To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents
(This was originally in Andrew Marvick's The Garden.)
The Keyboard/Totally Wired/Songwriter U.S.A. interview (early 1985)
[The following interview with Kate was published in the June 1985 issue of Keyboard magazine (she appears on the cover sitting at the keyboard of her Fairlight.) A very similar version of the interview then appeared in the premiere (September/October 1985) issue of Songwriter U.S.A. magazine, which added the first six paragraphs of the present edition, as well as a brief discography (not reproduced here).
[Portions of the interview were also broadcast as part of the Totally Wired, Mark II series, which aired on public radio stations. The interview was conducted by John Diliberto. This, the first integrated transcription, is by MarK T. Ganzer (Thanks again, MarK!). Edited by Andrew Marvick.
[On listening to the radio interview, it became clear that Kate's comments, as printed in Keyboard, had been re-phrased and edited. Similarly, the radio interview had taken comments from different portions of the interview and spliced then together to make it sound like one continuous chain of thought. Despite these faults, the interview is quite good, as it goes into the details of how Kate uses the Fairlight in her writing. I have attempted to rectify the faults with the two interviews by merging the two and using Kate's own words where possible. Those portions that were transcribed from the radio interview will be enclosed in parentheses.]
(Since the last album (The Dreaming, released towards the end of 1982) Kate Bush has achieved the long-held ambition of designing, building and equipping her own recording studio. Upon its completion, six months of songwriting was followed by nearly a year of recording. The result, the album Hounds of Love, shows Kate at a new creative peak, both musically and lyrically. It also displays her increasing prowess as a producer, which was recognized in early May in Montreux, Switzerland, where she won several awards.
([Her debut album The Kick Inside ] contained the atmosphere-laden Wuthering Heights, which introduced Kate to the world, and which topped the singles chart for four weeks. The hits continued with The Man With the Child in His Eyes, Hammer Horror and Wow, the last two taken from the second album, Lionheart.
The next project was Kate's only tour to date, but one which remains a milestone in the live presentation of popular music. A dazzling combination of music, theatre and dance, she was involved in every aspect of its elaborate staging, from the choreography and costumes to the lighting and sound.
The single Breathing (released in April 1980) marked a dramatic departure from her previous material, one which was consolidated with the release of the album Never For Ever in the late summer. It crashed into the charts at Number One and spawned two further hit singles, Babooshka and Army Dreamers.
(With Never For Ever Kate was co-producing for the first time, and by the next album, The Dreaming (released in September 1982), she had complete involvement in the production. With the benefit of hindsight The Dreaming can be seen as having set the scene for Hounds of Love, both musically and from a production point of view.
(With the accompanying promotional activities precluding the possibility of another tour in the immediate future, Kate is currently working on an idea to present Side Two of Hounds of Love through another medium to which she has already made a notable contribution--video. This is planned as a visual interpretation of The Ninth Wave. [This plan was later abandoned.]
(Before then, on September 16, the Hounds of Love will be unleashed in the U.K. on record, cassette and compact disk.)
Despite enormous success in her native England, evidenced by a string of hit albums and singles that goes back to her debut in 1977, Kate Bush is practically anonymous in the States. Even with an intense cult following and a Canadian fan club that is so fanatic that they hold their own Kate Bush conventions and publish a fanzine, she has had no luck breaking into the American charts. Lost in the trans-Atlantic crossing is the fact that Kate is a vital and innovative composer, singer, keyboardist, and producer who has shaped a uniquely personal and organic sound. Her brilliantly orchestrated vocals weave effortlessly in and out of structures whose foundations are built on Bush's own piano and Fairlight playing. The stories told by her lyrics, the way she mingles the music of many cultures, the shifting rhythms, and even the drum sound on her 1982 tour de force, The Dreaming, have caused many to draw comparisons between Kate and another British luminary, Peter Gabriel.
The history of Bush's career is one of those classic tales people dream about: an unknown singer, discovered by a rock star (Pink Floyd guitarist Dave Gilmour), is molded into a hitmaker who uses success to take charge of her own career, overcoming the sex-kitten image of her early years (which led many a writer to talk about her various sexual attributes--"pouting lips" and so on--rather than her music).
