Interviews & Articles


New Musical Express
"My music sophisticated?
I'd rather you said that than turdlike!"
by Richard Cook
October 1982

To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents

Date: Mon, 19 Dec 88 22:46 PST
Subject: Richard Cook's New Musical Express interview, October 1982

Here's another interview for Love-Hounds. IED sure hopes someone's actually reading these!

This interview is very misleading. It was edited before publication in such a way that the original conversation which spurred Kate's comments was lost. Although several of Mr. Cook's questions appeared in the printed interview, many more were evidently omitted. The result is that Kate's remarks sometimes seem to shift unexpectedly from one subject to another. The omissions also make it seem as though the subjects Kate discusses are raised spontaneously by her, rather than by Mr. Cook. A third peculiarity is the use of Kate Bush songtitles as subheadings througout the interview. They bear no clear connection with the interview itself. This Love-Hounds version was edited, as usual, by IED.

"My music sophisticated? I'd rather you said that than turdlike!"

A modern, multi-media, adult-orientated entertainer, or a wild and wuthering heroine who's been dreaming since a brilliant start to her career? Richard Cook plays Heathcliffe to Kate Bush's Cathy. Pictures by Anton Corbijn.


"I don't think I am eccentric as a person. When I get older I might be. Maybe my music is a little eccentric sometimes.

"People can react as seriously as they want to. I'd like them to sit there with the lyrics in front of them and the record turned up really loud, giving themselves to it. A lot of people will listen to it, and a certain percentage will take time and effort to get into it."

L'Amour looks...

Kate Bush is a small woman with a huge, protective smile. She has an even and unhurried style of conversation, but it is hard to get her to speak what might really be on her mind.

We bubbled along for twenty minutes until I took up the subject of her earliest incarnation, ruthlessly enshrined in the erotic trivia of The Kick Inside --no offense intended, ma'am--and a familiar block shutters her expression. She retreats into the rockspeak of albums and songs and images and progression without regret.

Well, its only NME. They've never carried a torch for me.

All We Ever Look For

"I think I've always seen myself as someone who writes songs that go on an album. If there are any singles among them, then they can be chosen for that. But apart from Wuthering Heights, I was always an album-orientated artist. Even if my singles are more remembered."

You have no regard for those instantaneous qualities of the single? A rocket going up brilliantly for a moment?

"Each album is like a rocket. I build it up as much as I can, and see how high it goes. I'm never aware of any commercial value. I never sit down to write a single. Whenever I write, I'm challenging myself in some area. Everyone who creates something considers themself an artist in some way, don't they?"

I wonder whether you really want to do music--whether you'd rather do poetry or theatre or dance or...

"I'm doing that as well, really, aren't I? Maybe it's wrong to see me as a pop personality. You're going to keep changing-- Wuthering Heights was a story with music and dancing, but I've changed so much since then. The things that the media most remember about me are those things. Some people see that I am changing, but...oh, not as many as the people who hang onto those singles. But I am beginning to be seen as an albums artist."

What's an albums artist?

"It's not being a pop personality or whatever it was you called me. I'm not interested in making singles. Maybe I will make some 'singles' one day..."

Pull Out the Pin

The Dreaming is an ornate, billowing record. Its songs are peculiarly ambitious: their grand design all but drives out the spirit of lowly pop music.

The ghosts of famous men pace their dark corridors; great tunnels of sound emulate mighty and multi-levelled conceptions. Songs are sung in a multitude of voices, like a chittering, half-heard spirit-world. Bush's operatic entreaties are finally matched to music of a similar size and shape. At any one moment

It's already a huge success. Despite the failure of the title song in single form--there are surely no singles on the record--Bush has found that her admirers have not gone away. I suggest to her some of the things it seems to be about, like the struggle between public and private faces, and the ability to disappear inside a recording; she is scarcely drawn. Not suspicious--simply not interested in the ambiguity and anatomy of music so intensely organised. <The meaning of this statement is unclear to IED.> Kate Bush is a dedicated artist.

Is she there?

