To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (ronald hill)
Date: Sat, 23 May 1992 09:35:23 -0700
Subject: Kate Bush NfE Interview EMI (London) 1980
Kate Bush Interview EMI (London) 1980
Kate Discusses Never For Ever
Reprinted in Breakthrough 2
[Transcribed and bracketed comments by Ron Hill. Thanks to IED for providing the interview.]
I: One has to begin at the beginning, Kate, and I can't help but realize that I can't make sense of the title of the album: Never For Ever. What does it mean?
K: Well, it's really meant to be reflective of all the things that happen to us all the time ourselves, we're never for ever, death is inevitable, things always pass, good and bad things, so when you're feeling really desperate you know that it's not going to last for ever. It's really saying that everything is transient - ourselves and everything that we are in is transient and we should really remember that because I think to remind you of that makes you think more.
I: During the time since you've made your last album, have you had reason to feel that way?
K: I think it's something I've always felt, probably since I started creating. I think once you start exploring the creative areas you become aware of how transient things are, especially one's writing, one's art. You become very aware of the fact that that won't be around for a long time - maybe, but very unlikely - and so that's something in your mind a lot of the time.
I: And do you feel sometimes that if I don't put this down on paper now I'll forget it and it will be gone for ever?
K: Yes - yes, I think you have to catch a moment when it's happening. It's like not snapping up opportunities when they wave at you - you can so often let things go by you and when you're old you think, wow, I let all those things go by me. You must try to act in the moment, though it's very hard.
I: Does that annoy you at any time - do you feel that you're not the master of your own time - if you get the muse you have to obey it then and there?
K: Yes, but unfortunately a lot of the time the muse is obstructed by other forces. I'll be very busy doing something else and although it's calling me I can go. That's something that I'm very aware of, the fact that when you do feel that there is something there, almost like a gift, I think you sometimes worry that you abuse it or neglect it and that it might go away. I think one of an artist's great fears is of drying up and I think probably anyone who writes must have such fear inside.
I: The cover of your Never For Ever album is absolutely wild: It shows a painting of yourself with your skirt up in the wind, at least in the front, and is stemming this literal parade of both good and bad creatures, some beautiful, some absolutely hideous. Whose idea was that?
K: Well, the idea was really mine but the work was totally Nick Price's, the artist, who really interpreted it as the way he saw it. The idea was that all of us, we are full of all those black and white things, bats and swans, and that the mixture of them is what we are - we aren't just good and we aren't just bad, we are both of them. In my case my black and white thoughts, my emotions, go into my music and on the cover they're coming out from me and going into the album. That is really what we are trying to symbolize - the fact that we are full of many, many things inside us and that they come out at some time, whether it's in anger or whether you channel it into something productive.
I: You mention this black and white in yourself and although you have a reputation for being a lovely lady and because you're petite and you smile a lot people might think oh, what a sweet child. And of course there are songs in which you have great violence, such as "The Wedding List", quite a disturbing song.
K: Yes, I think the energy that it's about is very disturbing and that's really why I wrote it. It's about the energy of revenge, the fact that someone can spend the rest of their life going for an aim purely through revenge. When they actually do get their revenge it's very sweet, they're very happy and then because it's fulfilled there's nothing left for them. The whole situation is so futile, so wasted and such black heavy energy. So many films use the theme of revenge and I think it is something that does fascinate people - it's all in us somewhere. Maybe it's hidden more in others than some.
I: In "The Wedding List" you have a character named Rudy - is that named after anybody you'd read about in literature or real life?
K: No, not at all. It was really the name that just happened as the words were coming with the song and so I didn't fight it - I just accepted it.
I: One unexpected guest artist on this album is your brother Paddy who on several tracks plays instruments that we don't ordinary [sic - ordinarily] hear. For example, the balalaike, Delius, Koto, stumento di porco - where is he getting all of these and how does he know about them?
K: Well, Paddy's thing really is instruments that aren't so well known - he's always had a great fascination for the beauty of instruments from the past and he went to a college where he in fact learned to build early musical instruments and the more he's been getting into it the more he plays. And this strumento di proco he build himself and things like the saw, the balalaiki he owns.