Kate was born on July 30, 1958, into a musical family that included two older brothers who played traditional Irish and British music. At age 11, she began playing the piano. "I was just mucking around with it," she claims. "There was something in myself that could just wander off when I started playing the piano."
She was soon captured by the instrument, and as a self-taught musician, it took her a while to catch onto the mechanics of songwriting. "I started trying to put words to the piano, and found it incredibly difficult," Bush remembers. "I couldn't understand how people did it got some books from the library to see if I could make those words fit my music. It was absolutely useless, so I had to try to make my own words to fit. I spent years of every day getting home from school and playing the piano."
Until she was 16, Kate's only audience consisted of friends and family, but they were so enthusiastic that they tried to get her a publishing deal. Eventually friends of friends led them to Dave Gilmour, who was seeking out new talent at the time. He liked what he heard, put up money to produce some demos, and landed a recording contract for Kate with EMI. She left school a year later, and the following summer, 1977, she recorded her debut album, The Kick Inside. Her first single, Wuthering Heights, which was later covered by Pat Benatar, went to the number one spot on the U.K. charts.
That first album fell somewhere between cabaret and rock and roll. Produced by Andrew Powell with top British session artist like Alan Skidmore, Duncan Mackay, and Morris Pert, it tended to emphasize the uncanny quality of Bush's four-octave voice. [An exaggeration.] She sang in a high, child-like wail that lent a distinctive unearthly quality to her narrative songs. From the beginning, she merged dance and theater into her live performances, one of which is captured on the video Live at the Hammersmith Odeon. Her songs provided characters whose roles she played, and as with the best actresses, audiences could rarely separate Kate Bush from the characters she portrayed. Fans and media alike hooked onto the image of the auburn-tressed child seductress singing about mythological incest (The Kick Inside) and lost loves.
Even on that first album, there was maturity of composition and some fine romantic piano that belied Kate's years. Her idiosyncratically twisted rhymes and meters sounded perfectly natural. Besides, in the initial blooming of Britain's punk movement, with it's monochromaticism, Bush was a refreshing alternative to the angst of the day.
Her second album, Lionheart, recorded close on the heels of The Kick Inside, was a sophomore slump. Its light MOR arrangements seemed to be grooming Bush for the adult-contemporary audience, but it too yielded it's share of U.K. hits. With two LP's under her belt, and despite an inability to crack the U.S. charts, Kate took control of her third album, 1980's Never For Ever. The results were dramatic. Using a Fairlight CMI for the first time, her arrangements took on new dimensions and her voice gained added maturity and versatility. Songs were no longer designed to show off her chops; instead each song was given its own vocal character- unique and distictively Kate Bush. "When I was younger", she explains, "I was into the idea of singing high, expanding my voice and making it leap. So I wrote some songs to really push my voice and increase it's range. Now I concentrate more on the song."
Bush's involvement as co-producer as well as performer on her third album can be seen in the unity of the songs. While each is clearly different--the romantic Delius, the haunting Breathing (which featured Larry Fast on Prophet-5 synthesizer), the rocking Violin -- they all hold together sonically. Kate is credited with playing piano and some Fairlight on the album. Max Middleton accompanies on Rhodes and plays a gorgeous synthesizer solo over some spacious changes in Egypt. With help from co-producer Jon Kelly, her studio manipulations hold a wealth of detail. Coupled with the Fairlight, instruments like kotos and mandolins gave her music a new exotic quality that seemed to free her voice, allowing it to be more natural.
In 1980, Kate also performed on Peter Gabriel's third eponymously entitled record, and the experience seems to have influenced her own self-produced masterpiece, The Dreaming. Gabriel and producer Steve Lillywhite used the Fairlight (played by Larry Fast) and extensive studio processing to obtain dark and percussive ethnic textures on Gabriel. Bush's The Dreaming is also full of tribal rhythms and swirling electronic atmospheres. The album's title is taken from the concept of "dreamtime", which Australian aborigines consider an altered state of reality. This is what The Dreaming is--a harrowing psychological foray into another world. From the opening song of failed spirituality, Sat In Your Lap, with its African percussion and Geoff Downes' Fairlight trumpets, to the trance rhythms of the title track, to the emotional catharsis of Get Out of My House, The Dreaming thrusts you into an uncharted realm and won't let you escape.
