[Here is Kate's article for issue number 18.]
This album is two very separate sides for me. Each side has a title. The first side is called Hounds of Love, and is five separate songs--individual, but in some way all linked, because they are forms of love songs. The second side is called The Ninth Wave, and is a conceptual side, consisting of seven tracks that are linked together.
It becomes increasingly difficult for me to talk about the content of the songs. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because the more I go on, the more I feel it's for the songs to say than for me. Especially with the second side on this album I see it very visually. I would eventually love to see this as a piece of film, and so I feel restricted about talking about these songs other than to give a brief analysis of the story. Otherwise, I find that perhaps too much energy is going into talking about the visual side of it, rather than doing it. [Plans for a film of The Ninth Wave were eventually abandoned.] I will try to give a brief analysis and to fill you in more about some of the people we didn't get round to talking about in the last Newsletter.
The first track on the first side is Running Up That Hill, and I'm sure you will have all heard this by now. I am very excited about how it's been received by people! It's so rewarding after working for a long time to see that your work is being received with open arms. This song is very much about two people who are in love, and how the power of love is almost too big for them. It leaves them very insecure and in fear of losing each other. It's also perhaps talking about some fundamental differences between men and women.
The second song is called Hounds of Love, and is really about someone who is afraid of being caught by the hounds that are chasing him. I wonder if everyone is perhaps ruled by fear, and afraid of getting into relationships on some level or another. They can involve pain, confusion and responsibilities, and I think a lot of people are particularly scared of responsibility. Maybe the being involved isn't as horrific as your imagination can build it up to being--perhaps these baying hounds are really friendly.
The next song is called The Big Sky. Someone sitting looking at the sky, watching the clouds change. I used to do this a lot as a child, just watching the clouds go into different shapes. I think we forget these pleasures as adults. We don't get as much time to enjoy those kinds of things, or think about them; we feel silly about what we used to do naturally. The song is also suggesting the coming of the next flood--how perhaps the "fools on the hills" will be the wise ones.
The fourth song on this side is called Mother Stands for Comfort. It's about a son who has committed a terrible crime, and how basically, although his mother knows that he's done something wrong, she'll protect him and care for him and hide him from the people who are looking for him. It's talking about a mother's love, and how sometimes she will actually go against the morality she feels within herself about what is right and wrong, if the child is endangered.
The last song is called Cloudbusting, and this was inspired by a book that I first found on a shelf nearly nine years ago. It was just calling me from the shelf, and when I read it I was very moved by the magic of it. It's about a special relationship between a young son and his father. The book was written from a child's point of view. His father is everything to him; he is the magic in his life, and he teaches him everything, teaching him to be open-minded and not to build up barriers. His father has built a machine that can make it rain, a "cloudbuster"; and the son and his father go out together cloudbusting. They point big pipes up into the sky, and they make it rain. The song is very much taking a comparison with a yo-yo that glowed in the dark and which was given to the boy by a best friend. It was really special to him; he loved it. But his father believed in things having positive and negative energy, and that fluorescent light was a very negative energy--as was the material they used to make glow-in-the-dark toys then--and his father told him he had to get rid of it, he wasn't allowed to keep it. But the boy, rather than throwing it away, buried it in the garden, so that he would placate his father but could also go and dig it up occasionally and play with it. It's a parallel in some ways between how much he loved the yo-yo--how special it was--and yet how dangerous it was considered to be. He loved his father (who was perhaps considered dangerous by some people); and he loved how he could bury his yo-yo and retrieve it whenever he wanted to play with it. But there's nothing he can do about his father being taken away, he is completely helpless. But it's very much more to do with how the son does begin to cope with the whole loneliness and pain of being without his father. It is the magic moments of a relationship through a child's eyes, but told by a sad adult.
Big Sky was a song that changed a lot between the first version of it on the demo and the end product on the master tapes. As I mentioned in the earlier magazine, the demos are the masters, in that we now work straight in the 24-track studio when I'm writing the songs; but the structure of this song changed quite a lot. I wanted to steam along, and with the help of musicians such as Alan Murphy on guitar and Youth on bass, we accomplished quite a rock-and-roll feel for the track. Although this song did undergo two different drafts and the aforementioned players changed their arrangements dramatically, this is unusual in the case of most of the songs. That takes us to the second side, which itself had two or three drafts.
It was very different for me working conceptually across half an hour's worth of music, rather than five minutes optimum in a song, and it was very interesting but more demanding. The whole was changed by anything you did to one part of the concept. Once the piece was in context with what was happening before and after it, it would change its nature dramatically, and it was important that the whole side kept a sense of flow and yet kept the interest and kept building and ebbing in the right places.
The side is about someone who is in the water alone for the night. And Dream of Sheep is about them fighting sleep. They're very tired and they've been in the water waiting for someone to come and get them, and it's starting to get dark and it doesn't look like anyone's coming and they want to go to sleep. They know that if they go to sleep in the water they could turn over and drown, so they're trying to keep awake; but they can't help it, they eventually fall asleep--which takes us into the second song.