The Dreaming

"Primitive? I'm not sure about that word...Perhaps. There are traditional roots in it. Basic forms of music."

I think it's extremely sophisticated.

"Do you? Sophisticated? Well, I'd rather you say that than turdlike.

"I could explain some of it, if you want me to: Suspended in Gaffa is reasonably autobiographical, which most of my songs aren't. <Doug Alan is loving this. IED can just see him chortling with glee.> It's about seeing something that you want--on any level--and not being able to get that thing unless you work hard and in the right way towards it. When I do that I become aware of so many obstacles, and then I want the thing without the work. And then when you achieve it you enter...a different level--everything will slightly change. It's like going into a time warp which otherwise wouldn't have existed.

"Oh, yes, quite a few people have surmised that from listening to the song. But when you explain it like this it doesn't sound like anything. The idea is much more valuable within the song than it is in my telling you about it. When you analyse it, it seems silly.

" Leave It Open is the idea of human beings being like cups--like receptive vessels. We open and shut ourselves at different times. It's very easy to let your ego go " nag nag nag " when you should shut it. Or when you're very narrow-minded and you should be open. Finally you should be able to control your levels of receptivity to a productive end.

" The Dreaming is very different from my first two records. Each time I do an LP it feels like the last one was years and years before. The essence of what I'm playing has been there from the start; it's just that the expression has been changing. What I'm doing now is what I was trying to do four years ago. If I do a show, it will only be music from the last two albums.

"I wish I had a five-year plan, but I never plan too far ahead. I get into trouble because I always take longer to do things than I expect. That's why I knew I had to wait for another two albums' worth of material before doing another show.

Get Out of My House

"There're so many females that don't fit in any category at all. There're a lot of people that would love to pin them in those categories. When an image is created around a person--especially a female--there're so many presumptions thrown in. There are a lot of of female artists who are stereotypes, and who nearly fall into those niches people talk about, but there're a lot who don't. When you mention traditional females it sounds as though they have nothing within them--epitomes of a situation. Any singer is a human being working inside and letting all kinds of different energies come out.

"The labelling that comes with the creation of an image is always a disadvantage. When someone has done something very artistic, it won't be let out when they've been packaged. When a female is attractive--whether she emphasises it or not--she's automatically projected with sexual connotations. I don't think that happens so readily with me.

"When I started, it seemed that a lot of singers were singing as if they weren't even related to the lyrics. They'd sing about heartbreak, and keep a big smile on their faces. For me, the singer is the expression of the song. An image should be created for each song, or at least each record; the personality that goes with that particular music. But I don't think that will ever be seen by the majority of people who look at the pictures and see the so-called images come out.

"When I was first happening, the only other female on the level I was being promoted at was Blondie. We were both being promoted on the basis of being female bodies as well as singers. I wasn't looked at as being a female singer-songwriter. People weren't even generally aware that I wrote my own songs or played the piano until maybe a year or so after that. The media just promoted me as a female body. It's like I've had to prove that I'm an artist inside a female body. The idea of the body as a vehicle is...just one of those things. But I'm someone who talks about music and songs.

Wuthering Heights

"You gauge by feedback as to whether your voice inside is right. It says 'Do this,' and you have to see what other people say about it. The barrier against self-indulgence has to come from within yourself. You have to see other people's criticism to be able to do anything about it. You can get a different anwswer to a problem from everyone you know." <This is a subject about which Kate has often shown conflicting attitudes, as in the preceding statements, which seem to contradict each other several times.>

Do you try too hard for mystery?

"I don't sit down and try to express mystery. I worry that I try too hard to create spontaneity. I can be singing a song of a calm person who suddenly becomes aggressive, and I try and reflect that vocally. Different ideas come across in different accents."

Is it worth playing a "message" song like Breathing in a medium which normally trivialises anything of issue status?

"There was a point in people's lives when the imminent prospect of war was scaring the shit out of them, and that resulted in a lot of anti-war songs. At that time it was worthwhile. When I wrote Breathing it seemed like people were sitting waiting for a nuclear bomb to go off. Nuclear power seemed like...Someone was getting set to blow us up without our consent. I felt I wanted to write a song about it.

