Interviews & Articles


Music Express
"Woman's Work"
by Mary Dickie Jan. 1990

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Date: Sun, 7 Jan 90 05:42:46 EST
From: chris@world.std.com (Chris'n'Vickie of Kansas City)
Subject: Music Express (Can.) by Mary Dickie Jan. 1990

This is an article for the Canadian magazine "Music Express" or "ME" Jan. '90

The front cover has a small picture of Kate that is nothing short of amazing. It is a vertical oval about 4" high, with the word "BUSHWACKED" beside it. In it, Kate is standing facing slightly to her right, her right arm across her stomach, her right hand under her left elbow, her left hand held just below her throat. She's wearing a midnight blue, crushed velvet, off-the-shoulder dress. It looks antique. She is wearing one gold hoop earring. She is looking up and to her left, head tilted slightly back and to her left. The picture is very bluish, I don't know if it's lighting or tinting, probably both. The only non-blue elements in the composition are her lips and the earring. It is one of the most beautiful photos Vickie and I have ever seen of Kate, It's just to small.

Woman's Work

by Mary Dickie

[There are two intro pieces; the first, over the byline on the facing page is; ]

Gender confusion has never been an issue in the reclusive Kate Bush's elegant, lush, evocative music, but the diminutive diva sees her new album, The Sensual World, as her most "female" work yet.

[The second in the first column of the right hand page is; ]

This story begins with the ringing of a telephone - a special line set up as a promo gimmick. as it connects, a tiny, perfect English voice says, "Hello, this is Kate Bush, and this is The Sensual World". There follows several minutes of tinkling music that sounds half Irish and half Middle Eastern, accompanying some murmers from that unmistakable voice. Apparently, after an absence of four long years, Kate Bush is back in the limelight.

What does that mean to the music world? Well, a lot to some people and not much to others, because Kate Bush is the kind of performer that receives extremely polarized reactions (it's been said that her voice is either Minnie Mouse or the Heavenly Host, depending on the listener). Ever since The Kick Inside - a collection of airy songs that stood in marked contrast to the punk and new wave then dominating the scene - came out when she was 19, Kate has built up a following that includes some of the most devoted fans anywhere, while a large segment of the record-buying public remains immune to her charms.

That disparity is partly geographical - although Kate's albums routinely top the British charts, she's always had a harder time in North America, where she enjoys little more than cult status. But for every person who moans and groans and rolls their eyes at the sound of Kate's unusual, eerie melodies and breathy voice, there's at least one who has found some kind of personal salvation in her deliberately enigmatic and mystical story-poems, her dance-y videos and her otherworldly singing style.

Kate herself seems to have no problem with that diversity of reactions. "It's impossible for me to know how other people hear my music," she says. "I think the wonderful thing about art is that it's all down to the receiver as to whether they like it or not, what they see in it, how they feel about it. It's a totally personal relationship between that piece of work and that person, and a really special thing. I just continually think how extraordinary it is, really, that people do want to hear my stuff, especially when I take so long to make records, you know."

And Kate does take a long time to make records. The Sensual World has been four years in the making, and now that it's finished she'll admit to a few qualms about how it's going to go over. "I spend a lot of my time away from everything, in the studio, and I don't know if people are going to like it or not," she says. "The more time it takes to make, the more you think, 'Oh, my God, they're just not going to think it's worth having spent all that time on!"

Well, there's no question that people want to hear her stuff, and a consid-erable number think it's well worth waiting for. In fact, for those of us who have some how remained unaware of the impact Kate has had on some people's lives, the amount of adulation she receives from her fans and the dizzing heights to which they raise her are astounding. For example, a copy of Breakthrough, a {defunct} Kate fanzine, includes sprited discussions of Issues Kate has raised in her work, drawings, elaborate personal interpre-tations of songs, and a quiz which includes provocative questions like: "What are Kate's thoughts on revenge?" and "What is Kate's own explanation of the meaning of Sat In Your Lap ?" There's even detailed advice on vegatar-ianism, for those who want to go the full nine yards in their Bush emulation.

But now that The Sensual World is finished, it's time for Kate to emerge to face the public, or at least a few journalists. Kate dosen't like flying, so interviews have to be done on her home turf in Kent, England - round-table style, with groups of six writers sharing 15 precious minutes with her. Meanwhile, the record company has held back copies of The Sensual World "so as not to diminish the impact" of the first hearing at the listening party that's been scheduled prior to the interviews. It's hard not to get the initial impression that Kate is some sort of rare and fragile bird, protected by and coddled by her record company, her management and her boyfriend/engineer, Del Palmer, who hovers around the edge of the room throughout the marathon session.

