To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents
WHAT THEY say about Kate Bush is that she's a lisping innocent, a born-with-a-silver-spoon, a too-good-to-be-true, a safe and uncontroversial, soppy, record industry banker.
What l reckon is she's brave and honest, the most sensual writer/performer around. For her, forget politico-socio-economics (which is crucial but not the only crux). Just feel her. She's very tactile, music you can touch, sometimes smell and taste too. All the senses embraced, like making love -- not as complete as experience by any means, sure, but . . . reminiscent.
As she wrote in 'Symphony In Blue': 'The more I think about sex/ The better it gets/ here we have a purpose in life/ Good for the blood circulation/ Good for releasing the tension'.
Doubters should see the front cover of her new LP, 'Never For Ever', out next week. Then they might recognize her. There's a painting of a cartoon Kate on a hill, the wind blowing her skirt and hem beneath it issues a billowing spume of people, devils, animals, monsters, birds, fish, butterflies --- the raw material of her songs intact, spreading and curving like the cornucopia, horn of plenty. The message is sensually true (hear, see, feel, taste, smell). Kate Bush's music flows like love juice.
Breathing my mother in,
Breathing, my beloved in,
Breathing, breathing her nicotine,
Breathing the fall-out, out in'
This is how the readers of teeny girl's magazine Look In were told to think about Kate Bush: 'To every young girl working hard at dance classes and learning music, the story of Kate Bush's rise to fame must seem like the ultimate fairy story. Few may look as striking as Kate, and it's unlikely that many have her incredible vocal range, but her rise to acclaim gives us all a model to aspire to -- showing just how much sheer hard work is involved in reaching the top.'
Arsenic and old lace, slow-poisoning gentility. Encouraging aspiration, encouraging hard work, while quietly easing the rug from under you. It's nice to dream, but honestly you don't have the looks or the talent or the determination, do you dears? What you're really rehearsing for, when these childish games are over, is a long stint behind me cheese counter and in front of the kitchen sink. Your only chance is no chance.
Or, as Kate said when I'd finished quoting it at her: "If I was still at school and I read that I'd think 'Christ, I'll just give up and work in Woolworth then'. It would scare me life out of me."
She becomes ever more aware of the difference between Kate Bush the public image and Kate Bush the self she knows (which includes the artist). How could she be anything but bemused to find herself described in the Sun as 'top sexpot of the year' -- what's that? --and in Sounds voted Number 2 'Sex Object (Female)' -- what's that?
The ephemeral quality of celebrity had just reached a new level in fact, she said: "A couple of weeks ago I read the first interview with me I've seen which was entirely made up. I had never spoken to this magazine and there I was talking about my life and fame and so on."
For the past two years she's been coming to terms with the half-truth. Now it seems she will have to develop her acceptance of the complete lie. She's working on it: "It does still worry me that people read things and take it as gospel. So much of what you read is propaganda whether it's political or show biz."
She's been taken advantage of by people striding in with an 'I'm your greatest fan' smile, then tearing her apart in print. Very nasty, but she insist to herself that "they are all forgivable", even the ones who go away and give her a hard time for being too nice to them.
"What do they expect? Do they want me to rip the place apart? The thing is when I'm on stage I can do anything. I have a role to play. Off-stage it's hard for me to be anyone but myself which is a rather shy, philosophical...little thing."
'Little thing'! In moments like that you can see how she has set some people's teeth on edge with a mawkish word and a flash of the dimple high on her left cheek. We were setting out on a five-hour interview. If the schoolgirl coquette had struck the keynote it would have been unbearable. But Kate Bush was 22 on July 30. She's not like that anymore. The jokes about her saying amazing' and 'wow' all the time have worn thin.
Her own genuine fear that she is boring when she doesn't have a role to play is quite wrong now, if i twas ever true except in the self-fulfiling anticipations of many journalists. The feat itself may still be hampering her though. For instance, she invariably chooses the matt-finish neutral territory of the EMI office for interviews: she takes her self out of context. So I can offer you no significant details, no atmosphere. We were plonked down among someone else's business clutter with sandwiches wrapped in plastic and drinks from the tin.
Kate was wearing a lot of red and a lot of make-up -- one rough soul in the vicinity remarked that she seemed to have 'tarted herself up' way beyond her usual daily casualness, probably because she knew Mike Laye would be sitting in (although he didn't take any pictures as it happened). Later she did say she had been nervous because we had both deliberately built it up to her as 'a big one'.
