[Here is an interview, apparently conducted by Kate, using the name Zwort Finkle. It appeared in the twenty-first issue (winter 1987).]
Hi, my name's Zwort Finkle, I'm from the U.S. of A. and I'm a distant cousin of Kate's. We haven't seen each other for years, so I had to fill her in on my life story. I left college three years ago, and have been following a brilliant career in journalism, working for such well known magazines as Blurt, Let's Go Crazy, Let's Go Crazy Again, Son of Blurt and Let's Go Blurt Again. This was my first visit to London, and I was astounded at how you guys can survive this climate, how you manage to keep to one side of the road when the roads are so small, how quaint and cute you all are, and how totally bored and unenthused you all are with things that would make us little old Americans go "Yee-Hah".
Zwort: Tell me, Katie, have you ever thought of living in America?
Katie: There are very few places I've been to that I've felt I could live in--I think too many of my roots are here in England, and so much of my work is based here, and I seem to spend most of my time working. I've only been to America a few times, and then only to New York, L.A. and Las Vegas, but maybe if I visited more parts of America I would find a place that I feel I could live in. I really enjoyed my visits, especially to New York--there's so much energy there, so many different and interesting people and a very social sense between artistic people, that certainly in the music business doesn't exist in this country. People seem to work in great isolation here, whereas in New York, people want to get together and talk and enthuse.
Zwort: Like, er, do you feel there's a lack of enthusiasm here, cous'?
Katie: Yes, I do, and I feel a lot of people, certainly within the music business, are particularly attracted to America by this. "Artistic" people like--possibly even need--a lot of feedback, and Americans are wonderful at making you feel wanted, and are very positive about the launching of new ideas, new approaches. It's exciting to be among this energy, and in England I think we're all a bit hard on each other, but this country has a great wealth of talent and creative ideas, it's just that people have to fight a little to get a bit of enthusiasm going. But maybe that's not such a bad thing--maybe it creates more determination in a cause. What do you think, cousin Rodney?
Zwort: Actually, it's Zwort.
Katie: Sorry, what's Zwort?
Zwort: My name, of course.
Zwort: What were you doing in Las Vegas? That's an unusual place to visit!
Katie: I was there with a guy from the record company just for a day, and it was really just an opportunity to see the place while he had business matters to deal with. It is an extraordinary place. Instead of saying "How you doing?", everyone says, "Feeling lucky?" It's like a strange oasis stuck right in the middle of the desert away from everything. We took a flight in a small plane over the Grand Canyon, and it was one of the most terrifying experiences I've ever had. The Canyon is totally enormous, and we were so tiny-- I've never experienced that kind of vertigo before or since, and with all the air pockets, we went up and down, up and down.
Zwort: I understand you don't do many interviews.
Katie: That's right.
Zwort: Why is that?
Katie: I find it very difficult to express myself in interviews. Often people have so many preconceptions that I spend most of the interview trying to defend myself from the image that was created by the media eight years ago. That is understandable to a certain extent--that's when I did most of my interviews, and I think the image was created by what the press felt the public wanted, how they interpreted me as I was then, and how I projected myself at that time.
Zwort: You mean like saying "wow", "amazing", and that you were weak and fragile, etc.
Katie: Yes, that is part of it. I was very young, idealistic and enthusiastic about so much then, but I felt they exaggerated these qualities. And I was--and am even more so now--a private person, and perhaps because I wouldn't talk about these areas of my life they turned to the "wow", "amazing" girl, even when I didn't use those words. The few interviews I do, people still seem to dwell on this old "me", and I find it disappointing when I want to talk about my current work.
Zwort: Do you , like, er, think enthusiasm was an unfashionable thing, particularly at this time, when punk and street cred were the "hip" thing?
