Interviews & Articles


Melody Maker
"The Kick Outside"
by Harry Doherty
June 3, 1978

To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents

Date: Mon, 22 Jun 87 13:48 PDT
From: IED0DXM%UCLAMVS.BITNET@wiscvm.wisc.edu
Subject: Harry Doherty, Melody Maker, June 3, 1978

"The Kick Outside"

Interview with Kate Bush by Harry Doherty, Melody Maker, June 3, 1978

This week, friends, we find ourselves in a 350-year-old home enjoying the company of a girl called Kate Bush and a dog named Piggy. Outside, we have her doctor father's surgery and a barn-cum-studio, in a secluded Kent pastoral setting.

This Kate Bush is 19 years old and a budding beauty, though she'd prefer it if you ignore the sex symbol stakes. She is exquisitely mannered and articulate. In six short months, via a single, "Wuthering Heights," and album, "The Kick Inside," both of which stayed in the chart for 12 weeks, she has shed the anonymity of a beginner and become, for want of a better word, a star.

Kate Bush is doubtless the success of '78. Should you have difficulty in swallowing the talent of Ms. Bush, then consider that she counts many established songwriters and new wave leaders among her early fans. Bob Geldof, not usually noted for dishing out praise elsewhere, swears by her.

Kate Bush is taking a break from the arduous task of writing songs for her second album. It is not coming along too well. She is finding it a bit stifling to write to demand, but is sure that once the intenseness of sitting at her piano returns, so will the songs.

The trouble, of course, stems from the rush of acclaim that greeted "The Kick Inside," which, with half a dozen examples of classic writing and singing, was more a sign of potential than actual realisation of it. "Wuthering Heights" was the proverbial smash, and suddenly the whole world went crazy. Kate made a valiant and successful attempt at keeping it all under control.

The songs for the debut had been written over a period of three years. Because of a number of fortunate encounters, first an inheritance and then the record company (EMI) advance, she could concentrate solely on her writing and dancing without worrying about finance.

Dave Gilmour, of Pink Floyd, was impressed enough by her potential to put up the money for proper demos, and Andrew Powell, usually noted for his orchestral arrangements, stepped in to produce her album. With all the business taken care of, Kate was able to "educate" herself.

"Train myself for the ...ah...Coming, I guess. I really felt that I wanted to get some sort of bodily expression together to go with the music. Music is a very emotional thing, and there's always a message, and your purpose as a performer is to get it across to the people in as many ways as you can."

The "Coming" came and Kate Bush took everybody by surprise, including herself and EMI, by breaking through immediately. She had insisted that "Wuthering Heights" be the first single, as much for business reasons as artistic ones.

"I felt that to actually get your name anywhere, you've got to do something that is unusual, because there's so much good music around and it's all in a similar vein. It was, musically, for me, one of my strongest songs. It had the high pitch and it also had a very English story-line which everyone would know because it was a classic book."

EMI had wanted to go with another track, "James and the Cold Gun," a more traditional rock'n'roll song. But Kate was reluctant, just as they were with the new single, "The Man With the Child In His Eyes," which, musically, is a complete contrast to her first hit. The record company would have opted for a more obvious follow-up in "Them Heavy People."

"I so want "The Man With the Child In His Eyes" to do well. I'd like people to listen to it as a songwriting song, as opposed to something weird, which was the reaction to 'Wuthering Heights.' That's why it's important. If the next song had been similar, straight away I would have been labeled, and that's something I really don't want. As soon as you've got a label, you can't do anything. I prefer to take a risk."

The relationship with EMI has been good. Kate has been astonished that they've allowed her so much say. But she was very insistent that she should be involved in every facet of her career, to the point where, at such a young age, she had almost been self-managed, with help from friends and family.

"I've always had an attitude about managers. Unless they're really needed, they just confuse matters. They obviously have their own impressions of a direction and an image that is theirs, and surely it should come from within the actual structure rather than from outside. I often think that generally they're more of a hindrance than a help."