'My radar sends me danger
But my instincts tell me to
So let me introduce you first to Kate Bush the professional. Of course, there are many in her position who, if they were worried enough by an interview to be nervious, wouldn't do it. She does have the power to decide not to be bothered with any of the show biz process apart from the music. Instead she quotes from whoever-it-was and steps out saying "As long as they spell my name right!"
She's the girl who goes along to pick up the awards in person when others send their fridges to take delivery. She's the one you see in the papers the next morning pulling silly faces and pointing at Alan Freeman who's pointing at her, or standing with her arm matily round fellow EMI earner Cliff Richard's shoulder, or scrunched between Bob Geldof, Paul McCartney and an armful of shields and plaques. Usually at these moments she looks quite barmy, but at least a hundred percent more alive than the company she's keeping.
(Photos referred to above)
"I'll always play up for photographers. I can't stand there looking miserable, it'll get printed anyway. To cope I have to play the complete loon, I do have to keep my face in the papers you know. I need the publicity."
She meant it, although the last couple of phrases did come out rather as if they'd been learnt by rote from 'Teach Yourself Show Biz'. Tactically it seemed to me she was underrating herself again. On the other hand the bare-faced, uncool honesty of her was more than striking.
"I don't like show biz. I very rarely go to parties. If I go to one of these dos it's because people have been good to make the effort for vote for me and I think I should say 'Thank you' rather than 'I can't be bothered to come, send it round.' "
The choking unctuousness and obsequious gluttony of those affairs is enough to turn your stomach and I dragged up a quote from Kate's past which suggested she had been suckered into the rotten opulence of it. According to another of those teen'n'weens mags she had spouted on about what 'a great honour it is to be part of this business'.
"If I said it I didn't mean exactly that. The honour is to know that people like me to be here and make my music and explore. Behind the business propaganda there is a connection between the artist and the public which is real. Take these Personal Appearances ('PAs' they say in the trade). You go to a shop and you're like some kind of royal person put on a pedestal and the people are led to you as if it was to kiss your feet. They're forced to buy an album to get your autograph.
"That part of it is horrible, but I like them because I meet all these faces full of therir own lives. It's really special to me. I do it because there's something human and good in it rather than refusing because it's not perfect.
"But if it wasn't for my music I wouldn't come near a situation like this (a glance took in our little room and its large implications). It would scare the shit out of me. There was a time when I would never have signed myself away to any record company. But what I wanted more than anything else was to get my songs on to an album. EMI were interested and there were willing to wait (giving her a few thousand pounds and a couple of years to 'grow up' with).
"Everyone's doing everyone up and you have to minimise that. My way isn't one of forcefulness, I like to talk to people on a mutual level. I've had to work and prove myself to people which I find a great challenge. There are so many aspects to people...Fred isn't just nice Fred, he's bad Fred, Fred that's cuddly, Fred when he's been drinking. It does get terrifying."
When her name, demos and pictures were first introduced to the majority of the EMI staff at an annual convention, the mainly male gathering nudged, winked and said "Wor, I wouldn't mind handling her, boss!" Some also noticed that 'Wuthering Heights' was a smash hit waiting to be pressed. If it had failed she would have been crushed in the cogs of the corporation. As it is, success is her passport through the long corridors. In this sense her greatest step forward on 'Never For Ever' is that she moved up to co-production with her everpresent engineer Jon Kelly.
"I'm free in lots of ways and I'm getting more free, more artistic control. The first two albums were a matter of proving I was a reasonably intelligent and creative human being who could produce their own project. A great deal of artists aren't capable of being objective enough. To be close with everyone involved and though their respect and enthusiasm create what you have been thinking about for over a year is a beautiful experience.
'Out-in, out-in, out-in...'
IF SHE is growing out of being 'the company's daughter', as one former EMI executive described her, she is showing no signs of becoming any less her family's daughter. Most of her business interests seems to come under the wing of Novercia Ltd, the board of directors consisting of Kate, her father, mother and two brothers. She still lives in Lewisham in a house owned by her father and split into three flats, one let to each of his children.
Older brother John is a constant advisor and has again designed one side of the album sleeve. Paddy features on 'Never For Ever' playing an extraordinary range of stringed and other instruments: balalaika, strumento de porco, sitar, koto, musical saw, banshee and mandolin (I don't know what all of these are, but Paddy probably made some of them himself as that's his trade).