Katie: Yes, I do. I think it still is, particularly in this country. But I think clever people hide their unfashionable faces from the public. Perhaps in a way, I was too open with the press, maybe I should have "performed" for them, and puked and gobbed at the cameras, but it's not my nature, I was brought up too well. The interviews I've sat through patiently, sometimes hanging onto my patience with the skin of my teeth, thinking it's good for my tolerance and might make me a better person.
Zwort: But you do occasionally talk to the press?
Katie: Yes. There are good people to talk to, they're not always talking about the past, or deliberately trying to make you look like an idiot, and are genuinely interested in my work. But it's like I said, I find it hard to express myself in interviews. It depends how I feel--sometimes they're fun, especially if I know the journalist, and the questions are interesting--they make you think about areas you might not have even considered before. But sometimes I find myself saying things just to please them, or just to give a question an answer. Sometimes I get verbal diarrhoea and just burble complete rubbish, and sometimes I feel so guarded that I invert, and feel like a trapped animal. Quite often I go over an interview in my head afterwards and realise I've said something completely contrary to what I believe, but I put most of it down to being quite a private person, and being someone who likes to think carefully about how I say something. Words are very special things, and are so easily misinterpreted-- I much prefer to write lyrics than do an interview. I feel I'm a songwriter, not a personality, and I find it difficult to even talk about my songs, sometimes. In a way, they speak for themselves, and the subjects or inspirations can be so personal, or just seem ridiculous when spoken about.
Zwort: Do you think it's important that people know what the songs are about?
Katie: No, I think it can be interesting for people, but their interpretation is what matters, and I find it fascinating how people do seem to understand so much about a song that must be totally obscure and is so personal to me, but maybe they just feel it, they feel the emotions of the song, somehow grasp the meanings. It's so hard for me to tell because I know what it's about, but for example, some of the stuff on The Ninth Wave are so obscure lyrically, and yet people seem to know exactly what I'm trying to say. That's a great feeling. It stops me worrying about that aspect of songwriting--that someone somewhere knows exactly what you're trying to put into words.
Zwort: Do you have favourite lyric-writers, as opposed to "musical" songwriters?
Katie: I'm not sure you can separate the two, because once a word is sung, it can completely change its feeling to the point where you don't recognise the word any more--for me that is part of the fascination. But my favourite lyric just now is The Boy in the Bubble by Paul Simon. The chorus of that is totally brilliant, particualarly the line, "The way we look to the distant constellation that is dying in the corner of the sky." It's poetry, but the impact is the combination of the words with the music, and the way he sings it--it's so good. But quite often I mishear lyrics, and prefer my version to the real words when I find them out. I know a lot of people who have the same experience, and again we're back to what music means to the listener, or how they hear it. Music is a very special thing.
Zwort: Would you say that music is something religious, even holy to you?
Katie: Some of the most beautiful music ever was written for God, for a loved one, in a state of grief, sorrow, suppression--it seems to be an expression from a person on a higher level...? I'm not sure I understand it at all, but music seems to come out of people when very little else can. Some of the great composers wrote beautiful music but, as people, were monsters or maniacs. People who can't speak properly because of stutters can sing fluently. I saw a clip from a programme about a man who only had a short-term memory--he couldn't remember anything: what he'd just said, just done. He lived in a constant state of panic, buecause he didn't know where he was, or why he was there. It was terrifying. The only thing he could remember was he wife, and when he sat at the church organ at his local church he could sing a play complete pieces of music without any problems. It was like he'd suddenly been set free. And yet when he was shown a video recording of him doing this, he had no memory of it whatsoever. Music is a strange and beautiful thing. It means a great deal to me. I love listening to and making music. I am very lucky to be able to be involved with music--I hope I always will be.
Zwort: Do you think music comes from the soul? This is what some people believe.
Katie: I don't know. I just know that music is something special, and also something very personal for people.
Zwort: Going back to the obscurity of some of your songs that are personal to you, and how you feel people pick up on this-- can you give some detailed examples?
Katie: Mmmh, let me think.