I: What is a stumento di porco?
K: It's a very strange shaped instrument with strings, many strings laid across vertically and you hit them with hammers or you play them with your fingers. I'm really not sure of the origin of it but it's an incredible sounding one. We in fact used that on the last album in "Kashka From Baghdad", too. It's got a really beautiful Eastern sound.
I: Was it your idea to invite Paddy on the album or did he say to you hey, sis, can I be on it?
K: No, it's very much my idea from a long way back to involve Paddy. He's been on all the albums but not really featuring quite so much as on this one. I think one of the great things about this album is that it left much more room for people to do things than on the other ones - it was that direction, much more experimental, exploring. And Paddy played a big part with all the instruments exploring little pieces and areas, absolutely invaluable. Very like animation, his instruments - they just put a little bit of red on here and a little bit of green down there and complete it.
I: This is an album that a lot of people have waited a long time for. Have you in fact worked on it for a long period of time?
K: Yes. It's definitely been the longest one so far and although the recording was about six months it did seem like a long time because the way we were working, we worked to very late hours. The time just skips by when you are in the studio.
I: When you're having fun?
K: Yes, we were.
I: Is it fun?
K: This was incredible fun - it was so exciting and everyone involved was so into it and without that you have a big block because you're into it but there are people getting tired or going down. And everyone was with it - it was like a big surge towards the source, the album, and it was very exciting.
I: You mentioned that so much of it is experimental and I agree with you and we'll be talking about that - but was there pressure on you to have those commercial considerations which would be the result of your previous success?
K: Well, to be quite honest that's something that I never really consider. Commerciality is such - a word that we use a lot that sometimes gets mixed up, because in many terms commerciality is really something that people like, a lot of people like. Sometimes a very unobvious thing can in fact be commercial and really the way I go for it is just if I feel I have a good enough song to build on it and to give it all I can give it, all its highlights, the best you can and then really it has its own life then. It's not so much a matter of commerciality as rather dressing the song in the correct manner - like putting a nice suit on it instead of, you know, a pair of overalls.
I: One track which has achieved success as a single is "Babooshka" which is the lead track on this album and when I first saw that you had done a song on that title I imagined it was about a Russian grandmother. Where had you heard that term?
K: Well, it was very strange, because as I was writing this song the name just came and I couldn't' think where I'd got it from and I presumed it was from a Russian fairytale - it sounded like the name of a princess or something and it was so perfect for the music, it had all the right syllables and the right feel, so I kept it in. Many strange coincidences happened after that - where I'd turn on the television and there would be Donald Swann singing about Babushka. So I realized that there was actually someone called this and I managed to find in the Radio Times a little precis of a program that was on called Babushka. It was an opera that someone had written and Babushka was apparently the lady that the three kings went to see because the star stopped over her house. They presumed that the Lord was in there, and when he wasn't they went on their way. She wanted to go with them to find Jesus and they wouldn't let her come so she spent the rest of her life looking for him. I don't really know where it came from but it worked.
I: It's a very lovely story and one could write another song about that, I suppose.
K: Yes, maybe.
I: But the one you've written about is another tale of romance, successful and failed and a very touching one about a man who is tired a bit of his wife but when she dresses up in what we might call new clothes he falls for her all over again. Now someone might say that this is a very novel way of looking at love. Do you think of yourself as a writer of love songs?
K: I don't know. I suppose I would say that I have written some love songs but I wouldn't term that as one. Really I'm very annoyed at the way that the woman is behaving in this song because it is so stupid and in fact she's just ruining the whole situation which was very lovely - and it's only because of what's going on in her brain that she does these things so - suspicion, paranoia all these naughty energies again and it's really quite sad I think.
I: Has a great effort gone into the sound of this album, not just the music but the sound?
K: Yes. I thinks sounds are so important because that is what music is - it is the sound of the music - and the way sounds mix and move together is incredible. It is again so similar to colours and to have a pure colour and pure sounds are very similar things. In many ways I think we saw a lot of the sounds a visual things - this is the way I often interpret music, I see it visually, and so in many ways you'd interpret a mountain in the picture into a very pure guitar sound or whatever. I think everyone was very aware of sounds and the animation of it and how a certain sound could imply so much more at one piece in the song.