Clearly it's an uncommon closeness which is a source of strength and reassurance to her even though she's a much more confident person now than when she first faced up to those heavy business people at 16. No outsider can pretend to analyse that blood chemistry, but the impression created certainly hasn't helped her 'credibility' (a pretty elitist expression in itself when you think about it).
Artists are supposed to suffer. It's always been true. Punk emphasized the point the year before Kate Bush was so carefully launched and there are no visible signs that she meets the standard required. "I'm always presented as this middle-class girl whose father is a doctor," she complained and described how both her father and ' her Irish mother came from ordinary country families, no wealth at all . . .
But she could hardly take the protest very far. She happens to have been born to the generation of Bushes that got rich quite quick. It's not her fault and you can see why she resents catching flak for it. Eager for experience as she is, poverty is one thing she will never be able to sample anywhere but in her imagination.
However, accept her for what she is in class terms and you see that her character at least reacted very creatively to those things that only money can buy. Time, space, solitude, a piano standing idle, a father who could show her middle C and leave her to clang about to her heart's content until she had learnt to play in an individual style. Freedom to express herself, fantasize, write poetry on the walls if she felt like it as John had done before her. Then protection for her talent when it emerged so that it wasn't beaten into early submission like 99 out of a 100 on the city streets.
Not suffering, but sensitive to life's potential for pain, perhaps she mused vapourously about the futility of life and wove those adolescent generalizations to her early feelings about 'the punctual blues' (her periods, mentioned in 'Strange Phenomena'). She talked, "philosophized", with her brothers and they stirred her interest in mystics like Gurdjiieff and Khalil Ghibran.
I know next to nothing of these people and couldn't begin to say how they've influenced her in detail. It seems though that while nothing much was happening on the surface of her life she was gathering an enormous thrust of emotion from heart and head which was positive, idealistic, optimistic. It's one strong reason why so many people like her now.
She still expresses it hesitantly, but with a passion: "It's so hard to look at people you love so much and see things which are screwing them up . . . reading things about Gurdjieff or the Bible give some comfort, they make you feel you can do something about it. The connection, getting through the barriers to people is the thing . . . continually swilling in ego isn't what I want to do. I want to be a perfect person. I think everyone does."
'I love my beloved,
All and everywhere,
Only the fools blew it,
You and me knew
Life itself is breathing'
HEREWITH what I think about Kate Bush aher listening to her music and talking to her at length.
Her words and sounds are a sensual sexual fantastic romance -- of reality. She often goes a-wuthering like Emily Bronte out on the wiley, windy moors of nonsense, then she drops like a hawk and grabs you by the balls -- of your mind. She's totally hot -- heart, head and body. That's the leaping landscape of her country, the frantic story flying through your brain all the time at an erratic tangent to the functions your hands and feet are fulfilling.
She is a conscious artist, committed to the ideal of moulding moving, meaningful substance out of the ether like a sculptor pumelling the rubbish away from the true shape in the stone. So far she has given only the slighntst hints that she can become one of the greats who turn you upside down with sound (Springsteen, Aretha, Dylan, Little Feat among them for me) I'd say 'Moving', 'The Man With The Child In His Eyes' and 'Breathing' go close.
She's constantly calling things 'beautful'. she has a strong emotional and aesthetic idea of what she means by it. She means to achieve it in her work. She trains and practices rigorously to that end, habitually puts in 18-hour days when she's recording or on the road. If she has genius within her it will not escape unemployed.
The energetic tolerance she directs towards journalists who misrepresent her embraces her whole attitude to life.
"We're all innocent," she'll say or "They're all human beings after all". This helps her in the artist's role as observer. She doesn t judge, she empathises .
But this liberality, her undeniable nicenesss may sometimes undermine her will to criticise herself. Particularly in the light of her new album, 'Lionheart' looks complacent -- or maybe at least a sigh of relief that 'The Kick Inside' had done the trick. Secure and cossetted as she has been it must be difficult to fight back the inertia that sits in every soul.
Her voice with that 'incredible range' is a very peculiar instrument. In some ways it is boundless, from rich contralto to squealing hyper-soprano. No problem with hitting the notes all right if they were scattered across the sky and the ocean bed. Her emotional range is much narrower though.
Sure, 'Wuthering Heights' tickled the fancy of a million or so, but what else can you do with that turkey-gobbling noise? (Ah, you noticed, I don t like that one.) One answer is to come up with other gimmick voices -- the catlike mewing of 'Lionheart', the banshee yowling of 'Violin' and the crazed grotesque of 'Wedding List' on 'Never For Ever'. Any of them can raise eyebrows and smiles for a track or two and her vocal surprise will carry on entertaining for as long as she can pull them off.