"If it was something that was bothering so many people then yes, I think it was worthwhile. Songs or films or little individuals don't do anything on a big level. Big things need bigger things to change them.

"There're loads of things I think about writing songs about which are too negative. There wouldn't be any point. They'd be too destructive and negative. And there're things which are too personal. <This is a direct contradiction of a statement Kate made in another interview.> I get loads of ideas that don't make me go, 'Ugh!', so I don't write about them.

"If I hear something I like, and I wish that my work could be like that because it sounds better, then it does influence me. Everything I like and respect I suppose I move towards. It's hard to be specific when we don't know what pop music is. 'Pop' is just short for popular--it could even be popular classical music.

"But I realise how lucky I am. I realised, making The Dreaming, when I was able to get Eberhard Weber to play on one track, that I was so lucky because people you like and respect will want to work with you.

Sat In Your Lap

"Recovering from a brilliant start...? Recovering is quite a good word. Since it all started for me, it hasn't stopped. I'd no idea what was going to happen. I've no regrets in starting that way, in getting through so quickly--because you have to keep fighting anyway, and it made things quicker, not easier. If I hadn't got the encouragement I did...I don't know. I might not have had so much faith, really. Less confidence in getting involved. But it gets harder. Each time you do something you have all the knowledge and mistakes behind you, so you know more: you have more to think about.

"I have to create time to write now. I don't stop working. I haven't really stopped since I began. If this album hadn't sold well, I'd still carry on in this direction. If I made a record which I didn't much like and it sold well, I'd still want to change the direction. When you're making an expression of yourself, you have to be happy with it. To do it and keep getting better--that's so hard.

"I travelled constantly for the first two years of my career. Much of it was incredibly sheltered, in that I only saw hotels, TV studios and aeroplanes. The few times that I've travelled on a social level have brought me minimal knowledge, really, about other places. I think I've learned more from the people than from the places.

"When I was about six, my parents took me and my brother to Australia. <If this was correctly transcribed, it would indicate that John, the eldest child, already twenty years old when Kate was six, did not travel to Australia with the rest of the family.> We stayed there a couple of months, and I'm sure a lot of stimulus came through. I suppose it's a very receptive age, isn't it?


"I suppose I'd count myself an old-fashioned person. I like to think I'm open-minded, but when it comes down to basic codes, I am old-fashioned. Everyone has vices. I have vices, but I don't think I've got any...glaring ones--is that what they're called?

"It would really worry me if I thought my art was being untruthful. Being true to something is the closest way to express things. But then in another way, the whole thing is untruthful--I'm being someone I'm not; I'm writing about situations I'll probably never be in. Behind it there has to be sincerity. Insincerity doesn't ring right; it has a nasty taste.

"The worst thing? The pressures, I suppose. They come in from so many different levels--from so many people--that they feel destructive towards me as a human being. Although it happens very rarely. And I have so little time to do things I want to."

Are you ever worried that you are absent from your art?

"Oh, no. I am expressing myself, but it's also something else--it's something that's coming through me. My intentions are to put across situations that aren't that close to me but which are more interesting.

"It scares me that I work too hard. I can be so tired and involved in work that I'm not living on another level. It's a reality of the situation. I have to do things I don't want to, so that I can do what I want the rest of the time. It's that I don't seem to have time to myself.

Still breathing

"I want to do a show next. It'll take at least six months to prepare, because there'll be so many levels to it. The musical challenge will be the hardest I've set myself..." <This show never materialised, of course.>

A lot of people would like to see you just sitting at a piano and singing a set of your songs.

"Not nearly as many. It would be too easy, as if I couldn't be bothered to prepare a proper show. It wouldn't do anything for the blend of movement and music. That is what I really want to do. Music and movement together in a modern sense. People like it that you're not taking the easy way out."

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"The pull and the push of it all..." - Kate Bush

Reaching Out
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Marvick - Hill
Willker - Mapes
Grepel - Love-Hounds