Interviews & Articles


The Guardian
"Bushwacked by Kate"
by Adam Sweeting
October 12th, 1989

To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents

Date: Thu, 12 Oct 89 18:54:40 BST
From: nbc%INF.RL.AC.UK@mitvma.mit.edu
Subject: The Guardian, by Adam Sweeting Thursday October 12th

From The Guardian, Thursday October 12th

Bushwacked by Kate

by Adam Sweeting

The woman pouring tea in a hotel near EMI records has a wide, warm smile and speaks with such endearing openness that you wonder if the real Kate Bush, the one who makes those strange videos and allusive, elusive records, has hired a double to do the talking.

"It's difficult. In interviews I talk complete rubbish most of the time," she protests with a baffled expression. "People ask you questions and I don't know what I'm talking about. You're just kind of working through your thought processes a lot of the time. That's the thing about writing songs. You can think very carefully about what you want to say, but words are such a powerful thing. Our language is beautiful but incredibly ambiguous, isn't it?"

It's very hard to say what you mean. Is that what you mean?

"And for people to completely understand what you mean," Kate goes on. "You might easily think they do, but actually they've taken it completely the other way, and they just wouldn't say. So much of our communication deals with words when half the time we don't actually know what the other person meant at all. We think we do, and they think we do, so again it's just continual misunderstanding"

Lawks, what a muddle. Kate's complicated layers of meaning were obviously too much for the journalist who spoke to her ahead of me because he phoned in panic half an hour later to say there was nothing on his tape. But a large chunk of the world is in no doubt that the music of Kate Bush is for them, whether she meant it to be or not.

Kate is only a little less reluctant to meet the press than she is to go on tour, and she is facing the hacks this time in order to shed some light on her latest album, The Sensual World.

To her surprise and delight, people have finally stopped asking her about her 1978 hit Wuthering Heights and about her sexuality, and instead have been asking "much deeper things". Perhaps, with the charts stuffed with House, Kylie or heavy metal, her real worth has become clear.

Pop's comings and goings don't interest her much.

"There's some really bad stuff happening in pop music, isn't there?" she murmurs, like somebody discussing a newspaper report of a small, distant war. "everyone's been wearing black for the last five or six years in the music business, and I see it as a real state of mourning for good music.."

She admires artists like Peter Gabriel and Pink Floyd, whom she sees as perfectionists who work at their own pace. She gets cross with people who dismiss middle-aged rockers as unsightly relics of a bygone era, pointing out that artists in any other medium rarely reach a peak before they're 40.

The Sensual World isn't much like the stuff they play on daytime Radio 1, though the title track received bags of airplay as a single. The album contains 10 songs - 11 on the CD - and if it takes a while before you feel you know your way around it, it eventually dawns on you that it is magnificent.

Ms Bush has nimbly drawn a thread of continuity through music patched together from any number of sources.

Folk melodies rub shoulder with jolting funk rhythms. Simple chord progressions are transformed by audacious instrumental voicings and tone colours. Lyrics which look flat or oddly naive on paper get up and dance when Kate sings them.

Sometimes, maybe in Deeper Understanding or Rocket's Tail, you find yourself ambushed and overwhelmed by great rushes of emotion, about love or childhood or the way things keep changing even though you want them to stay the same forever.

"It's stupid really," she says, "the amount of time that's gone into writing 10 songs. They're just 10 songs, it's not like some cathedral or something.

Technology is all moving very fast, and I think that's very good if you can keep the balance between technology and compassion, which is the human element where really the work comes in. I think maybe what gets more difficult each time is writing material, finding something to say that feels worth saying - something new that hasn't beens aid on the last album."

It's no mean feat to remain a commercially successful artist while taking years to make each album, touring once in a decade, and completely ignoring the bland parameters of modern pop. Kate's last album of new material was 1985's Hounds Of Love, though it was followed a year later by the swiftly-selling compilation, The Whole Story.

She avoided the traditional rock-biz route of slogging round pubs in a van, instead securing a songwriting deal with EMI when she was 16, with a little help from Dave Gilmour. She was able to work on her writing in private, away from the public and unknown to the press.

Her only tour took place in the spring of 1979, and it was so stressful and exhausting she hasn't repeated it.

"By the end of that tour, I felt a terrific need to retreat as a person, because I felt that my sexuality, which in a way I hadn't really had a chance to explore myself, was being given to the world in a way which I found impersonal. When I started in this business, I felt very at home in my body. I was a dancer, that was the areas I explored. And it was very scary for me those next few years, because whatever I wore, whatever I did, people were putting this incredible emphasis of sexuality on me, which I didn't feel.

"I think I was a victim of the fact that I was a young woman who was writing music and the emphasis went on the fact that I was a young woman. There were a lot of things that didn't fit like I was very young, I was female, people thought I was attractive, and I had a very idealistic and positive attitude at a time when negativity and anarchy were hip. So I was coming in from completely the wrong tangent.

"If I'd seen a lot of things I could have trodden a lot more carefully in those early days. But I was very young, and I didn't see them. I trusted people. But all that aside, and I did have a hard time, I think what I've managed to achieve is worth all that shit I went through."

The Sensual World, the song, is some sort of statement of a new maturity and confidence. It's unashamedly erotic, but this time she's gone into the subject with her eyes wide open. "I think I'm just starting to think of myself as a woman, and to actually feel quite nice about that," she explains. "I also feel I can express myself as a woman without having this tremendous pressure from the outside world, which I felt - I felt I couldn't move. But I feel really good now."

There is a photo of Kate standing in a stairwell looking over the banister. There is also a separate review of the album - I will post that later.

Enjoy, Neil.

To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents

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

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