To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents
This article was taken from Andrew Marvick's The Garden
Date: Fri, 03 Nov 89 12:14 PST
Subject: Company Magazine, by Rosie Boycott January 1982
Here is another interview transcribed by IED for Love-Hounds' reading pleasure. As usual, all remarks within brackets <> are IED's. Anything within parentheses is original to the text.
The Company Magazine interview, January 1982
The Discreet Charm of Kate Bush
Parties bore her and world tours tire her. So what keeps Britain's number one female rock star singing for her supper? By Rosie Boycott
We all have preconceived notions of what superstars should be like. Larger than life on stage, we expect all these exaggerated qualities to be present in the person themselves. So I was not sure quite what to expect of Kate Bush. I had heard she is a terribly nice person; quiet, easy to talk to and family-minded. But I found it hard to associate this picture of Kate with her stage image: the blatantly sexual, pouting mouth; the high, almost freaky voice; the live body that twists and gyrates under the lights. Above all, could that enormous talent belong to someone who insists she is an ordinary home-loving girl? Which side was the facade?
I went to talk to her at her parents' home in Kent. Her mother and father, a local GP, live in a beautiful old, white farmhouse. Now incongrously surrounded by a council estate, the house has a high wooden fence which surrounds an overgrown, jungly garden--the type of place that can easily feed a young girl's fantasy and imagination. Inside, the house is warm and homely: dogs flop by the fire, the phone rings incessantly, the atmosphere is very family-orientated--no sham here, the Bushes genuinely enjoy being together.
Wearing a knitted skirt and jumper, Kate sits beside me on the sofa, nursing a cold, complaining about the weather--it is raining heavily--and talking with ease and warmth. Meeting her has not made it any easier to understand how someone can be one person in the flesh and another on stage, but the fact that she is likeable and unaffected is certainly no publicity stunt.
Kate's arrival in the superstar ranks of the pop world was well timed. Not for her messing around at the lower end of the charts, waiting for the big break which would make her a household name. Her single, Wuthering Heights, entered the charts in early February 1978; and music lovers everywhere pricked up their ears to the entirely original, haunting, wailing sound of a nineteen-year-old girl, striking notes that seemed impossible and singing with a strength of feeling that was almost unnerving. Within six weeks, Wuthering Heights had ousted Abba and their hit, Take a Chance on Me, from the number one spot. Kate Bush had arrived.
The stories which began circulating about her were numerous; she was EMI's pet product, signed up as a schoolgirl at the age of sixteen, and kept under wraps until the time was deemed right to spring her on the world. She was reticent about giving interviews, carefully shielded by her family, and cossetted by the record company. Everyone was fascinated, but finding background information on this new star with the dynamic, sexy stage persona presented problems. Kate, for all her stardom, was--and still is--a very private person.
Twenty-three-year-old Kate Bush says publicity still makes her feel weird. "It comes," she says, "from seeing just how much I have done over the last three years. Sometimes I find it hard to understand people's interest in me. I hate it when I feel that someone is just after the scandalous details. The most important part of my life is my work." And with that we find ourselves discussing her new album, due out in February.
"At the moment it hasn't got a title," she says. "It has been very hard to produce because all the studios are so incredibly booked up, and becuase I wanted to use one engineer only. This is the first album that I have actually produced myself.
"Inevitably, this has meant a great deal more responsibility for me. But it is a responsibility I like; I think that as soon as you get your hands on the production, it becomes your baby. That's really exciting for me, because you do everything for your own child. And I have been forced to think harder about what is good and what is not so good."
I asked her if the vulnerability of that situation didn't worry her. "Yes, in a way--but it is a stronger position, too, though I find that I now rely much more on other people's feetback--especially when I lack confidence about a song."
In the past Kate says she used to find that her words and music came together with ease--now they take far more time. "I like to leave all my options open until the last minute so that I'm really sure--like about the title of an album, for instance. I'm taking a complete break from recording at the moment, going over songs, tightening up lyrics and tunes, not going near the studio. I've worked on this album so intensely for so long that I seemed to be losing sight of my direction. I really wasn't sure what to do next--and that has never happened to me before."
Everything she does, she says candidly, seems to get harder all the time: "Anyone who is under the illusion that things get easier as you grow older is mistaken." One of the things that Kate has found harder is sorting out priorities. At the beginning of her fame she went with the whirl of the music business, the glamour, the foreign tours, the TV appearances. But she soon found that this lifestyle did not suit her. For one thing Kate hates parties ("formal occasions tailor-made for people not to talk to each other"); for another, she found that it made her easily tired because her need for perfection drove her to work all night in order to be ready for a TV show.
"The worst thing is not being prepared; I have to know, before I go on stage, exactly what I am going to do. Rehearsals may take hours but they have to be done." As a result, after just over a year of fame and when new songs were beginning to be expected from the star, she found herself emotionally and physically drained: "Out of energy, ideas and inspiration."