Zwort: I'll make a cup of coffee and you have a think, cous'.
Katie: Rod--er, Zwort?
Zwort (from kitchen): Yeah?
Katie: Can I have tea?
Zwort: Yeah, sure--you English and your tea. It's so quaint! Can we have scones and I'll have tea too?
Katie: Sorry, haven't got any, but there's some fig rolls...
(ten minutes later...)
Zwort: Okay--teabreak over.
Katie: Right, back to your question. I think it works on the basis of: if it moves you, it could move others. Hitchcock was talking about his films and saying the best subjects for his films that were frightening were things that frightened him--like Vertigo. Apparently he was terrified of heights. It seems logical, doesn't it?
Zwort: Yeah, sure. Hitchcock was brilliant.
Katie: Yes, I agree, a genius. An engineer we were working with picked out the line in And Dream of Sheep that says 'Come here with me now.' I asked him why he liked it so much. He said, 'I don't know, I just love it. It's so moving and comforting.' I don't think he even knew what was being said exactly, but the song is about someone going to sleep in the water, where they're alone and frightened. And they want to go to sleep, to get away from the situation. But at the same time it's dangerous to go to sleep in water, you could drown. When I was little, and I'd had a bad dream, I'd go into my parents' bedroom round to my mother's side of the bed. She'd be asleep, and I wouldn't want to wake her, so I'd stand there and waid for her to sense my presence and wake up. She always did, within minutes; and sometimes I'd frighten her--standing there still, in the darkness in my nightdress. I'd say, "I've had a bad dream," and she'd lift bedclothes and say something like "Come here with me now." It's my mother saying this line in the track, and I briefed her on the ideas behind it before she said it. And I think it's the motherly comfort that this engineer picked up on. In fact, he said this was his favourite part of the album. Cloudbusting is, again, lyrically very obscure. I think the idea is easy to grasp, but the story behind it is very involved, and in a way the video that accompanies it is equally so, but I've spoken to several people who have felt very moved by the song or the video or both, and they all say they feel this really personal relationship between the child and his father, how real it seems, how sad it is. For me, that is wonderful--the book that originally inspired the song and video moved me so much! It's so sad, and it's also a true story, and somehow even if people don't understand the story, they pick up on the feelings, the emotions--this is a very rewarding experience for me.
Zwort: Did the writer of the book get to hear the song and see the video?
Katie: Yes. These were worrying moments for me--what if he didn't like it? If I'd got it wrong? But he said he found them very emotional and that I'd captured the situation. This was the ultimate reward for me
Zwort: Do you stay in contact?
Katie: Yes, we write to each other, and I enjoy the contact very much. Many people have tried to get this book [ A Book of Dreams, by Peter Reich], many have read it since and adore it. The trouble is, the book is out of print, and I think it's such a shame that it's unavailable for those that would love to read it. It's very difficult to find copies of it, though I understand that some libraries still carry it.
Zwort: How do you feel about The Whole Story? Were you against the release of a compilation album?
Katie: Yes, I was at first. I was concerned that it would be like a "K-Tel" record, a cheapo-compo with little thought behind it. It was the record company's decision, and I didn't mind as long as it was well put together. We put a lot of work into the packaging, trying to make it look tasteful, and carefully thought out the the running order. And the response has been phenomenal--I'm amazed!
Zwort: Careful, there's that word!
Katie: Surely I can say it once or twice. Everybody else does, and gets away with it--Zzzwort!!
Zwort: Only teasing. How do you feel about the video compilation?
Katie: Again, I was worried initially, because of the release of The Single File and Hair of the Hound, but with the opportunity of getting Experiment IV on it, and the record company being sure there was a market, I felt it could be a good idea. We spent a lot of work on Experiment IV, and because of it almost being an "adult" video, we were sure we'd have trouble getting it shown on TV.
Zwort: Did you have trouble getting it shown?
