Interviews & Articles


Sound International
"The Kate Gallery"
by Ralph Denyer
September 1980

To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents

From: rhill@netrun.cts.com (ronald hill)
Date: Wed, 03 Feb 93 23:52:39 PST
Subject: Sound International Sept. 1980 by Ralph Denyer

From Sound International, September 1980

[Transcribed by Ron Hill. Thanks to Tracy Robin for the interview]

The Kate Gallery

How Kate Bush outgrew being seen as "this strange creature" being manipulated by this huge record company' and began to gain a little respect as a singer/writer/producer. Words and pix: Ralph Denyer.

While I listened to an understandably much guarded advance cassette copy of Kate Bush's third and new Never Forever album she was completing her other interview in another room close by. That over, she came into the room I was in to use a phone and we introduced ourselves to each other. She's quite small and somewhere in between pretty and beautiful. Her manner is very friendly with none of the tough facade that most successful music business people develop through time. Loads of smiles and an offer to help me to the next room with my cases of equipment follow. On the way through she laughs when I tell her it's nice to have a roadie for a change.

She had just completed her new album. She has taken car of all the piano playing on the record, as usual, as well as playing a bit of synth. One big change on her new album is that the orchestral backdrops have gone. Replacing them are some of the best specialist keyboard players around. Mr. Funk, Max Middleton, plays Fender Rhodes, Larry Fast defies gravity. Andy Mackay, Richard Burgess, and John Walters make use of Landscape's Fairlight CMI system to provide what Kate describes as 'Musical animation'.

At 21 she has just reached the point where she has complete control over her own music. She has achieved this by taking over the artistic side of her record production, choosing to work closely with John Kelly. He engineered Kate's previous two album, The Kick Inside and Lionheart. For the new album he continued in that role but also took car of the technical aspects of recording which would normally be the producer's province. But more of that later.

I asked about the day-to-day decision making and what role her family play. "I've got two brothers (Andrew alias Paddy and John alias J) and they're both very important. My family are very close and I think there are very few family establishments left, generally speaking, that are close. It's become very much an individual society. We all love each other very much, we all love much and we've all grown up together. Even my parents, they grow up all the time too. When things started happening for me in so many ways, they were happening to the family as well because we are so close. As things were going, the most important thing seemed to be that I had control. Because one of the worst things that can happen to one's product - that terrible word - is that you become manipulated, as I've seen written about me in so many papers. They think you're a little doll who's being manipulated.

"The public, not because of being ignorant but because of propaganda, have such strange ideas about what happens in various businesses. The only one that I get to see and be amazed by is this particular business because I am in it. The things that some people think you can do are wonderful, they really have no idea."

The Bush family are all musical and Kate's mother has been a dancer. Their keen interest in - if not addition to - traditional Irish music and dance meant that Kate was exposed to music from quite an early age and was soon hooked herself. While still at school she had violin lessons and then moved on to piano. When her career started to take off, not surprisingly the whole family took an interest. Professional help was enlisted in the form of an accountant and a solicitor. At the appropriate moment a company was set up. "Really though [though?] all the things that keep happening, different roles keep coming up. My brother J has now taken over a great deal of the business operation."

They have now set up a fan club near Kate's parent's home in Kent. Many would consider this to be a relatively unimportant facet, but Kate has positive ideas on how the club should be run and does not intend to allow it to become the usual catastrophic mess such organizations usually degenerate into. "Yes, well that is what we didn't want. One of my best friends is taking care of that. I think that it is only right that you should try and get control over as many areas and make sure that people get something nice and making sure they get something which is accurate. The further you get away from the public the more misinterpreted... the more wrong information becomes.

"We decided that I didn't need a manager because the main reasons for having a manager are for him to give musical direction, ways in, you know, all the things that an unbroken act needs. But in my situation I'd already had "Wuthering Heights" without a manager, we'd already released the album (The Kick Inside) without a manager. And although everyone kept telling us that I needed one, we couldn't see it at all!"

"I thought: Good, because I want to make my own decisions and it's my life. It can be very dangerous when you are not in a position to make your own decisions and therefore you can be doing things that you never intended. Practically selling your soul, which should never happen. So we went along those lines and it has been taking all this time to build things up into an organization of our own and it will continue to build, companies are always growing and organising themselves."

