is the initial one. You see if it's going to work or not, by just the way they react.

Take, for example, the songs on the hound of love album. How many songs in total would you say you wrote for the album that perhaps didn't make it in the end... Or does it not work that way?

No, it does, initially. I write a batch of songs and try to pick the best. So I suppose there would have been a good say four or five songs - but then calling them songs is misleading, because they weren't complete, and I'd normally find that I'd throw lots of ideas down and then, coming back to them in a few days, would see that they weren't as good as they could be, so I would literally just leave them and not finish off the track. And the second side of the album had one and a half tracks rewritten, really, because the flow of the side needed to be changed because the whole nature of it kept changing as things were being put on top of the basics.

Do you ever go back to the songs that maybe you rejected? Say, for example, for the hounds of love? Would you ever go back to them again, or leave them totally aside?

It's quite interesting going back to them, and I have done, and I'll tend to find little pieces that I think can be re-worked and the rest of it is probably rubbish, so I'll put out the bits that, um... seem re-usable. And though maybe if that isn't used itself, it will then spark off something that can be used again, so they do get recycled sometimes.

Six months you worked on the songs for the album. Now as far as you're concerned is six months a long time?

I think it is a long time, yes, but it's just the way the work takes you. Some things can be very fast, and then the next part of the process will slow down dramatically... um... and each song has such different nature. It has its own personality, in a way. It can be terribly time-consuming trying to get as many of the right things as you can for each track, and the lyrics can be ultimately frustrating.

Well, I think lyrics are what make your songs, quite honestly.

Do you?

I love the melodies as well, but I think the lyrics... I mean I have to sit down and read the lyrics as I'm listening to the song, and then the song means that much more as far as I'm concerned. Are the lyrics that important to you? They obviously are.

Very important. I think the music and the lyrics are the two main priorities in song-writing, and they should be equally good, hopefully.

But for example, when you're writing a song, does the melody come first, or do you year the lyric line?

Um... Again, it does really alter from song to song, but generally the music comes first -


- and occasionally you just get like a riff musically that would have a line, say, connected to it; and that would be the chorus of the song. And then you can spend, say, up to ten days or whatever, just trying to get the rest of the lyrics around it. (1985, Tony Myatt interview)


I think most songwriters - I mean, people who write songs all the time - they do have a certain way of writing a song, if you like. As you say, you wanted to get away from that? That must be quite a difficult thing to do.

I think it's finding the right avenue for the song, and in a way I think you just have to pin down as early as you can exactly what you want to dress the song in - you know, what colour clothes... It's very like that, really, and you have to treat it accordingly - and from the word go the song will then take on an attitude that's maybe completely different from the song next to it on the album. Um... `` The Big Sky'' is an example of a real freak on the album, in that it consistently changed until we got there in the end, and ``Waking the Witch'' on side two was totally written through a guitarist - the electric guitarist. I knew what I wanted, but it wasn't a song that would sound right if it was based around a keyboard. It had to be written through the electric guitar. So the guitarist came in literally working to just a Linn pattern, and I just told him what I wanted, and it was a very different way of writing. I've never done it like that before, but I think it was very successful. (1985, Tony Myatt interview)


But... They must ask you, as I would when I listen to your albums - particularly the songs on this new one - where do these ideas come from, because they are really the most original... Every album you've done from the first one has this stamp of originality on it, and that is why I asked earlier if it is a burden to keep thinking of totally new ideas for songs. Where do they come from?

Well I think that's very kind of you to say that. I think that originality is something that really doesn't exist, that everything has been done before, and it's just that there are so many ways of doing things. People can be sparked off by something that already exists and create something quite different from that, and I think that's what's exciting, in that - in a way - that is what people like myself are doing. We're looking for pieces of gold, and if you see something glitter, then you try to grab it and turn it into something that you hope, you know, glitters, and just...start working on it. (1985, Tony Myatt interview)


Do you compose your music with traditional written notation, or do you rely entirely on demo tapes? And has your process of composing melodies and harmonies, etc., changed since the kick inside and lionheard? Are you, for example, more specific in writing out a bass line now than in 1978, or do you give more leeway to the other musicians during rehearsals than you used to? [I wrote this question. - ied]

My notation is very basic. I just write out the chords and lyrics, and I rely mainly on my memory. This does make it a bit difficult when I try to come back to a song after a few years, but I can listen to tapes and bash around on the piano, rediscovering the past. Before the first album it was easy: I used to practice all my songs every day in rotation, and kept them totally in my head. But I just don't have the time any more, so I do rely on the records and tapes to refer to chords - for live performances, for instance.