The second song is called Under Ice, and is the dream that the person has. They're skating on ice; it's a frozen river and it's very white everywhere and they're all alone, there doesn't appear to be anyone else there. As they skate along they look down at the ice and they can see something moving underneath. As they skate along with the object that's moving under the ice they come to a crack in the ice; and as it moves under the crack, they see that it's themselves in the water drowning, and at that moment they wake up into the next song, which is about friends and memories who come to wake them up to stop them drowning.
As they wake up and surface, they are coming out of the whole feeling of deep subconsciousness. One of the voices tells them there's someone there to see them, and here in the water is a witchfinder. This is a sort of nightmare they're having. This monster figure is basically trying to drown them, trying to see if they're innocent or guilty. If they drown then they're innocent. If they don't drown they're guilty, they'll be drowned anyway. It's the trial of this girl who's in the water; and all she wants to do is survive and keep her head above water. This song was written through a guitarist--Alan Murphy. The track would have had the wrong feel with a keyboard instrument. All he had to work to was the drum track, and I tried to hum and point patterns out. Everything he came up with sounded great; we spent the day building up the guitars, then built vocals, Fairlight, sequencers over the top. Thanks for that, Al.
The next song is about how she wants to go home. That's really the thing she wants most, just to be in the cosy atmosphere of her belongings all around her, and the security of those four walls and the firm ground, and being with the one that she loves. She finds that she's there in spirit, and there's her loved one sitting in a chair by the fire, but she hadn't conceived the idea that she wouldn't actually be there in real terms. She's not real. And although she can see her man, he can't see her--she can't communicate with him in any way. It's more of a nightmare than anything so far, because this is the closest she's been to any kind of comfort, and yet it's the furthest away.
The next song is Jig of Life. This is about the future self who comes to her rescue, basically. She says "Look, I'm the next part of your life and if I am going to survive and enjoy the things that I've enjoyed-- having my children, my happy home and my husband--then you've got to keep it together, you've got to stay alive, you musn't drown or I will drown with you." It's the future begging her, pleading with her to let her, the future lady, live.
The song after that is Hello Earth, and this is the point where she's so weak that she relives the experience of the storm that took her in the water, almost from a view: looking down on the earth up in the heavens, watching the storm start to form--the storm that eventually took her and that has put her in this situation.
This track features orchestral arrangements by Michael Kamen. It was wonderful working with Michael. He's a very receptive person to work with, and the orchestral arrangements that he did for the tracks I felt were very atmospheric. It was wonderful for me to watch the layers of this song go on one by one. It initally had to be written with the verses symbolizing the storm's gradual buildup, and the choruses having a great sense of space and atmosphere --and this I always hoped to be a male choir. When I first wrote Hello Earth I was very much inspired by a male choir that I'd heard in Herzog's film Nosferatu. And the verses are a very different piece of music. It was all designed so as hopefully to link, eventually, with this male voice choir which would take us to a very different place in the song. They really are meant to symbolize the great sense of loss, of weakness, at reaching a point where you can accept, at last, that everything can change.
This takes us into The Morning Fog. "Morning Fog" is the symbol of light and hope. It's the end of the side, and if you ever have any control over endings they should always, I feel, have some kind of light in there. This was originally written to a Linn drum machine. I wrote, on the Fairlight, an instrumental piece of music using the sample of an acoustic guitar. I then later wrote the song on top of this instrumental, building up the voices in layers. The piece I'd written on the Fairlight was transcribed by Dave Lawson for an acoustic guitar player, and I felt that really one of the best people to play this was John Williams, a superb classical guitarist who I had met on a couple of occasions before when I was working at Abbey Road. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to ask him if he'd like to play on a track. We added Del's fretless bass, Kevin on synth, and built up the backing vocals; then Pad layered up Appalachian fiddles and fujare. We kept the guide vocal as the master voice and mixed up the last track on the album.
Many hours were spent on tiny vocal ideas that perhaps only last half a minute. Many hours went on writing lyrics--one of the most difficult parts in the process for me, in that it's so time-consuming and so frustrating, and it just always seems to take far too long for something that seems as though it should come so naturally. One of the difficult things about the lyrics is that when I initially write the song, perhaps half of the lyrics come with it but it's almost more difficult fitting in the other half to make it match than it would be perhaps to start from scratch, where, for instance, you might have just hummed the tune; or where, in some cases, I wrote them as instrumentals, and then the tunes were written over the top of this. Many times I ring up Paddy and ask him to come over to the studio immediately, to bring in that string-driven thing--to hit that note and let it float. [N.B.: "Hit that note and let it float" is a quotation from Big-Eyed Bees from Venus, a song by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band.]
One of the most positive things is now having our own recording studio where we can experiment freely, and it's definitely one of the best decisions I've made since I've been recording albums. We've put a lot of hard work into this album, so we've been waiting for it to be finished and ready, and I know you've been waiting. I hope that after this time, and after all the snippets of information we've been giving you, you don't find it disappointing, but that you enjoy it, and that you enjoy listening to it in different ways again and again.
This album could never have happened without some very special people. Many thanks to Julian Mendelsohn, and especially Haydn Bendall and Brian Tench, who put a lot of hard work into this project, to all the musicians, who are a constant inspiration, to Ma who helps with every little thing, to Paddy and Jay for all their inspiration and influences, and again to Del for all those moments we've captured on tape together.
Lots of love,
KaTe's Newsletter Writings Table of Contents
©1990 Andy Marvick