Kate Bush leaves no doubt that she is the master of this dream world that, frighteningly, has its roots firmly seated in reality. This is not the woman-child of The Kick Inside (if she ever was that). This is the mature and experienced artist whose own arrangements have a clarity and depth that makes her previous records, as professional as they were, sound flat and lifeless by comparison. Her voice becomes a full orchestra, alternating between hellish choirs, ascending angels, and compelling exhortations. She can simply narrate a straightforward tale of crime, replete with Saturday afternoon marching band arrangement (done on Synclavier by Dave Lawson accompanied by Bush herself on piano and Yamaha CS-80), sing a poignant lover's lament (Houdini) or a song of self-recrimination with phase-shifter-tortured vocal (Leave It Open). Kate has always written her own music, but having acquired a Fairlight and her own studio, she began to orchestrate all her own arrangements, which include heavy doses of Uillean pipes, penny whistles, and bouzoukis played by her brother Paddy and his friends from the Irish group Planxty.
That was three years ago, however, as Kate Bush takes longer and longer between releases since the rush of the first two albums. We spoke with her in her suburban London home, just as she was finishing work on her new release (due out in August), which she describes as a long and exhausting project. Having just arisen moments before the interview, Kate was enthusiastic and candid, at least as much as someone could be expected to be who wrote:
"With my ego in my gut, My babbling mouth would wash it up. (But now I've started learning how) I keep it shut."
--Leave It Open
Your image has changed dramatically from that of a pop chanteuse, as you were perceived on your first two albums, to that of someone with a very clear artistic vision, which is how people have come to perceive you since your third and fourth records. Is that an accurate assessment?
"Even on the first two records, I was doing what I'm doing now as a artist, only (because I was a lot younger, and I didn't have the room and the space to be able to truly present my music. I had to work with a producer and within certain kind of set-ups because of the fact that- that's how it was, I wasn't powerful enough basically to be able to say, 'Look, I'm producing this myself. This is what I do.' And that's what I do now.) I think that if I had been a little older, and if I'd had the experience at the time, I would have done it then, too. (But I was--When I was making my first album, I was 18. I had never really worked with a band before, let alone a producer in a studio setup. So I just had--[laughs]--I mean I just about had the guts, you know, to sing and keep it together.) But you learn very quickly what you want. By the time the second album was finished, I knew that I had to be involved. Even though they were my songs and I was singing them, the finished product was not what I wanted. That wasn't the producer's fault. He was doing a good job from his point of view- making it sound good and together. But for me, it was not my album, really."
Is the album you're working on going to be a departure from The Dreaming, or is it a continuation of the ideas you developed there?
"It's difficult for me to say, really. I think it is different from The Dreaming. When I sit down and write songs for a new album, that's one of the things that's important to me--that it's at least somehow different and hopefully interesting."
The album The Dreaming was quite a radical departure from you previous records.
"Yes, I think it is different, but I don't know if it's that different. It's very different from the first two albums, but the third album is where I think we started to get there. I think it was a progression, really. But perhaps not such an obvious one."
[Note: The following comment appears in the radio interview with regard to The Dreaming, but does not appear in the magazine interview.]
("But it is quite...dark, I suppose, without meaning to be negative. I think it is saying...nearly all those songs are saying that people are great, but they really hurt each other, and you know, look at the things we do to each other. Why do we do this...you know, questioning. I think albums are like that, they're...they are little diaries. You know, you sort of sit there and write--not autobiographical things--but what you feel at the time, things that move you. I think it does say alot about you at the time.")
What were the differences?
"I think the main difference was connected to my involvement. The more I get involved in the production, then the more I'm going to get exactly what I can out of it. Therefore, it automatically becomes a more demanding and personal project."
You started using a Fairlight on Never For Ever.
"Right, I didn't have my own Fairlight and we had to hire one in. (And really as soon as I met the Fairlight, I realized that it was something I really couldn't do without because it was just so integral to what I wanted to do with my music. I think I've always enjoyed synthesizers...I found them very interesting, but I never really enjoyed all the sounds. And what really gets me about the Fairlight is that any sound becomes musical. You can actually control any sound you want by sampling it in, and then being able to play it. I mean obviously, it doesn't always sound great, but the amount of potential exploration you have there with sounds is never-ending, and it's fabulous.)
Do you write songs around the Fairlight?
