Interviews & Articles


RAW 32, Nov. 15
and 33, Nov 29. 1989

To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents

From: Adrian N Ogden <ano@csleaf.cs.reading.ac.uk>
Date: 8 Dec 89 09:13:19 GMT
Subject: Kate Bush interview from RAW 32, nov. 15 and 33, nov 29. 1989)

Kate Bush interview from RAW

(from issues 32, nov. 15 and 33, nov 29. 1989)

For more than ten years, Kate Bush has woven her siren-like spell over a nation. While she may polarise opinion, of one thing there can surely be no doubt: She is a quite extraordinary artist. Love her or loathe her, her skill, her artistry are beyond question. Her latest album 'The Sensual World', finds Ms. Bush exploring herself and the world around her with an openness she has, till now, shied away from. It is a record of mystery and secret pleasure, like a children's hiding place to which we have been granted access.

Kate Bush reveals herself to us through a gauzy veil but, if we work hard and listen carefully, we can gain a fascinating and compulsive insight into this reclusive artist. It would be churlish, indeed, to refuse such an invitation.

Kate first invited us into her then make-believe world in 1978. In January that year EMI released 'Wuthering Heights', the debut single from the girl they signed while she was still at school, at the suggestion of Pink Floyd guitarist/vocalist Dave Gilmour, a family friend. He paid for her to record a demo which he then shopped to EMI. The label bit the bullet and paid for her to study music, dance and drama.

Two years later EMI reaped the benefit of their investments as 'Wuthering Heights' went to number one. The single and it's high pitched, squeaky delivery annoyed me so much that I went out and bought her subsequent album, 'The Kick Inside'. On hearing the Whale-song intro to 'Saxophone song' and the haunting delights of 'The Man With The Child In His Eyes', I decided a hasty re-evaluation was in order.

Since then Kate Bush has released another five studio albums and one compilation, 'The Whole Story', all of which, with the exception of her second LP ('Lionheart' - 1978), have reached the top five in the charts.

She also conducted a solitary UK tour in the spring of 1979. The London show (at the Palladium) was filmed and subsequently released on video for those of us unlucky enough to have missed out on the experience. Since then we have had to content ourselves with Ms. Bush's eclectic and erratic output, and a collection of superbly crafted, not to mention erotic, videos, which have served to further enhance the mystery.

With 'The Sensual World' Kate Bush draws back this veil. Unlike her previous work, wherein she might adopt a character to portray a situation - as in 'Cloudbusting' from HoL or virtually the whole of 1980's 'Never for Ever' - on this album she comes perilously close to autobiography.

"I think this is my most personal album so far," she confesses, hesitantly. "I think other albums have been ... I can't think of the word. Maybe I haven't been prepared to be as honest as I feel I have been on this album.

"It's not that there's autobiographical stuff in there. It's not that the songs are about me, but it feels - this time anyway - more honest, more ... I feel I've been braver about what I'm trying to say. Although I'm sure it is still quite hidden."

And Kate Bush is a master of disguise. But maybe this time around she feels secure enough to allow her art to act as her own defence. Art as self-analysis?

"It's the most honest you can be in some ways, but it's also your shield, because you're hiding behind it. And yet this itself is something you've put out there. Isn't that wonderfully ironic?"

There's a sense of irony, too, in Kate Bush, a woman loved and adored by the masses, writing a song as moving yet emotionally void as 'Deeper Understanding". The song postulates an affair between a computer hacker and a programme obtained through an advertisement. The horror of it is that this love could be the closest the hacker knows to the real thing.

"I think more and more we're becoming isolated. We don't have healthy human contact, we spend the entire day with machines, all of us. And I do think that human beings are getting lonely. There's a lot of unhappy people in our modern world.

"You must know these people, who spend all night in this crazy relationship they have with their computers. Their wives want to divorce them because they're in there all night with the computer. And it was an idea born out of something so cold, so inhuman, so unfeeling as this computer buff sending off for a programme he sees in a magazine. He puts it in - and suddenly this programme almost becomes a being, like the voices of angels, a visitation. And it's the idea that this could actually happen through a computer, that someone can get the most real love they've ever experienced from the most unexpected source.

"I suppose in some ways one of the inspirations for that ... have you ever heard of a guy called Steven Hawking?* I recently saw an interview with him on television; it was so beautiful, that's the impression I was left with. It was this really moving notion of a guy who's body is deteriorating, but his mind and soul are so alive. Hearing him speak through his voice processor, for me it was the closest thing I've heard to God speaking. Because some of the things he was saying were pure science, but it was as if he'd gone right through science and onto the spiritual level.

"I don't have a 'downer' on computers at all, I think they're really good and very important. And I also feel there's this really strong spiritual age that's going to hit us soon and it will be very much due to computers, because of the pure way they can break things down. Also I think they can teach us a lot about ourselves; We've never been in the position of having something else through which to look back at ourselves. But they are encouraging humans not to have as much contact as they should have, not to be as affectioate as they should be. We should really try to develop our priorities as people."

Kate Bush has realigned her priorities too. She is a serious artist, but has come to the realisation that, in the end, "It's only a record". When it comes to the creation of that art, however, she is deeply serious. 'The Sensual World' took four years of musical experimentation to issue forth.

"Some of those experiments just didn't work, so there wasn't any point carrying on with them. Most of them are still lying on pieces of tapes and things. I don't know, I might go back to some of them.