But nothing could be further from the truth. In spite of being very ( very ) small, Kate is no delicate flower; she's a woman who, from the beginning, has taken an unusual amouny of control over the direction of her career. Kate has been writing songs since she was a child, but she got her big break at 16, when Pink Floyd's David Gilmour helped her record a three-track demo that got her signed to EMI. Then, after The Kick Inside and it's single Wuthering Heights, shot up the British charts in 1978, there was pressure on her to churn out another LP, and Lionheart came out the next year. However, with each successive album - Never For Ever in 1980, The Dreaming in 1982, Hounds Of Love in 1985 and now The Sensual World - Kate has taken progressively more time to work on the songs, and also expanded her control over things, learning production techniques, directing her videos and gradually upgrading her recording studio to professional levels.

Now Kate may be part of the record industry, but she can insist on doing it her own way. That means minimal publicity and contact with the public, and no touring (although she continually toys with the idea). It also means keeping things close to home and in the family - one brother is in her band, another is her legal advisor and photographer, her father contributes a vocal to the new album, and her mother runs the fan club.

Most importantly, it means that she can work in a style that, even by the lenient standards of the music industry, could be called idiosyncratic, even eccentric. Kate writes and produces her albums for the most part by herself, painstakingly working in her own studio with just her boyfriend to help her record them. That's why they take so long to appear.

As Kate explains, that method of working is necessary to get the results she's looking for, and has a direct influence on the finished product. "I feel in many ways that The Sensual World is my most personal album, and I think a lot of that's directly to do with the way we worked on it," she says. "I think that having just the two of us in the studio, being very isolated, has made it much easier for me to get things across, because I'm dealing with someone who knows what I'm trying to say, rather than three or four people who keep changing. The problem with commercial studios is that there are so many distractions and strangers, which makes me nervous. To be at home and be so relaxed, working with someone I know and love so much, gives it a very intimate and special feeling. It's not always easy, but I wouldn't have it any other way."

Kate also says she frequently has to get completely away from the studio, and even from the songs themselves. "That's really because after intense periods of work, I'd feel I couldn't go any further," she says. "Sometimes I'd just be so bored by the songs that I wanted to take a break - I was so sick of listening to them and not being able to get anywhere with them.

"Also, I need to take breaks to write lyrics, which I find impossible to do - so difficult. It's just a very long process of draft after draft, continually trying to tighten up the words.

"There were also periods on this album when I just couldn't write," she continues. "I found it very difficult to know what I wanted to say, and I kept sort of hitting this block. So I took breaks, and that was all I needed. I spent time at home, did gardening - very earthy sorts of things. Things I really needed, because you know all my work was coming through my head."

The Sensual World is, according to Kate, something of a departure of her in that besides being her most personal, it's also her most "female" album. What does she mean by that?

"Well, I'm not sure what I mean, except that's how it feels to me," she laughs. "I suppose what I'm trying to say is that some of the songs feel like I'm writing them as a female, which is not necessarily something I've felt strongly before.

"I think people tend to presume that when you are female you write from a female point of view, but I'm not sure I always have, really. A lot of my songs have been written from a man's point of view, or a child's point of view - I've never necessarily felt like a female writer. In fact, I think in the past I've very much enjoyed not writing as a female. It's kind of like writing stories - you don't really want to be yourself; you want to put yourself into other situations that are much more interesting."

This time, however, Kate's into the "positive female energy" thing. The song The Sensual World, for example, was inspired by the famous monologue at the end of James Joyce's Ulysses by Molly Bloom (amusingly misidentified as "Wally Blue" in the press information). But more than that, it's the sound of the album that makes it different.

As Kate explains, "Although Hounds Of Love was definitly a female work of art, from a sound point of view I wanted to get the sense of power I associate with male music - strong rhythms, big drum sounds, very sort of male energy sounds. But I just didn't necessarily want to go for that anymore."

But if big drums are male energy sounds, what are female energy sounds? "Well, I think that unfortunatly most female sounds in rock music are dissipated by male sounds, because generally it's the males who are producing and playing the insturments," she says. "So I'm not sure there is a strong female sound in contemporary music. There is in ethnic music, though. Now the Bulgarian singers [The Bulgarian State Choir and Orchestra, an all-female choir whose haunting Mystere Des Voix Bulgare album and tour took music lovers by storm last year] - that's very much female music, from a strong female point of view. I think it has a tremendous intensity because of that, and it's very unusual for us to hear that kind of positive female strength, which you don't really find in contemporary music."

