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(This article was taken from Andrew Marvick's The Garden.)
[Edited by Andrew Marvick.]
In a one-page extravaganza not-paid-by-the-word Mike Nicolls has a jaw with Kate Bush about magicians and death. Andy Phillips whips out his...Box Brownie (ha--fooled you!)
Inevitably there's more to the picture than meets even a familiar eye. Take Kate Bush. One is scarcely sticking one's neck out when describing her as the brightest and most original new rock talent to have emerged these past few years. Hit singles, albums, an astonishing tour and an unspoiled, warm personality to go with the sympathetic smile and occasionally voluptuous body.
Not only that, but she's just spent six months producing a new collection of ten songs. Of these, four were recorded beforehand and another five already written before her long sojourn at Abbey Road Studios. So you might be tempted to add the word "perfectionist" to the gathering list of credits, though the lady herself would disagree.
"I know I'm not perfect, and it's that imperfection that keeps me wanting to do more. I think all my paranoias, all my doubts, all my vulnerabilities are what I depend on to keep my songs happening."
And make no mistake--her songs are her life.
"One of the band told me last night/That music is all he's got in his life" (Blow Away from the new LP, Never For Ever).
Is that really you, using the third person as a slender disguise?
"Yeah. Well done. It is. All we ever look for--" (another title, as it happens) "--is God--in inverted commas--inasmuch as it's something you believe in. Belief is motivation, and without that you don't do anything. I mean, if your 'God' is to have a husband and children, and you actually fulfill that...Many people don't see the thing they love and believe in as 'God'. Most of us aren't happy, really, and it's only because our God isn't complete."
And work is your God?
"It is, really, yes, as everything in my life goes into my music. Everything that happens to me affects me, and it comes out in my music. If I did become perfect, and was no longer vulnerable, perhaps I wouldn't get the same shocks of emotion that make me want to write."
So while philosophers and related beings have for centuries been ruminating about how to attain perfectability, Kate Bush, still a baby at twenty-two, has decided this is the very thing that ought to be bypassed. Heavy stuff, huh? Then again, she wasn't exactly brought up in a lightweight atmosphere.
Since our last rendezvous at the beginning of the year, I'd heard that her father and brothers, ostensibly the greatest influences in her family-orientated life, were great believers in the Russian "magician" George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff. Thinking it might assist our dialogue, I spent some time before the interview swotting up on the guy, who in the early part of this century ran a school for wealthy mystics, that preached stuff like "We had better torture our own spirit than suffer the inanities of calm," and "Any unusual effort has the effect of shaking the mind awake."
Now there seems to be a certain amout of overlap between these observations and Kate's remarks about "shocks of emotion", but, perhaps fortunately for your good selves, she didn't seem into having a protracted natter about G. I. Gurdjieff (classic initials, what?)
Besides, it wouldn't entirely have suited the circumstances of our discourse. On a marginally sunny day, it seemed absurd to be cooped up inside some dusty office at EMI, particularly when outside their West One premises there is a little park. Now you might think that in talking to Kate Busdh in central London one runs the risk of attracting inquisitive stares from God knows how many passersby--especially when, during a photo-session on the same piece of greenery last year, Cliff Richard was besieged by scores of drooling school-kids.
But rate-payers (no quips about EMI's ability to retain this status, thank you very much) are allocated a key to the gardens, so Kate and I spent a chatty couple of hours locked within these leavy confines, and I was too much a gentleman to throw away the key.
Since the interview was for promotional purposes, it was hardly surprising that she was happiest talking about the new songs. And because these are the latest instalment of her life, questions were answered conscientiously and, of course, enthusiastically. With promotion being an extension of her work and hence her life, etc., it was illuminating to see how she handled interruptions to it. These came first from a couple of scruffy pubescents who athletically scaled the spiky railings to see if she really was who they thought she was, and then from a slightly lunched-looking gardener who reckoned it was us that had done the climbing.
Kate dealt with both in untypically peremptory fashion, even though in retrospect the distractions added a little light to the generally serious, if nonetheless enjoyable, shade of the proceedings.
Light and dark, good and bad. Both types of emotions flow out of Kate Bush and into her songs. Visually, it's all there on the sleeve of Never For Ever. Nick Price's Hieronymus Bosch-style cover shows a confused mass of bats and swans. The latter symbolise good, and on their backs ride the bad--all of them billowing out of Kate's dress, which is handsomely decorated with the clouds of her imagination.
