To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents
(This article was taken from Andrew Marvick's The Garden.)
(had been mistakenly identified as coming from Sounds)
[Transcribed by Mark Kat(e)souros (Thanks, Mark!). Edited by Andrew Marvick.]
A converted Mick Wall explores the (dream) world of Kate Bush
It was a night, cool and replete, like any other night. I was bedded down in my fox-hole, my day-ticket all turned in and chewed over, gliding on a cushion of ozone into the calmer tonic waters of sleep release. In the distance...a sound.
Darkness surrounded me in opaque chiffon veils which were lifting casually, layer after layer, from the sweet night ground scented with earth beneath my bare feet.
Oh yes, now I could see; I was standing in a square by a gate. Before me, its menacing grey spires cutting deep incisions into the intestinal sac of the night sky, was an unlit church. I stood transfixed before the altar of my own confusion for an uncertain length of time, listening all the while for the sound, mellifluous in its steadily increasing velocity.
Suddenly, the heavy oak doors of the church swung open and a regiment of children carrying ochre candles aloft moved with their own dancing light into twilight view, humming and cooing the ancient songs of their fathers, heretical choruses all. Breath left me in translucent plasmic gasps. Time stopped.
In the centre of these columns of glittering child-light stood a woman. She was quite, quite breathtakingly beautiful. Her face a constellation of feline expression, ancient hieroglyphic image, a saucerful of secrets. The woman, accompanied by her honour guard of tiny laughing folk, moved elegantly up the footpath from the church doors, past where I was standing agape, and forward into the dark velvet forest that trimmed the hills to the North. She was singing. It sounded like: "Ninny ninny nacky poo, nacky poo, nacky poo. . ."
And it moved me in a way no other singing voice could; it was a delicious, indulgent moment of unspoilt pleasure, a caress that tickled me behind the ears and laid one finger on my groin. My heart was an open wound which would never heal.
With the urgent balletic step of one who is possessed, I ran to join the mad procession of twinkling human light, ascending the slopes of impossible desire, praying for the Autumnal Heavens to spill with naked gifts. And all the while the woman sang...
Ineffably spellbound, I followed the voice...the face...the slender moment. And thus it would have remained had not the inexplicably cruel hand of fate touched my shoulder. A second more and I would surely have been lost for eternity, left to walk the oatmeal carpet of stars that connects this world with...another. Instead...
I woke up!
Well, well, only a dream and nothing more. So some might say, but I know better. The realm of dreams is the ultimate reality and one you would be wrong not to take seriously. It cuts time to ribbons, scuffs it up and sends it rolling into the open sewer, and it tells of the future and of the past, and it speaks in tongues of that most inexplicable of all puzzles-- the now!
I wasn't dreaming of Kate Bush so much as wandering through the white Winter world of her songs. Sleigh-bells and wasteladen trains in a merry Easter march, with night and his army approaching...slowly. Kate Bush tells me that:
"I'm very influenced in my writing by old traditional folk songs, handed down by new generations of musicians but with the original atmosphere and emotion still maintained. The sort of music my mother, who's Irish, would have listened to and danced to, and used to play for me when I was very little. It's probably my biggest musical influence; I really like that feeling folk music has--classical music, too--that timeless feeling you experience from the joy of just playing."
Kate Bush has an astonishing talent for writing songs and an unmistakable singing voice, unique in its intensity and pitch. Her dancing is a more recent acquisition. Though her mother was a prize-winning dancer, Kate began taking classes as late as her seventeenth year, a little over twelve months before her first ever single release, Wuthering Heights, reached number one in the UK charts.
She is also the star of a dozen or more lavishly produced videos, the allure of which continues to titillate the jaundiced palate of TV audiences the world over. In their glamorous wake has come a chain of film and TV offers which up till now she has consistently declined.
All of which affords the lady a globe-wide reputation as one of the classiest, most outstandingly talented (not forgetting most successful) female pop performers of the last six years.
Simply, she's the best!
Mind you, and I'll be perfectly straight here, I only discovered the truth gradually. By stages. Three, to be precise...
I'd been writing for Sounds for about three months, off and on, when one day a call comes through. The voice says:
"You are reviewing the singles this week." Just like that. And me, the tail-wagging, keen as a witch's breath asshole I was in those days, I said, "Oh, wow!" Just that.
I started playing the first of the 250 or so singles that had been released that week at about eight o'clock in the evening, scribbling down notes and silly bits and pieces like that. By four the next morning I had about 40 left to go and I was panicking, so wiped out with boredom I was beginning to hallucinate an early suicide. It was then that I spotted a single in a full colour pic sleeve--a luxury for an unknown artiste even today--called Wuthering Heights. A woman, vaguely oriental in appearance, posed erotically on the cover. For a second, I thought this one might even be good, or at least a bit good. I played it...
I still shudder at the memory of the occasion! I hated it. The sinister attack of the opening vocal lines carved my senses into lead shavings all over the floor. Do you know pain? Well, that's what it was for me, that first time.
I pasted the record with a virulent vitriol refined into an almighty sneer, pronouncing it dead from the neck up. Three weeks later it was number one in the charts.
Stage two commenced with the release of "Man With The Child in His Eyes", taken from her first album, The Kick Inside. That whole album, but more particularly the second single, opened my eyes wide to the remote hinterlands of youthful imagination and populist conceit that must surely make up a large part of the artistic nature of the author of such a sweetly motivated pop single. It also finally rid me of those stinking prejudices I'd had about he voice. She sang like an angel...the woman with the child in her voice.
Kate Bush wrote her second hit single when she was fourteen.
The last stage began when I was invited by a friend to go and see Kate Bush on her first tour. She was appearing at the London Palladium. Live! Oh, what a night! An evening drawn in exotic inks across the canvas of my mind, an illicit confection of sensations.