Kate found herself so inspired by the Bulgarian singers that she wound up using three of them, the Trio Bulgarka, to contribute vocals to three songs on The Sensual World. The interweaving of the Bulgarian voices with Kate's is particuarly startling on Rocket's Tale, which she wrote with the trio in mind (and which, in spite of its rarefied sound, turns out to be named for her cat ). But the singing of these women (Yanka Rupkhina, Eva Georgieva and Stoyanka Boneva) seems to have had a lasting impact on Kate, as well as setting the tone for the whole album.

"The first time I heard them sing was just after we finished the last album," she says. "My brother Paddy, who listens to a lot of ethnic music, heard them on Radio Sofia, and he played me a tape. And I could not believe it. It was just devastating, as it is for everyone the first time they hear it. It's like angels, isn't it? And when I was thinking about making another album, I thought, 'Wouldn't it be great if perhaps we could work try working together!' That was scary for me, because their music is so good - you don't want to drag them down to your level, you know? I mean, funky Bulgarians would be just terrible!"

In any case, Kate eventually made the trip to Sofia, Bulgaria, to meet the singers, and rehearsed with them for three days. As she says, "It was just incredible - some of the purest musical communication I've ever had, and we didn't have any other language in common, because they don't speak English and I don't speak Bulgarian!"

Besides Bulgarian singers, books - which have been a continuing source of inspiration ever since Wuthering Heights - and cats, what else inspires Kate to write songs?

"Well, I think relationships are probably what continually entice me, as well as films and books," she says. "And conversations with people. They're all very much inspirational things. Just ideas, and things people might have said that sparked something.

"But it's interesting how most of these things originated long ago, and maybe four or five years later they're regurgitated into an idea," she continues. "Like Cloudbusting [on the Hounds Of Love LP) - that was originally from a book I read nine years before I wrote the song! It struck me very deeply, but it took a long time to step back enough to write the song, because it was a very powerful experience for me. I think sometimes the more powerful something is, the more you're scared of it. You're a bit wrapped up in it, and it takes time to move back, to perhaps see how you could look at it differently."

One song, This Woman's Work was inspired by, of all things, a John Hughes movie - She's Having A Baby. Says Kate: "It's a light film, very comic, about a young guy whose wife gets pregnant, and everything remains light until they get to the hospital, and suddenly she's rushed away and he's left sitting there. You get the impression that this is the moment when he has to start growing up. Up until then he's been a kid, and very happily so. It's a lovely piece of film, and in some ways it's an exploration of guilt, I guess.

And now for the age-old question, the one that Kate doesn't like: what about touring? Kate has done only one tour in her career, way back in 1979, and though she said she enjoyed it, it looks as though she won't do it again.

"Why do people still ask me if I'm going to tour?" she say's, incredulously. "I haven't toured in ten years! I mean it's absolutely ridiculous!" Perhaps it's because she hedges so much about it, never quite coming out and saying that she'll never do it again.

"A lot of people of people think I hated touring, and that's why I haven't done it again," she acknowledges. "But actually I really enjoyed it. Sometimes I think I would like to, but I guess I'm scared of commiting myself to something like that again. I found it very tiring, and it was really difficult for me to do anything for a very long time afterwards..."

As everyone who's seen Kate's videos knows, she definitely has an interest in the theatrical, and her live show was reportedly full of stage antics and special effects.

"I was very much influenced by dance and theatre at the time, and I really wanted to do something special with the show," she explains. "But recently, especially over these past two albums, it's been very important for me to spend time being a songwriter. I didn't want to be a performer. I didn't feel like a performer, and I didn't want to be exposed to all that it entails. I wanted to spend some tome alone at home and just be a songwriter and not be out there in front of everyone. I feel very exposed, doing that."

What about other people's music? Does she listen to records?

"I tend not to listen to music too much when I'm working on an album," she says, adding, "it's so intense that when I get home I like to watch things instead. But in between I like to listen. Right now I'm listening to the new John Lydon album, which is fantastic! It's really good!"

Although she will admit to missing audience contact, Kate has a large and steady following and can afford to remain in her Kent cocoon, insulated from and even unaware of trends in music - even if she did happen to hit upon one with the Bulgarian choir.

"If I was trying to be hip, I wouldn't stand much of a chance," she laughs. "Because by the time my record came out, four or five years later, it would be so passe! I'd have to leave it for 10 years, so that it would have time to come around again!"


There are three pictures in the article, the first is the picture in which she's wearing blue jeans and a white blouse, is kneeling and is barefoot. In the second she is wearing a yellow blouse with a black grid pattern, a grey scarf and black pants. She's holding, with her left hand, what looks like an electric mandolin. In the third she is on her left knee with her right elbow resting on her right knee. Her hair is pulled over her right shoulder. She's facing her right and looking to her upper left. She is wearing what appears to be black velvet, I can't tell much due to this damn newsprint.

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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