Ideally, she would like to exert control over every area to ensure that she is projected as she wants to be. Strangely, very strangely, the pressure and frightening newness of the music business hasn't upset her at all, and she reveals shyly that she somehow feels she has been through it all before. "I wonder if it has to do with the concept of time in some way, in that everything you do, you've done before." (Refer to "Strange Phenomena," on "The Kick Inside.")

For her, there is an unreal aspect to all that's happened. That she has had a number one single, a gold album, television appearances, interviews, attention . She has held a reasonable balance throughout and generally got through all the hub-bub as she would have liked. Disasters were her first television appearances in Germany and England, on Top of the Pops. "It was like watching myself...die. It was a bloody awful performance."

I remember watching with some shock when she appeared on Saturday Night at the Mill, hardly the most inspiring rock programme, and thinking those people didn't have a clue what she was about. To them she was a curvey little girl who contorted her figure erotically to a song they didn't give a damn about. Another weird programme to do was Tonight. Both, Kate points out, were at peak viewing time.

She doesn't know how ended up on them. They probably phoned EMI, but there was no way she would be averse to appearing on programmes like that.

"I was reaching an audience that was a little wider-spread, and that's incredible. That's what I'm really into. I'm into reaching more than the ordinary market because I think it's very...not snobby, but something similar, when you're choosing your public, and I think your public should choose you and you should get to as many people as you can, so that as many people as possible can choose you.

"I'm reaching people that have maybe had a totally different life from me and are well ahead of me in many standards, but yet they're accepting me. A lot of older people won't listen to pop music because they have a biased idea of what it is, and that's wrong because a lot of them would really get into some of the music that's around. It's not all punk, and if you can get music to them that they like, then you're achieving something. You're getting into people's homes who have been shut off from that sort of music for years. They're into their Bach...'Bach is wonderful, but I don't like that pop music.'

"Maybe they do, but they're never given the option. They're always given the music that people might think they like. But I think they're really into exploring."

She would, then, like to be more than just a young people's musician?

"I'd really like to think that there is no age barrier because that's a shame, and I'd like to think that there's a message in my music for everyone. That's the greatest reward I could get -- to get different people getting into different tracks.

"It really means a lot to think that I'm not just hitting on an area that may be just identified with me, that people are actually identifying with what the songs are about. I'm really not sure where my music is hitting, although I think it is mainly hitting younger people."

All of this involvement -- she'd also like to learn to produce -- mounts up. At times, the pressure must be unbearable, especially as all Kate's successes have come so fast. But no, she assures me again, the pressures don't come from the hits. She feels more pressure from the future, the fact that she has another album to do and there is so much to live up to.

"It's a great challenge. There's always something good in whatever pressure is around. There's an incredible challenge, and if you can do it and if you come out the other side and even if you lose, you've done it. I think that makes you stronger.

"The songs for the first album were written over a two-to-three year period, and now I've got a two-to-three month period for this one. It's ridiculous, and my admiration for people like David Bowie and Elton John, and Queen -- although I'm not into their music -- grows all the time. It's incredible how they do it. They do it all. They record and tour and promote.

"That's awesome to me. Incredibly so. I mean, I'm on a little level compared to that. It amazes me that they can keep their brains in a logical order without their speech getting all tangled because there's so much going on."

So what happens when you reach that situation? (There are plans to tour next year.)

"I don't know how I'll cope, but when you're in the situation it's very different. I would have thought it impossible to do what I'm doing now a few years ago, but now I'm here, it doesn't seem that amazing because, really, it's just doing your work on whichever level it is, and I'm really lucky for all the work I've been given."

But you've not had to struggle?

"Yeah, that's true, and it's a little frightening. There was only a struggle within myself. But even if your work is so important to you, it's not actually your life. It's only part of your life, so if your work goes, you're still a human being. You're still living. You can always get a job in Woolworth's or something.

"I suppose I would find it very hard to let go because for me it's the only thing that I'm here to do. I don't really know what else I could do that I would be particularly good at. I could take a typing course, loads of things, but I wouldn't actually feel that I'd be giving anything.