On a totally professional level, the lights, the complex choreography made to appear simple and careless, the dancing flesh, evoked an atmosphere that oozed pleasure, that reeked of shameless beautiful entertainment enjoyed from both sides of the footlights. Indeed, when I remind Kate Bush of that night I forget for a moment that she was the bearer of such insouciant warmth and I merely the receiver. We speak of our (shared) memories of the occasion with so obvious and touching a mutual delight you would swear we had gone to the show together, sat next to each other in the stalls...
"I got so incredibly nervous before I'd go on," she admits. "All I'd ever really done in the way of live performance before the tour were things like TV shows, and videos. I'd never done a big tour...and the sort of props and ideas for the show we were carrying around with us seemed a bit ambitious, a bit awesome, at first, but I loved those shows. Once I was onstage I had so much fun. I'd like to do more of it."
From there on in, Doc, I was hooked. And my habit keeps creeping up, getting bigger all the time.
Her last album, The Dreaming, is her best, to quote a cliche. Self-produced, self-written songs, she even picks the ideas for the sleeve graphics, and that's before she sits down to think about what she wants to do with the new video...damn, I don't mean this to be a love letter, I jes wanna wake y'all up to whas-happ'ning.
Own up, you lather over the videos, right? Something in your head says "swim" when you hear her on the radio, yes? Then follow me down to Kate dance studio where she's sitting cross-legged on the floor, bundled up in wool against the icy January breath of Jack Frost, a tray of tea and biscuits laid in neo-Chinese ceremonial fashion between us, your arse and mine parked on the only cushion available, and we'll smoulder away the chill afternoon together...
Before you studied dance did you ever feel you might have a natural aptitude for dancing, performing?
"No. Never. Within the first two weeks of trying--I went to this dance school up in London where, you know, you can just go along part-time--I thought, there's no way I can do this, this is just ridiculous, I'm useless and it's going to take me years and years...I'd really thought that after about a year I'd be a really great dancer.
"But I got hooked and started going up to London every day. Suddenly, I became a human being--just learning to move!"
Do you employ a choreographer?
"No. The only time I've ever used one really was on the tour, though it can be almost impossible to work at dancing by yourself, you need a teacher. When I'm working on my classes I tend to go up to London because my teacher can't travel. She's too busy."
In another life, could you have made a career out of dancing?
"I don't know. There was a time, when I'd been dancing for about a year and a half, and I was never really sure if an album was going to manifest itself, that I thought, if you want to be a dancer you should do it now. Because I had people approaching me at the dance class, asking if I wanted to go to Germany and dance in clubs and things, and for a time I really got into the dance thing much more seriously than I thought I would. But I don't thin I was good enough. I didn't stand out enough."
Do you write all the time?
"No. I have to be right [?--Words unclear.] for an an album."
You're not very prolific then?
"I used to be. I used to write every day and if it wasn't very good keep a little bit and maybe use it in something else. As soon as 'Wuthering Heights' became a hit, though, my whole routine was just blown apart, it was extraordinary how suddenly everything changed.
"I had such a routine going. It was like, get up, play the piano, go dancing, come back, play the piano, write songs all night, then go to bed. It was like that every day."
Were you very happy then?
"Yes, I was. I think it was one of the happiest times for me as a person. I'd just left school and I was beginning to find myself as an individual. It was very exciting, but I wanted more than anything in the world to make an album, just to see that piece of plastic. And then it happened, and it was instant, you know, Round the World in 80 Days sort of thing. It's frightening. I don't know how I did it. I couldn't do it now."
Do you come from a particularly artistic family?
"Well, my mother's a dancer, she won a lot of prizes cleaning the floor with the opposition, and my father's a musician."
I know your family are involved in your business, but were they behind you when you signed to EMI at sixteen? Did they freak out? Sex and drugs and writers etc...
"No, not at all. They had seen it coming for a long time. The original idea was to see if we could sell my songs to a publisher, not that I should be a singer or a performer or anything. We had quite modest, curious aims. So it was gradual and they were always supportive."
Did you ever have singing lessons?
Did your teacher try to get you to sing in a lower voice? (Stupid joke). [This was Wall's own comment.]
"No, not at all. I used to go for about half-an-hour a week and the guy would get me to practice my scales and my breathing or something and then ask to hear my new songs. So I'd sing them for him and he helped me more that way. He was really good."
Do you get self-conscious when you're making a video?
"I get very nervous before I do anything. I feel I have to work at songs for days before I start to produce anything interesting. Before I perform, I'm always worried that we didn't spend enough time getting this or that together.
You never cover other people's material. Why? Don't you see yourself as The Interpretive Singer? A touch of the 'Rod Stewarts'?
"Actually, I love singing great songs written by other people, it can be fun discovering how beautiful some composers' work is. But I've felt happy recording my own numbers. I regard myself primarily as a songwriter and I don't want to cop out of writing. I get guilty enough as it is when I'm writing for lengths of time."
Kate Bush and I carry on talking while the sun goes down behind my back. We talk and she tells me she is currently writing songs for a new album scheduled for the autumn. How appropriate, thought I. Do you like the winter?
"I like all the seasons. They each have something to bring," she replies enigmatically. God, this is getting wistful!
She tells me that she hennas her hair, crimps it occasionally, and that she has make-up artists and hair beauticians available as well as costume designers equipped to run off fantasy threads like the "Babooshka" number, guaranteed to dry your throat, boys!
She says that she finds it hard to read a book without turning it into a song, and she informs me that Oscar Wilde is probably her favourite author. She is especially fond of his childrens' stories, which can still make her cry.
All I can say is...well, yeah. Me too.
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