"And I think we've done remarkably well. Hilary Walker is my PA and apart from the solicitors and accountants it's just me and my family. So all the information that comes in is passed on. The stuff that they know I won't want to do they say no to. Stuff that I see I say yes or no to. And it's really wonderful to have that sort of control and not have people doing things behind your back, which inevitably happens with managers. They establish contact here and there for their own good and not necessarily for the artists. I'm not slagging of all managers because there are some good exceptions, and there are some very, very, good ones. But you know the sort of thing I'm talking about, it's just wicked, the things they do to young bands."

There is a surprising amount of variation between the different media accounts of Kate's beginnings in the 'biz' so I shall endeavor to set the record straight. First attempts to get a reaction from record companies were made by a friend of Kate's armed with n early demo of some of her songs. He met a blanket of rejection until 1975 when he played the tapes to an old friend from Cambridge by the name of Dave Gilmour. The Floydian guitarist reinforced his reputation for giving help to new acts by advising Kate to cut finished masters of her best three songs for presentation to companies. The tapes are often referred to as "demos" but after exhaustive research (I read the sleeve notes on The Kick Inside) I can reveal that he Gilmour financed recordings provided two of the tracks which were to appear on Kate's first album some two years later. They were "The Man With The Child In His Eyes" and "The Saxophone Song". I asked Kate about all this as the album has a continuity that makes the two-year "gap" surprising.

"Yes, they do fit very well on that album, don't they? Maybe there's a few reasons for that. But the thing that I notice is the difference in my voice, that's the only thing that gives it away for me. They probably fit well because Andrew (Powell) was the arranger on all the tracks. I wonder how many people would notice that because no-one comment on hearing any difference, you're the first person to mention that. No-one's commented on that before so it's very interesting."

When Gilmour took Kate into Air Studios to record "The Man With The Child In His Eyes" and "The Saxophone Song" she was 16. When Gilmour played the tapes to an EMI executive they wanted Kate. EMI treated her well from the word go, though the media (true to form) stereotyped the situation with a standard: Big company manipulates and exploits the young innocent etc, etc.

The company did not rush Kate into completing an album although she has some 100 songs already written. Instead they advised her to get a lawyer, an accountant, and advanced her L3,000. Around that time an aunt of Kate's died and left her some money. Finding herself able to forget about immediate monetary problems she went about developing various aspects of her abilities. Lindsay Kemp had an ad in Time Out offering his services as a teacher of mime and dance. Kate responded and she was soon receiving group instruction for 50p a day from the magister artis. She was fascinated by singing in a high register and worked on singer higher and higher notes. She wrote more songs.

It was two years exactly before she returned to Air Studios to record the rest of the material for her debut album The Kick Inside. Virtually the last song she wrote for the album was "Wuthering Heights" - "The Man With The Child In His Eyes", for example, had been written some five years earlier. Apart from the general supportive role her family plays, they make individual specific contributions to her music and business affairs. As well as taking care of business, J also photographs Kate. His shots can be seen on the "Babooshka" sleeve as well as on the back of her new album. Paddy has played mandolin, guitar, mandocello, panpipes, and sung back-up on her albums. Kate says that her father remains a doctor first and foremost but ... "mulls over anything with negative and legal aspects."

She undoubtedly is a very together person. My impression is that she does use her family as a sounding board and frequently takes their advice. On the other hand I think she frequently listens carefully to their advice before she goes on to do exactly what her instincts had told her in the first place! There again, she does not display any of the signs of an ego which forces her to do thing her way for the sake of it. Her satisfaction comes from being good at what she does. Obviously the fact that she produced her new album - albeit with the technicalities handled by John Kelly - is the major point of interest. Before talking her about that I asked about her relationship with Andrew Powell who produced her first two albums.

"Dave knew Andrew. I don't know how, and he thought Andrew was a very competent arranger and would be quite capable of taking care of the production side. So we went into Air Studios, I was about 15 or 16 at the time."

Was she terrified? "Yes, I was very nervous. It's a big studio. Andrew was fantastic. He was completely in control of it. I was just a schoolgirl doing my exams at the time and reeled at the prospect of someone just working on my songs. The musicians did their own thing and Andrew wrote some beautiful strings. We managed to get it to EMI and they leapt at it. Then there was the situation obviously where I was only 16, totally naive to the business and everything and EMI were wondering what to do with me.