Now, she says, "I make sure I have time to do everything; I turn down a lot of offers. I know that I need time for my family, my work, my dancing, my practising." When she is working hard--and that means anything up to fifteen hours a day in the studio--her home life is suspended. "When I come out of the studio, it is a bit like being released from prison," she jokes. "I feel like a Martian. In the past, I would have gone straight on to a tour, a stage show or something. Now I decline the offers and spend time at home."
Home for Kate Bush means both her parents' house in Kent and the place that she and her brothers, Paddy and John, have bought about seven miles away. The location of the new house is a closely guarded secret <no longer where Kate herself lives> and they bought it so that trips up and down to London would be easier. Home also means seeing her friends--some new ones from the music business, some old ones from school days and from her brother's old band, with whom Kate used to sing before going solo. Finally, home means being with her boyfriend, about whom she is understandably secretive.
"It's hard because my life is so unpredictable. He's an artist, by the way, but not in the music business.<This is a rare instance where Kate has made an outright lie to the press.> It's the one area of my life that I really do consider private. And I can't keep it private unless I keep it close."
Have three years as a superstar changed her at all? "Yes," she admits; "I've become a perfectionist, for one thing." Although not a lonely teenager, she did spend a lot of time on her own, singing, reading and writing the poetry which forms the basis of her songs. "I wasn't a daydreamer," she says. "Writing songs and poetry is putting into words and music my real feelings. Without being too critical of Wuthering Heights, I do think that it was a bit misleading; it seemed to suggest too much fantasy and escapism"
Kate wants to dispel the notion that she is someone who writes about fantasy. "I think my lyrics have a far tougher edge to them now. I always thought that ultimately I would be super tough...presuming that as I gathered experiences I would learn to accept situations for what they are. That has worked in some ways, but in others I'm far more vulnerable."
One new song on her next album has Kate talking about herself and her new awareness of life, its goals and inevitable pressures. "The song is called Get Out of My House ," she says, "and it's all about the human as a house. The idea is that as more experiences actually get to you, you start learning how to defend yourself from them. The human can be seen as a house where you start putting up shutters at the windows and locking the doors--not letting in certain things. I think a lot of people are like this--they don't hear what they don't want to hear, don't see what they don't want to see. It is like a house, where the windows are the eyes and the ears, and you don't let people in. That's sad because as they grow older people should open up more. But they do the opposite because, I suppose, they do get bruised and cluttered. Which brings me back to myself; yes, I have had to decide what I will let in and what I'll have to exclude.
"While I was working on this album I was offered a part in a TV series. I've been offered other acting roles, but this was the first totally creative offer that has ever come my way. I had to turn it down--I was already committed to the album. Sadly, I don't think that offer will be made again, but you have to learn to let things go, not to hang on and get upset, or to try to do it and then end up making a mess of everything else. It's like wanting to dance in the studio when I'm recording--I want to but I know that I can't because it will just tire me. I wish I had the energy to do everything," she says, sighing at her limitations, "but at least I'm healthy and fit."
Kate is one of those lucky people who never puts on weight. <Well...> She's a slim, elf-like, five foot three and has been a vegetarian since sixteen because, she says, "I just couldn't stand the idea of eating meat--and I really do think that it has made me calmer." She smokes occasionally--though she admits she shouldn't--and hardly drinks. "Champagne, I love champagne...but I don't really call it alcohol!" She confesses that she doesn't do breathing exercises, though she is very aware of breath control when she is singing. She regards her voice as a "precious instrument: it can be affected by almost anything: my nerves, my mood, even the weather." On stage she's a bundle of energy--a complete contrast to the calm, mature, pretty girl who sits drinking coffee in the elegant farmhouse drawing room.
"My plans for the future..." she muses. "Well, I want to get into films. And I want to do more on stage. I love staging my own shows, working out the routines, designing the whole package, and using every aspect of my creativity." What kind of films would she like to make? "My favourite is Don't Look Now. I was incredibly impressed by the tension, the drive and the way that every loose end was tied up. I get so irritated by films which leave ideas hanging."
Singing, she says, will always be with her. So will songwriting. Never satisfied with her voice or with her work, she strives all the time towards some impossible goal of perfection. "But, I suppose," she says, "that if the day ever came when I was 100 per cent satisfied, that would be the day that I stopped growing and changing--my deatch knell."
Despite her stardom, Kate Bush has remained amazingly gentle and sensitive. She is well aware of how easy it would be to be sucked into the music business, drained of all her natural creativity in and artificial world. To her the most important thing is, "To feel that I am progressing with my own life and my work. I also desperately want to feel some kind of happiness in what I am creating. Not contentment," she pauses, "but pleasure."
"I always feel," she concludes, "that I can try harder. I always feel that there isn't enough time in this life to achieve all the things that I want."
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