Can her voice project the tenderness and passion she's capable of writing though? Hear her speak, an endearing female version of Frank Spencer in 'Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em', and you wonder. The sheer grit of some of her favourite singers such as Billie Holiday and Lotte Lenya seem pretty remote. Yet she did achieve a fairly straight intensity on 'The Man With The Child In His Eyes' and her often weird and strangulated tones seem to suit the seriousness of 'Breathing'.
Can you imagine that voice tackling the set of covers the KT Bush Band played in the pubs of Lewisham in her mid-teens? 'Honky Tonk Women', 'Come Together', 'Sweet Soul Music', Heard It Through The Grapevine', 'Sailin Shoes'? Well, it happened and no doubt she will go on exploring her vocal chonds as she did the piano and hopefully she'll find the Bush blues in there somewhere.
The search will certainly be conducted with humour about herself-there are more vocal laughs than ever on the new album and did you notice the end of the 'Babooshka' video where she mimes the deep male voice?7 I reckon she nicked it from the horse singing bass on Laurel And Hardy's 'Trail Of The Lonesome Pine'.
'Ooh, please let me breathe,
Quick, breathe in deep
Leave us something to breathe'
I asked Kate about Moving, the first song on 'The Kick Inside' and her most fitting blend of word and sound so far. It's a complete evocation of the movement of the dancer, speaking with his limbs, sense through sensuality, as sexy as his 'beauty's potency', the dancer and the watcher in harmony like lovers.
So I asked her what whale noises were doing in there. "Whales say everything about 'moving'. It's huge and beautiful, intelligent, soft inside a tough body. It weighs a ton and yet it's so light it floats. It's the whole thing about human communication -- 'moving liquid, yet you are just as water' -- what the Chinese say about being the cup the water moves in to. The whales are pure movement and pure sound, calling for something, so lonely and sad...
"On the ground they're ppff (splodging sound), but in the water they're 'wahooo!' Which is the way with a lot of dancers."
The song/dance dovetail is one of the ideals she's pursued in her stage show, TV special, and videos. She can trace her love of movement back to when she was a tot.
"My father told me I used to dance to the music on the telly. I remember it vaguely. It was completely un-selfconscious and I wasn't aware of people looking at me. One day some people came into the room, saw me and laughed and from that moment I stopped doing it. I think maybe I've been trying to get back there ever since."
'Moving' is dedicated to Lindsay Kemp who led her into rediscovering herself with an inspiring performance and a series of 50p lessons in the public classes he gave.
"He needed a song written to him. He opened up my eyes to the meanings of movement. He makes you feel so good. If you've got two left feet it's 'you dance like an angel darling.' He fills people up, you're an empty glass and glug, glug, glug, he's filled you with champagne."
With dance, mime, and elaborate costume, Kate's performances are hardly your standard rough and ready rock shows. They are rehearsed down to fine detail and she values exact execution far above 'spontaneity', which again scores black marks against her name in some books. So it was interesting to hear her reactions to the last night of the tour when nothing went according to plan.
"The roadies were all very creative people and suddenly as a sort of goodbye to us, they were all joining in the show. There were crowds of cowboys and indians, a crocodile. During Egypt a panto camel walked in. I went after it and it tried to run away, but I got it by the tail, pulled it back and there were these voices protesting from inside, 'Leggo!' "
That is, she loved it. Kate Bush wants to create an illusion, not a machine.
'Breathing the fall out-in, out-in, out-in'
My imagination runs like a non-stop B-movie with me as the star -- unless I'm daydreaming about sport in which case I'm always the commentator for reasons I'll leave to the psychoanalysts amongst you. It gives me excitement, a savour of heroism, free trial runs of situations I expect to face. Kate agreed it was her version of that parallel reality which went into most of her songs, stories so far away from the suburban convent schoolgirl.
"For instance, I really like guns. Not what they do, but detach them from their purpose and they're... fantastic, beautiful. And yet, they're designed to kill which is against everything I believe in."
She talked with relish about the gun used by the assassin in 'The Day Of The Jackal' and with fascinated horror about dum-dum bullets (she was well up on the technical details):
"How someone can even think about lining a bullet with mercury so that it rips another human apart is incredible. I'd never shoot anything living at all. I was always given dolls when I was a little girl of course, so maybe if they had given me guns I wouldn't have had this thing. Unless I'm trying to get back at all these people shooting me..."
