Interviews & Articles


"You Don't Have To Be Beautiful..."
by Donna McAllister
March 11, 1978

To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents

"You Don't Have To Be Beautiful..."

...to get your face in Sounds, a top five single are usually enough. Fortunately, Kate Bush has both, so you can't call us sexist.

SOULFUL, SENSITIVE, salubrious. So why all the fuss about Kate Bush's age? Is it the fact that you don't usually get such cohesive intelligence from 19 year old females? Is it that 'child' prodigies are out of our mode? Or is it simply the fact that the journalists are getting older? It wasn't that long ago that the charts were brimmed from 1 to 10 with teen-aged stars. It may seem that only yesterday she was your average unknown person, but in fact, Kate has been developing her unique talents on rinky-dink second hand pianos since she was the ripe old age of 14. Recently she moved into a three storey flat in Lewisham, which is owned by her general practioner daddy-o, and whose other two storeys are occupied by her two older brothers.

The story is not at all as overnight as it seems to be, it was in fact two years ago that Pink Floyd's Dave Gilmour bopped around to Kates' flat with a Revox -- goal in mind to get some of Kates tunes published. She wasn't, at the time, considered a singer but Gilmour, who is genuinely interested in giving undiscovered talent a shot-in-the-arm (with his Unicorn organization) felt that the bubbling under songs should have the opportunity to be heard. They recorded about 15 songs per tape, and took them around to various record companies. The unanimous opinion, then, was 'non-commerical', and after all . . . it's not creative unless it sells, 'eh?

How Kate and Gilmour hooked up is rather a vague 'girlfriends'- boyfriends'- girlfriends friend' sort of rigamaroll, but the fact is that he never did lose interest in her er . . . talents, and decided that the only way to reach a record company's goldlined pocket was to produce finished product. Which is exactly what they did. Gilmour put up the money, and Kate went into Air studios complete with a band, and laid down the three tracks she and Dave both felt were best. This is the tape which eventually landed Kate her contract with EMI Records.

Despite the fact that she has been already wrongly built (no pun intended) in the media to be a mere child, she is surprisingly aware of what is going on around her, and is accepting the entire shindig with a pleased air of disbelief.

"They keep telling me the chart numbers, and I just kind of say 'Wow' (she sweeps her arms) . . . it's not really like it's happening. I've always been on the outside, watching albums I like go up the charts, and feeling pleased that they are doing well, but it's hard to relate to the fact that it's now happening to me..."

'WUTHERING Heights', Kate's self-penned song, inspired by the book of the same title, is literally catapaulting up the UK charts, and looks as though it will be one of those classic world-wide smasheroonies, though it has yet to be released in most other countries. She recently took her first air-bourne flight to Germany for a television appearance, as the single, apparently, has been chosen as whatever the German equivalent of 'pick-of-the-week' might be.

"It was mind blowing," she said euphorically, in reference to flying, "I really want to do more of that . . ." Wonder how she'll feel about in in two years time.

She writes songs about love, people, relationships and life . . . sincerely and emotionally, but without prostituting her talents by whining about broken hearts.

"If you're writing a song, assuming people are going to listen, then you have a responsibility to those people. It's important to give them a positive message, something that can advise or help is far more effective than having a wank and being self-pitiful. That's really negative. My friends and brothers have been really helpful to me, providing me with stimulating conversation and ideas I can really sink my teeth into."

For as long as she can remember she has been toying around with the piano, much, I reckoned, to her parent's chargrin. Can you imagine living with a nine-year-old who insisted on battering away on said instrument, wailing away at the top of her lungs in accompaniment?

"Well, they weren't very encouraging in the beginning, they thought it was a lot of noise. When I first started, my voice was terrible, but the voice is an instrument to a singer, and the only way to improve it is to practice. I have had no formal vocal training, though there was a guy that I used to see for half-an-hour once a week, and he would advise me on things like breathing properly, which is very important to voice control. He'd say things like 'Does that hurt? Well, then sing more from here (motions to diaphram) than from your throat.' I don't like the idea of 'formal' training, it has far too many rules and conventions that are later hard to break out of . . ."