Katie: Yes. The video took a long time to make, and with having to write and record the single with the tightest deadlines I've ever had, the video was needed before we'd finished it. But we did get a minute clip ready in time to be shown when the single was charting, but Top of the Pops refused to show it, saying it was too violent! It's not violent at all, but we expected a response like this. Pop promos are in a very sensitive area. They're considered "family viewing", but there are many sexualy ambiguous videos shown on children's TV--yet this was considered too extreme. However, The Tube showed it in its entirety, and it's now showing at the cinema with a feature film, so we've made a sort of B-film!! That's quite exciting.
Zwort: I noticed that instead of the Wow video you've pieced together footage from the live shows. Why is this?
Katie: Two reasons, really. Firstly, I really don't like the promo we did for Wow. I think it's silly. And also, looking through the videos I noticed a great absence of "performance" promos, and the tour was an important part of the story. Also, it makes it a more interesting item for people who have some of the other videos. That way it's not just Experiment IV that is a new visual.
Zwort: I understand you directed this clip. How did it go, and why did you direct it?
Katie: Directing is a new experiment for me--actually, it was Experiment III--and with this track I had such strong visual ideas while I was writing the song that I wanted to give it another go. It's the first time the video and song have come together. It was very hard work, but a lot of fun.
We filmed in an old disused hospital, and the conditions were very cold and damp, but everyone got very involved and we had a great time.
The cast included Dawn French, Hugh Laurie, Richard Vernon, Peter Vaughan, Del, Paddy, Jay, Lisa and many friends. It was wonderful to work with people who I admire so much, and a very exciting experience. Paddy played the lunatic, and in every take his sounds were just as impressive as his visuals--I wish I'd put it onto tape. He literally "threw" himself into the part, and the crew were so impressed they applauded him--a great accolade!
Although this was the most complicated of my directions, it was so much easier for me because I appeared in it only briefly, so I could concentrate on being behind the camera, which I really enjoy. And it's so nice to involve the people I like--not only are they great performers, but they're good to be with.
There were some wonderful moments, like filming in East London. We had a field full of "dead bodies" who kept moving about to get more comfortable, so we had to shout out over a loud-hailer, "Stop moving--You're supposed to be dead!" And the music shop that we created for the shot [ Music For Pleasure ] was so realistic that passers-by kept popping in wanting to buy some of the instruments.
Zwort: How do you view the changes audially and visually on The Whole Story album and video?
Katie: I really like the idea of the album being available on video--I've always wanted to make a form of video album, but I never thought it would be a compilation!
I see two main changes, although I'm very subjective. Audially, the important step for me was production, which had led on to our own studio. The process is so much more personal because of this. On the first two albums all my arrangements were contained within the piano arrangement, which was the foundation, but which was then handed over to Andrew Powell as producer to interpret with his string arrangements. And the musicians and I worked in my backing vocals by playing the tapes over and over and singing along. But being producer I could put a lot less emphasis on the piano arrangement and interpret the song through other instruments onto tape, even playing around with the parts after the musicians had gone, and getting our own studio meant I could build up the song straight onto tape, keeping bits that worked and building up ideas even before the musicians came in.
Visually, I see a shift from being inspired by dance (Lindsay Kemp being a big influence), to filmic imagery (being influenced by all the films I love so much). I find the combination of film and music very exciting, and it's very rare for people to concentrate on both with equal concern--film-makers don't want the music to distract, and musicians don't want the visuals to be stronger than the music. But when it works, it's so powerful! For instance, The Wall, Singing in the Rain, Amadeus-- there are definitely people moving this way more and more. It's great.
Zwort: Wouldn't it be great to attack all the senses at once? To have film and music, sensurround fitted to the seats, scents filtered in through the air-conditioning--Yee-hah!
Katie: Oh, Cousin Rodney--that's what I love about you: you're so enthusiastic!
Zwort: It's Zwort!
KaTe's Newsletter Writings Table of Contents
©1990 Andy Marvick