She looked at Mike and he countered with an astute enquiry about the routine she did on stage with 'James and the Cold Gun' which produced the much used stills showing her licking the rifle barrel and firing from the crotch, raw phallic gestures. She skipped around that for a moment though.
"I was brought up on movies: love, revenge, and death. Violence when used correctly can be a brilliant instrument in entertainment. Or it can be disgusting. Normally in 'James' we used bits of red felt to represent blood, but one night we used capsules and spurted the stuff all over the place and the audience loved it. They like strong imagery."
Throughout the interview she kept coming back to films, TV and other people's art, as the starting points for many of her songs. Forever fantasy. She accepted it:
"Each of them comes from something that makes me go 'Wow!' Most of the films I've drawn from were shown when I was a kid, which is strange. They've taken ten years to work through my system and go "oo-ee!". I know if makes me a thief, but the material is digested and changed, like with 'Infant Kiss' (new LP, more below). In fact it's very difficult using a film story because they're so long and you have to precis so much. Sometimes I feel I only get half of it across."
Another of her favorite fantasies is the exotic setting. There's 'Saxophone Song' in Berlin, 'Kashka From Baghdad' and 'Egypt'. She hadn't been to any of these places and ignorance seems almost a necessity to her to preserve a pure, free flow of imagination.
'Saxophone Song' was one of her earliest, written when she was about 15. It curled us in closer to the roots of her music:
"Sometimes chord structures make you think of a place... and I love saxophones so I wanted to write a song about them. I think of a beautiful sax like a human being, a sensuous shining man being taken over by the instrument. The perfect setting was this smokey bar in Berlin with nobody listening except me in a corner, the streams of light flashing off it to me, pa pa (explosion noises)."
In the song she is a 'surly lady in tremor... You'll never know you had all of me.' Mike suggested that Freud would have made a meal of this one too, and this time, as she's fond of phrasing it, she broke through the barrier.
"I'm very basic," she said. "I wasn't thinking of it as phallic when I wrote the song, but I do now when I see a sax player. I feel if everyone understood the real things I'm saying, it wouldn't be much good, it wouldn't help me. If it seems harmless on the surface that's all right. I don't want to upset people who don't want to know. There are enough people, thank God, who have seen it. They're listening with their hearts.
"The sax is a very sexual sound, all vibrating, resonating - like bowels. Look at photos of musicians playing any instruments and it could be interpreted... it's not always sexual, but mainly. You are cuddling the instrument, you are seducing each other. Guitarists are up there so obviously waking with their guitars, but it's open, beautiful, it's at a love level."
Kate Bush is in an awkward position. She pour out passion unbridled, and then hopes that only the 'right' people will notice. For instance, she would hate The News of The World to understand her though they're welcome to print her picture any time they like. So far her luck has held. Her acceptable show biz face has proved a perfect disguise under the spotlight.
'Breathing, Breathing my mother in, Breathing, my beloved in, Breathing, breathing her nicotine, Breathing'
A FEW DAYS before the interview I'd watched the Peter Finch film of Oscar Wilde's life on TV. In court a poem by Oscar's young lover Bosey is read out which refers to 'the love that dares not speak its name'. Kate Bush dares, dares speak the name of any love -- even when she doesn't know it ('Infant Kiss' is about paedophilia all right, but she claimed she'd never heard the word before we mentioned it to her).
The technical terms and harsh 'morals' don't enter into it, sensual love is supreme, the juice flows, the treasures of the horn of plenty are boundless . . . do you remember the 'Wow' video, when at the fine 'He's too busy hitting the vaseline', she cocked her bum out and slapped it saucily to tell interested, slow-witted parties like me that it was nothing to do with the clapped-out star taking his make-up off after all.
Dangerous territories? "That's why I think they're so fascinating. So many love songs stay in such a light, unreal area. If I write one it has to be focused on an energy I can really feel. Mostly it can't be just 'a man and a woman'."
'Kashka From Baghdad' is about a happy homosexual couple who overcome prying eyes and vicious tongues by keeping themselves to themselves and enjoying it: 'At night they're seen / Laughing, loving/ They know the way/ To be happy'.
