To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents
Date: Mon, 23 Oct 89 17:15:18 BST
Subject: You Magazine by Lesley-Ann Jones October 22nd, 1989
The following is an article which appeared in You Magazine (The Mail on Sunday), October 22nd, 1989. Writer Lesley-Ann Jones, with pictures by Alistair Morrison. Copyright Associated Newspapers Plc.
Don't expect too much about the music - this is the same paper that is serialising Nancy Reagan's memoirs!!
Under The Burning Bush
... is just an ordinary woman very much in control of her life. But in front of the camera Kate Bush ignites and the release of her latest album, The Sensual World, is bound to start the sparks flying again.
She looks like any other young student making the best of a bad grant. Her uniform - jeans, sweatshirt and trainers - is on overtime. A plum-rinsed, disorderly mane. Kate Bush is a 31-year-old millionairess.
The pure unearthly quality in her voice has made a mockery of musical fashion and made Kate Bush a platinum-selling artist for over a decade. In the flesh she is nice, kind, pretty and she smiles a lot. And that's about it. Confront her with a lens though and she ignites. In the 11 years since she made `Wuthering Heights' she's learned about the potency of her image and the sexual invitations it gives out.
"I never really understood the power of photography. As a dancer, I was incredibly at home in my body. I simply didn't see it the way other people did. Pictures give such immediate impressions. In all the early photo sessions I did, we experimented with dancers' clothes, discovering how interesting and versatile dance garments can be. This was all well before the leotard era.
"Subsequently, EMI produced a large poster of me in which you can clearly see the outline of my breasts through a rather skimpy vest. It seemed innocent enough, rather nice, even - at the time. But with hindsight, I completely understand why people said I was overtly sexual. It stood out a mile. Then it didn't seem the least bit suggestive. Now, I would definitely have the picture cropped."
Today she says, almost sadly, that she is now much more aware of the darker side of life. And, just as sexuality must not be confused with things sensual, there is a great difference between innocence and naivety.
"You can retain your innocence throughout life," she believes, bless her. "It never really goes away. No, innocence has nothing to do with being childlike. No, I'm not a child-woman. No, I'm not reluctant to grow up. God. What is this world for if you can't always appreciate the innocence in life?"
Kate Bush is not exactly the archetypal rock star. When she hasn't got a new album out, she disappears off the face of the earth (I mean Eltham). While most rock 'n' rollers seize every photo opportunity, from falling out of Langan's Brasserie to cropping up at every showbiz bash going, Kate has not even been on the road for ten years.
"I did a tour once," she remembers, squinting into the distant past. "I haven't wanted to do one since. Consequently a lot of people think that I hate touring, but that's not so. I absolutely loved it. But it was so exhausting mentally and physically that I was literally drained, wasted, afterwards. It took a long time to recover."
She gets away with murder when you think about it. One tour in a decade, then she retreats into her personal recording studio, leaps about in her own dance studio to her heart's content, evaporates into thin air for years at a time, then comes belting back into the charts like she's never been away. In any other artist this would be intensely annoying, sickening even. In Kate, it is endearing.
You could say she has well and truly screwed the system. She is doing it still. It is four years since Kate's last album, Hounds of Love. Last week saw the release of her sixth, The Sensual World, which features, so I'm told, Bulgarian backing singers, and Pink Floyd's Dave Gilmour, the man who discovered Kate.
Theirs was an unlikely encounter: she the shy, 15-year-old, violin- and piano-playing doctor's daughter, he the wild and wicked lead guitarist with 70s supergroup Pink Floyd.
"A friend of the family, Rickie Hopper, introduced us", Kate recalls. "Absolutely terrified and trembling like a leaf, I sat down and played for him. But Dave liked my songs very much. He put up some money, sent me into the studio to make three really well-produced tracks. I did "The Man With the Child in His Eyes", "The Saxophone Song", plus some obscure thing which ended up on a B side somewhere."
By 16, Kate was signed to Pink Floyd's own record company EMI. She has been there ever since. To gain live experience, she sang in a three-piece rock 'n' roll band, the KT Bush Band, playing pub gigs around the Lewisham area. At the same time she started dance and mime classes.
She now has a string of top ten hits and five huge selling albums under her belt. "It's all thanks to Dave," says Kate, modestly. "He's such a lovely person. So generous. So ... yummy! He did it out of love, you know. I paid the money back, of course, eventually - but I couldn't have done it without his backing. For me to work with him on this album was a real honour."
