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(This article was taken from Andrew Marvick's The Garden.)
Chris Heath's interview, fall 1985
[Edited by Andrew Marvick.]
She had a number one single when she was eighteen, and followed that with a string of hits. Then she vanished. So what happened? Did she disappear to France? Did she turn into an eighteen-stone blob? No, she didn't, actually, reports Chris Heath...
"It's really exciting," giggles Kate Bush. "It's great. I'm really knocked out. It's wonderful..."
From the moment I walk into the drive of her South London "retreat", it's obvious that Kate Bush is excited about life--and the success of her first single in three years, Running Up That Hill. She unlocks the forbidding black iron gates and bounces up to welcome me, casually dressed in yellow jacket and turned-up jeans, looking smaller, more friendly and less sophisticated than in all those arty videos. After ushering me upstairs into the huge dance room (this house is mainly used for rehearsal and dance practice), she disappears to make some tea.
There's hardly any furniture here, just two large cushions in the middle of the floor. But one wall is covered in mirrors (to watch herself dancing in) and another is nearly obscured by a huge, rather gruesome painting of a baby doll, its head cracked open, half-submerged in a pool of water. In one corner there's an archery bow; in another, an arrow. This strange, quiet place seems a long way away from the noisy record-company offices, expensive hotels and trendy clubs where most popstars are found. But then Kate's never been one for that kind of thing.
"I'd just prefer to get on with my work: writing and recording songs," she explains, bringing the tea and sitting herself down on the cushion next to me. In fact, that's the lifestyle she's really wanted ever since she released her single Wuthering Heights, when she was eighteen. It shot to number one as the nation became bewitched by her extremely strange dances on Top of the Pops.
"I haven't seen that video for ages," she laughs. "But the last time I saw it I actually thought it was quite good."
Those days, despite her success, most people thought of her as the rather weird doctor's daughter with the "funny" voice and the funnier dances, who said either "amazing" or "wow" (or possibly both) whenever she opened her mouth.
They only took her a bit more seriously a couple of years ago, when she had a hit about nuclear war (Breathing), and then another about a boy who grows up wanting to be a soldier (Army Dreamers). "That's my favourite video," she says fondly. "It was the only one with a true sense of story and simplicity. It said what the music was saying."
Then things went a bit wrong. Her last LP, The Dreaming, in 1982, had no big hit singles and met with a mixed response. Some said it was her best record ever, but others either said she was down the dumper or just laughed because it featured Rolf Harris playing dijeridu. She's still fuming about that.
"There's so much snobbishness. Their attitude was not to take him seriously, but in fact, on levels of musicianship he was fantastic."
After that she seemed to disappear completely. "It's incredible," she laughs. "I must have heard at least a dozen completely different rumours about things I was doing--that I was living in France for three years, that I'm now eighteen stone!"
The truth, she insists, is far less sinister. She took her first proper break in five years, spending time at home, "cleaning it up, sleeping, watching TV and videos," seeing friends and finding a new dance teacher. Then she bought, designed and equipped her very own massive recording studio at home, wrote some songs and spent ages recording them--especially the long "concept" piece about a girl alone in the water close to drowning (The Ninth Wave), which fills up the whole second side of her new LP. By the time she'd finished that, she looked at the calendar and it was the middle of 1985. And here she is, back with another huge hit, just like the old days, with Running Up That Hill.
"It's about the way men and women don't fundamentally understand each other--that we're different," she explains. So what's al this stuff about making a deal with God to swap places? "If you were in a situation where you could see things from the other person's point of view," she answers, "you'd understand their point of view a lot better. It's really about two people who are in love and who are scared about the other person not feeling the same."
In fact, quite a lot of the new album, Hounds of Love, is about being scared of love. "The title track especially," she agrees. "It's about not wanting the hounds of love to catch you and tear you apart. Because that's what you think they're going to do. But," she adds cheerfully, "they might want to catch you and lick you and play a game and be friendly dogs."
"Talking about myself is really boring," repeats Kate time and time again as she sips her tea. She says she's not especially fond of interviews, and she only does them to help launch her records--"send it off safe into the world, like you do a baby or a ship"--so that they earn her enough money to make the next one. And she's not very in touch with her competition in the charts. "I never listen to much contemporary music," she says, admitting that she'd never even heard Madonna before Live Aid.
But surely all the usual popstar things like getting stopped in the street happen to her anyway? "Yeah," she replies, adding with genuine surprise, "I think it's fabulous that people still remember me--I find it quite extraordinary. And normally people are so nice."
It's because of things like that that, at the moment, she says she's "very positive" about everything. "It's very exciting," she says again and again. "More exciting than it was seven years ago, because now the music's so much more a part of me."
And if anything does get her down, she's not prepared to talk about it anyway. When asked about the worst thing that's happened to her, she snaps, "I don't think that I want to answer such a negatively-based question,"--though she does then cryptically reply, "Losing my I-Ching card, and Killing Joke splitting up."
What is she talking about? Can she explain?
"No," she giggles. "Let's get off this negativity. Next question!"
How weird. Maybe the Killing Joke bit's got something to do with the fact that Youth, the band's old bass player (now in Brilliant), appears on the new LP. She does say later that "Killing Joke were a band with such a good energy--I really liked Eighties." And she does hint at one aspect of all this that she doesn't like.
"The situation where a lot of people actually say what they think about you--it's quite hard to cope with," she explains, sipping her second cup of tea. "I think everybody's sensitive, because everybody wants to be liked. Everybody would like to be attractive and loved, and all those basic things."
But apart from those worries, she's doing fine. "It's very busy," she says, downing the dregs and standing up, "but--as I've said about four million times--it's very exciting."
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