I asked her why she'd taken the objective role of the outsider looking in rather becoming the voice of the central character as she often does. No cop-out she said: "It would have been very difficult to make people understand I was singing as a man in that scene. That's a problem sometimes. A lot of people don't realise I'm a little boy in 'Peter Pan' and a male who a female is trying to poison in 'Coffee Homeground'."
The voice of 'The Kick Inside' comes from a girl who is pregnant by her brother and is about to kill herself to save her family from the scandal of exposure. Kate curved in towards the topic via some reflections on the delicate balance of sexuality in every relationship:
"Men, friends, get very close to each other. At what point does it become sexual? Love can be very strong and not sexual.
"It's the same with my brothers. I see them as men and I see them as attractive, but there is no sexual content in the relationship. I suppose there's never been much physical contact . . . well, most relationships are platonic.
"The story of 'The Kick Inside' was taken from a folk song. It is a pure love, it starts so innocently ('You and me on the bobbing knee') There are no demands between them except the most basic ones. I mean, I find I can trust my brothers more than anyone else because they know me so well. We were brought up in the same way, in the same house, with the same games and just a few years between us. It's as if we were reflections of each other."
In 'Infant Kiss' a woman is tucking a child in for the night when something happens which sets her whole life sliding away: 'What is this? an infant kiss/ That sends my body tingling/ I've never fallen for/ A little boy before/ No control/ ...All my barriers are going/ It's starting to show/ Let go, let go/ ...There's a man behind those eyes/ I catch him when I'm bending/ Ooh, how he frightens me'.
Kate was inspired by 'The Innocents', a British 50s film version of the novel 'The Turn Of The Screw' by Henry James, a disturbing tome which snakes its way between occultism and Victorian hang-ups about sex.
Her explanation of the song is interesting: "I was imagining that moment of the nanny giving him a little peck goodnight and he gives her a great big adult kiss back. The emotional tearing inside her. There's a psychotic man inside this innocent child, a demon, and that's who this straight woman is feeling attracted to. It's such a horrific, distorted idea it's really quite beautiful."
Uhuh. But remembering her remarks about the trials of precis-ing it seems to me the emphasis of 'Infant Kiss' is on the heat of the woman's response while the boy is less a devil than a child with a man in his eyes. Every little lad's got whiskers beneath the skin after all. And we've all got nipples come to that. Gets confusing dunnit? But sensuality rubs, on and on, and Kate Bush, full of hope, finds it hard to be evil.
These three songs are one thing, out on the frontier, but that sensual/sexual thrust is in her every line, that cornucopia, the deluge. We asked her about it: "I don't know, your own sexuality is something very wavery, you rely on other people to prop it up for you. Maybe the female finds it harder than the male; worrying so much about how you look, age is such a problem . . . although males get in in much deeper areas, conditioned at school and by parents, treat women as 'wahayl', and never cry, and 'take your drink like a man'.
"I have trouble with the domestic me. That's what I mean about lacking in the feminine areas. Marrying, having kids, washing and cooking. I mean, when I'm at home I love to cook and clean the place up. But work is a different me, work is a love and how could I do that and bring up a child? So many women with families find they have wasted their education and they can't go back.
"So I won't have had being a mother and making a little home for my man to come back to. And I don't feel a need for that security now, but possibly I will."
Okay, so that was part of it. But Mike said we weren't really thinking of her sexuality in terms of the kitchen sink. The previous day he'd seen the 'Babooshka' video and later 'found himself' in a strip club. He suggested that the dancing styles weren't dissimilar. And that 'Lionheart' cover: the pose, minus lion skin, could have come out of 'Mayfair' . . .
"People were really worried about that cover because they said I shouldn't look sexual. I told them we had a song about bestiality on the album so it was quite appropriate (joke! stop poring over that lyric sheet). It was difficult not to either be sexy or look Iike the lion from 'The Wizard Of Oz'.
"I've decided I can't judge. People say the 'Babooshka' video is sexy, but all I can see is that I haven't tumed my foot out or fully extended my arm or there's a bit of make-up smudged or you can see there's a gap between my teeth."
The strip-show comparison had been tickling her and she got to it: "Yeah. I am opening my arms as wide as I can and bringing them all in (she swept in an armful of air). Because when you go out there in front of hundreds of people your knees are knocking and all you want to say is 'I'll do anything only please stay!' " (Her invocation to 'The Lionhearts' on the album of that name read 'do what you will with me but this is for you'. )
"There are basic things, cross your arms, turn your back, you are rejecting the audience. Open your arms, face them, and you are inviting -- like a strip lady."
