To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents
Date: Mon, 13 Sep 93 14:10:07 BST
Subject: New Kate Interview, Sunday Times Sept. 1993
There was an interview with Kate in yesterdays' Sunday Times colour supplement. It was something of a hatchet job on behalf of the interviewer who seemed to get the impression that Kate was a really tough person to interview. To be honest if the article is accurate then I have some sympathy with the interviewer.
As normal Kate declined to talk about anything other than her music but also restricted the interviewer to hearing just 5 tracks off the album, showed her a lyric sheet for the album but refused to let her take it away, and would not show her any of the promo film.
During the interview (again if the text is accurate) Kate did seem to be more than usually obstinate in her refusal to discuss things. The article did suggest that she has broken up with Del though Kate did not say so during the interview.
Unfortunately, I have left the article at home so cannot type it in but I expect someone else will do it. If not I can do so later.
Date: Tue, 14 Sep 93 17:27:43 EDT
From: Andrew B Marvick <abm4@columbia.EDU>
Subject: Re: Sunday Times Interview
Chrissie Iley's "interview" with Kate in the London Sunday Times Colour Supplement is transparently a feeble attempt by a silly, jealous woman to malign her betters. Virtually the entire article concerns Iley's befuddlement and resentment at Kate's unwillingness to divulge personal information to her interviewer. Needless to say, it never occurs to Iley to ask even a single question about the subject of real interest both to Kate and to her true fans, i.e. the music! Despite the comments of Iley, the piece is worth reading for the subject's intelligent and impressively tolerant responses, and for a glamorous full-page color portrait by a Times photographer.
Date: Wed, 15 Sep 93 11:30:05 BST
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Neil Calton)
Subject: Kate Bush Article in Sunday Times Sept. 12th 1993
Kate Bush likes to get her own way. She has done ever since her pop rendition of Wuthering Heights turned her into a teenage star 15 years ago. She is still only little, but mighty corporations tremble at the stamp of her tiny foot. Chrissy Iley reports on a mauling at the hands of the Bush baby. Portrait by Anthony Crickmay.
Kate Bush, shy megalomaniac. She shrugs a girlie shrug. Smirks. Oh, yes, yes, she likes that description of herself. Its aptness tickles her. She's big on paradox. Thinks that most people are extreme contradictions. Personally, I've always thought shy was another name for awkward, and megalomaniac just meant spoilt. Certainly, exposure to her special blend of diffidence, wariness and clenched control is extraordinarily wearying.
We'll do control first. Ever since she was a teenager, bigwigs at EMI records have scurried to the stomp of her tiny foot. It is a sensible little foot clad in Chinese slippers: she doesn't believe in uncomfortable shoes. She's no fashion victim, no anything victim.
In the late 1970s when she was spinning around Lindsey Kemp style and hollering "Cathee come home ..." the hair was as plum-coloured as it is today and her way of getting what she wants is similarly undiluted. Bob Mercer was then the managing director of EMI; now he runs a record label in Nashville. He has remained friends with Kate over the years. She calls him whenever she has a dream about him. He was given a tape of her songs by Pink Floyd's Dave Gilmour when she was about 15. Mercer sent her off for piano lessons and encouraged her to do her O-levels.
Four years later she came back with a completed album. Mercer recalls, "Kate came to see me. She was unhappy at my choice of James and the Cold Gun for the first single. She said she really felt it had to be Wuthering Heights. I told her it was her job to write the songs and my job to market them and we should stick to what we were best at. I felt that if she experienced failure at such a young age she might not be able to handle it. I told her not to worry, hers wouldn't be a commercial success straight away. It would take at least three albums and she should be patient.
"In those days I was a very busy man. I had to contend with the Sex Pistols fiasco and I didn't expect her to behave like this. I was getting angry and fuck me if she didn't burst into tears. My leverage was gone, so I said all right, but when this hits the wall it will teach you a lesson not to interfere. It went to number one and stayed there four weeks. To her credit she has never reminded me of the incident and after that I always had respect for her instincts. It was in the days when artists didn't have much control over their contracts. But she changed all that. EMI always had to listen to her"
Over the years eight albums have plopped out, each one taking longer to produce. When they do come they are a blend of accessible pop sensibility and quaking pain. Her image has always been of this intense quivering thing plumbing her depths to deliver what is most sad. Yet her life can hardly be described as tragic. She's doctor's daughter Kate, safe, cosseted from the world. That's the way she grew up and that's the way she still is.
Me and the Bush baby have met to talk about her new album, out next month, called The Red Shoes. A dilemma: she doesn't really want to talk about anything but her music and I am not allowed to have the album to listen to. I was granted five tracks, but not to take home with me, only to listen to in the Abbey Road studios. I was also given a printed lyric sheet, but then like an exam paper had to hand it in at the end. "I haven't found anyone who can take in the album all in one session," she said. Lighten up Kate. It's supposed to be a pop record.