"Yes, I do now. This is actually the first album that I've done that on. Up until now, I've always written on the piano. It's been a very important part of it. The songs came from the piano and the chords. But with this album, the majority of the songs have come from the Fairlight and working with drum machines and things like that."
It seemed that many of the rhythms on The Dreaming, especially the title track, came more from vocal rhythms. They don't seem keyboard-based at all.
"You're quite right. ([Laughs.] That's not a keyboard-based song at all. It's very much based on aboriginal music that I'd been able to hear.) (And it does have quite a specific ryythm--that sort of slow, spacey thing. It's got so much space in it. And that was very much one of the things we wanted to get across, this... much like landscapes of huge deserted flatlands. That's what the music seems to say. It talks about, you know, where they --the aborigines--went; their environment.) That was actually an idea I'd had since the third album. I knew I wanted to write a song that was about abuses-the aborigines, the Indians, these tribes whose counties had been taken away from them by so-called civilized man. I wanted it to be based around the aboriginal style of music. Their music says so much to me about space, earth, and living on the land. So the whole thing is based around the dijeridu. I have a rough sample in my Fairlight, and I sort of worked out ideas from that. Then we got people in and pieced all the other sounds together. It was quite a visual song, because you could see so many things that suggested to you where to place sounds.
But you actually used a dijeridu player instead of the Fairlight sample on the track.
"I think it would be insulting to the instrument to suggest that the Fairlight could do it better--I don't know if you realize the sort of circular breathing technique that's involved in playing it. (The dijeridu is one of those incredible instruments with the circular sound that's incredibly...sort of rooted in the earth. And we got Rolf Harris in to play it, and he is a brilliant didgeridoo player. He could just keep it going for half an hour.)"
What kind of things have you been doing with the Fairlight?
"I use the Fairlight in a basic way, really. (What really appeals to me most is the idea of having any sound that is available put into the Fairlight. And I use it mainly as I would my piano. So it's finding the sound I want, which cyan take ages- that's the most difficult thing- and then working around it musically to make it suit the song. When I'm writing a song around it, normally I just use chords with a quite simple Fairlight sound. And then if I want to build up things, I'll do small overdubs just as we go throughout the album,) with the Fairlight being dragged in every other week. So in the writing process, the main Fairlight sound goes down even on the demos. You find the sounds that work for overdubs at a later date. For me, the ideal is the combination of Fairlight and acoutic instruments, rather than it being all electronic or all acoustic."
Are you using sounds that they give you with the Fairlight, or have you been sampling your own?
"Some of the presets that they supply are actually quite good. But there's one favorite that everyone is using, called 'Orch. 5' or something. Every time anyone who has a Fairlight hears it they go, 'Oh,no! Not again!' There are a couple of good preset sounds, but I think that the most exciting thing is actually recording sounds and sampling them in. Quite often the nature of the sound changes when you put it in the Fairlight, but that in itself can be quite interesting."
You used 'Orch. 5' yourself in The Dreaming [single].
"Yes [laughs], but as far as I know, at that time no one had used it. Of course, this was the early days of the Fairlight. Actually I'm surprised that so many people have used the same sound."
You seem to go for more natural sounds, rather than electronic ones, on The Dreaming LP.
("There's a human element in that album that's quiteo a...sort of tormented human looking for, you know, how to sort out all these problems and pain. And I think it's... these sounds are right, the human sounds, the sensitive emotional sounds. It's quite an emotional album really, and I just want to suit it.) I think that the combination of very acoustic real sounds and very hard electronic sounds is fabulous too. I like to create contrasts and extremes for the atmosphere that you're building around a particular song."
You get those extremes in Night of the Swallow, going from the Irish folk music played by the members of Planxty into a very sparse piano part.
"It's always the song that tells you what to do. In my head, I' thinking that I'm finished with this, but the song will go, 'Look, you can't get this if you don't do this...' The song is controlling you. It's tell you what to do really. If it works, great. If it doesn't, it just keeps you dragging along behind it. It's strange."
When you're working out a song to a particular chord pattern you've come up with on a keyboard, what comes first, the lyrics or the vocal melody?
