Interviews & Articles


Sunday Times
"How To Write Songs And Influence People"
by Derek Jewell
October 5, 1980

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From: rhill@netrun.cts.com (ronald hill)
Date: Fri, 07 Aug 92 12:52:33 PDT
Subject: Sunday Times by Derek Jewell 5 October 1980

How to write songs and influence people

by Derek Jewell

The Sunday Times

5 October 1980

[Transcribed by Ron Hill]

"I don't want to be managing director of the world," said Kate Bush. "I just want to be managing director of myself." She seems, at 22, to be well on schedule.

Her record company, EMI, didn't want to release a strange piece called "Wuthering Heights" as her first single in 1978 when she was unknown - a fairly predictable decision. Heathcliff and Cathy as pop fodder? She insisted, as she insists on most things, and this highly original song very swiftly made her reputation. Her third album, just released rests high on the charts.

Original she undoubtedly is. Her music resolutely resists categories, and although you can detect influences, especially traditional music, there has really been no one quite like her before. She composes everything, arranges songs, sings, and plays. She dances, produces her stage shows, designs the costumes, and is managing director of her management company.

Kate Bush is boss, yet doesn't look bossy. She's small, slender, nip-waisted, with wildish hair. But the eyes flash quickly within the smile. Her English father, married to an Irishwoman, is a doctor who also played jazz piano. Kate went to a convent at Abbey Wood, near Woolwich, and was learning the violin before she was 10.

"We lived in a farmhouse. I used to play hymns on an old organ in the farm until it was eaten out by mice." By 11 she was writing poems: at 13 she was mixing music and words; by 16, Dave Gilmour (of Pink Floyd) had organised some demo tracks for her and EMI gave her a contract. She used the advance money to herself dance instruction for two years, left the convent and went to live in London. "As soon as you leave school, you learn things at three times the rate."

Through her elder brothers, Jon and Paddy, both of them folk musicians, she joined a group. They called it the KT Bush Band. EMI heard her performing in 1977 and decided that she was ready for an album, which was to include two of the tracks put down earlier by Gilmour. Since that album, The Kick Inside, the acclaim has remained fairly consistent, for both her recorded work and her brilliant stage shows, with the exception of the odd maverick put-down in the fringe music papers.

Her new record, Never For Ever, both reflects and expands her already remarkable range. There's an odd exoticism there - "Babooshka" and "Egypt," for example, following "Kashka from Baghdad" on an earlier album - which stands in starkest contrast with her feeling for this country. "Wuthering Heights" was succeeded by "Oh England My Lionheart" on her second album and by "Delius" her quirky tribute to the Bradford-born composer, on her third.

This song is an unexpected as "Army Dreamers", an excoriating piece in which the lilting music only enhances the lyric.

Tears o'er a tin box.
O Jesus Christ, he wasn't to know.
Like a chicken with a fox.
He cannot win the war with ego.

"No, it's not personal. It's just a mother grieving and observing the waste. A boy with no O-levels, say, who might have been a pop star, politician or whatever. But he's nothing to do, no way to express himself. So he joins the army. He's trapped. So many die, often in accidents. I'm not slagging off the army, because it's good for certain people. But there are a lot of people in it who shouldn't be."

Hesitantly, she outlines artists who may have influenced her. The writers included Kurt Vonnegut, C. S. Lewis and T.S. Elliot. But her main inspiration has been traditional music. "Irish airs, the uillean pipes - music like that affect me physically." The composers for her are Chopin, Debussy, Sibelius and Erik Satie, and all of these are named before she comes to modern popular music.

The litany begins with Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley. Billie Holiday is less expected. "I heard her when I was 14. I loved her upper range. What she says with her voice is so human and vulnerable." Then, Bowie and Beatles, Roy Harper and Roxy Music, Thin Lizzie and Boomtown Rats ("when they began - not now"), Paul Simon and Ian Dury.

"I love Ian Dury because he says good positive things that will help people, cheer them up. I'd be a fool to think I could change the world, but to influence people, yes. It's important to spread positivity. Stevie Wonder has a song, "Love's In Need Of Love Today," and every time I hear it, it makes me feel better. Some writers concentrate on the negative area. It's selfish masturbating really, and art's not a selfish thing.

"If I listen to Leonard Cohen, I get depressed. So many of his songs are autobiographical self-indulgent negativity - writing with no hope or objectivity. One of my new songs, "All We Ever Look For," it's not about me. It's about family relationships generally. Our parents got beaten physically. We get beaten psychologically. The last line - "All we ever look for - but we never did score." Well, that's the way it is - you do get faced sometimes with futile situations. But the answers not to kill yourself. You have to accept it, you have to cope with it."

The managing director of herself was in full flood. "I'm not a businesswoman at all. I just want to write and play and sing and dance. I don't feel I'm biting off too much. I understand my music better than others. I can judge. They can't. So I'll cram in everything I can." A thought seemed to strike her. "After all, I might not even be around in five or ten years."

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