I think the process of recording has changed very much since the first album, perhaps the biggest change being my involvement with the production. The demos on the first album were just piano and vocal; the demos for the second and third albums were a very big influence on the master recordings; the fourth album was completely influenced by the demos; and the current album is the demos.

When working with musicians, I find that it depends totally on the individual, and the communication between the two of us. I will normally guide the direction to start with, but it's up to the musicians to make it really happen.

Have you ever thought of releasing a live l.p.?

Yes. (1984, KBC 17)


When you write, do the words or the lyrics come first - uh the words or the music - come first?

It's different with each song. And sometimes you actually get a piece of music in your head that's got words with it - it's like they just sort of go together. But generally I'd say the music comes first, and the lyrics are worked in around that, or with it. (1985, Picture Disk)


Do songs come easily to you, or not?

No. Some do, but the majority is something I have to work for very hard. It's extremely frustrating, but it's worth it to get something in the end. Something I got hooked on really quite young. Just playing with the piano and the whole excitement of actually creating something out of nothing. (1985, Picture Disk)


Some call kate obsessive, claiming that her work is the most important thing in her life, and that everyone around her gets dragged in with her. It's true, she smiles. I'm obsessive about most things which take my fancy. I'm like that. Once I start something, I'm committed. I just can't put it down. It's very hard for example, to stand back from an album, allow it to be finished and then let people evaluate it for what it is. It's a terrifying process for me. And consequently making the album in the first place gets harder and harder for me. This one took me over two years to make, so I had about two years ``off'' after the last one. So I come back to writing completely cold. I like, I sing, do I? Every time it's like I've never done it before. Is it enough? Is it rubbish? I've had to train myself to listen to that internal voice, the one I go to sleep with. I've had to learn to believe in myself and in my own judgement. (1989, You)


Most of the new songs are about relationships again. Maybe I'm saying, things get rough, it's ok really. And, it takes me two years to say that I have to sweat blood and shed real tears before I know I've put everything into it. That's why I worry that the creative process is getting harder and more painful for me every time. At what point will I find that I've used it up? That there are no more albums left inside me?

That's a thought. What will she do then? (1989, You)


When you actually set about doing an album, are you terribly intense about the whole thing and spend all your waking hours writing tracks?

Probably not when I first start the album. That's probably a relatively relaxed process. But then once I've got into that process a bit, it all starts where you think, ``God! This is rubbish!'' From that point onwards you're beginning, and it does become very intense. I do really have a very obsessive attitude about my albums - where once I'm in there, I don't do anything else. I can't do my other projects because it all feels like it's distracting me. And because I know it's going to take me such a long time, I feel I have to keep this intensity going, or I might never ever finish it.

Do you let other people come in and listen?

Yes. It's very important to let others hear it. But more and more it becomes a problem, because the way I'm working in the studio. Quite often the song will sound like it's in pieces until it's in a quite developed stage. The other problem is, if you know you want to change lots of things in the tracks, the chances are that if you let people hear it in an early stage, they will latch onto the whole structure of the song and they can't allow for any differences later. In some ways the most useful ones are at a much later stage where the songs are almost finished and they're easier for people to hear. Then you can hear how people react.

Do you always write in the studio?

Yes, I do now. I play around with ideas at home, but most of the writing goes on in here, and that's important, too. Because years ago I'd make demos, and there would be things that I wanted to keep, but of course you can't, because it's a demo. It's the eternal problem. By having your own studio, you can get around that. You can actually make the demos the master, and keep all those little bits that are interesting, but then make the rest sound much better. I work very closely with Del, who engineers for me. So most of the time it's just the two of us in there. He works a lot on the rhythms and things, so at least I'm not totally alone in there. Once the song feels good enough to work on, then you bring musicians in and just sort of layer upon layer. You sort of create the picture, as it were, and just build up the sounds that seem to work for what the song is saying. It feels as though songs have personalities. You can try something on a song and it will just reject it. It doesn't want it. And yet you can tray that on another song and it will work so perfectly. They're all so individual.

What about the tense atmosphere when the album is in its final preparation stage? Do tempers begin to flare?

Yes. I think healthy argument is a very important part of the process, really. Creative or otherwise. Because it can be very constructive. The problem is actually having a strong enough direction, knowing what you want to do. (1989, Greater London)


Gaffaweb / Cloudbusting / Subjects / Songwriting / Composing