Interviews & Articles


by John Reimers
Late 1983

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Cover of Voc'l

(This article was taken from Andrew Marvick's The Garden.)

John Reimers's Voc'l Interview

[John Reimers conducted the following telephone interview with Kate in late 1983 soon after his discovery of her music. He later went on to become a serious student of Kate's art, and a friend of the Bush family. He is probably best known to other fans as the American whom Kate described receiving several phone calls from in which he suggested possible interpretations of the "mystery track" from Leave It Open, starting shortly after this interview was completed. Edited by Andrew Marvick.]

Kate Bush is relatively unknown this side of the Atlantic. Her 1982 release, The Dreaming, EMI's second attempt to penetrate the U.S. market, received critical acclaim but had little impact on the record-buying public. But like several other European artists, Bush may well be headed toward breaking into the American scene.

Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour "discovered" Kate Bush in 1975 (she was only sixteen at the time) when he happened upon one of her home-made demo tapes. Gilmour was impressed enough to arrange a recording session at London's Air Studios. The tape was immensely successful: EMI offered Bush a contract and whatever time she needed to refine her talents as musician, mime and dancer. By mid-1977 Kate Bush was recording her first LP, The Kick Inside.

The first sign of commercial success came in January, 1978, when Wuthering Heights, her debut single, soared to the top of the British pop charts in less than three weeks' time. The Kick Inside followed shortly, climbing to the number three spot, and a second single, The Man With the Child in His Eyes, also rose into the Top Ten.

Shortly after the release of The Kick Inside, Kate Bush made her only U.S. appearance to date, performing on Saturday Night Live as the featured musical guest.

Her second LP, Lionheart, included three new songs ("Fullhouse, "Symphony in Blue" Fullhouse, Symphony in Blue and Coffee Homeground), while the rest had initially been written in preparation for The Kick Inside. Continuing her rise to the top, Lionheart reached number thirteen on the British charts.

A European promotional concert tour started in April 1979, four months after the LP's release. The tour provided material for a lengthy (52-minute) video, Live at Hammersmith Odeon, which has been released in the U.S. and is currently being presented by college radio stations around the country as part of an EMI-America promotional campaign. Videos have also accompanied Bush's singles. They will be available shortly in a collection entitled The Single File.

Never For Ever, the third studio LP (a live EP, Kate Bush On Stage, was released following the tour), appeared in September 1980. Breathing and Babooshka introduced the album as singles, rising to numbers sixteen and five, respectively. Never For Ever entered the charts at number one.

The Dreaming is perhaps Kate Bush's most ambitious effort to date. Utilizing the Fairlight CMI (computer musical instrument), she creates a rhythmic, experimental sound with a truly haunting, yet human, quality.

With a new album already on the way (and increasing interest expressed by EMI-America, which once felt her music was somewhat unmarketable here), Kate Bush is more than ready to break into America's pop music market. Nineteen-eighty-four may well be her best year yet.

At the time, what were your feelings on the success of Wuthering Heights?

"I was very surprised. It's not something you really take in. I was obviously very excited. It was such a wonderful thing to happen after having just finished my first album--when you're not sure how things are going to go."

The Dreaming was released in late 1982, some two years after Never For Ever. Why did this album take so much longer than the previous ones?

"Well, I don't know about other people, but I find that I've always had to work hard in order to get something good. I don't think I could just do something quickly that would be marvellous. I have to work hard at it just to make it right. But I think I am quite critical of my work, and it just takes me a long time anyway. I think things come quite slowly for me. So, I do have to work hard in order to come up with something.

"I always seem to be behind myself. I should have had an album out already this year (1983), but because of how I work, I can't do it. So, I suppose, because I'm always behind..."

How much time is involved in the actual writing of the songs?

"I think nearly everything I do takes me a long time. I find it quite hard to get things the way I want them. And I think the only time I've ever written ten songs quickly was the last album, The Dreaming. But then we spent ages in the studio. And part way through the album, I stopped going to the studio, and just spent a couple of months working on the lyrics. That was very hard, but I think it was worth it.

"For a total album, I felt more pleased with those lyrics than with any of the albums before. There have always been a couple of songs that I thought were, perhaps, a bit weak. But I worked very hard on The Dreaming."

How important a part did the Fairlight play in The Dreaming?

"I think on this album it played an incredibly important part. I didn't have one when I was writing the songs for The Dreaming, but I had it very much in mind. As soon as I went into the studio, a couple of weeks later, I actually bought one so that I could have more time to work with it.

"It's an incredible thing. For those songs it was really perfect. A great deal of effort went into trying to create an emotional effect for the atmosphere of the songs, and I find that the Fairlight is a very understanding instrument in those areas."

Was producing The Dreaming a new creative outlet for you?

"Yes, and I think very much an outlet that had been in motion before, but I hadn't had complete control. It was very exciting for me and also very worrisome, because it was something new and something that held a great deal of responsibility.

"I really did enjoy doing it. But, it was also much more demanding and intense than I had expected. The songs actually started to change once I got in the studio, and it became a very emotional thing. It became very tiring emotionally, but very satisfying.