IT IS QUITE obvious from the cover of 'The Kick Inside', her debut album, that Ms. Bush is Orientally influenced, but apparently it was not meant to take on such an oriental feel.

"I think it went a bit over the top, actually. We had the kite, and as there is a song on the album by that name, and as the kite is traditionally oriental, we painted the dragon on. But I think the lettering was just a bit too much. No matter. On the whole I was surprised at the amount of control I actually had with the album production. Though I didn't choose the musicians," (Andrew Powell, producer and arranger did). "I thought they were terrific.

"I was lucky to be able to express myself as much as I did, especially with this being a debut album. Andrew was really into working together, rather than pushing everyone around. I basically chose which tracks went on, put harmonies where I wanted them . . . I was there throughout the entire mix. I feel that's very important. Ideally, I would like to learn enough of the technical side of things to be able to produce my own stuff eventually."

Kate has a habit of gesturing constantly with her hands, and often expressing herself with unspellable sounds and grimaces. Though this make tape transcriptions difficult, it does accentuate something which is very much a part of her, 'movement expression'. She has studied under the inimitable Lindsay Kemp, mime artiste, an experience shared with Kate's favourite musician, David Bowie.

"I admire actresses and actors terribly and think it's an amazing craft. But singing and performing your songs should be the same thing. At this point I would rather develop my music and expressing it physically, as opposed to having a script. I think I'm much better off as a wailer. . ."

She is, indeed a beautiful woman. Carved ivory, with nary a nick. So obviously there is no way she can avoid becoming the target for sexist minds. Although she does not advocate this reaction, she's not flustered by it. After all, it is a compliment.

"As long as it does not interfere with my progress as a singer/songwriter, it doesn't matter. I just wish people would think of that first, I would be foolish to think that people don't look. I suppose in some ways it helps to get more people to listen . . ."

'THE KICK Inside' suggests a keen interest in mysticism.

"I try to work on myself spiritually, and am always trying to improve my outlook on life. We really abuse all that we've got, assuming that we are so superior as beings, taking the liberties of sticking up cement stuff all over the place. I think there is a lot to astrology, and the effect the moon has upon us all' but I hate the way it's become so trendy now.

"I'm a vegetarian, and now that's trendy as well . . . but what annoys me the most is the way people are so automatically cynical about astrology. I mean, like the Greeks put an incredible amount of hard work into carefully planned geometric charts, based purely on mathematics. People just shrug off. It's the same with coincidence, as I said in the song 'Strange Phenonema',"

At first, Kate was opposed to having any sort of management, feeling strongly that less mistakes are made if you deal with situations yourself, directly. But she quickly found out that this sort of idealism does not work, and now has Peter Lyster-Todd handling her business affairs.

"He has worked more on the theatrical side of entertainment than music. I like that. I think most managers are crooks, greedy and non-musical, and that mixing with other music managers is contageous. I think Peter will be amazing . . . "

There are tentative plans for a Kate Bush tour in the late spring, but it is only being discussed at this point.

To accompany Kate on the road will be Cuban drummer Sergio Castillo; guitarist Brian Bath, bassist Del Palmer; keyboardist Ben Barson, and brother Paddy Bush on mandolin and backing vocals. Again, primarily friends of friends of friends, and wide-eyed optimism.

JUST AS I'M about to leave a pile of fan mail arrives, and she gapes, amazed, "Cor . . is all this forme ??? This is amazing! "

Oh, dear, dear, Kate. Do stay above it all. Don't ever fall into your very own lyrics, which could be ironically twisted. From 'Kite':

"I got no limbs, I'm like a feather on the wind.
Well, I'm not sure if I want to be up here at all.
And I'd like to be back on the ground.


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