Interviews & Articles


New Musical Express
"Kate Bush City Limits"
by Steve Clarke
March 1978

To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents

Date: Tue, 30 Aug 88 15:11 PDT
Subject: Interview (March 1978) by Steve Clarke

<A March 1978 interview with Kate, conducted by Steve Clarke. Edited by Andrew Marvick.>

Kate Bush City Limits

The Kate Bush sitting opposite me bears scant resemblance to the doe-eyed female currently plastered all over London in poster form.

She looks out from the top of double-decker buses, peers at the weary commuter from in-between the tube ads for "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "Dalton's Weekly"--omnipresent, Kate Bush certainly is.

On the posters it's a coy, soft-focused Kate showing enough breast to--well, at least titillate the passing passengers. Face to face Kate Bush is an impish hippy girl who belies her much touted nineteen years.

Her debut "Top of the Pops" appearance gave rise to Kate being described as "a dark-haired Lyndsay De Paul," but she is neither doll-like nor petite, though hardly tall. Her faded jeans are mostly concealed under a pair of sheepskin-lined thigh-high reddish suede boots, and are in marked contrast to her very feminine fringed top.

Without much time to scurry home to the South East London house she shares with her two brothers to wash her carefully dishevelled hair for an appearance on BBC's "Tonight," Kate's in a hurry. Still, she remains charming and unflustered.

For a girl still in her teens, she's exceptionally self-possessed--especially since in recent weeks she's shot from nowhere to becoming a household name, courtesy of "Wuthering Heights", her first single. The song was inspired by Emily Bronte's romantic novel of the same name and is sung in a voice not unlike that of a newly-neutered cat letting the world know of his predicament.

To compound her mercurial success, her first album "The Kick Inside" is also high on the chart. Kate is amazed at the way things gone. "If you think of it in terms of people and not the money--'cause that's not relevant--it makes me feel very humble," she squeaks in her sing-song voice.

She was signed to EMI three years ago, given a 3,000-Pound advance and a four-year contract with options after the second and third years; i.e., if EMI wanted to drop Kate after either two or three years they could. Last year they re-signed her and it seems certain the company will retain her throughout this year too.

Amongst the credits on "The Kick Inside" is the Floyd's guitarist Dave Gilmour. It was, she says, largely because of Gilmour that she got a record deal. Kate had played piano since she was eleven, starting to write her own songs shortly after. A friend of the Bushes had offered to take some home-made tapes she'd recorded during her early teens round the record companies, but his endeavours were abortive--until he contacted Gilmour, an old friend from Cambridge.

<Note: Each of these tapes are described by Peter FitzGerald-Morris as containing "thirty songs." The friend was Ricky Hopper.>

Gilmour liked what he heard and offered to finance the recording of some professional demo tapes. It was also Gilmour who introduced Kate to arranger Andrew Powell (known for his work with Alan Parsons), who subsequently produced "The Kick Inside". The Gilmour-sponsored tapes received a warm welcome at EMI's A&R department. <This was after an earlier (second) demo tape, recorded at Gilmour's house, was submitted to EMI without success.>

Things couldn't have worked out more perfectly for the sixteen-year-old doctor's daughter. Fresh out of school with an armful of O levels, 3,000 Pounds in her bin and with no immediate pressures from EMI, Kate was free to pursue her ambition to dance. She applied to an ad in London's "Time Out" magazine and enrolled at Lindsay Kemp's mime school.

So why did EMI keep you under covers for so long?

"They were worried about me not being able to cope with things. And I was worried 'cause I didn't feel capable of coping with it either."

So Kate spent her days at Kemp's school with barely an interruption from her record company. "Oh, it was great," chirps Kate."I really got into the discipline. I had so much time and I could use it. For an artist that's such a delightful situation to be in.

"I came in to EMI on a friendly basis and that was good for me, because it meant that I could meet people there as people, and not as a big vulture business where they're all coming in and pulling your arm out. Also, I could learn about the business, which is so important, because it *is* a business."

The daily lessons with Kemp--50p a throw--were very informal. "He taught me that you can express with your body--and when your body is awake so is your mind. He'd put you into emotional situations, some of them very heavy. Like he'd say, 'Right, you're all now going to become sailors drowning, and there are waves curling up around you.' And everyone would just start screaming.

"Or maybe he'd turn you into a little piece of flame..."

Waiting for EMI to click its fingers did have its drawbacks, though. "Artistically, I was getting so frustrated at not being able to get my art to people."

Kate says that EMI did have a go at image-building and at persuading her to write more commercial songs ("Not so heavy--more hook lines"), but when Kate finally went into the studio last summer with half of Pilot and half of Cockney Rebel as her backing band, it was on her own terms. "Wuthering Heights" was originally scheduled for release last November, but was shelved at the very last moment because of--according to her--delays with artwork. By the time everything was right, the Christmas rush was on so Kate's debut was stalled a second time.

EMI had, however, already mailed out some copies of the single, one of which reached Capital Radio's Tony Myatt. Despite EMI's requests to the contrary, Myatt played the record before it was actually on sale. Ironically, Kate feels that Capital's championing "Wuthering Heights" is the key reason for its success.

So is it natural to sing that high, Kate?

"Actually, it is. I've always enjoyed reaching notes that I can't quite reach. A week later you'll be on top of that note and trying to reach the one above it.

"I always feel that you can continually expand your senses if you try. The voice is like an instrument. The reason I sang that song so high is 'cause I felt it called for it. The book has a mood of mystery and I wanted the song to reflect that."

That she sings in different voices on her album is not, claims Kate, due to an identity crisis--to evoke each song's particular mood she has to alter her pitch.

Kate insists that she isn't exploiting her sexuality: "That's a very obvious image. I suppose the poster is reasonably sexy just 'cause you can see my tits, but I think the vibe from the face is there. The main thing about a picture is that it should create a vibe. Often you get pictures of females showing their legs with a very plastic face. I think that poster projects a mood."

But what about the album cover in which you're showing your legs with a vengeance?

The picture is creating a feeling of flying and movement. If you're up in the sky you're going to be free. It would look a bit weird if I had a dirty great black serge coat on."

Again, one of the hand-out pics is particularly sexy--with Kate drawing attention to her crotch."That came from a seven-hour photo session where the photographer and I were trying to produce a vibe. It had to be a relevant one. A nice, simple, obvious one for me is the fact that I do dance, so we got a load of leotards and just did that, but still trying to create a vibe. Not necessarily a sexy one--although I will agree with you that it is--but from now on we're taking a more subtle approach."

So there'll be no more suggestive shots?

"I don't know, it's hard to say. I don't really think it's important. I think I'm going to have trouble because people tend to put the sexuality first. I hope they don't. I want to be recognised as an artist."

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

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Marvick - Hill
Willker - Mapes
Grepel - Love-Hounds