Interviews & Articles


Trouser Press
"Kate Bush Gets Her Kicks"
by Jon Young
July 1978

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From: rhill@netlink.cts.com (Ron Hill)
Date: Sun, 2 Feb 1992 02:34:14 -0800
Subject: Trouser Press Interview, by Jon Young July 1978.

Kate Bush Gets Her Kicks

by Jon Young

Trouser Press, July 1978.

[Transcribed by Ron Hill. Thanks to Tom Richards for supplying me with the tape.]

All of a sudden Kate Bush was at the very top of the UK singles charts. "Wuthering Heights," her first 45, was number one and her album, The Kick Inside, wasn't doing badly either, sitting in the top five LPs. Whoosis? I wanted to know.

So I got a hold of the album. On the cover, which could easily pass for a Vogue photo session, a spooky young woman with gigantic almont eyes clutched at her head as if trying to keep her odder thoughts from rising into public view. No matter if she succeeded, the album turned out to be unusual enough regardless. Bush's songs are based on simple piano chords utilized in clever variations that nag at you much the way Bryan Ferry's do.

The lyrics are striking, even at a casual glance, just because they are about things (rare) and because they avoid cliche's (rarer still); many tunes are about sex, but with none of the "consuming bitch" or the "submissive lady" so often in weary evidence. Instead, Kate espouses the view that, blush, sex can be fun, maybe even a good idea: "...it could be love/Or it could be just lust but it will be fun." Other numbers concerned strange phenomena, outlaws, and Emily Bronte, but through all of it came a loopy immediacy that distanced Kate from your average creaky balladeer.

Very well, but big deal, right? Well, as anyone who has heard even a few seconds of Kate Bush knows, the real kicker is...

Her voice! Depending on your reaction it's either Minnie Mouse or the Heavenly Host. Kate sings Up There where Laura Nyro and Joni Mitchell have sometimes tried to reach, but with an important difference: she's not striving, that's where she's at home. And it's not an affectation, feminine or otherwise. The conviction with which she sails along at that stratospheric pitch makes the music seem eerie, driven, and finally tough, despite its aerial quality. It didn't take me long to conclude that Kate was one of those genuine originals that may not be destined for mass acceptance (most people I know dislike the record), but should be reckoned with on the basic of her creative uniqueness alone.

Enough ranting. When Kate Bush sat down to talk, I was curious to know her roots.

Born in Kent in 1958, she said she'd started out taking violin lessons, but "couldn't get on with being taught it." So the rebellious 11-year-old began fooling around with the family piano, writing songs. That turned out much better.

"Every night for a couple of hours I'd sing and play. When I was 15 my family thought it would be a good idea to maybe meet some people in the music business and see if I could get some response from my songs... I think they were pleased to see I had something I could release myself in. They neither encouraged me or discouraged me, they just let me be myself, which is something I'll always thank them for."

Sounds like progressive parents to me. Enter Kate's brother, who "had a friend who'd been in the record business for a couple of years. He came around to listen to me. I put twenty to thirty of my songs on a tape and he'd take it to record companies. Of course there was no response; you wouldn't be able to hear a thing, just this little girl with a piano going 'yaaaa yaaaa' for hours on end... [The songs] weren't that good. They were OK, but..."

Usually the only musicians who will disparage themselves are the vets who have had the time to acquire sufficient self-confidence. I wondered how the artiste of the early days differed from the current one.

"I could sing in key but there was nothing there. It was awful noise, it was really something terrible. My tunes were more morbid and more negative. That was a lot of people's comment: they were too heavy. But then a lot of people are saying that about my current songs. The old ones were quite different musically, vocally, and lyrically. You're younger and you get into murders..."

Rejection was merely a small delay, though. Along came David Gilmour of Pink Floyd. "Dave was doing his guardian angel bit and scouting for talent. He'd already found a band called Unicorn in a pub and was helping them. He came along to see me and he was great, such a human, kind person - and genuine. He said, 'It looks as if the only way you can do it is to put at most three songs on a tape and we'll get them properly arranged.' He put up the money for me to do that, which is amazing. No way could I have afforded to do anything like that. EMI heard it and I got the contract."

Indeed, so good were the Gilmour demos cut in 1975 that two of them ended up unchanged on the LP. Remember that in '75 Kate Bush was 17.

The Kick Inside was produced by Andrew Powell in the summer of 1977, showcasing really hot-slick playing from some then Cockney Rebels and Pilots. The rest is chart history; chart history that would seem to have happened a little too quickly. In response to a question about future plans, Kate sounded weary: "I'm actually pretty heavily committed until late autumn. The trouble is that the records moved so quickly and I don't think anyone expected it. I found there are commitments already that are going on and on." Or, when asked about her reception here in the US: "The only people I can talk about are the people in the company and the interviewers. They're all great. I figured they would be anyway, because when you're talking to someone about themself you're usually nice." Jaundiced so early on?

The last three songs on Kick seem the most personal. "Room for the Life" comes across as a sort of "I Am Woman" glorifying childbirth. She feels women have a much stronger survival unit then men," since they can bear children, and thus should use their advantage to help men rather then play games with them. I don't really understand what she's talking about, but it can be dismissed as a Heavy Philosophical Matter, since she admitted to being in no hurry for a baby herself.

When we turned to spiritual matter, she seemed to be on firmer ground. "Strange Phenomena" suggest that she believes in Other forces.

"Oh yes, I do. The thing about us humans is that we consider ourselves it, that we know everything. I think we're abusing our power and are guided by things we don't know about that are much stronger then us. But you can't label them if you don't know what they are. Also, it tends to sound a bit trendy like 'the cosmic forces' and it's cruel to do that because most religions have been exploited. As long as they're not misinterpreted they're good because they give the individual something to hold onto."

A cynical view of faith for someone who regards herself as a believer. Later she would make a similar response when describing Gurdjieff as "the only religion I've been able to relate to" and then quickly ending her sketchy account with, "I don't really want to say much because I don't really have the knowledge to say it." At no time did she feel the need to justify herself to anyone else; she must get enough moral support from her own instincts.

The last song on the album is the title cut, which contains opaque lines like "Your sister I was born - you must lose me/Like an arrow shot into the killer storm." Que pasa, KB?

"That's inspired by an old traditional song called 'Lucy Wan.' It's about a young girl and her brother who fall desperately in love. It's an incredibly taboo thing. She becomes pregnant by her brother and it's completely against all morals. She doesn't want him to be hurt, she doesn't want her family to be ashamed or disgusted, so she kills herself. The song is a suicide note. She says to her brother, 'Don't worry. I'm doing it for you.'"

One of the best ways to look silly is to make predictions. Still, I suspect Kate Bush will have a lot of staying power. Her LP is so fully realized, and so distinctive that if her music progresses at all, she may well come to be one of those creative voices that everyone, pro and con, must take into account. Her unapologetic self-assurance never wanes and looks like the thing that will allow continued exploration.

Musicians can reveal a lot about themselves when giving their opinion of the new wave, but Kate Bush did so intentionally. Professing an admiration for the Stranglers and Pistols, and the way the status quo had been shaken up, she went on to say:

"Maybe it's ironic, but I think punk has actually done a lot for me in England. People were waiting for something new to come out - something with feeling. If you've got something to tell people, you should lay it on them."

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

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