"I think you can kid yourself into destiny. I have never done another job. It's a little frightening, because it's the only thing I've really explored, but then again, so many things are similar. They all tie in. I really feel that what I'm doing is what everyone else is doing in their jobs.

"It's really sad that pressures are put on some musicians. It's essential for them to be human beings, because that's where all the creativity comes from, and if it's taken away from them and everybody starts kneeling and kissing their feet and that, they're gonna grow in the wrong areas."

Everybody associates the whole star trip with material gains.

"But it's wrong. Again, the only reason that you get such material gains from it is because it's so media-orientated. If it wasn't, you'd get the same as a plummer.

"I worry, of course, that it's going to burn out, because I didn't expect it to happen so quickly and it has. For me, it's just the beginning. I'm on a completely different learning process now. I've climbed one wall and now I've got another fifteen to climb, and to keep going while you're in such demand is very hard. It would be different if I had stayed unknown, because then it would be progressing."

Kate Bush is a frequently sensuous woman but she has no wish to be hooked as a sex symbol or anything concerned with selling her body (metaphorically speaking) to achieve ambitions. She has, for instance taken a meticulous interest in EMI's promotion campaign to ensure that the sex angle isn't played.

"The sex symbol thing didn't really occur to me until I noticed that in nearly every interview I did, people were asking: 'Do you feel like a sex symbol?' It's only because I'm female and publicly seen. The woman is tended to be seen on that level because it gets them through quicker, like the actress who sleeps with the producer makes it.

"That seems so dated, because we're all shifting to a different level now. The woman's position in music is really incredible now. It's getting more and more accepted, if not more than men at the moment. God, there's so many females in the charts.

"I felt very flattered that those people should think of me in those sex symbol terms. That was my first reaction, but it can be very destructive. For a start, there are so many incredibly good-looking women around, and their craft is in that. They're either models or acting, so their physical image is important. What I really want to come across as is as a musician, and I think that sort of thing can distract, because people will only see you on a superficial level."

She would like to think, too, that being female has nothing to do with her success and that she is being judged primarily as an artist. She has very strong views on the matter.

"When I'm at the piano writing a song, I like to think I'm a man, not physically but in the areas that they explore. Rock'n'roll and punk, you know, they're both really male music, and I'm not sure that I understand them yet, but I'm really trying. When I'm at the piano I hate to think that I'm a female because I automatically get a preconception. Every female you see at the piano is either Lynsey DePaul, Carole King...that lot. And it's a very female style.

"That sort of stuff is sweet and lyrical, but it doesn't push it on you, and most male music -- not all of it, but the good stuff --really lays it on you. It's like an interrogation. It really puts you against the wall, and that's what I'd like to do. I'd like my music to intrude. It's got to. I think that anything you do that you believe in, you should club people over the head with it!

"Not many females succeed with that. Patti Smith does, but that's because she takes a male attitude. I'm not really aware of it as a male attitude. I just think I identify more with male musicians than female musicians, bucause I tend to think of memale musicians as...ah... females. It's hard to explain. I'd just rather be a male songwriter than a female. What it is, basically, is that all the songwriters I admire and listen to are male."

She loves Steely Dan and David Bowie ("I wish I could write constructions like his.") But she was probably most influenced by Bryan Ferry, during his days with Roxy Music and Eno. "It was the moods of the songs. They had a very strong effect on me, because that had such atmospheres.

"I really enjoy some female writers, like Joni Mitchell, but it's just that I feel closer to male writers. Maybe I want to be a man," she laughs. "I like the guts than men have in performing and singing --like the punks. Like the way Johnny Rotten would use his voice was so original, and you get very few females even having the guts to do that, because they unfortunately tend to get stereotyped if they make it.

"I really enjoy seeing people doing something that isn't normal, you know. It's so refreshing. It's like that guy, you know, 'Cor baby, that's really free.' John Otway. It was amazing watching him perform and you just don't get females like that."

