Interviews & Articles


Guitares et Claviers
"Englishwoman Is Crossing The Continents"
by Yves Bigot
February 1986

To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents

(This originally appeared in Andrew Marvick's The Garden.)

Date: Thu, 08 May 86 16:27 PDT
Subject: French Interview, Guitares et Claviers, February 1986

The following is a translation of an interview printed in the French music magazine Guitares et Claviers, February 1986, pp. 56-60, 119, 121. The interview was conducted by Yves Bigot and translated by Andrew Marvick. It should be remembered that the interview was originally conducted in English, probably not fluent, then translated into French, and now finally, back into English, so do not interpret Kate's replies as verbatim quotations. Furthermore, inaccuracies -- and stupidities -- on the part of Monsieus Bigot have been retained in translation.

Once again the young Englishwoman is crossing the continents.

[In French this expression has a figurative as well as a literal meaning. The expression means, roughly, "making a great change," or "at leaps and bounds".]

This time, she's telling strange love stories, set to even more finely chiseled music. To find out more about her and her album, Yves Bigot interviewed Kate Bush between two airplanes.

[This interview was therefore conducted following Kate's return from North America, between November 25th or so and November 29th.]

At exactly the age of twenty-seven, Kate Bush is an accomplished artist. Born into a family of doctors of the London area, she was practicing dance before she discovered that she was a musician like her brothers. Discovered byDavid Gilmour (of Pink Floyd) when she was still no more than sixteen, she astounded the whole of Europe at the beginning of 1978 with "Wuthering Heights", a bewitching song which she interpreted in an astounding voice, half-mouse, half-cat. The United Kingdom's little darling, she ate up the air-waves ("Man With the Child in his Eyes", "Wow", "Breathing", "Babooshka", "Army Dreamers") and demonstrated an excellence on stage, where her talents as a ballet dancer and actress enabled her to incarnate a variety of characters without ever giving a false impression.

Highly aware of her image and of the public impression her career makes, she was one of the first to use a video as a promotion vehicle. In 1981, with the confidence of a Joni Mitchell, she decided to take complete charge of her destiny, and, already responsible for every aspect of her life-style, took equal control of her music in producing The Dreaming, a ground-breaking and adventurous album in the style of the third Peter Gabriel. "Sat In Your Lap" brought her the success she needed in order to continue, but the tour that had been planned did not materialize.

One had to wait until last autumn to hear talk of Kate Bush again -- and what talk! Even if Hounds of Love is not the cut gem that its predecessor was, it has generated a far greater success, and "Running Up That Hill", number one throughout Europe, is opening the doors of America for the first time...

Y.B.: More than three years between The Dreaming and Hounds of Love, that's a lot. Were you trying to break Randy Newman's record for laziness, or what?

K.B.: It seems a long time, but I didn't need all of it just to record the new album! After The Dreaming, I decided to re-organize my life, and that took me a certain amount of time. I left the city and moved into the country, I started taking intensive dance courses again. Then I had to build and equip my own recording studio, at my home; it was only after all this that I was able to compose and put on tape what has become my new album. Eighteen months of off-and-on work, all the same, between the first song and the final pressing.

Y.B.: Where does this absolute desire to control everything come from?

K.B.: Production was a logical extension of my desire to make sure that my songs sounded exactly as I heard them. When you write something, you want it to be in a style that is the most precise, the most complete, the closest to your original idea as possible. Each element that goes into the track affects it for better or worse. I discovered that in involving myself in the process of following up on my music, it was necessary to become the producer, which, today, is only one supplementary aspect of my job as author-composer.

Y.B.: I presume that the invention of the Fairlight and the development of automatic consoles helped your apprenticeship as producer.

K.B.: Technology is a valuable aid for me. The Fairlight is, for me, a marvelous invention which has allowed me to greatly develop my capacities as arranger and composer. Electronic drums have changed my life as well. After that, it was natural to have my own studio, so as to be able to work naturally, in tranquility, in proximity to the origins of my songs.

Y.B.: You own your own Fairlight?

K.B.: Now, yes. At the time of the last album, I worried whether it was worth the expense, because they're incredibly expensive. But since buying it, I congratulate myself every day.

Y.B.: You're not kidding! Your last two albums seem almost submerged under the characteristics of the Fairlight!

K.B.: It was the sound and style that I've wanted since the beginning. But in those days I had neither the tools nor the capacity to express myself as I wanted. Little by little I feel more satisfied, more free, happier.

Y.B.: Peter Gabriel, the pioneer of the instrument, has visibly had a huge influence on your development. But one could say that something more exists between you, like a telepathic link. Do you disagree?