I said that made the connection with the masturbatory -- maybe 'autoerotic' has a sweeter romance to it -- feeling shimmering through many of her songs. There's that man with the child in his eyes who's there 'when I turn the light off', the gorgeous seduction of 'Feel It', 'Feel your warm hand walking around/ l won't pull away, my passion always wins/ So keep on a-moving in/ Synchronise rhythms now'; the masked figure coming out of the night in 'L'Amour Looks Something Like You' who she's dying to touch 'And feel the energy rushing right up-a-me/ . . . the thought of you sends me shivering/ . . . With that feeling of sticky love inside'; and the mellow old pro of 'In The Warm Room' who'll let you watch her undress, 'Go places where your fingers king to linger/ . . . Say hello, to the soft musk of her hollows'.
"It's not such an open thing for women to be physically attracted to the male body and fantasise about it. A lot women I know if they see a mate pin-up think it's funny. I can't understand that because to me the mate body is absolutely beautfful.
"There's emotional masturbating too. Wanking away on your knees and thinking you know everything. But physical masturbation, it's feeling so bottled up you have to relieve itas you ware crying."
So what did the 'Never For Ever' cover painting mean to her? "A lot of people think it's hilarious that all the ideas are coming out from under my skirt. But the good and bad things pour out of me in the form of music. It's terrible, it comes out like diarrhoea!
"And it's to hint that so much of it comes from a sexual need, from inside me, though it could also be from my stomach, my side . . . excretions. We had to be careful with the title because of all that, there was my skirt blowing about, but there couldn't be anything about 'wind' in it or that would make the whole album one big fart."
'Ooh, life is -
I ASKED her whether she thought of her music as being distinctively female -- taking 'Room For The Life' from 'The Kick Inside' an example.
"People thought that song was feminist which disappointed me. It was actually saying we should go a bit easier on men because we are the ones with survival inside us, we carry the next generation, we have the will to keep going, we keep bouncing back.
"I don't know it that's anti-liberationist but I wouldn't say femininity was very strong in my songs. I've always felt there was something lacking in my feminine ... role, do I mean? Being brought up with two brothers I'd sit philosophising with them while my girlfriends wanted to talk about clothes and food. Maybe it's the male energy to be the hunter and I feel I have that in me."
'Room For The Life' portrays woman in exactly that way: 'Plaiting her hair by the fire, women/ With no lover to free her desire/ how long do you think she can stick it out/ How long do you think before she goes out, women/ Hey get up on your feet and go get it now'.
"When I'm writing . . . I've tried to explain this and people think I'm weird . . . I've been playing something for a couple of hours and I'm almost in a trance. At two or three in the morning you can actually see bits of inspiration floating about and grab them (she mimed it, like snatching at a fly). Someone comes in and says 'Hello' and I hit the calling I'm so shocked. I think in that state I'm almost split from my body and I'm not conscious of being female. Playing the piano, it's leading you too, it's the heart speaking and it's not male or female, it could be an animal, a glass, a piece of stone.
"That's the beautiful thing about writing, it's pure spirit and you can be anything you want. Even your voice doesn't matter. I can pretend to be, mm' Frank Sinatra. It gets difficult again when I come to recording because then I have to accept the voice I've got. That's the frustration I feel with dancing too, there are terrible limitations. Only two arms and two legs and you want to be a violin or a cat or a bird. You pretend, but you're still stuck inside your body and every year you're getting closer to being stiff and arthritic . . ."
For all her ability to concentrate she is becoming aware that it doesn't necessarily lead her where she wants to go. To date her musical style has struggled to go beyond idiosyncratic balladeering.
"I love rock 'n' roll and yet I find when I write the piano will stop me doing certain things. An idea will develop, I want it to rock, then a tune will come and it's nothing like it . . . as if I couldn't control its direction."
She's trying to take a hold by changing her methods for the first time in some years. She's working with a rhythm machine and. synthesiser to inject more "oomph" also writing poems/lyrics separately, to be fetched up against a melody later.
"We've lost our chance,
we're the first and last,
After the blast...
But my instincts tell me to
OKAY, so if you were Kate Bush you'd probably be optimistic. That said, it's hardly unwelcome among all the bad-news messages to hear from someone saying 'We humans got it all, we perform the miracles' ('Them Heavy People')
In 'Symphony In Blue' she confronts her hope with its opposite, her 'terrible fear of dying'. In a sense it's a good theme for her as nobody can say she's underqualified to deal with it because she didn't grow up in a council block -- it's both abstract and personal.
