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(Cover courtesy of Emmy May Lombaerts)
This interview was taken from Andrew Marvick's The Garden
[The following interview appeared in Record Mirror in September 1981. Edited by Andrew Marvick.]
Depression, introspection and reassessment--they've all been part of Kate Bush's life since her "Tour of Life" over two years ago. Her new single marks a radical change in her style, and she says: "I was drained and tired--I needed a shock to my writing to get me going again. Now it's come back it feels really great!" John Shearlaw falls backwards going forwards...and brings Kate up to date.
Kate Bush has come to terms with her success and reputation...and still she contrives to surprise with every turn.
No longer the little girl, wide-eyed, fey and whimsical, so beloved of award-show presenters with her squeaky string of "amazings" and "fantastics", she's a determined, at times even gently aggressive character who manages to ride at the helm of an "organisation"--principally her family and her friends--entirely devoted to nurturing and at times protecting her talent.
Kate Bush today sets up her own interviews, controls her own photographs, slavishly protects her fans through her club and, more so than ever, works on albums and tours at her own pace. And still we love her for it?
It's been two years now since what Kate calls her "Tour of Life", a massive circus of a tour that won't, repeat won't take place again until next year at the earliest. Again, it's been six months since the last single and Sat In Your Lap, as much as anything she's done, is the start of a new era, another "cosmic cycle" that will see the release of a new album later this year.
And now that all those ideas in the past--a theatrical tour that was a combination of the innovative and the unexpected, an album last year that surpassed all that went before it--have become reality, she's a powerful personality. SHe makes points where she used to make only comments, argues from experience now as much as from excitement, pushes herself as an artist ("one of us", she says, referring to the type) much more than a surprised, precocious talent.
Yet she's still infectious [huh?], vulnerable at times, as open to ideas as ever. Richness and fame don't embarass her; slowness in honing her creativity probably does, just a little.
Her favourite expression on this meeting wasn't one of wonderment, astonishment (ah, the cliche!); rather a dismissive pout of "Pah!" -- almost French, knowledgeable, and nearly coquettish.
"Pah! Let them think that! Pah! That's wrong!" she seems to imply, ready to underline her ideas. Call it a change, call it maturity, call it confidence in her art, for it almost certainly is. Take money:
"I've changed. I don't pretend it's not there any more, which I used to do," she says. "I'm not worried about being rich, I just didn't think of taking advantage of it. Now I buy things that I can use, things that will help me, like synthesisers and drum machines.
"My life has never been into money, more into emotional desires; like being an incredible singer or an incredible dancer; and if I can buy something that can help me, I will now. But I wouldn't buy something that I couldn't live with, like a country house which I don't need. [Actually, about two years after giving this interview, Kate bought--a country house.] I'd rather buy a huge synthesiser that I could live with all day."
She emphasises and explains, thinks out the question, returns to her theme. The easy answers have gone over the years. Take her career...
Kate maintains that there hasn't really been a gap, even though she admits that Sat In Your Lap only surfaced after her longest break to date.
"My slowness at doing things surprises me," she says, "but i have been doing things continuously. It's a battle to keep up with all the things I want to do, and obviously things like dancing are going to suffer. I couldn't spend twelve hours a day in a studio like I'm doing at the moment, and dance, as well."
Again the emphasis on her way of working--the only way. The ups and downs are of her own making, they don't follow rules. And Kate only bows to her own pressures.
"The last album was the first one that I would actually hand over to people with a smile," she says, almost seeming to imply that it was the first one she was actually pleased with, "and that was followed by a greater period of non-creativity, when I just couldn't write properly at all.
"It happened before, when the tour was over, and then I felt I'd just given so much out that I was like a drained battery, very physically and tired and also a bit depressed.
"This time it was worse; a sort of terrible introverted depression. The anti-climax after all the work really set in in a bad way, and that can be very damaging to an artist. I could sit down at the piano and want to write, and nothing would happen. It was like complete introspection time.
"I suppose I had about two months out earlier this year...and that was a break I really needed. It gave me time to see friends, do things I hadn't been able to do for three years.
"It wasn't really as if I was missing out on normality," she laughs. "I'd rather hang on to madness than normality anyway, so it was more like recharging."
But something more came out of it than just a rest?
"Oh yes!" The smile returns. "I felt as if my writing needed some kind of shock, and I think I've found one for myself. The single is the start, and I'm trying to be brave about the rest of it. It's almost as if I'm going for commercial-type "hits" for the whole album.