K.B.: It's difficult to say. Comparing me to him is a marvelous compliment, and certainly exaggerated. I greatly admire what he does; he's a brilliant artist. I think that people like him and me are similar because we are trying to do something new. The pop world does not enter into our pre-occupations. We are that kind of people. Peter, of course, but also David Bowie, who was incredibly innovative at a moment when it was needed, Bryan Ferry with Roxy Music, Brian Eno, who can't be honoured enough for what he's done. All are very important musicians, whose influence greatly exceeds their popularity, which lasts three minutes in the charts.

Y.B.: Well, you found a magic formula there, since "Running Up That Hill" is a worldwide success, your first hit in the United States, and since the album stayed at number one in England for a month.

K.B.: It's extraordinary. You can't imagined the pleasure that brings me, after having worked so hard, to see that the public receives this record so well.

Y.B.: Do you think of the public when you're in the studio?

K.B.: I think that one always writes a song for oneself. You let yourself be swept away from your environment and you listen to your "interior voices". The only censure consists in knowing what works and when. But ultimately, you're on the watch for the opinions of others: the musicians who come to play their parts, the engineers; you sense immediately if their interest is aroused, and maintained, when they hear what you're working on. Everything is public.

Y.B.: With regard to voices, yours never stops plunging lower and lower, with each album. It's true that, with "Wuthering Heights", you were taking the soprano part!

K.B.: In my first two albums, I had it in my head to sing only in my highest register. A whim, but it made people think that it was the only way I knew how to sing. However, when I was truly a little girl, I never sang in that way. Since then I've been trying to explore the possibilities of my larynx, to find that which best suits the piece. Furthermore, in growing older, the voice changes. I'd like to hope that it's changing for the better. In any case, I control my voice much better than formerly. Being the producer also allows me to devote more time and attention to the method in which I want my singing to sound. That's another source of progress.

Y.B.: The impression your album leaves, ten minutes after listening to it, is this profusion of voices and percussion.

K.B.: That's very interesting. The voices are of capital importance for me. They allow me to express the story of the song in different degrees. I care very deeply about my lyrics. What bothers me is what you just said on the subject of percussion...

Y.B.: If I could use only one word to describe your music, it would be: psycho-analytic.

K.B.: There's another fascinating observation. I'm certain that everyone who writes, all artists, are very analytical. Often, that's what expresses their most destructive side. Tony Hancock {Goon Squad comedian very popular in the early 60s} is a perfect example: he was a remarkable actor, who ended up by examining himself, criticizing himself so much that he destroyed himself. It's something that exists in each one of us, but which one must succeed in mastering, otherwise one risks going mad. When writing, every time, one is really obliged to analyse the things one is talking about. That's the essence of the creative process.

Y.B.: Often you do not hesitate in crossing the limits of hysteria. "Running Up That Hill", and even more, "Hounds of Love", are two good examples.

K.B.: In "Hounds of Love" there's an energy of despair, yes. It's about someone terrified, who is searching for a way to escape something. My voice, and the entire production, are directed towards the expression of that terror.

Y.B.: Could you clarify "Running Up That Hill" a bit more than the lyrics do?

K.B.: A man and a woman love each other enormously, so much so that the power of their love is the source of their problems. Briefly, if they could make a pact with God to exchange their roles, the man becoming the woman and the woman the man, they would understand each other better and would resolve their differences.

Y.B.: From a first listening, one gets the idea that it's with God that want to switch roles...

K.B.: There are several people who have heard something of that sort. THERE's a good reason for doing this interview, if one needed one. Tell them that I would never dare imagine such an exchange.

Y.B.: "Cloudbursting" {sic}, the second English single, is also tricky, for those who haven't done the same reading as you.

K.B.: It's a song with a very American inspiration, which draws its subject from "A Book of Dreams" by Peter Reich. The book was written as if by a child who was telling of his strange and unique relationship with his father. They lived in a place called Organon, where the father, a respected psycho-analyst, had some very advanced theories on Vital Energy; furthermore, he owned a rain-making machine, the Cloudbuster. His son and he loved to use it to make it rain. Unfortunately, the father is imprisoned because of his ideas. In fact, in America, in that period, it was safer not to stick out. The drama: the father dies in prison. From that point on, his son becomes unable to put up with an orthodox lifestyle, to adapt himself. The song evokes the days of happiness when the little boy was making it rain with his father.

Y.B.: Dreams form an important part of your preoccupations, at first glance.

K.B.: It's that there exists only a very fine barrier between them and reality.

Y.B.: With this difference, that your dreams rarely make the headlines of newspapers!

K.B.: It doesn't go that far, you're right. But dreams are essential to humanity.

Y.B.: That's what the whole second side of Hounds of Love talks about?