What surprised me most about Kate, and it shouldn't have because she's only nineteen, was her awareness of the new wave. She seemed to regard new wave bands as contemporaries, and her comments about those bands in relation to her work seems to emphasise that.

"I don't regard myself as a rock'n'roll writer. I'd love it if someone said they thought I wrote rock'n'roll songs. That'd be great, but I don't think I am. Some of the punk and new wave songs are so clever. Quite amazing, really. It's a modern poetry idiom. Some of the lyrics are fantastic, so imaginative, not sticking to a reality level, shooting off and coming back again."

She mentioned the Boomtown Rats as "amazing" and was genuinely ecstatic when I told her of the Rats' fondness for her music.

"Do they? Really? Oh, I didn't think they'd be into me. Great! Fantastic! I wonder if really beautiful punk groups like that -- I think the Stranglers are really good, too, there are so many -- I wonder if they think I'm...not so much square, but whether they think... ah...square...Sort of oblong.

"I really admire those bands, and I really admired the Sex Pistols tremendously. I don't know if I liked them that much, but some of their songs were great. I admired them so much just for the freshness and the guts, although I did get a hypey vibe off it, and that they were in fact being pushed around, because it seemed more an image that was being forced upon them, from what people were expecting.

"I feel apart from those bands, because I feel I'm in a different area, but I really like to think that they get off on me like I do them. That's why I don't see them as contemporaries, because I'm apart. It's not a matter of being above or below them, but if it was, I think I'd be below them.

"I think they're on a new level, inasmuch as...it's hard to explain. They're definitely hitting people that need stimulation. They're hitting tired, bored people that want to pull their hair out and paint their face green. They're giving people the stimulation to do what they want, and I think I'm maybe just making people think about it, if I'm doing anything."

Do you see that as the main difference between your role and others'?

"Yeah. I'm probably, if anything, stimulating the emotional end, the intellect, and they're stimulating the guts, the body. They're getting the guts, jumping around. That's a much more direct way to hit people. A punch is more effective than a look. Teachers always give you looks."

Would you like to have that effect on people?

"I don't think I could becase..." She stumbles over the next bit. "...it's not what...I'm...here to...do. I really love rock'n'roll. I think it's an incredible force, but there's something about it that I don't get on with when I write it, maybe because I'm very concerned about melodies in my music, and generally I find rock'n'roll tend to neglect it a bit because it's got so much rhythm and voice that you don't need so much music.

"Some of the new wave, though, is so melodic. Like the Rich Kids {early EMI-produced new wave band led by Midge Ure}. I'm not really a rock'n'roll writer yet. I'd like to be, though, and I hope I'll become more that way orientated.

"Mind you, I identify with new wave music. We're both trying to stir something in the attitudes we've got, but I honestly don't know if I'm doing it. I guess I'm more interested in stirring people's intellects. It's longer lasting but not so much fun as new wave.

"The good thing about people like the Boomtown Rats is that not only is it really good, but it's really exciting and fun, and maybe my things are sometimes a bit too intricate to become fun. They're more picking pieces out and examining them. There's very little music on my album that will make you want to stamp your feet violently and hit your head against the wall.

"To actually understand what I'm about you have to hear the lyrics, which is a lot to expect; whereas in something like the Boomtown Rats, it's the complete energy that knocks you over."

Would it upset you if you missed the mark, and people totally misread what you're about?

"It's a lot, to expect people to sit down and read my lyrics, and I'd be amazed if many people did. Not many people read poetry, and it's a similar effort. No, it doesn't worry me that much if they don't. That's what I'd like them to do because that's why I do it.

"But really, I think I've had enough response from people to make me have done enough to fade away now. I've had much more of a chance than most people to get through with a message. From some of the letters I get, it seems that people have understood, and it seems to have helped them a bit. That's all I could wish for."


To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents

"The pull and the push of it all..." - Kate Bush

Reaching Out
is a
Marvick - Hill
Willker - Mapes
Grepel - Love-Hounds