"They could either send me out into the world with the songs I had - a 16-year old - or hang on. I was more then happy to hang on because I didn't feel that I was ready. Although I was waiting to make an album for at any minute, after about six months I realised that it was a long-term project so I stated getting on with my own things. I decided to leave school and go fully into the business. Then I got a little group and we played around in pubs. After that came the album. And Andrew, of course, because he had done so well on the earlier tracks, was the first guy we thought of.

"As soon as I started the first album, already three years had passed from the demos (sic) to the album and I obviously gathered a lot more self confidence. I was beginning to understand what I wanted in my music. The songs were obviously maturing and I was getting around and understanding the business more. Andrew did a fabulous job on the album, he really did. Even at that stage I could feel that there were areas where he was taking the music that perhaps if I had been in control, I wouldn't. That's understandable. He was the producer and therefore - he was very good and always listened to what I wanted - he would obviously plant his feelings there.

Kate helped out with some vocals on Peter Gabriel's recently acclaimed album and I presume it was through Peter that she met Larry Fast. "We managed to get Larry before he flew off and he's a fantastic guy, wow. He's wonderful. He finished off "Breathing" for us. We got to the point where there was a deadline coming up for the release of the song as a single. So far up to then we'd been working on the tracks quite generously. When we had a guitar overdub to do we'd do all the guitar tracks for the album as you logically would. As we had a deadline for "Breathing" we put aside all the other tracks and worked on the one song until it was complete. Larry came in for a day and he was wonderful. We were all gathering such and intense vibe working on the one very nuclear song. We'd been working on it until about five or six in the morning each day for about a week. It was very intense in the studio and very nuclear. It felt just like a fallout shelter."

For those unfamiliar with Studio Two at Abbey Road it is a huge studio with a high ceiling. The control room looks down from a top corner giving a false impression of being underground. Also the decor is basic and deliberately unchanged since the days when the studio's prime users were the Beatles. "Larry came in in the middle of all this nuclear intensity and he was wonderful, " said Kate. "He's put on some incredibly right animation sounds. You see, I think of synth players like that. It's probably wrong because I'm thinking just in terms of my music. I see them as such an animation thing, they seem to complete the picture so beautifully. It's like they put on the colour on the track sometimes.

"So Larry was there for a whole day just working on the one track and built up some beautiful stuff, just sort of underneath the back of the arrangement. It was such a pleasure to work with him because I've always wanted to but he's such a busy many. I really hope I can work with him again. His standards are ridiculous, I mean he works to the clock. He'd say: 'Gosh, that took me 10 minutes and it's only supposed to take two!' and gets really upset. He's such a professional and he works so hard, I think a lot of people can learn from him" (see interview, SI March '80).

Kate wanted to put together the promo film for "Breathing" - and did. It became a visual presentation of the subject matter, and showed her as the unborn child at the time of nuclear attack. "We decided to make it very abstract. I had the image of me being a baby in the womb yet not a baby because it's like a spiritual being, surrounded by water and fluid in a tank because that's what a baby does, floats around inside this beautiful place."

Keith Macmillan is the man who has been interpreting Kate's ideas and actually getting them on film for the great part of the 2 1/2 years she has been releasing records. He explained one or two problems to her with this particular idea. Like she might drown. Also no insurance company would underwrite the risk. Kate has total faith in Macmillan and was happy to leave it with him to come up with an idea for overcoming the problems.

"He went away, he's got fantastic guys working with him who get all the props together. So he came up with he idea of inflatables which when filmed through would give a watery effect. So I would be inside one which would be inside maybe one or two others.

"Then we had a problem with the costume because an embryo is of course naked but we couldn't make it sexual because of the innocence and sincerity of the thing. And we had a few problems with that because it is very difficult to look clothed but not clothed. Because we were working with inflatables which were basically just plastic we decided to use the same material which would be pretty cool for an embryo because it would just be flesh that was amongst all the other. So we just wrapped polythene all around me and then the whole thing became this sort of transient stuff that wasn't either costume or inflatables. The next thing with the video was to get from the break into the end where the baby has come out of the womb. Because of the fallout the first thing that would happen is that the baby would be put straight into a protective suit, probably sprinkled with Fuller's earth. [??? Does anyone know what this is?]