She's made a film to accompany the album but goes tense when you ask her what it's about. We know it has got Miranda Richardson in it, and Lindsey Kemp. And she squeaks in her pithy high-pitched voice: "Well, it's something like Magical Mystery Tour but it's not like that at all. It's not finished yet and I hate talking about anything until it's there. It's like talking to you about the album if you haven't heard the tracks. Completely ridiculous."
We are sitting side by side in a little preview theatre looking at a blank screen because she can't show me the movie, nor any part of the movie, because I might make a judgement, God forbid.
As the seats are cinema seats, it's difficult to swivel round to look her in the eye and it's perfect for her to avoid being looked at. She stays quite still and stares straight ahead. I'm fidgeting and feeling like a cheap perfume. Her diminutiveness hads the effect of making you feel huge and clumsy and gruff.
The sweetness of her elfin face and tiny, tiny voice are curdled with something; the bobbly eyes seem to belong to a very old person. The smile comes zipped on with her lips pressed so tightly together that there is a constant "Mmmmmmmmmmmm". The edges of the smile are tacked in place with invisible threads that move up and down, up and down. Before I met Kate Bush, I liked the record. It is probably a very good record. certainly, one track, Moments of Pleasure, is compellingly sad and makes people cry for no apparent reason.
So, Kate, what was going on in your head when you were writing it" "Er, it's just a very personal song. [This was the first of many 'It's personal' responses] It's to show just how precious life is and all those little moments that people give you. And that's how people stay alive, through your memories of them."
It has been a gruelling three years for Bush. She's a strong person but sometimes things have been so bad that "I couldn't even work. Singing is such a deeply personal thing to do, I couldn't manage it." She has "lost" a lot of friends; her relationship with her boyfriend Del Palmer, who was her bass player of 10 year's standing, evaporated; and her mother died. She was close to her mother. "She got ill and she died." No details given. But when she was alive and well she was full of old Irish sayings such as "every old sock meets and old shoe". "Isn't that a beautiful little saying?" I ask if it means the same as "we seek the teeth that made the wounds". She looks blank. You know, pain seeking pain. "Oh, it's so cute, isn't it? So cute."
This was my first inkling that Bush, for all her swelling emotions, might be a little one-dimensional. Mercer told me that she's a poet and sometimes poets have a tendency to say things without really knowing what they mean. "Like when she wrote the song Man With The Child In His Eyes. Does she mean that he was looking at a child, that he looked like a child, or he wanted to procreate? I always wondered who that father figure was: was it a brother, was it her father or was it an older man she had a relationship with when she was very young?"
She is close to all her family, her older brothers Paddy and Jay and her father particularly. The father figure has featured in much of her work. Dr Bush himself even speaks on an old song of hers, The Fog. He was teaching her to swim. The crying to get what she wants, the little girl's body, the little girl's wilful mind, have all the hallmarks of daddy's girl. So what kind of doctor is he? "That's a personal question. It's not really about my work." Yes but he features in your work. "It's not something that I really want to talk about."
When she first started to write songs she didn't tell boys because she thought it would be a threat to their masculinity. She has devised a concept of masculine and feminine energy. In Running Up That Hill from her multi-platinum selling album Hounds of Love, she said she would like to make a deal with God. "I wanted to be a man in a woman's body. I thought it would be completely astounding, so that we could completely understand each other. Because in essence we are so different.
"There is a feminine energy and there is a masculine energy. Some women have very masculine energies, and the creativity of a lot of women is masculine driven because they are ambitious to speed forward." She says she is not ambitious - not for money, not for material things -but she is driven by that great creative force to produce her work. "It is the feminine energies which are very sepcial and they have been a little neglected. [Early in her career everyone was discussing how her nipples poked erect from an early poster of her in a leotard: "I was flattered and it did help me to establish my music. I could never say it annoyed me."] I can understand why in many situations women have found the need to become masculine. A lot of my friends feel the feminist movement set women back a long way. Man-hating is wrong but many women are ashamed that they can't just be a woman. I think idealy people can be quite androgynous. That can be exciting."
She has got a new song about bananas and papayas and putting things in mouths and putting her hands into pomegranites. "All is revealed/Not only women bleed." That, she explains, is not sexual, it's about how beautiful men can be on the inside. "I think proper opposites are very exciting. How could you possibly experience pain until you knew what laughter was?"
She then goes into a discourse about why the song Life Is Sad And So Is Love is incredibly positive, and I'm afraid she lost me. I cannot tell whether she is being obtuse on purpose but suspect that she is trying to avoid the questions about men which she senses are coming. There have been so many wincingly intimate songs about relationships, I wonder who has been her muse. "That's for me to know and you to find out. I don't really see what that question has to do with my work."