K.B.: More the struggle brought about by the need to stay awake, when it would be so easy to fall asleep. It's the story of someone who is in the sea, at night, and the experiences through which they pass in order to emerge a better person by morning. I'm making a long story short.

Y.B.: How did you come upon the idea of working on this concept which fills an entire side, which has become extremely out of fashion?

K.B.: It's not nice to call it a concept, because automatically it causes panic, and everyone is convinced that they're going to die of boredom. But that's an idiotic attitude. A concept allows you to develop a piece of music around a theme, at a length which exceeds ten minutes. Before pop music, all the great works of music were of this kind, of this shape and of this attitude. It's unjust. I've wanted to work on something of this kind for a long time. For me, the more an idea is extended, the more riches it contains.

Y.B.: This allowed you to use traditional music, which you like very much.

K.B.: Irish, as far as this particular album goes. English and Irish folk music have had a gigantic influence on me, since I was a child. My brothers played it constantly at home and that affected me profoundly. Whenever I hear Irish folk music, nowadays, I feel drawn to it; I greatly enjoyed introducing it into my own vocabulary and using its musicians.

Y.B.: On The Dreaming you went to some pains to announce on the sleeve that this music must be played very loudly. That amused me at the time.

K.B.: In the studio, you heard it really loud. For mixing, we had to turn it down, to pay attention to details, but my desire was to be totally overwhelmed by the flood of sound. In any case music, all music, was made to be heard at the volume at which it was played, that is to say in this case LOUD.

Y.B.: That album was a difficult one to accept, for the uninitiated.

K.B.: I have no doubt that those who buy singles because they like my hits, are completely mystified upon hearing the albums. But if it comes to that, they should listen to it LOUDLY! If a single theme linked The Dreaming, which is quite varied, it would be human relationships and emotional problems. Every being responds principally to emotions. Some people are very cool, but they are silenced by their emotions, whatever they might be. To write a song, it's necessary that I be completely steeped in my environment, in my subject. Sometimes the original idea is maintained, but as it takes form, it possesses me. One of the best examples would be this song that wrote on Houdini: I knew every one of the things that I wanted to say, and it was necessary that I find new ways that would allow me to say them; the hardest thing, is when you have so many things to fit into so short a space of time. You have to be concise and at the same time not remain vague, or obscure. The Dreaming was a decisive album for me. I hadn't recorded in such a long time until I undertook it, and that was the first time that I'd had such liberty. It was intoxicating and frightening at the same time. I could fail at everything and ruin my career at one fell swoop. All this energy, my frustrations, my fears, my wish to succeed, all that went into the record. That's the principle of music: to liberate all the tensions that exist inside you. I tried to give free rein to all my fantasies. Although all of the songs do not talk about me, they represent all the facets of my personality, all my different attitudes in relation to the world. In growing older, I see more and more clearly that I am crippled in facing the things that really count, and that I can do nothing about it, just as most people can do nothing. Making an album is insignificant in comparison with that, but it's my only defense.

Y.B.: Alot of people complain that your music has become too complex, inaccessible, exclusive.

K.B.: People's reactions before any kind of music reflect more their own personality than that of the composer. As far as my lyrics are concerned, I take a great deal of care; they are very oblique and describe situations that are not always simple. It's not always easy, but it's necessary to make an effort and listen actively, give of oneself. But even if nobody understands my stories, to understand the music, once more, they must play it LOUD!

Y.B.: As a general rule, you're not very optimistic.

K.B.: I wouldn't say that I'm not. I think I'm realistic. If you want to accomplish things, you must accept compromises. That applies particularly to human beings, who are so determined to get what they want, that they only give in when they've been defeated. It's necessary to know how to give in, to accept and defer, sometimes. Situations of love, for example, begin very simply, then, even before you can perceive it, they become a spider's web of problems, so inextricable that they end in the most complete chaos. I just lived through a marvelous and destructive adventure. I believe furthermore that love and inter-personal relationships are the most important things in existence. My family represents everything for me. And even if, every time, failures repeat themselves, I never take them as such, but rather as new tests on the path that I have still to run.

Y.B.: This makes more than five years since you last mounted a stage. Is there hope for 1986?

K.B.: I was hoping to avoid that question!!! I certainly want very much to play on stage again, but it's a decision for which the consequences are enormous, both financially and in terms of the amount of time and energy that are necessary. I've just given everything in me to complete this album and I'm not certain that it's for the best that I plunge into such a venture, all the more as I've received several propositions of an entirely different order, but which would not be compatible with a tour. As they say over here: "Allons voir {Wait and see}!"


To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents

"The pull and the push of it all..." - Kate Bush

Reaching Out
is a
Marvick - Hill
Willker - Mapes
Grepel - Love-Hounds