Interviews & Articles


The Island Ear
"Is Kate Bush News To You?"
by Beth Fishkind
January 7, 1986

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Date: Sun, 4 Aug 1991 02:45:42 -0800
From: rhill@pnet01.cts.com (Ronald Hill)
Subject: The Island Ear Interview by Beth Fishkind January 7 1986

The Island-Ear Interview.

A New York music paper

January 7 - February 3, 1986 Issue

by Beth Fishkind

[Transcribed by Ron Hill. Thanks to Ed Suranyi for providing me with the issue. Bracketed comments are mine, unless followed by "IE", then they are in the original article.]

Is Kate Bush news to you?

Despite well-known status since the late 70's in her English homeland, Kate Bush has had only a cult following - albeit a devoted one - in America. But this fall, when the single "Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)" paced its way on to the U.S. charts and with her sixth [fifth] album, Hounds of Love hunting out lots of American Homes, her relative obscurity in these former colonies seems to be on the decline.

In England, success came early. So the story unfolds... At 16, she was "discovered" by Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour. She spent the next few years honing her talents, which culminated in her debut single "Wuthering Heights" hitting the top of the U.K. charts in 1978. (The song was later covered by Pat Benatar on her Crimes of Passion album.)

For singer, songwriter, keyboardist and producer Kate Bush, Hounds of Love appears to be serving two purposes: One, attracting new fans, and Two, for all her devotees, a welcome return from a few years silence.

I: Your music contains a lot of very strong emotions. For example, the hit "Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)" is intense in that manner. Can you explain the emotions behind this song.

K: It's very much about two people who are in love, a man and a woman, and the idea of it is they could swap places... The man being the woman and vice versa and they'd understand each other better. In some ways talking about the fundamental differences between men and women, I suppose trying to remove those obstacles, being in someone else's place; understanding how they see it, and; hoping that would remove problems in the relationship.

I think emotion is really what music's all about. It's trying to emote to the listener, in some way that is effective, either to make them happy or sad. To me as a listener to other people's music, that's what it does for me though. There are pieces of music that just make me go "Ohh...," they're just so good. They make you feel great or they make you feel very sad and nostalgic, and i think everyone has some kind of music that really makes them feel good. Does something for them. So I think that's the purpose, to emote the listener. So it's got to be about emotion, really, and expression.

I: Your music and lyrics do show you as a very emotional person. Like you're always thinking... there's always something churning inside of you. I would describe you as a serious person on that account. Is this correct?

K: I think I'm quite analytical and I think that's definitely what comes out in a lot of the songs. It's the analyzing of emotional situations. I think I"m an emotional person - I think that's what motivates me. Definitely from some writing point of view, even in political situations when people say, "You've written this. This is quite political." But for me, it's the emotional content of the political situation that effects me. I think that most people that are sort of intrigued by writing or creating on some level are sensitive to the emotional side of things. That's in a way perhaps what makes them write... A kind of insecurity.

I: Listening to the background vocals on Hounds of Love, they sound agonized, plaintive, and sometimes they're screams. The whole second side of the album, which you call "The Ninth Wave," reminds me of waking at night in a cold sweat, you know, always thinking, "What is the meaning of life?" Seems like you tend to ponder on that.

K: I think that side is about that and that's great if you feel that. It's not what I experience myself, thank God, but it is very much about someone trying to make it through the night in the water - alone, scared, and not really knowing what's happening, but going through the experience and hopefully coming out the other side with an appreciation of what's really going on. So it's quite good if you get that image.

I: What songs on this album, or parts of songs, were inspirational flashes. You know, a lightning bolt hit you. What took work?

K: It's very much like that. You get a big burst and then it will all slow down and it gets very slow. And then you get... Uh, let me think... Well, "Watching You Without Me" was very quick. That was all done in two days, I'd say, the whole thing except for the orchestra that we put on during an extra session. But all the songs were put straight to master. I was actually writing in the studio, so there was no demo in the process. It was all being written straight onto master tape. So if that initial thing was good enough, it would be taken from there. It was incredibly quick. Some songs were written on the piano, so again they were quite quick, instead of me having to round up [a line was repeated here so their appears to be missing line here] the slow processes were technical. Technical things that slowed you down, or just trying to make ideas work that you thought could but didn't happen as quickly as you hoped, and you just had to be patient.