Well, as she's already said, her life is her work; I'm merely inquiring which bit if her life has inspired which bit of work. "I think that's personal and I'm here to talk about my work. My private life I don't want to let go of. I need to keep it close and tender so that is is still my own." And she's smiling an assassin's smile.
I try to manoeuvre by pointing out that it is difficult to know where to draw the boundaries when the songs are so personal and she shrugs that little girl shrug. "Well, I'm telling you." She is unsettingly polite. If she had been angry with me there would have been at least a confrontation, a connection.
Bush baby doesn't care if there is no connection. She doesn't care if I like her or not. Mercer says that "even in the early days, all she wanted was to create. Her work is her only therapy. Her psyche is not about promoting her personality. Usuallly in this business the artists have an agenda: they want to make you love them, they want to project their personality and that's what drives them. And to do that they need to expose themselves. She feels that she has worked herself so hard and exposed herself in her work so much, it is hard to give any more. She's written about the last affair she had, or didn't have, that broke her heart. Of course she is scared to talk more about it. She seems to be interested only in warming to other artists. She feels press people have their own agenda."
She has an acute suspiscion of journalists. She usually brings her own tape recorder to interviews to check if she has been misquoted. On the other hand, she does have a schoolgirlie enthusiasm for other "artists". She's got great cred: she's worked with the best, Eric Clapton and Prince. Price, who appears on one song on the new record, is a fellow recluse. They never actually talked to each other, they simply exchanged tapes.
"I think creative control is so incredibly important," she says. "If you don't have that control your work will be interfered with until it's gone out of your hands. I was always aware that things wouldn't be how I wanted them unless I was willing to fight. You have to fight for everything you want. Struggle is important. It's how you grow and how you change.
"I've always been tenacious when it comes to my work and I became quickly aware of the outside pressures of being famous affecting my work. It seemed ironic that I was expected to do interviews and television which took me away from the thing that had put me in that situation. It was no longer relevant that I wrote songs. I could see my work becoming something that had no thought in it, becoming a personality, which is never what I wanted. All I wanted was the creative process."
She uses the phrase "my work" as if she's talking about some other person very close to her of whom she is the guardian. She is in her mid-thirties and won't comment about any biological urges to reproduce. Perhaps her albums are her children. She flashes me a zipped smile. "No. Can you imagine a child which took three-and-a-half years to come out?"
I remind her that she has been quoted as saying she is as tough as nails. "Ah, yes." She squints, the brows knitting together under the short fringe. "The journalist made that up. Also in the same piece [four years ago] she said I said I was as fragile as a butterfly. People impose their own personalities on me. I'm surprised you don't know that." And she looks at me with those cold limpid eyes. "I'm strong but I'm not as tough as nails. The two are very different. Quite often people project their whole life on you."
She is so full of contempt that communication is almost impossible. Is it just me that she doesn't like to reveal things to? "It's quite dangerous to go through life extremely open. In a way you need an element of trust. For some people it's just very hard. Fear is such an enormous thing in all of us and I think it stops a lot of rather nice processes."
Mercer believes that Bush has "matured enormously, but she's become more introspective, more true to her art. There was a point where it could have happened the other way, where she could have become more of a personality. Instead she dug deeper into herself. She is a sadder, wiser person. It has been an exhausting process.
"It's so strange to imagine she must be 35. I'll always see her as that little girl who's 15. She is the sweetest, a mensch. You don't either hate her or love her. You love her or you don't know her. Getting to know her is difficult."
Still trying to discover that sad place from which these sad songs have sprung, I try her childhood. What sort of things moved her then? I'm hoping there'll be an anecdote about her father, her brothers, her mother, her grandparents. But no. "I was always impressed by the sea, I think it's completely stunning. I'd love to be part of the sea. Wonderful." I can't even swim I tell her. I feel as though I'm drowning. I persist and she tells me, "It's been a difficult three years for everybody. The recession has affected everybody so badly .."
We are both exhausted from the experience, with my wrangling and her not letting go. She stands up to show me out. She's truly tiny, but not just in height. I see her as a bonsai person. Everything that should be is perfectly developed but in miniature: her emotional range is intense, stunted, trapped. Although she insists she is more happy than sad, I have not found her sense of humour to justify this. I have not found her.
A few days after the interview I met an early biographer of hers, Paul Kerton, and he understood my problem. He recalled, "I sent an asistant to get her birth certificate. She came back saying, "Bad news: she was born a man called Martin.' I sighed, and then she said, 'April Fool, April Fool'. But she's so mysterious and androgynous it would not have surprised me."
Perhaps we can get an insight from a poem he sent me written by Catherine Bush, Form 2 (1970-71). It later became a song, and here it is. "I have seen him/I have noted him seven times or more/but he has not seen me/He may have seen a girl called by my name/But neither he nor anyone else will ever really see me."
There is one colour photo of Kate lying on her back on a white rectangular block with her hair falling over the edge of the block. It is shot from above.
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