Interviews & Articles


Rock Compact Disc
"The Bush Campaign"
by Tony Horkins
Nov. 1993

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Cover of magazine

Date: Fri, 5 Nov 93 14:42:49 GMT
From: nbc@inf.rl.ac.uk
Subject: Article in Rock Compact Disc Magazine Nov. 1993

Here is the text from the article in Issue 16 of Rock Compact Disc Magazine I promised to scan in a couple of weeks ago. There are a bunch of photos as well.


The Bush Campaign

The story of Kate Bush is unique, both for the sensitivity with which record company EMI has managed her career, and for the personal privacy she has managed to retain. As Bush prepares to release a new album and accompanying film, she describes how creative control is her prime concern, while musical collaborator and ex-boyfriend Del Palmer offers an insider's view of the Bush phenomenon.

Story: Tony Horkins

If there's one thing Kate Bush's career proves, it's that there's something dreadfully awry about record company policy in the '90s. Imagine a major record company doing this today: they find a talented 16 year-old, a bit quirky, not like much else that's happening. They sign him/her, but let that talent evolve over a four year period before releasing a single note. Over that time, they help train that protege - dancing lessons, singng lessons, studio time - to make sure that they're absolutely ready to impress. Then they let their artist pick their first single and watch it shoot to number one. Let's face it; in 1993, it's pure fantasy. But in 1974 it was a reality for Kate Bush.

It's been well documented how Pink Floyd's Dave Gilmour got to hear her demos and passed them on to the top brass at EMI, who promptly signed her up. But according to Del Palmer, Kate's long-term musical collaborator and former boyfriend, even in the '70s it was pretty exceptional behaviour. 'Someone had some real foresight there,' he recalls. 'Even back then, it wasn't exactly common behaviour for a record company to behave that way. But they could see she had something very special...' Del could too after he was introduced to the teenage Bush by her brother Paddy - 'we were dating from the moment we met," he says.

He'd known Paddy for some time, and was busy getting yet another pub band together when a friend suggested they ask Paddy's sister to sing. 'She just said yeah, great, I'd love to do it,' he remembers. 'At that stage she was up for doing anything at all. She'd already been signed to EMI tbe year before, and this was about nine or ten months before she went into the studio to record her first album. So she fancied doing a little bit of live work for the crack. We got a small four-piece together with her on vocals. and started playing around the clubs in our local area, in south-east London, and we were doing all covers - things like Heard It through The Grapevine, Knock On Wood, Soul Man- and she was great, singing all this stuff'.

This is where the fledgling Bush started developing her inimitable style, both audibly and visually. 'At that time she'd already started singing in this very high-pitched voice, but she could really belt it out. I thought this girl was so slim - there was nothing of her - but you put her on stage and she was into the whole thing. We started doing some of her songs - we did the embryonic version of James And The Cold Gun, and she was doing all this stuff with the gun, out in the audience - they just loved it. She was a total performcr right from the word go. Had no problem with the confidence aspect at all, yet she'd never fronted a band before. She was an absolute natural.'

Del's enthusiasm for his musical partner's work is infectious. In contrast, Bush herself is reserved when it comes to anything except her music. Ask her about the technicalities of recording using her Fairlight computer system and she'll tell you exactly about how her songs come about. When it comes to explaining the stories behind the songs, however, or talking about Kate Bush, the person, she is uniquely retiring. But when it comes to her music, Bush has spent many years developing a skill for getting what she wants - a skill that she's developed into a fine art. She speaks gently and slowly, picking her words carefully, looking almost frail and innocent as her expressive wide eyes stare in wonderment. But her delicate looks and tiny frame belie her drive and power - not many artists of any stature get to be so creatively in control as Kate Bush. For her, though, it is and always has been the number one priority. '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.

Kate's involvement in what was known as the KT Bush Band was always going to be shortlived, as Del and his other musical collaborators realised, but they were happy to support her until that moment EMI were ready to whisk her off to fame and fortune. 'Right at the end of that period of playing the pub gigs in that band, we did a session for EMI at the White Elephant on the River,' he recalls, 'which was her first major showcase for the whole record company. It was quite nerve-racking for the rest of us, but Kate just breezed on and sang it. She breezed through the whole thing - it was really quite amazing.

'She always had this total self-belief in what she was going to do - there was never going to be any problem for her, from her own point of view. It was like an obsessive passion that she just had to go through. And in a lot of ways she's still like it now.' Of course, after that it was never quite the same for the KT Bush band without Katy Bush, and Del and Co were left stranded in temporary musical limbo while Kate was studio-bound. At that stage, Kate was too young and inexperienced to insist they play on her debut - 'she had to toe the party line a little,' says Del - so the producer bought his own players in to provide the necessary backing. However, even then Bush knew what she wanted and how to get it across. He may not have played on her debut LP, but Kate made sure Del got to design the artwork for the back of the sleeve, and that LP number two would have his name somewhere on the playing credits. 'She really wanted us to play on that album, but politically it wasn't right/he says. 'But when the second album came along in '78, we were able to do a few tracks - she really stuck out for us. I'm really grateful for that she's given me, personally, so many breaks.'