"I think when you put that amount of effort into something, you feel a great deal of satisfaction when it starts working out the way you want it to. I would never consider going into the studio without a very good engineer, though. I think that is such an important part of an album--someone who can get you a really good sound and personality.

"It's also very important to have someone to get feedback from. You need that. And you obviously get very close with someone who's working on the same project with you, so you want them to like it. It's good if you're all enjoying it and there's a nice relationship among the people you're working with. That really helps a lot."

In the title track of The Dreaming, it is virtually impossible to be aware of all the sounds and voices at the same time. This seems to hold true for much of the album.

"I think, especially with that track and Get Out of My House, that was--well, hopefully--what we wanted to happen. It was very much working in layers.

"The idea was that the third or fourth time a person listened to the record, they would start hearing things they hadn't heard before. I think that's really my favourite kind of music. The best examples are some of the Beatles records. I still listen to them, and am still amazed at the quality of the songwriting. It still stands up today. I mean, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour -- there just isn't a bad track on them, every one is brilliant, and there are so many ideas in each song. Maybe each time you listen you pick up on a different area of what is going on. And I really wanted to create something a bit like that, so that, as people listened to it more, it would somehow grow.

"What I suppose worries me, are the people who aren't prepared for music you really have to listen to. Perhaps they find it a bit confusing because it's not all there on the surface. It's something that you do have to give time to, a bit like a book. But if it's actually getting through to some people, which it obviously has from the feedback, then that's fantastic."

What does The Dreaming mean?

"It's an aboriginal term that was also called Dreamtime. The Dreaming and Dreamtime are the same thing: the time of creation that the aborigines believe in. It's a very ancient religious thing for them."

One track from The Dreaming, Leave It Open, has a backward masking at the end, under the chorus.

"Yes. We actually have a thing going in this country (England), where there are people who write in every week with a new version of what they think has been said at the end of the song, and no one has gotten it yet.

"I think there are only about three or four people who actually know what has been said there. I really like that, though--the idea of all these people sitting and listening over and over to the ending and wondering what's being said. It's lovely, like a game."

I suppose the obvious question at this point would be, "But what does it say?" But, bypassing that one, how important is it for the listener to understand your intentions while listening to one of your records?

"It means a lot to me if people are interpreting the music in the way that I originally wanted it to be done. But, I do feel that music is a bit like a painting, in that when you buy a painting, it's because you like it. And what is important is your interpretation of what it means. That's why it means so much to you. I think that applies to records as well.

"But, as long as people are getting enjoyment out of them, I don't think it matters to me. It doesn't worry me if they don't understand the way that I'd hoped they would. But of course it's always nice if they do."

Why do you think your music is so greatly ignored in the U.S.?

"I don't think the music automatically fits into categories. So, I don't think it's easy for it to fit into the majority of radio programming in America.

"I also think it would have helped a lot if the record company had actually released the albums in the U.S.! Apart from the first album, The Dreaming is the only other album they've released in America. So, in many ways, there hasn't been that much for people to buy or to hear. Apart from that, I can't say why."

A promotional trip to the U.S. was cancelled this past spring.

"I was due over in June, and was very excited about it. I was really disappointed because I had been getting some very positive feedback from America, especially from the press-- reviews and articles. There are people who really seem to like the album. It looks now like I'm probably not going to be over until I have a new album. But it was disappointing for me. I was greatly looking forward to it."

Will you be touring at all in the near future?

"I do want to. Quite honestly, until last year I couldn't start thinking about doing a show because I needed two albums clear of the last show to have enough new material. I was hoping to be able to start thinking about a show in 1983, but I got into time problems, because nearly everything I do takes me so long.

"If I had done a tour, I probably wouldn't even be writing songs for a new album until much later. And the general feeling was that it was too long a gap. So, I really just want to get this album out, and then I can start thinking about doing a show.

"But that's going to mean a lot of organizing. I won't even know how far, or where we'll be taking it until we've got an estimate on the cost. One of the big problems is money. The last show I did really did cost a lot. But, if a tour seems practical, I would love to bring it to America."

Do you enjoy working in video?

"I really do enjoy it very much. It's a bit like my recording experiences: I started off always being interested, and as I kept on working I became more involved. I work out the choreography, the setting, the lighting and the effects. But, out of all the videos I've done, there're really only a couple that I'm very pleased with. Unlike my songs, where I can spend lots of time writing them and working on them in the studio, video has terrible limitations of time and money."

Do you find your work at all frustrating?

"Terribly. And I think, in many areas, as well. Obviously the writing is very frustrating. In fact, I think nearly every area of my work is frustrating (laughs)."

Do you think that is necessary and, perhaps, ultimately beneficial?

"It's very hard to say, but I think it is important. I think it is a part of the chain, you are quite right. I think frustration is, perhaps, the product of so desperately trying to get a thing together, whatever it is--a lyric or a tune--and you can't. But you keep going at it, and suddenly you break through."

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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