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(This article was taken from Andrew Marvick's The Garden.)
[The following interview first appeared in a single-issue magazine called The Women of Rock, in 1984. Edited by Andrew Marvick.]
Success initially greeted Kate Bush back in 1978, when she scored an immediate hit with her classic debut single Wuthering Heights. Over the next two years she became established as one of Britain's most creative musical forces, and by 1980 had enjoyed three consecutive chart-topping albums, besides proving herself a totally compelling live attraction. [Actually, the only one of those albums to "top" the charts was Never For Ever.]
Yet since then Kate seems to have almost vanished from the limelight, and when she released her fourth studio LP The Dreaming last year, it met with mixed response from both critics and fans. The record revealed diverse influences, including Irish and Australian tribal themes, and many felt that Kate had stepped out of her depth by endeavouring to be too "arty".
To tell the truth, when I first heard The Dreaming I was sadly unimpressed, having always been an admirer of her work, but more recently I've found myself getting into it. Now I'd rate it as the most inspiring Kate Bush offering to date.
"Quite a few people have found that it's grown on them after a while," she tells me. "It was certainly different from the things I'd done before, and the overall sound was more layered. THere's a lot of things you pick up on gradually. I find that an attractive quality, and on the whole, I was very pleased with the record."
Kate Bush originally started writing songs more than a decade ago, and was "discovered" when one of her early demo tapes found its way into the hand of Pink Floyd's Dave Gilmour. The guitarist was so impressed by the girl's potential that he invited her to do some more recording at London's Air Studios. Among the tunes she subsequently put down there were The Man With the Child in His Eyes and The Saxophone Song, both of which were later to surface on her first album.
When she was sixteen, with Gilmour's assistance Kate secured a deal with EMI Records. However, instead of rushing to release product, she decided to complete her schooling and continue writing more material. [Most accounts credit the decision to delay Kate's debut to EMI executives; also, Kate did not complete her schooling, exactly; she returned only briefly at the beginning of what would have been her final year of secondary school, in order to take "mock-A" level examinations.] Before long she was attending dance and mime classes, and had also begun to start gigging in her local Lewisham area with an outfit called The KT Bush Band.
By the middle of 1977 Kate was hard at work in the studios recording her debut LP, and in early 1978 Wuthering Heights emerged and shot straight up the charts. Music listeners were stunned by this nineteen-year-old lass's originality. The album The Kick Inside spawned another hit in The Man With the Child in His Eyes, and it seemed that Kate could do little wrong in the eyes of the public.
Her second platter, Lionheart, was issued towards the end of 1978, and it received rave reviews. Wow and Hammer Horror were the hit singles this time around. At this juncture Kate had resumed dance lessons and was preparing for her first major tour.
She took to the road in Europe and the UK in the spring of '79, playing a two-and-a-half-hour set every night. The exhausting show incorporated clever dance routines together with elaborate stage designs, and featured songs from both of Kate's albums. I attended one of her performances at London's Hammersmith Odeon, and was quite stunned by her complete professionalism.
A four-track EP from the Hammersmith dates was subsequently released in a neat gatefold sleeve, and contained a superb rendition of the tune James and the Cold Gun from the first album (what a scorching guitar solo!), along with live versions of Them Heavy People, Don't Push Your Foot on the Heartbrake, and L'Amour Looks Something Like You.
A videocassette, filmed at Hammersmith, has also been made available, and since its release it's remained a regular fixture in the Top Ten video charts.
Following the completion of her inaugural tour Kate took a well-earned break before starting work on her third album, Never For Ever, which came out in the autumn of 1980. The LP entered the UK charts at number one, and gave birth to three highly successful singles: Breathing, Babooshka and Army Dreamers.
At the end of 1980 Kate had come up with the seasonal December Will Be Magic Again, but it wasn't until the following summer that her fans were treated to fresh vinyl output in the form of the Sat In Your Lap single. (Heavy metal fans may be interested to know that ex-Rainbow and -Wild Horses bassist Jimmy Bain plays on this tune.) An album was expected to follow shortly afterwards, but this was not to be. In fact, it was a whole year before The Dreaming finally emerged.
However, as she explained in her record-company biog., Kate had not been idle during the two-year gap between albums. "Following the release of Never For Ever in September '80 I spent the rest of the year promoting the album," she explained. "After Christmas I had a short break and then started writing songs for The Dreaming.
"I wanted a big catalogue to choose from, so every evening I'd write a different song, using a piano, rhythm machines and synthesiser. The whole songwriting process was very spontaneous, and I ended up with about twenty songs, from which I chose ten for the album. I spent more time than ever trying to get the lyrics just right."
Due to the nature of the material, Kate had decided to produce the record herself, but evidently this added to the delay. She states: "I used a lot of different studios to get the songs sounding just how I wanted them to, and I spent weeks putting different textures onto these tracks."
After The Dreaming had been released, I was hoping for news of a tour from Kate, but alas no live dates have materialised. Her last live appearances were back in 1979 and I asked why she hadn't performed on stage since then.