[I have always been struck by this statement. It seems to me to indicate that Kate really doesn't have a very sound notion of what is "commercial"--which is all to the good, of course. For if she felt that The Dreaming had a commercial sound, then some listeners's criticism that she seemed to have developed a calculatedly commercial sound for the next album, Hounds of Love, loses credence, since her mental image of "commercial" sound is so different from the sound of Hounds of Love.]
"I want it to be experimental and quite cinematic, if that doesn't sound too arrogant. Never For Ever was slightly cinematic, so I'll just have to go all the way."
The shock that Kate refers to, eyes almost ablaze as she uses the word, came months ago...after she started to work with a rhythm machine while she was writing.
"I'm sure lots of things that I'm trying to do won't work," she says, "but I found that the main problem was the rhythm section. The piano, which is what I was used to writing with, is so far removed from the drums. So I tried writing with the rhythm rather than the tune."
Sat In Your Lap, naturally, is the first fruit of the new approach--original (in that it could only be Kate Bush) marriage of pounding drum sounds and two layers of voice. There is a theme, but it's the rhythm that hits you first, blasting right through to the synthesised end--a step that she knows is likely to continue the critical division.
"I was really frightened about the single for a while," she admits. "I mixed the song and played it to people, and there was complete silence afterwards, or else people would say they liked it to me and perhaps go away and say what they really thought.
"Of course it's really worrying, because there's an assumption that if you're one of us, an artist, you don't need feedback at all, when in fact you need it as much as ever, if not more. I really appreciate feedback, and I'm lucky that the people closest to me, my friends and family, are used to me and realise that I've got my own 'bowl of feedback' to rely on."
And that's more important than the public reaction, or do you worry?
"There will always be some who are irritated by me. I seem to irritate a lot of people," she smiles, "and in a way that's quite a good thing."
Nor will the change stop there. Drums, Kate enthuses, are as wide a concept as music itself, and she's determined to go further than "a lazy acceptance of a drum kit." Add that to the news that she'll be working with other musicians on the new album--"the best around"--and it seems likely that "Kate Bush 4" will be one of the big surprises of the year.
As a preview she plays me one track that's currently being worked on: a wild soaring collusion with Irish group Planxty entitled Night of the Swallow, which also features one of the Chieftains. Again the sound is unmistakable, but this time it's Kate Bush married to the heartbeat of traditional Irish folk.
Discussing the project brings Kate Bush into larger-than-life focus once more. The burning enthusiasm returns, along with the string of "amazings", "incredibles" and "fantastics". She'd been up all night in the studio the previous night in Dublin, and her reactions are genuine, real and hard to resist.
"I'm still really up from the experience," she says. "In fact, I'm still reeling from it. I asked them if they'd be interested, and the whole thing was so relaxed, it was wonderful. I badly want to work with them again. I'm so excited about the fusion.
"And I think that there's so much of the Irish in my mother that it all suddenly came back to me--it was fate rearing its head at just the right time!"
So that's two surprises already, and although Kate has been making demo tracks since March, and Abbey Road is now her second home, the rest will have to wait until summer completion...if all goes according to plan.
What about the book you're planning to write, though? Again, she sighs (a marginal sigh) and repeats her line: "There's so many things I want to do, and it's so hard to fit them all in..."
But yes, a book is on the cards, hopefully before the end of the year, and she says: "I'd like to write it myself. Without saying anything about the other books, which I don't want to, I feel almost pressured to speak, otherwise there's this huge misrepresented area.
"In one way it's ridiculous--I feel it's much too early to write a book, I've hardly done anything yet. But I really want people to be aware of reality--subjective reality, obviously.
"It'd be about what it's like being me, my feelings, my friends, the people that I rely on. I need to be represented in a positive way, and I'll have to do it myself."
[This book, tentatively titled Leaving My Tracks, was shelved in 1984.]
Slowly Abbey Road is beginning to wake up for another Kate Bush day that is likely to last until the early hours of the next morning, and she announces candidly: "I'm beginning to feel like shit. Ireland's catching up on me. And all the things that have to be done. It's impossible to do it all in the time...perhaps if I could stop sleeping it would help."
But she doesn't really believe it, even if she does wonder if transcendental meditation does help you to relax enough to cut down on those "very wonderful"hours of sleep. No, she decides, it's work as usual.
Twenty-two years old, a Tour of Life and three albums behind her...and the rest can wait. Treading devastatingly and surely between the doubters and the devotees, Kate Bush may well continue to "amaze" us all.
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