"'Love and Anger' was a track that we did early on, but I got fed up with it and must've left it for two years. And then I thought: 'Well, maybe I'll go back to it'. So I dug the song out, but still it nearly didn't go on the album because I wasn't happy at all. The tune was there, I just couldn't get any lyrics or work out what to do with the instruments. I just didn't know what I wanted to say. Really, it was a bugger, that song. And in some ways I still don't know what I'm wanting to say. But what the hell ..."

She trails off, still doubtful. But as for the message contained on the album she is more sure: " If I'm saying anything, it's that if people are having a hard time and things look really dark and it seems like you can't get out, then try not to worry too much. It'll be alright, someone will come and help."

So what does the seemingly autobiographical "...Sensual World" reveal about Kate Bush, this shy, almost intensely retiring creature? She presents to the world a delicate face of near egg-shell fragility. It would take a harder man than I to brutally penetrate tha facade hoping to uncover the source within. But Kate Bush is also impeccably honest, apparently incapable of guile. Can the woman who has woven such intricate and complex spells be so ingenuous? I think the answer has to be ...Yes.

She speaks slowly, carefully plucking her words from the air, ever concious of the fact that her conversation is being recorded, subsequently to be turned into print. This caution comes as a result of an early, overanxious courting of the press, only later to be substituted by suspicion as she began to appreciate how much she was selling herself rather than her music.

"I wne through a period when I didn't actually speak to anyone at all, or if I did I was very careful about when I did it and who I spoke to. And I think two very important things came out of that...

"Firstly, I think I achieved what I wanted - suddenly my music started speaking for me instead of this personality whom the press had tremendous preconceptions about anyway. And through that I think people took my music more seriously.

"And secondly, it created this sense of mystery about what I did; I think that helped a lot as well with the way people were ready to receive my music."

So the courtship between Kate Bush and the music press came to an end. Now she is much more selective about who she will talk to. The release of a new necessitates some contact. But it isn't intimate contact, its only second-hand. Only once, a decade ago, did Kate Bush expose herself to the intimacy of physical contact with her audience when she toured the UK. Since then she has refused all offers, not to mention pleas from her fans to repeat the process. Is this reluctance on her part due to a fear of giving too much of herself away?

"Ooh, is that deep! I think you're absolutely right. I loved touring, but it left me completely exhausted. Not necessarily at that stage, because I was going from the road straight into recording another album, but I did reach a point a couple of years after where I felt incredibly exposed. I felt really vulnerable...and I didn't like it. And, yes, I wanted to get those pieces of me back that I felt had been taken away.

"For me, that's what this type of exposure did - it made me feel like I'd lost pieces of myself. That I'd become a public person, and the private person - and that's who I really am - was actually getting very frightened and lost.

"I think this is a problem for any famous person, particularly for creative famous people. Creativity and sensitivity are very similar and you do have to be very, very strong. It doesn't surprise me at all that people go mad or become incredibly addicted to things. Becuase it's the psychological pressure of what happens to you when you're famous. Everyone sees the glamour, the fact that you have fame, lots of money, riches - it's all incredibly superficial stuff. Money is no longer a problem, it's more the psychological pressures which come in when you get famous that crack people up."

And Kate Bush is not about to crack up. She has matured, her outlook has changed, she has become less introspective. So is she happier in herself?

"I think when I was younger I really liked what I felt I was trying to do. Here was the young songwriter, ha! You know, when you're young you have that thing that you're aiming for, hopefully. It might be five or six things - mine just happened to be one, namely making a record. And you can feel quite proud of yourself for achieving things like that; you set yourself a goal and achieve it.

"Now, though, I think as a person I'm less obsessive, and that realisation was a terribly important step for me. Because, although when I start an album I'm still incredibly obsessive - no-one can come near me! - although I do all the work on the album, it's not everything now. And I think at some point, it was - my work was everything because it had such a sense of importance about it. That's so stupid, so blown out of proportion, and if you're not careful that spiralling effect can make you believe what you're doing is the most important thing in the world! Ha! When it's absolutely not all."

For an artist like Kate Bush this is a quite extra-ordinary admission, ie. that her work - while internally important - is externally not the be-all-and -end-all of existance. But she has arrived at this conclusion after more than ten years in the limelight. During that time her relationship with her audience has remained nebulous. Kate Bush claims to neither know nor understand her audience. But she knows they are there, and it amazes her.

"I'm continually surprised by how nice those people are. Not that I would expect them to be horrible, but for people to take the time to write to you and say: 'Are you alright. We don't want to hassle you or anything but the album has been a long time coming and we just want to check that you are alright? Are you working on an album or have you done something else? Whatever you're doing we just hope you're alright.' I think that's fantastic, it's so affectionate, it's such an incredible thing to do for someone that you don't even know. But presumably they feel something for my music that makes them feel affectionate like that towards me. And I think that's absolutely incredible, very moving.

"I find the whole process completely extraordinary. The fact is that the last time I toured was ten years ago, yet people are still asking me whether I'm going to tour again. Why on earth haven't they given up? Why are they so patient with me? Why do they even care?

"And not to do an album for four years... for all those people knew I could've been off in the Bahamas, flying private jets. They didn't know I was actually in a studio, working hard."

Kate Bush has emerged from those four years of rather intense self-examination with an album of quite extraordinary warmth, depth and power. She has also come to terms with herself and her art, recognising and accepting the limitations that imposes on her. Now, perhaps for the first time in her life, she feels ready and able to reveal certain other facets of her character.

*Dr. Steven Hawking is the Lucasian professor of Mathematics at Oxford. Crippled by Motor Neuron disease and confined to a wheelchair, he is working on the unification of relativity and quantum theory, in order to produce a single theory explaining the workings of the entire cosmos.

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

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