Not half the honour it must have been for a gauche South London schoolgirl to be heard by one of the world's most respected rock guitarists. "I don't know," says Kate. "I wasn't really into Pink Floyd at the time."
She wasn't really into school either. Not exactly academically thick, but "the idea of university just loomed like a really sinister thing. I couldn't face it. I was lucky - something came up and took my mind off it."
Kate would be the first to admit she has led a sheltered life. She emerged from a tightly-knit, middle-class family environment (mum, dad, two older brothers - John, a photographer, Paddy, a musician) to share her life with the same boyfriend, bass player and music engineer Del Palmer, for the past ten years.
She says she was incredibly close to her father. "My mother, to whom I have always been very close also, was a muse. But my eye was almost always on what my father was up to. Don't you think that, as a child, your aspirations are out into the world?"
"You take the whole domestic situation, including your mother, for granted. Little did I know it was mum who was holding it all together.
"My relationship with Del is very stable. We work together, we live together. It works so well for us. That can be a very intense set-up, but I wouldn't have it any other way. It's all very close and direct. After ten years, maybe we ought to be restless, but we're not. Some say the decade between 20 and 30 is a very telling time in terms of human development, but I believe that the whole of life is like that.
"Del and I argue a great deal - over songs. But we consider it healthy. Who wins? Normally, I do. I'm not the shy, retiring, fragile butterfly creature you sometimes read about. I'm tough as nails."
She's still rather shy and home-loving. Kate laughs openly when you call her a recluse, but then admits that, yes, she is happiest behind closed doors. Preferably those of her elegant, unostentatious South London Victorian mansion. Beautifully decorated, with shades of blue predominant, her home is Kate's absolute refuge.
"I don't go on holiday," she says. "I'd rather stay at home. I went to Jamaica once years ago. It was a real culture shock. I went from a dingy little London studio with no windows to this absolute paradise. I could barely stand it. Even the sound of the birds was deafening.
"People go on and on about me being a recluse, but it doesn't bother me. To me, a recluse is just someone who gets on with what they want to do. If that's me, then I'm happy to be one.
"A large part of this business is so false, isn't it? You hear such a lot about the rock 'n' roll life-style, but I really don't know what that is meant to be about any more. The showbusiness life has simply never appealed to me. I wasn't attracted to the music business by the idea of wearing a black leather mini and getting legless at all the right parties every night. What I wanted to do was make music. That's all I want to do now."
She makes music, she makes millions. She would be making babies had she the time and the immediate inclination, being a gently maternal soul, but she will make do with cats for now. She is kind to animals, refusing to eat or wear them, but gives in to a fish dish occasionally.
"Once, that would have been impossible for me," she says. "But later I decided we have not to be so hard on ourselves or other people in terms of eating habits or anything else. It's like me and smoking. It's such an awful thing to do, it's so obviously bad for us, but we gaily carry on. I've cut down a bit, but I can't kick the habit."
Some call Kate obsessive, claiming that her work is the most important thing in her life, and that everyone around her gets dragged in with her. "It's true," she smiles. "I'm obsessive about most things which take my fancy. I'm just like that. Once I start something, I'm committed. I just can't put it down.
"It's very hard for example, to stand back from an album, allow it to be finished and then let people evaluate it for what it is. It's a terrifying process for me. And consequently making the album in the first place gets harder and harder for me. This one took me over two years to make, so I had about two years `off' after the last one. So I come back to writing completely cold. It's like, I sing, do I? Every time it's like I've never done it before. Is it good enough? Is it rubbish? I've had to train myself to listen to that internal voice, the one I go to sleep with. I've had to learn to believe in myself and in my own judgement.
"Most of the new songs are about relationships again. Maybe I'm saying, "If things get rough, it's OK really." And, it takes me two years to say that! I have to sweat blood and shed real tears before I know I've put everything into it. That's why I worry that the creative process is getting harder and more painful for me every time. At what point will I find that I've used it all up? That there are no more albums left inside me?"
That's a thought. What will she do then?
"I think I'd like to make a little film. Being a movie actress is not something I have craved, but the right thing might tempt me. If there comes a time when I can only manage one album a decade, it would be good to have something else to keep me busy. And anyway, you learn so much just by jumping in at the deep end."
And jump she intends to.
The article includes 5 photos: a page and a half head and shoulders shot, one of Kate sitting, an old photo in costume, a head shot with shawl, and one with Del.
Be seeing you. Neil
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