"Again we tried to do that in an abstract way so that I would burst out of the bubble and land somewhere outside that was very weird. Then the two guys with the suns - the anti-nuclear sign - hand me the fallout suit as the symbolism of being in the outside world full of fallout. The end was getting as many people as I could in water - again water because that was the whole visual them - and say: 'What are we going to do without clean air to breathe?'

"It took us two days of filming, one to do the studio lot and one to do the end sequence with all our friends in the water and for the nice quiet scene at the end. It was really quite an epic compared with all the other videos I've done. It wasn't that extravagant or expensive, not that long and not that anything. But as I said it felt so important because that one song for me - and quite a few people who are close - was like a mini-symphony or something. So everything had to go into it even if it wasn't going to be a big hit and that's how we felt about it. OK, people say: 'It didn't get into the top five.'

"But I'm so pleased with how it went because for the subject matter I was dealing with, you know my previous associations with the public: that I'm a very harmless unpolitical songwriter."

The association of the image she projected on a totally unprepared public with "Wuthering Heights" in 1978 has stayed firmly in the minds of many: this strangely dressed peculiar person singing in a voice that can only be described as weird. At least that's how it sounded at the time. Kate maintains that at the time - as now - she was singing in a voice which was natural to her.

"Yes it is natural for me. So many people, I guess it's stopped a bit now, but "Wuthering Heights" was the one that started it, they thought it was a bit contrived."

It was about the time of "Wow" that I personally began to enjoy Kate's singles. Listening to the songs now on an album with lyrics in front of me I discovered there is far more to her songs lyrically than just interesting and effective hooklines. "I think that was the big thing with 'Wuthering Heights", so many people didn't even know I as singing in English! I think on the new album the diction is clearest. You see, for me it is important that I keep changing with each album. When I was singing on that first album it was the most incredible experience of my life because it was the first real album. The one I'd been waiting for for five years, it was actually being made. And basically I was getting all my harmonies together in the morning before I went into the studio and just trying to sing my heart out. By the time I got round to singing on the first album I was very tired and at that time I used to write so many of my songs in a higher octave because that was where I used to enjoy singing.

"I used to find it fascinating to write in a note that I couldn't reach and then a week later I'd got my throat into the shape that it could reach that note. It wasn't actually acrobatics that I was playing with. It was just that the songs I was writing, they just seemed to leap, that was what I wanted them to do, just fly in the air and be high.

"The fact that people thought I was contrived - especially on the first album - worried me a lot. That there was this strange creature being manipulated by this huge record company. I think that actually as I am managing to hang around a bit longer - a year goes by and I'm still here - people are beginning to take me seriously and that's a fantastic breakthrough because they're realising that I can in fact churn out albums. And it's such a big achievement for me to feel that I'm actually getting through to people from me rather than the rumours and stuff that get around. And I'm so thrilled when people do respect me, especially as a writer.

"Singing is such an important thing for me. I have such a strange thing about it, probably like every other artist. I really often feel that I can't sing. I know I can sing but when I hear the track back it's not what I want, it's just not. I don't get paranoid but I do get very, very worried about it because it's so important to me that I express the perfect emotion of the word because they are telling a story, and unless I feel that I fulfil the character perfectly, I should get someone else to sing it. Especially as people have been kind enough to give me awards as a female singer that I have to try so hard to make it good for them.

"I think maybe I should relax a bit more about it, I am getting a bit paranoid. I love singing, it's just that when I hear it back on tape it is never quite perfect enough for me. But I'm sure you understand that. So many artists, like Eric Clapton, he probably thinks his solos could be better. He probably wouldn't say it but I'm sure that he feels that. But I wouldn't stop singing because I love it. All I need is for someone to say: 'That's great.' And then I can go: 'Really?' Then I feel all right, especially in the studio.


From: Tippi Chai <chai@utcc.utoronto.ca>
Date: Fri, 19 Mar 1993 19:23:50 -0500
Subject: Fuller's earth

From the Sound Internation interview transcribed by Ron: (thanks Ron!)

"that the baby would be put straight into a protective suit, probably sprinkled with Fuller's earth. [??? Does anyone know what this is?]

Fuller's earth is a kind of powdered clay, used for soaking up oils. A boon to klutzes who spill grease on their silk blouse or tie, and to those with oily skin - for making their own mud facials.

It's also slippery like talcum powder, so that's probably what Her KaTeness meant it to be used for.

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