Apart from the cheery sex manual lines I quoted at the start her answer to 'that feeling of meaninglessness' is fulfilling her role, her music, 'now I know that I'm needed/ For the symphony'.
But that's just a nice, fragile joke. In her songs of imagination rather than experience death is a solid enemy, the dumb numb negative if sensuality is the sensational positive. It stretches her two ways still.
"There was something in the news about a guy they found on the Heath who went out in his car, soaked himself in petrol and set fire to himself. Normally that kind of suicide is for a martyrdom to a cause, but this man. . . why have such a painful death except to say to people how far he'd gone?"
Combatting the despair she turns to the stories of people who have 'died' momentarily and recovered, among them her mother.
"When I was little my mother fainted for no apparent reason. My father was there and put her on the bed, but he couldn't feel any pulse so he started doing artificial respiration and so on to try to revive her. Meanwhile, according to my mum, she'd taken off like a balloon and hit the ceiling. She was looking down from there at my father pushing her body about and she was calling out 'leave me alone, I'm all right!'
"Then I walked in asking 'where's my mum?' and when she saw me she dropped back down into her body, she says, and anyway she did come back to life. I know it could be some kind of defence hysteria, but so many people have had that sort of experience."
Life and poetry move in mysterious ways. Some 'symbols' bite back. In 'Moving' Kate wrote to the dancer 'You crush the lily in my soul' -- the lily being the flower of death, the dancer the love/life bringer.
Well, once someone sent her a bunch of lillies: "They're incredible flowers. They don't look real, almost . . .putrid. I had the kettle on the gas when I was unwrapping them and the cellophane caught light and set fire to my hair. I put that out all right and left the lillies in a vase on the telly. Then when I went to switch it on later they tipped up and soaked me. Fire, water, they were attacking me with the elements. It was very strange."
'Ooh, life is --
Out-in, out-in, out-in...'
BREATHING' is Kate Bush's triumph. Its sensuality so intense it becomes sense, a higher meaning than moral or political analysis. It's not perfect. Very few will be convinced that she's got the whole nuclear power/weapons situation sussed because she can lob out a line like 'Chips of plutonium are twinkling in every lung'.
But what she's got vibrating in every cell of her body is the positive, her feeling for life force, her awareness and concentration on the elemental process of breathing as pure as a new-born baby or a wrinkled yogi, her entranced absorption in it until the mundane chemistry, oxygen in carbon dioxide out, becomes the ultimate love making love.
"When we were doing the track in the studio someone from EMI came down and caught the 'in-out, in-out' bit and said 'You're not seriously thinking of releasing this are you?' He really thought it was all pornographic! I suppose it's that Freudian thing. But 'Breathing in-out', it's like the tide, the elements are so sensual more than anything humans' can do -- like snow, it doesn't just change the look of everything, the acoustic is completely different too. Just touch textures, it's so sensual and often it comes back to sex.
"The misinterpretation I was worried about was that people would think I was exploiting the nuclear issue being in the news. I certainly had no intention of exploiting tragedy -- though I do wonder how much good someone like me can do. People have said to me 'Send a copy to the Ayatollah' or whoever . . . music can get through but those leaders are on such a strange level . . . I don't know "
Dabbling, naive, way adrift of reality in moments like that, no doubt. But if destructive cynicism is your reaction it's a nosedive on to concrete. Under the house-of-cards argument the positive is pulsing.
"It was uncanny making the video because it was so apt. I was inside three transparent plastic inflatables to represent the womb. Zipped up tight and they were pumping oxygen in to me. Then it would steam up and they had to open it out so the air blasted into me and it felt so good. That really helped me -- like when I was young there was a stage when I would lie in bed and suddenly think 'My God, I'm breathing', and become very aware of it . . .
"That song was terribly important to me. more than anything else. From the writing, arranging, production viewpoints, everything, that's my little symphony. Before I put the lead vocal on the backing track alone made me want to cry it was so perfect.
"From all the hard talking we had with the musicians they suddenly stopped thinking about the technical side and played from their hearts, so much love in it. Music is . . . you have to break your back before you even start to speak the emotion.".
*All lyrics published by Kate Bush Music Ltd/EMI Publishing Ltd.
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"The pull and the push of it all..." - Kate Bush
Marvick - Hill
Willker - Mapes
Grepel - Love-Hounds