Interviews & Articles


"The Sensual Woman"
by Maureen LittleJohn
Feb/March 1990

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Date: Fri, 31 May 91 23:55:22 PDT
From: rhill@pnet01.cts.com (Ronald Hill)
Subject: NETWORK by Maureen LittleJohn Feb/March 1990

This is an article from NETWORK, Canada's Entertainment Magazine, Feb/March 1990. Transcribed by Ronald Hill. Comments in brackets ARE in the original article. Thanks to Tippi Chai for supplying me with the original article.

The Sensual Woman

Interview with Maureen LittleJohn

"...the sun shines for you he said the day we were lying among the rhododendrons on Howth head in the grey tweed suit and his straw hat the day I got him to propose to me yes first I gave him the bit of seedcake out of my mouth and it was leapyear like now yes 16 years ago my God after that long kiss I near lost my breath yes he said I was a flower of the mountain yes so we are flowers all a womans body yes..."

- from Molly Bloom's soliloquy in Ulysses, by James Joyce

"Hmmh, yes,

Then I'd taken the kiss of seedcake back from his moth

Going deep South, go down, mmh, yes

Took six big wheels and rolled our bodies

Off of Howth Head and into the flesh, mmh, yes,

He said I was a flower of the mountain, yes

But now I've powers o'er a woman's body - yes."

- from "the Sensual World," by Kate Bush

Molly Bloom is unquestionably one of the most earthy, sensual women in literature. Her famous stream-of-consciousness soliloquy at the end of James Joyce's Ulysses takes place as she lolls around alone in bed, her mind flitting over a myriad of topics: from pork chops to bodily functions to her first sexual experience. Molly, at 32 years old, is in the prime of her womanhood. It's only natural then that 32-year old Kate Bush, who says her latest album, The Sensual World, is her most female to date, should have felt compelled to write a song inspired by the fantastic Ms. Bloom's meanderings.

When Kate agreed to talk to the press she made of few stipulations. Due to her fear of flying (she hasn't toured for 10 years), she declined to do the usual grueling international promotional tour, and instead the mountain went to Mohammed. Forty journalist from around the world flew in to the rolling Kent countryside, a two-hour drive from London, England.

The interviews were held at a round table, where Kate sat sipping tea. She wore a pink sweater dappled in pearls, and blue jeans. Here chestnut mane was tinted a deep mahogany plum color. She looked small and fragile; like a young schoolgirl.

I: You've said The Sensual World is your "most female" album to date. What do you mean?

K: The powerful sound in contemporary music come from males, not females. For instance, in Hounds Of Love [1985] the production sounds were very powerful. LIke the big drum sound which I put my little ideas and voice on top of. With my new album I didn't feel the need to look to male music for that kind of power. I subconsciously wanted to make the album softer and not keep relating to this dominant male energy.

I: What drew you to the Molly bloom character?

K: I actually heard Molly Bloom's speech being read by an Irish actress years ago. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard. I was transfixed with this piece of literature that was so beautifully written and so very feminine.

That song was a hard haul. Originally I'd used Joyce's actual words and set them to music. When I approached his estate for permission they said no. I spent a year asking them to please listen to the song, but they had every right to say no. They felt it wasn't good for Joyce's work.

I: So you found a way around their objections?

K: I rewrote the lyrics to give them this lovely sensual rhythm. It was very difficult. I mad rhymes and used syllables and brought in these words so Molly BLoom could step out of the book and into the real world. My goal was to bring this sensual woman into a place where she could actually touch things. In the long run the obstacles I ran into made me turn it into a better song.

I: It's been four years since you released your last album, Hounds Of Love. Why did you wait so long to do The Sensual World?

K: Each record gets harder to make. THere's always a tremendous lack of love and passion when you record in a studio. It's hard to find something that feels sincere. The more electronic pop music becomes, the harder it is to say meaningful things about relationships, especially since the same things are being said so trivially in pop. Pop is a trivial art form. I want to say things clearly and somehow be compassionate with all this technology.

I: The Trio Bulgarka sing backing vocals on three of the album's songs. This is quite a departure from the traditional Irish music you incorporate elsewhere. Why did you choose to use them?

K: My brother Paddy introduced me to them. He had hear them on the radio. I went to Bulgaria and met them and worked with them there. The Trio is made up of three of the greatest female singers in Bulgaria. They have been singing together for 30 years. It was exciting but also very scary. I didn't know if it was going to work.

We arrived in Bulgaria and they didn't speak a work of English and we didn't speak a word of Bulgarian. They sat down and sang one of their songs for us. The three of them sat at this kitchen table and the oldest one, Ava, picked up the telephone. She got their not off the dial tone, went "Hmmm," and they burst into song. It is very rare that I am moved by music enough to want to cry, but within minutes I was sitting there with tears rolling down my cheeks.

I: Your brother play and sings on the album and your father contributes dialogue on one song ["The Fog"]. Do you feel the need to be protected by your family?

K: It's not a matter of protection, but getting the best music. There's no one else I could work with on this level except my brother. He's been very influential over the years. He's introduced me to interesting ethnic and traditional music. Most of the time it's myself and Del [boyfriend Del Palmer, who plays bass and did the Fairlight programming on the album] I like to work with musicians who I've worked with before.

I: Such as Pink Floyd's Dave Gilmour? He goes right back to the beginning with you doesn't he? When did you first meet him?

K: He came down to listen to some of my songs when I was 16. I was very, very nervous. He liked the songs and we tried approaching record companies. Nothing happened and he actually put up the money for me to go into a proper recording studio and record three songs. They were played to EMI and they signed me. He has been there for me ever since. I guess in some way I see him as a guardian angel, looking after me.

On the song "Rocket's Tail" on the new album, he does a fantastic solo. It was great for me to actually work with him after all these years.

I: Rocket is one of your cats?

K: Yes. He was the inspiration because he's dead cute. The song isn't actually about Rocket. It's inspired by him but the song is saying there is nothing wrong with being right here at this moment and just enjoying it to its absolute fullest. It uses the idea of a rocket that's so exciting for three seconds and then is gone.

I: Like seeing you perform live. Why have you avoided touring?

K: I wanted to spend time being a songwriter. I didn't want to be re-creating songs that were already written in front of an audience. Touring is very much about real contact with an audience. It's also quite exhausting, and it's a big commitment. Writing music is completely different. IT's very microscopic, very introverted. That meant so much more to me over the last few years than that [audience] contact. I think I've learned a tremendous amount about the process of writing and about myself.

It really scares me, the idea of performing live, because I haven't done it for so long and the odd times I have I've felt uncomfortable. I'm terrified of committing myself at this point. But I'm actually starting to think, well, it could be fun.

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