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Kate Bush's extraordinary high-pitched voice, first heard on her interpretation of her own song Wuthering Heights, has provided the music business with one of its earliest highlights for 1978. Still only 19 years of age, she talks to R&RN about the frustrations of the past two years during which she was signed to EMI but not recording and how the speed of her success has affected her.
"Wuthering Heights" provoked more controversy when it was released than probably any record by a new artist in recent years. Reactions split into two groups, one half going bananas over Kate Bush's extraordinary voice and writing style, and the other half having to turn the radio off when the song was played -- so annoying they found her voice.
Now that airplay has transformed into strong sales, Kate Bush has converted many of those sceptics, and looks easily set to have the first number one record by a British female artist in many a week.
At number 10 in the R&RN airplay chart, it seems that she has also converted those hardest-to-please men, the programme directors of Britain's 19 ILR stations. The public has responded magnificently to EMI's 1978 trump card, for until this year Bush, although signed to the label for over two years, had been allowed to keep a very low profile.
The release of the album and single came at a time when she was getting anxious about the non-starting of her career. "People," she said, "had promised a lot of things over the years, but this was the first time something had actually happened."
In fact the single was to be released in November, but a week before release it was held back, and she was made to hang on again. EMI was afraid that it would get lost amongst the deluge of Christmas records. Bush consoled herself via Capital Radio. "A few promotion copies got out and they played it straight away. That was amazing," she says, "And what has happened now is all far beyond my dreams."
She first came to the attention of EMI through Pink Floyd guitarist, Dave Gilmour who made some demos of her songs and took them around to his contacts, eventually securing a deal with EMI.
It wasn't as an artist that Kate originally saw her career developing. "I started as a writer, I couldn't sing or keep in tune, and it was only through hours of singing every day that my voice got its own quality. It's meant a lot to me being accepted as a singer."
Recording the album was the first positive thing that Kate felt she had accomplished in her career. It took six weeks to record last summer. "Most of the songs had been written for over a year," she says," and producer Andrew Powell, who first treated me like a session musician, eventually gave me an incredible amount of freedom in the studio. I would suggest instruments and he would get them for me."
19-year-old Bush found the whole process exhausting, both mentally and physically, "I had all this energy and I couldn't let go." She admits to having only written a couple of songs since she made the album.
Since she made the album she had evolved a clearer perspective about her work. "At first I couldn't hear it objectively as a whole, I got irritable and had to leave the room. Two days ago I heard it for the first time in months. It could have been so much better, there were so many more things I could have done."
Though she is dissatisfied with her album, she is aware that its success must generate other areas. Touring and performing are her next plans.
"Performing is the only time when you get to people" she observes. "The human element is so important to me, I'm finished if I start losing it."
She has formed her own band and at the moment is rehearsing a full set with them and as with everything she does there is little that is conventional about her proposed stage act. She is very interested in dance as an art form and hopes to include some sort of dance or mime routine in her act.
She feels influenced by Lindsay Kemp, the brilliant mime artist whose work Flowers sank itself indelibly in her mind. "I thought if one person can combine their music with that degree of body expression then it would be marvellous."
Such is her confidence, she is prepared to have a go at anything. "There's nothing you can't do, it's important to learn about yourself, and to know how to use your body."
Dance, at one stage, seemed likely become her vocation. When she left school she compatibly merged dance and songwriting as her main-studies. "At one point I was dancing from Monday to Friday and enjoying it more than my music. Now the writing is more important."
Through dance she has developed another persona to her basic character. "When I perform I'm definitely someone else, but she's a lot stronger and I wouldn't be as daring as her." The separation between performer and artist is crucial she believes. "People don't do it to you, you do it to yourself."
"On stage everything should be a communication," she continues, "but everyone wants to package you." She cites David Bowie as being another main influence. "He's individual, and keeps everything moving. He's always exploring, and he's very clever as a performer."
Her admiration for the most individual male performer of the Seventies does not limit itself only to his live performances. Like Bowie, she wants to produce her own work, but she doesn't feel equipped to do it just yet. "You have a more complete picture when you do everything yourself."
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"The pull and the push of it all..." - Kate Bush
Marvick - Hill
Willker - Mapes
Grepel - Love-Hounds