"Quite often, I get the lyrics and melody in a short burst. Maybe I'll get the first verse or the choruses straight away. Then it'll take me forever just trying to piece the rest together, because you have to try to maintain a level of quality within the lyrics, especially if you're trying to tell a story. You have to get the phrasing right, but you're hoping your audience will be able to see where you're going. I find that the most difficult thing to do, especially if it's something like The Dreaming, [a song] which I found totally interesting. It was very difficult for me to do that and get what I wanted across. Some of the songs really do take me a very long time, although perhaps the initial ideas came rather quickly."
Your vocal arrangements are often complex enough to suggest that a keyboard instrument was involved in coming up with the parts. Is this the case?
"Sometimes the backing vocals just come in automatically as part of a song when I'm writing it. Other times, maybe it won't be until I've recorded the main voice and a few events in the song. And then I'll think it needs something there. Those are really the two extremes: I either come up with the backing vocals in the initial writing, or I hear a hole that needs filling. Whether I build up a really thick, grand vocal depends on the song. If the song needs that, then I'll just overdub the voice and build the vocals up. If it's a very intimate song between the singer and the subject matter, then you'd write it with just one voice."
You process your voice quite a bit.
"I'm sure there are quite a few people like me who really prefer the sound of their own voice when it's affected a bit. To hear your own voice absolutely straight with nothing on it can be very painful. Again, it depends on what the songs are about."
Where do you work your songs out?
"I've had a home studio for the last few years. For this album, we put together a master home studio. The difference it makes is fantastic. The obvious difference is that we're not paying a phenomenal amount of money every hour for a London studio. That makes you feel so much more relaxed. The amount of pressure that the studio situation puts on you is quite surprising. You also feel a lot freer to experiment."
We understand that before, you'd do the demos and often not be able to duplicate the same feeling in the studio.
"I think that's one of the most impossible things to do, and everyone in the business must have it happen to them. You do a demo and it's the song, the spontaneity of how you put it down, that little inflection in the voice there, or something in the demo says it all. Even though the vocals are rough and the drums are out of time, it's got the feel of the song. Them you come to master it and it's not there. It's too fast or too clean. It's just not the same. Trying to recreate the moods of something you did so spontaneously can be so impossible. What we've done on this album is make the demos the masters. We demoed in the studio so that there were no demos anymore. They've transformed into the masters."
When you started working with electronic instruments, did you start listening to what other people were doing?
"Yes, you can't help but hear other people's electronic music. music is an inspiring thing to hear. But unfortunately, 99% of my time is eaten up listening to my own and nothing else. And then, it's only listening to what I'm working on at that moment. When I'm finished, I go through these big phases of listening to other people's stuff. It's so exciting."
Who do you listen to at those times?
"I'm particularly into a label called Windham Hill. That's beautiful music--absolutely gorgeous. And there's a German label called ECM that has a lot of jazz-rock music. One of my favorite artists there is (bassist) Eberhard Weber. He's fantastic [Weber appears on The Dreaming]. I find that the most enjoyable thing for me to do when I get in from the studio, other than listen to music, is to watch videos. My ears are so tired. You get such a form of concentrated listening--you've got to listen for clicks and drums and the voice...So when you get back, you want to rest your ears and let your eyes watch rubbish for half an hour."
Why do you sometimes use other musicians to play certain keyboard parts on your records? Listening to your piano playing, you wouldn't have any trouble covering the parts that they play.
"Well, I don't play the Synclavier. I play the Fairlight, but I didn't have a Fairlight of my own until the last album, and that was only towards the end of it. In fact, that's why I had to get people in. I had to hire their Fairlight and Synclavier and I had to have them play it as well-- until I had my own."
What do you have in your studio?
"We have a Soundcraft mixing deck, a Studer A-80 tape machine, lots of outboard gear, and Q-lock. We normally use 48 tracks now, even if it's for a vocal idea or something. 24 tracks doesn't seem to go anywhere with me. And the Fairlight, of course. We have a room simulator called a Quantec, which is my favorite. It would be lovely to be able to draw the sort of room you wanted your voice to be in. I think that's the next step."
Any other synthesizrs besides the Fairlight?
"I've got an Emulator, but I haven't really used that on any of the master recording--yet. It's the only other synthesizer I have in there."
You played Yamaha CS-80 on The Dreaming. Was that hired?
"No, that was mine, but I must admit the Fairlight has taken over completely now."