Bush is reluctant to go into details on her relationship with her uniquely understanding record comapany. Although obviously appreciative of the artistic freedom she's gained over the years she also observes: 'You have to fight for everything you want. Struggle is important. It's how you grow and how you change.'

Caught up in the first flush of success, Kate's early days were a flurry of activity and creative release. In 1978, both The Kick Inside and Lionheart albums were released, and in 1979 she embarked on her first and only, and now fairly legendary, live tour. 'As I remember it, it was very hard work,' says Del of the tour. 'I've never worked so hard as a musician before. We rehearsed for six months. In the morning she was coming up to town for dance lessons and learning dance routines, then in the afternoon we'd rehearse the band for six hours, then in the evening we were going back for production meetings. And she's still doing that kind of thing now with this film she's doing. She's a complete workaholic and a fanatic where her music's concerned.' Did she enjoy the tour? 'She really enjoyed it. It's a common fallacy that she didn't and that it was a bad experience for her, but she really enjoyed doing it. But I think what happened was, it took so much out of her, that it also took a little bit of her self-confidence. She then got into the studio immediately after that tour ended, in late '79, to start the third album, and she then got into producing. She co-produced it with the engineer she was working with at the time, and got completely into it. She thought, this is it, I really need to work in the studio for a few years and develop my own production techniques and music as a studio musician.' And Kate realised too that she'd have to distance herself from outside pressures to achieve what she wanted to achieve.

'I've always been tenacious when it comes to my work,' she says. '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 work which took me away from the thing that had put me into 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's the most unlikely star,' adds Del. 'She does not like being famous, she really does not like it. She wants to be an ordinary person, but she wants to make music. She likes the idea of people getting something from what she does, but she doesn't want the fame aspect. She's not the sort of person who will ever go out clubbing. She just works, stays at home, goes to the theatre, goes to see films, and when she can she goes off on holiday. But that's very rare.'

It's hard to imagine Kate Bush padding around the house with her slippers on, but even superstars have to recharge their batteries. 'She really just lets herself go. I don't mean she puts on 30 stone. It's like "I'm not working any more, so I'm not going to let any of this stuff get into my head". She potters in the garden - she does gardening now - she watches TV, goes to the theatre, eats... And takes in a little music too... 'She doesn't like to listen to anything when she's working, but when she's resting she listens to lots of stuff. At the moment, she's really into Talk Talk - she finds a real affinity with them. And we had a whole period of getting into this Bulgarian music, and in the early days it was Irish music. Generally, there's not many modern bands she's into, though she likes the Utah Saints. They did a track with a piece of her vocal in it: they were really good about it, went through all the proper channels, asked if they could use it, gave her a royalty, and she thought it was great. She thought it was absolutely fantastic the way they'd actually used it. In fact, one time she thought it would be great to do something with them. It never came to pass, though...'

What did happen was the extended period of inactivity that lead to a four year gap between the last album 'The Sensual World, and the release of The Red Shoes. Beset by personal tragedy - the loss of many friends, the death of her mother and the breakdown of her personal, if not professional, relationship with Del- the creative process simply stopped. 'I just couldn't work,' she says. 'Singng is such a deeply personal thing to do, I couldn't manage it.' 'There's been a lot of upset,' adds Del, 'When her mother died, she really couldn't work for the best part of a year. But she soon got the urge to get back in there again. She has to work.' And when Bush works, she really works. Not content with producing just another LP, she's timed its release with the simultaneous release of an accompanying 50-minute film 'We've taken six tracks from the album and made a story line up from the title track.'

'It's about how Kate's a dancer and gets tricked into wearing a pair of red shoes, which are possessed and can't stop dancing,' adds Del, 'it's a bit like the old film, 'The Red Shoes (the 1948 British classic about a young ballerina torn between two lovers - one a struggling composer the other an autocratic dance impresario). It's her own interpretation of the idea. There's lots of dialogue, and Miranda Richardson and Lindsay Kemp are in it too. Kate's been busy writing the storyline and getting it organised.'

'It's something like Magical Mystery Tour,' Kate adds, 'But it's not like it at all. It's not finished I hate talking about anything until it's there. like talking to you about the album if you haven't heard the tracks. Completely ridiculous.'

Never one to explain herself when a well-turned musical phrase will do, Kate Bush remains something of an enigma; intensely private, guarded to the point of introversion, but always fantastically unique.

Tony Horkins

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