I: Your songwriting is self-taught. I've read where you went to the library to find books that would try to teach you how to put word to music. How did you finally learn, just by doing? Trial and error?

K: Well, I think from the word "go" it's been just a gradual process of teaching myself what worked and what didn't. It's just through practice, really. Any time you're writing a song, you're learning about some aspect of songwriting.

I: Regarding the types of sounds you get, how did you get that little part on "Running Up That Hill" that comes in first at the start of the song, after the drums and before the vocals?

K: That's the Fairlight and that was actually what I wrote the song with. That was what the song was written around.

I: And what about the altered voice at the end of the song, where you're singing, "If only I could, keep [she actually says "be"] Running Up That Hill"? How was that done?

K: That's just a heavy effect.

I: What effect is on there? Do you remember?

K: I guess I'll put "I won't say."

I: You won't say?

K: No. It was just a combination of the engineer and myself. I think it's part of the thing of recording and there are so many limitations to what we do, to discover something interesting that perhaps people aren't really using... It's so quickly that people imitate things. You've got to hand onto them, I suppose. If you want to use them again.

I: Can you explain to me, as non-technical as possible, what the Fairlight is and how you use it?

K: For me, what is so good about it, is it's a machine you can sample any sound you want into it. Say, you can sample a car horn or a violin, and then just play it on the keyboard. It's useful not only for when you're writing a song, but also for any arrangements. For instance, if I want a brass arrangement in a song, I can play around on the Fairlight and get an idea of what I want by actually using a sound like brass.

I: I can see how it helps a composer, particularly you, you've got a studio in your home and you just go right in... but what do you think this technology will do to the recording industry and the making of albums in general?

K: I think it's a good thing and I think it's going to develop very much in the next couple of years. I think everything really is advancing to get superior sounding things so that there's as little noise as possible. I think it's probably going to have quite an effect. But I think synthesizer did. When synthesizer were introduced, music was so inspired by it, that the synthesizers were over everything. IT was quite a stampede, because yo have the medium, and I think probably the same thing will happen with the Fairlight.

I: Technology is certainly bringing good sounds and sophisticated features to keyboards in an affordable range. Do you see this as a whole big revolution? I mean, it's started now, but...

K: Yes. I think technically right across the board, not just in music, we're going into another stage. There's no doubt that things are just gonna go... You know, you think even in the last ten years things have really developed, that I think we're actually just on the front of a whole new world of technology.

I: Kind of scary.

K: I think all change is scary. And I think change can be very positive.

I: But it's still that unknown quantity, whether it's good or bad.

K: That's right, yes.

I: The reason for this inquiry is that I think your comments are particularly relevant, because you've been using this technology, the Fairlight, for years now. You were at the tip of the iceberg. I mean, I think you're one of the first people I knew who used it.

K: I think it's one of those instruments too that you'd learn to use hopefully in a separate way. There are some sounds on the Fairlight that are used so much now that most producers would steer away from it. Particularly people in the business know straight away - there's a kind of corny edge to it.

I: I was going to make a generalization about radio today and its effect on "routine" sounds... but it's hard to that because radio here is so much different from what radio is over there.

K: Yes! I know so little about "the market" here. You know, I just hear things from people.

I: That's good, ignorance is bliss. What I mean is, sometimes it's frustrating because everything is extremely formularized.

K: I understand you actually segment different kinds of music onto stations. You have soul stations and heavy rock stations... [In England, there is usually one station played a variety of contemporary music - IE].

I: Exactly. Why do you think you broke in the United States now? Do you think it has anything to do with the difference in radio styles?

K: I don't know. I don't understand this market at all, you see. It's like you say thought, it's the question that in some ways you can't ask anyone, except the public. I presume they like and I think the consistency of rhythm makes it more accessible to people. Seems you've got a consistency of rhythm, people can dance. Dance is something people can relate to immediately, so I think that helps tremendously. But I can't help but feel it's because, hopefully people like it and, it's the first time there's been sufficient interest with real back-up from the record company promotionally. And that's all I can put it down to.

I: Right time, right place.

K: Right timing, yes. Right support.

I: You know, that's usually the way it happens, no matter what you do.

K: Absolutely.

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

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