What sort of piano do you prefer?
"I think my favourite piano is the one I have at home. It's an upright Bechstein. It's absolutely beautiful, but it's not ideal for master recordings. For me, the piano is one of the most difficult things to record well. It sounds good in the room, but it doesn't always sound good coming through the speakers. We find that we have to do quite a bit of work on them to get them to sound good on tape. But I like Bechsteins, and I think Steinways are quite good. I find that it sometimes helps for the piano to be older. I have a Grotrian-Steinweg piano that I use all the time in our studio, and that seems quite nice."
What sorts of things do you have to do to get pianos to sound good?
"It depends on the nature of the piano. Some pianos are very mid-rangey, so it's nice to get away from the mid- and go for the top-end and things like that. But there's only so much you can do. Hopefully, you have the nicest sounding piano you can find and you don't have to do much to it. It's also nice to have the piano in a live-sounding room with an ambience mike on it. That helps a lot."
Who was the biggest influence on your piano playing?
"In my teens, it was mostly Elton John. For me, he was the only person who was writing songs and then playing and singing them together. I thought his piano playing was fantastic and quite jazzy in some ways. What I liked was that his accompaniment was always so right for the songs. He was definitely a big inspiration for me in my teens. I think my favorite keyboard players are more keyboard players than pianists. And I love the stuff that Brian Eno does. The sounds he comes up with are really brilliant."
How did There Goes a Tenner come together?
"That was written on the piano. I had an idea for the tune and just knocked out the chords for the first verse. The words and everything just came together. It was quite a struggle from there on to try to keep things together. The lyrics are quite difficult on that one, because there are a lot of words in quite a short space of time. They had to be phrased right and everything. That was very difficult. Actually the writing went hand-in-hand with the CS-80."
It's easy to hear how the piano was used for the verses, but what about the choruses? Those sections are very uncharacteristic of what you'd expect to be written on a piano?
"That was really the difficult structure of the song. I could hear what I wanted, but until we put the Synclavier in there--which was played by Dave Lawson--I couldn't get the full picture. I really liked what we did in that."
How are you putting together songs now?
"At least six or seven of the tracks on this new album have been done in totally different ways. There's one track that I literally wrote on the Fairlight and then re-did things completely with strings. And the drums, which were originally Linn, were re-done with a live drummer. Then there's another track that's completely different, where I'd write through a guitarist. It really needed to be based around a guitar and I can't play guitar. If I'd used a piano or Fairlight, it would've been wrong, so I literally had to write through the guitarist. That was fabulous."
What was it that made you decide to replace the Fairlight and Linn with real strings and real drums?
"I suppose it's when I get the voice and lyrics on, they tell me what to do. (I thought, um...Although the Fairlight strings were interesting, they didn't have the...the warmth and the intimacy that the song required, and...it sounded a bit bland on the Fairlight.) That particular song was a very intimate one. (It needed...a wooden, human error, you know, the fact that it wasn't always on the beat, and that there was this group of people working together creating that sound. I do feel that in most cases when you've got a brilliant musician and an instrument you really...I mean, what's the Fairlight there for? I think it...it's a different purpose, to me anyways. I don't feel I want to create the world's greatest cellist on the Fairlight. You know, I'd rather get a really good cello player in, and record him with a good engineer, and then use the Fairlight to do something that complimented that.) The most exciting thing for me is the combination of real and natural sounds and extremely electronic synthesized ones. It's just the blend of two worlds that I find fabulous. In the next few years, it's going to be really lovely to see how people start working these things. We've been in a real synthetic era for the last three years. People have been interested in the new advances in synthesizers. It's really exciting, and I think it's got people so wrapped up in electronics that now perhaps will come the time when the blend will happen."
What about the idea that you may not be create the best cellist on the Fairlight, but that you will be the cellist? It won't be Pablo Casals' expression, it will be Kate Bush's expression?
"Yes, I think that could be interesting, but I also think that could be boring. On this album I've done so much of the work that I really enjoy other people's input. I find it boring, actually, to have to work with my ideas all the time. (The great thing, again, you can do with the Fairlight that I enjoy so much is I can write a piece on it, say, with an acoustic guitar or a cello, and I can write it out, and then I can get a musician in to actually play that. So he's playing what I've written, but he's doing it much better than I could do.) (You see, without the Fairlight, I probably couldn't have written these parts before. I would have written them on the piano and they wouldn't have had the feel of the strings, or acoustic guitar. And at the same time, you know I don't think me playing them on the Fairlight is as good as these people. But it's an interesting blend.)"
