To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents
(This article was taken from Andrew Marvick's The Garden.)
[Edited by Andrew Marvick.]
A Dijeridu Special
Getting Down Under With Kate Bush
Our man by the billabong: Robin Smith
Kate Bush, you have beautiful toes. Bright and pink, they're so nice when you curl them up. The sort of toes I want to put...
"Would you like to hear my impression of an emu?" says Kate. "They go 'mmm mmm', like that. Actually, I never knew they made a noise at all. Percy Edwards taught me."
No. You're not dreaming or going mad. Percy Edwards impersonates birds and animals for a living, and he's featured mimicking sheep and birds on Kate's wacky new single, The Dreaming. It's all about the plight of Australian aborigines and Kate wanted some outback noises.
It might have been cheaper to book some real animals of course, but they crap all over the place, and Percy usually behaves himself.
"The wonderful thing about Percy is that he can look like the animal he's trying to impersonate," giggles Kate. "You should see him when he does a gorilla.
"He's been impersonating animals for years, and he told me that when he started there were no records with animal sounds, so he went to the zoo. I've always wanted to meet him--he's such a fascinating man."
Rolf Harris is another of Kate's heroes, and The Dreaming was partly inspired by his old single, Sun Arise, which Kate's brother had when she was a kid. Rolf's also featured on the single, and Kate's been anxious to do something tribla for a long time.
"Dear Rolfie knows such a lot about traditional and ethnic music," says Kate. "He's a comedian, but there's a more serious side to him."
Rolf supplied a dijeridu--a long, hollow, tubular instrument you breathe down, to produce a low, continuous droning noise.
"It's very difficult to play. You have to use a circular breathing technique, " says Kate. "Snake charmers use them as well, and if the notes stop they run a risk of getting bitten."
As we were saying, Kate wrote The Dreaming after being upset by what has happened to the aborigines. For years they've been moved off their tribal lands, and even attacked, because of the white man's quest for precious metals--especially plutonium.
"I think there's about two thousand aborigines left," says Kate. "Unfortunately their lands are where you find plutonium, a very rare metal which is used in bombs.
"They're a beautiful people, and some people would try to produce a holocaust out of such beauty. One day I want to go and see the outback for myself. I'm sure it's everything that I've dreamed about."
Kate's single and forthcoming album of the same name (out in September) are the craziest things she's ever done--perhaps she's trying to rest the Wuthering Heights connection forever. On the brief preview I was given, her voice has grown deeper and she has a whole new range of depth and values. The Dreaming is also the first album she's produced herself.
"I couldn't go on forever as the little girl with the 'hee-hee' squeaky voice," says Kate.
Even so, it must have been a gamble to release The Dreaming, which isn't exactly instantaneous to many ears.
"I think it needs two or three listenings," says Kate. "What I wanted to do throughout the album was almost to bury things.
"I wanted it to be a very human, emotional album. I think we've come so far in making music sophisticated that we're almost in danger of losing the roots. That's why I think there's been a return to tribal influences. After all, that's where rock-'n'-roll came from in the first place. It's a very ethnic album, as well, in many respects."
The most instantaneous track on the album is Night of the Swallow, a haunting little number with a bit of Irish folkiness. You'll also find such fascinating titles as Suspended in Gaffa and Pull Out the Pin-- which is downright frightening.
"I saw a programme with a camera man on the front line in Vietnam," says Kate. "The Vietnamese were portrayed as being very craftful people who treated their fighting as an art. They could literally smell the Americans coming through the jungle. Their culture of Coke cans and ice creams actually made them smell.
"Anyway, I learnt that before the Vietnamese went into action they popped a little silver Buddha in their mouths. I thought that was quite beautiful.
"Grotesque beauty attracts me. Negative images are often so interesting."
Kate says she spent days writing and re-writing lyrics for the album, which took a year's work.
Kate's contemplating touring again. She's thinking about some ideas, but so far it's gone no further than that.
"Planning the last tour took five months," says Kate. "Obviously I wanted to give more than just me and a piano."
Kate financed the tour out of her own money and she lost thousands.
"With forty people to look after, it was astronomical--but it was worth it. Well yes, I've made money, but a lot of that money goes into projecting my art.
"I don't see myself as being a publicist for myself but a publicist for my music."
Despite constant prying down the years and gaudy newspaper spreads, Kate is one of the few people who has managed to keep her private life extremely private. There's still a great air of mystery about her. Almost as if she puts up an invisible barrier.
"Some people have said that before," she says. "The main thing is that I don't think enough about what I have to say. I don't say a lot, and then when I do, I don't want to be misrepresented.
"There's been such a lot written about me by people who say they know me, but who I've never met. I find that a great intrusion, a kind of violation."
To set the record straight, Kate's working on her own book. She's been scribbling away for two years.
"I'd like to write more, but time is always against me," she says. "Sometimes I wish the world would stop."
Kate wanted to do a kids' television show last year, but she couldn't fit it into her schedule [Not her own show. Kate considered and rejected a guest spot on a series already in place.], and she's also been approached with various film scripts.
"They were always about the rise of a music personality," she says. "You know the sort of thing. It's been done time and time before, so it would be a bit boring if I did it. I like films like Time Bandits: that was fantastic! [A Terry Gilliam film.]
"Funny, but I've only ever seen ten minutes of Wuthering Heights-- it looked a bit corny to me." [This is probably a reference to the famous version with Lawrence Olivier and Merle Oberon. Kate was, she has said on other occasions, genuinely moved by the ending of the Timothy Dalton film, which was made for BBC TV.]
We're running out of time. Kate has done fifteen interviews with the foreign press already today, and it's nearly time for her to go home. Tell me, Kate, what sort of a person are you? Do you shout and scream when things go wrong?
"No. I don't shout. I can't see the point. I think I can make hard decisions, though. Sometimes, though, I feel vulnerable, like a little girl. I need people to protect me."
Are you aware of the devastating effect you have on ninety-nine per cent of the male population?
"Ooh, it's nice when people find me attractive," she says, green eyes sparkling like fireworks. "I'm flattered by it, really."
And with a wiggle of those naughty little toes, Kate's off. I'd think you'd really need two days to get right to the bottom of her personality, but this will certainly do for starters.
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