"The main reason I haven't been able to do any gigs has been due to the time factor," Kate replies. "After the last tour, which basically revolved around the first two records, I didn't want to go back out until I had another two albums' worth of material. Never For Ever was the first of those, and then there was The Dreaming, but that took so much longer than I'd anticipated that I couldn't do a tour.
"And so now I'm doing another record, otherwise there would have been a two-year gap between albums, which is really much too long. [As it turned out, the gap grew to three full years before Hounds of Love was released.] Maybe if I'd managed to finish The Dreaming quicker, then I'd have done a tour. I wanted to, but the situation just didn't allow it."
As mentioned earlier, Kate's 1979 shows were extremely demanding, and I wondered whether she had actually enjoyed them.
"Oh, I loved playing live," she declares. "I really did. I learnt so much as a performer, a dancer, a singer and as a person. It was a bit scary at the time, and I was a little wary because everything was so new--even down to the mike I was using--but I really enjoyed it, and I'm looking forward to doing another tour."
When Babooshka and Breathing emerged as singles, Kate produced a couple of excellent videos. In her absence from the stage, has she found video a good medium in which to work?
"To be honest, I tend to treat videos and live performances as very separate things," Kate answers, "because there is such a big difference. I enjoy the video side. It's very exciting and you can lie with lots of things; but I find that the excitement and challenge of playing live to much greater."
How important do you feel your image is?
"I've never really considered it to be that important, I suppose because I've never really wanted to be pinned down into one specific category. I like to think that my image moves with what I'm doing. In fact, image to me lasts no longer than one song."
Though Kate has assumed a variety of roles on stage and on video, she's maintained a fairly low off-stage profile, which has almost created an element of mystique about her. Does she agree?
"Maybe...but I don't consider myself mysterious as a person."
Aside from selective interviews and carefully monitored press pix, we rarely get a glimpse of the real Kate Bush, and one suspects that she prefers to communicate through her music. Certainly, she's never been one to encourage publicity through her social activities.
"Well, I'm not that sort of person," she maintains. "I don't like to just go to parties to be noticed by the media and things like that. I prefer to just keep to my own circle of friends."
How well has she managed to get on with the press?
"On the whole, fairly positively, I'd say. Although I may have been misrepresented, and there have been situations where I've felt that critics haven't taken me seriously. But to me it's the art that matters."
Is it because Kate's a woman that she might not have been taken seriously enough?
"Quite possibly...but then again, if you're female, then it's up to you to prove yourself. The whole thing with critics anyway, is that they're very fashion-conscious. To me, fashion is a bit like a hit single: it's incredibly transient. I've never found it very attractive, and I believe that music isn't fashion, but an expression of emotion."
Quite clearly, Kate Bush cares little for ephemeral trends, and no doubt this is one of the reasons she's always been so original with her own music. From the outset she's never made any compromise towards commercialism, and has never been afraid to explore fresh territories. It's always fascinating to see what she'll come up with next.
At present Kate is writing a new album, but she's got no concrete plans for recording. "Going in and doing the album depends on when I've got the songs together," she explains. "I've only started writing over the last few weeks, after months and months off. And after a break, it always takes a while to get back into the swing of things. But hopefully it won't be too long before I can go into the studios."
Does she enjoy recording?
"I love recording," she enthuses. "In fact, I'm very lucky because most of the things I do I enjoy."
The Kick Inside: "That was a very important LP--it was my first, and was very successful, with the single (Wuthering Heights) on it. I think it was basically responsible for everything that's happened to me in the last five years.
"I was very young at the time, and listening back I think I sound young and fresh. I'm still very affectionate toward it. It was something I'd been waiting years to do, and I think there were some good songs on it-- The Kick Inside and Moving are probably my favourites."
Lionheart: "Looking back, I don't really think that Lionheart actually expressed the true phase I was in at the time, whereas all the others have. While the first LP consisted of material I'd written up to that point, I found that the time pressures prevented me from writing more fresh material for the second one.
"In fact, I only wrote three new songs-- Symphony in Blue, Fullhouse and Coffee Homeground-- and if you know that, then you can tell the difference in style. Basically, this album could have been a lot better."
Never For Ever: "For me, this was the first LP I'd made that I could sit back and listen to and really appreciate. I'm especially close to Never For Ever. It was the first step I'd taken in really controlling the sounds and being pleased with what was coming back.
"I was far more involved with the overall production, and so I had a lot more freedom and control, which was very rewarding. Favourite tracks? I guess I'd have to say Breathing and The Infant Kiss."
The Dreaming: "Again I'm very fond of this, because it's my latest, and because it represents total control, owing to the fact that I produced it by myself. It's the hardest thing I've ever done--it was even harder than touring! The whole experience was very worrying, very frightening, but at the same time very rewarding.
"It took a long time to do, but I think there are some very intense songs, and the ones I like best of all are Night of the Swallow, Houdini and Get Out [of My House]. All in all, I was very proud of this record."
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