Do you feel you have a better understanding of how these people play?
("Well, certainly in my experience, it's given me the most incredible insight into composing and how instruments work. And I think it's sort of...If you're not careful it can give you an arrogance as well, where you're sort of sitting there playing all these drums and thinking, 'Hey, you know, why can't you do this?', you know--like it's so easy. On the other hand, you know, there are little inflections that would be so difficult to get on the keyboard. I mean, you could probably get it to sound very close, but it...it might...just not sound like the real instrument. A lot of natural instruments, that's what it's about. It's the inflection of the musician, the way he works it, personalizes it. I mean, you know real instruments should never die. I don't think they can. That's what all these electronic things have come from. They should go hand in hand.")
Do you compose on paper or right into the Fairlight or tape machine?
"It's really in my head first and then onto the tape machine. I onl compose onto paper when it's an instance like a guitar or cello, where I play in real time to the track, and then when I like what it is, I'll write it out for someone to play. If it's me playing it, I don't bother to write it out. I work much better in my head. It takes me hours to write things out. I'm so slow. But writing it out is a very accurate way to get them to do what you want very quickly."
There's a depth of texture and complexity to your last two records that makes them bear up well under repeated listening. They reveal more every time you hear them.
"That's lovely that you should say that. My favorite albums are the ones I love more and more with each listening. That would be absolutely dynamite if I felt that I was doing that for other people with my albums. Two of my ultimate favourite recordings are Magical Mystery Tour and Sgt. Pepper."
It's interesting you'd mention those particular Beatles albums, because it seems that The Dreaming and Never For Ever harken back to that time of the concept album and the idea of stepping into a different world when you're listening to a record. There is a fantasy element to your imagery.
"I always tend to resent that. I always feel that the Tolkein, fantastical images seem to suggest that they're not based in reality, which I can't help but feel that a lot of my stuff is. Not all of it, but a majority is based in reality rather than fantasy. A lot of people say this, and I can't help but feel that the first two albums set that impression. You know, the feel of the production, the high voice, they sort of had a floating feel about them. But few of those songs weren't based in reality."
You do make a lot of social statments in tunes like Pull Out the Pin and Breathing.
"My motivations are not social or political. It's an emotional motivation, where I'm so moved by something that's happening that I have to write about it. Apart from a few artists, I think that's how most of us feel about it. We're not necessarily politically minded. Myself, I'm not all. I find politics extremely destructive. I see very few good, long term productive things being done by politics. It's one of those things that seems theoretically very sound, but practically, it must be an impossibility. I think that's just an emotional situation. Like nuclear war is a political thing, but it's also incredibly emotional, because it means we could all be blown up. And no one wants to be blown up. That's basic. The reason that you have to care about politics is because of how bad people are to each other."
It's interesting that Pull Out the Pin was written from the Vietnamese perspective.
"Yes, there was a fantastic TV documentary about a cameraman who was on the front lines. He was a brilliant cameraman and he was so well-trained a technician that he kept filming things no matter how he was feeling about it at the time. Some of the stuff he was shooting was really disturbing. Some of the Vietnamese guys would just come in and they were sort of dying in mid-air. And he'd just keep on filming. (It was a strange sort of irony that the Vietnamese who were fighting the Americans were very into Buddha...were Buddhists...And they would pop a little silver bullet that they wore on their neck--on a chain--in their mouth before they went into battle, so that if they died, they would have Buddha on their lips. This is the whole irony throughout history between religion and war. Religion, surely, would never regard killing as a good thing, and yet it is done so constantly, and so hand-in-hand as well. You know the fact that they...they would have the little Buddha in their mouth and the guns in their hands to go and kill, I found the imagery very striking.) Breathing is about human beings killing themselves. I think that people smoking is one of those tiny things that says a lot about human beings. I mean, I smoke and I enjoy it, but we smoke and we know it's dangerous. Maybe there's some kind of strange subconscious desire to damage ourselves. It would seem so if you looked back through history, wouldn't it?"
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