To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents
(Cover courtesy of Emmy May Lombaerts)
Date: Wed, 30 Nov 88 18:20 PST
From: Andrew Marvick
Subject: Smash Hits May 1980 by Deanne Pearson
<This interview was conducted by Deanne Pearson in May 1980 for Smash Hits, which was then what it is now--a rather silly fan-magazine directed at children of about thirteen to seventeen. The tone of the interview reflects this, and may not be a very accurate record of the actual conversation. There are still some points of interest, however.>
The Me Inside
Kate Bush lets Deanne Pearson in on her secrets.
Is that really Kate Bush walking across the cafeteria of EMI's Abbey Road Studios? I have to look twice to make sure.
She's much smaller than I imagined, and dressed casually in jeans, colourful blouse and cardigan. Wearing little make-up, she looks about fourteen years old but she moves with all the grace and confidence of a trained dancer and experienced performer--which of course she is.
Smiling warmly, she sits down with an orange juice and lemonade. She rarely drinks alcohol, she tells me, and thinks most people who do just lack confidence. I put down my lager and order a coke.
The Abbey Road Studios are famous in connection with the Beatles, in particular their Abbey Road album. In the foyer a large picture of Paul McCartney welcomes visitors. Next to it, and just as prominent, is a picture of Kate Bush.
The studios are like a second home to Kate at the moment. She's been working virtually non-stop here for the last few months--apart from some session work with Peter Gabriel and Roy Harper (for his album The Unknown Soldier ).
Kate is working on her third album, which is now scheduled for end-of-June release. When asked about it, however, she is understandably hesitant.
"It's difficult to talk about the album without you actually hearing it," she explains, in a voice so quiet I worry the tape recorder won't pick it up. "I suppose it's more like the first album, The Kick Inside , though, than the second, Lionheart , in that the songs are telling stories.
"I like to see things with a positive direction, because it makes it so much easier to communicate with the audience or listener. When you see people actually listening to the songs and getting into them, it makes you realise how important it is that the songs should actually be saying something."
The lyrics on her two previous albums are mainly concerned with love, sex and relationships. Simple and common subject matter, I suggest, safe and uncontroversial. <Incest not controversial? Explicit descriptions of coitus not controversial? OK...>
Kate rightly points out, however, that her lyrics do go into the psychology of relationships, and analyse what lies under that superficial banner of "love", which--no matter how common a theme--is still very important to a lot of people.
Her new album, however, is exploring different avenues.
"There are a lot of different songs," she says. "There's no specific theme, but they're saying a lot about freedom, which is very important to me." Which is why Kate is also producing the album herself this time, helped by John Kelly, who produced The Kick Inside and Lionheart . <False. Andrew Powell produced The Kick Insied , and Kelly was assisted by Kate on the production of Lionheart .>
"It means I have more control over my album, which is going to make it more rounded, more complete--more me, I hope."
Her latest, fifth, single is very different from anything Kate has done before, and different from anything on the album, she says. Breathing is a dramatic statement about the very real dangers of a possible nuclear disaster in our world.
"It's about a baby still in the mother's womb, at a time of nuclear fallout, but it's more of a spiritual being," Kate explains, gesticulating with her hands, drawing a picture in the air to demonstrate.
"It has all its senses: sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing; and it knows what is going on outside the mother's womb. And yet it wants desperately to carry on living, as we all do, of course.
"Nuclear fallout is something we're all aware of, and worried about happening in our lives, and it's something we should all take time to think about. We're all innocent, none of us deserves to be blown up."
The hopelessness and pointlessness of nuclear fallout is conveyed also in the haunting, ominous melody which swirls forlornly around Kate's familiar crying vocals. The lyrics are short but to the point, while in the background an officious-sounding broadcast instructs its nation what to do.
It seems strange to hear Kate singing about politics, something I associate more with fighting, militant bands such as the Clash and the Stranglers.
Kate is so slight and demure, an extremely artistic person whose aims seem more concerned with entertaining people by taking them away from the outside world and its problems, even if only for an hour or two.
Hers seems a comfortable, almost fairytale success story. Discovered by EMI Records at the age of sixteen, she was sponsored for a couple of years, writing, during which time she continued learning to dance, perform and project herself.
"I think from the outside it does look as if it's been very easy for me--if you believe what the media say. But in fact it hasn't. Everyone thinks--knows, because it's true--that you need that lucky break, but what really counts is the determination that has to be there in the beginning.
"Basically it all comes down to personality. You have to be very strong to get where you want in this business. I mean, some people have been going ages, like Elkie Brooks. She's amazing (n.b.: the only time in an hour's conversation that Kate uses that word).
"Elkie's been knocked down so many times, and yet she always gets up and fights back. It's the same with me. Because I want to keep going, I can. I don't deny that I've been lucky, though."
The determination, just as important as the talent, has always been there, probably even before Kate learnt to play the piano at the age of eight.
"Instead of going out to play with other children I used to play the piano--it was my way of talking, of expressing myself."
Kate admits she was a fairly solitary child who didn't have many friends, and I wonder if she still is a bit of a loner. It seems rather an odd question when picturing the self-assured performer onstage--but what about offstage, away from it all? Is she much of a socialite?
"No, I don't go to parties much. The last one must have been, ooh, Christmas, I suppose. When I get home I tend to sleep--especially at the moment, because I've been working too hard; or I clean up--wash-up and hoover. I find that very therapeutic. When I've got a lot on my mind I like to get away to something totally non-taxing.
"I see friends whenever possible, too, and watch television, because that's something you can just switch off when you've had enough."
She laughs at having to relate such run-of-the-mill things to prove she's "normal".
"I'm not a star," she says adamantly. "My name is, but not me. I'm still just me."
Kate has been criticised for being too pretentious onstage--for not being herself. Patiently she explains what she thinks the critics have missed.
"When I am onstage, I'm performing, yes, and yes, I'm projecting. And to do these things well, I have to be big--" (she stretches her small, slender frame upright to demonstrate) "--and bold, and full of confidence. And I am, but--" (and she plumps down in her seat again), "--it's still little me inside."
Her performance, she says, is not contrived, it's how how she feels at the time.
"I mean, you can't go onstage and simper, and be timid and shy," she continues. "You've got to be big and strong, and give your audience everything you've got; reveal your emotions: be romantic, transport them into another world, so they're in tune with you.
"That requires an awful lot of hard work, and an almost calculated force, I suppose, in that you know what you're doing. But it does come naturally.
"Bands that do nothing, that just go out and perform their basic function, play their latest album, or sing it, or whatever, and then just walk off, are boring. You have to keep your audience's attention all the way, to be a success."
Which is why Kate Bush is a success. Her onstage performance is an extension of her songs. Through her movements she expresses the mood of her songs. They can be fast and lively, or angry, perhaps slow and sad, or maybe romantic.
Because she is so involved, her audience become involved and her show becomes an art form in itself. A logical extension to this, Kate feels, would be to make a concept album and a show to go with it, so the whole thing becomes a concept in one.
But that's very much in the future at the moment. <It's still very much in the future.> As we walk out of the studios after the interview, she blinks in the sunlight and looks round in mock amazement at what is left of the day. Working in the studios till two or three most mornings has been going on a bit too long, she feels.
The first think Kate Bush would like to do after completing the album is take a holliday.
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