The good emotions have produced songs like All We Ever Look For and Blow Away-- the one about liveing for music and being naively optimistic about death. The idea is that when she (or the musician she is purportedly singing about) dies, he will go and join all the other musicians in the sky. Hence, references to Keith Moon, Sid, Buddy Holly and even Minnie Riperton, who died around the time the song was being conceived.
It was based on an article she read in the Observer about people who had temporarily "died" through cardiac arrests. Apparently several members of the public interviewed about this experience reckoned they felt their spirits leave their bodies and go through a door, where they were re-acquainted with dead friends and relatives. When their hearts were resuscitated, it was almost with reluctance that they stepped back out of the room and returned to their bodies.
"So there's comfort for the guy in my band," Kate explains, "as when he dies, he'll go 'Hi, Jimi!' It's very tongue-in-cheek, but it's a great thought that if a musician dies, his soul will join all the other musicians' and a poet will join all the Dylan Thomases and all that."
Hmmmm. The darker side of her emotions shows the lady as down-to-earth as her surname befits. In fact, it's more than realistic: it's downright sinister. Hence The Wedding List and its obsession with revenge.
What happens here is that at the point two people are about to be married, the bridegroom gets shot. Who by is irrelevant, but the bride's need for vengeance is so powerful that all she thinks about is getting even with the villain. Since his death is the best wedding gift she could have, he goes right to the top of the (wedding) list.
"Revenge is a terrible power, and the idea is to show that it's so strong that even at such a tragic time it's all she can think about. I find the whole aggression of human beings fascinating--how we are suddenly whipped up to such an extent that we can't see anything except that. Did you see the film Deathwish, and the way the audience reacted evey time a mugger got shot? Terrible--though I cheered, myself."
Another film Kate saw recently was the highly publicised Elephant Man, which, though directed by loony humourist Mel Brooks (Blazing Saddles, and History of the World Part I), is ultimately a tragic movie. [Both Nicholls and Kate were mistaken on this point. The film was directed by David Lynch (Eraserhead, Dune, Blue Velvet). Mel Brooks merely produced Elephant Man, mainly because he was able to cast his wife, Anne Bancroft,in a leading role. Given Kate' increasing involvement in the craft and business of film direction since the time of this interview, however, it's unlikely that she still retains this misconception.] Ever ready to seek out the introspective angle, she philosophises as follows:
"I thought, 'How weird for a comedian to do such a serious film,' but if you think of the syndrome of the comedian who is hilarious onstage but really manic-depressive at home, it figures."
Of the few artists in her field whom she has met [Few?], she cites Peter Gabriel as one who is able to separate his public and private personas.
"Offstage he's very normal, and that's the kind of thing I believe in." Kate helped out with the backing vocals on his excellent recent album, and describes the experience of walking into someone else's work as "lovely--especially after the pressure of going out under your own name.
"I was thrilled to do it, and it's not often that I meet people in the same position that I can relate to. It' not like relating to people at EMI, as they're on a completely different side of the fence."
Does she not meet many artists at these notorious record-biz ligs?
"Well, I don't go to parties very often. Only if I'm invited (shame!) or I've got time, or there's someone there I want to meet. Often I don't like the hype of the situation and that worries me a lot--because there are things I do which I feel are hyped, but because there is a good motivation in there, I think you should do them. But it's a drag that there always has to be a forced situation."
Meeting Gabriel came about via different circumstances, but he's obviously had a profound effect upon Kate, and on the album sleeve he is thanked for "opening the windows". At the end of the interview, she offered (honest!) to sign my copy of Never For Ever, and included in the lengthy inscription 'Thank you for making me think.'"
I don't know about that--it seemed very much a case of vice-versa, and she does seem to do quite enough thinking already. As she pointed out herself, "I'm learning things all the time, and the more I learn, the more I see there is to learn, and that's so fascinating."
The more open the road, the broader the horizon, and each time I meet Kate Bush, the more there seems to be found out about her. There's more to the picture than meets the eye; and, particularly in her case, that's...fascinating?
To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents
"The pull and the push of it all..." - Kate Bush
Marvick - Hill
Willker - Mapes
Grepel - Love-Hounds