I: You are the co-producer of this album with Jon Kelly. I suppose this then was your job in that regard, the direction of the sound?
K: Yes. The whole thing was so exciting for me, to actually have control of my baby for the first time. Something that I have been working for and was very nervous of too, obviously, because when you go in for the first time you really wonder if you are capable - you hope you are. Every time that we tried something and it worked it just made you feel so much braver. Of course it doesn't always work, but everyone helping and concentrating on the music, it's such a beautiful thing, it really is a wonderful experience - everyone's feelings going into the songs that you wrote perhaps in a little room somewhere in London, you know, it's all coming out on the tape.
I: From "Babooshka" we mix literally quite nicely into "Delius (Song of Summer)" and this is the one which contains references I must confess I don't understand. I don't know who Delius was or for that matter what Fenby is?
K: Delius was an incredible classical composer, an English one, he was from Bradford, I think and he was Fred, Frederick Delius. He was a wonderful composer and he in fact got neurosyphilis, which completely ruined his body; he became totally paralysed and he could no longer play the piano or write his music. I don't know whether he was a very bad tempered man before, but during his illness he became bad tempered. From that time on he lived his life in a wheelchair and he needed someone to write his music for him. For years he kept getting young writers coming along who'd meet him and sit down and try to transcribe his writing, but he had no voice. He couldn't sing. He had no pitch in his voice, no real sense of timing. He would sit there and just grunt like going aargh, aargh, and the writer would just not know where to start. He didn't know what key it was in, the time signature, what notes the guy was ginging. And Delius would not tell him, he'd just say write it down. All these guys ran away, they couldn't take it, it was too much. One day a gentleman called Eric Fenby (who is in the song) turned up. He tried to get through this barrier until eventually he could understand everything Delius was saying. Fenby stayed with him until his death and he wrote all his music out for him. Through Fenby, Delius' music came alive again. It was such a beautiful concept - this man whose body was almost completely useless and yet inside him all this life and colour and freedom. It was only through Mr. Fenby that it could come out. It's such a beautiful story, he really need a song.
I: The song after that, "Blow Away", is also about musicians, this in a different way - It's about a member of your band, perhaps fictitious, perhaps real life, who wonders where the music goes when he goes. Is there such a person who mentioned that thought to you.
K: No, there isn't such a person who actually said it, but I'm sure I know so many people that think that. I myself do feel that sometimes and it just seemed for someone in my band fictionally to open up to me, made it a much more vulnerable statement. It was really brought on by something - I think it was The Observer. They did an article on all these people who when they'd had cardiac arrests had left their bodies and travelled down a corridor into a room at the end. In the room were all their dead friends that they'd known very well and they were really happy and delighted. Then they'd tell the person that they had to leave and they'd go down the corridor and drop back into their body. So many people have experienced this that there does seem to be some line in it, maybe. It's some kind of defense hysteria, I don't know, but they felt no fear and in fact they really enjoyed it. Most of them have no fear of dying at all. And I thought that a nice idea, what a comfort it was for musicians that worry about their music; (knowing) that they're going to go up into that room and in there there's going to be Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Holly, Minnie Ripperton, all of them just having a great big jam in the sky, and all the musicians will join in with it.
I: And so Bill, who was mentioned in the title, Bill is the fictitious member of the band?
K: No. Bill is Bill Duffield, the gentleman who died on our tour and in so many ways he made me want to write the song right from the beginning. It was such a tragedy and he was such a beautiful person that it only seemed right that there should be something on the next album for him.
I: He was one of the technical directors, wasn't he?
K: He was the lighting man, yes, and he was absolutely wonderful. It was really tragic that it should have happened and so unnecessary, too. We did the benefit concert for the relatives of Bill which we hope helped a little - but it's such a helpless situation.
I: One of the artist I believe who helped you on this concert was Peter Gabriel, am I right?
K: Yes, absolutely.
I: And there is a credit on here for him - thanks to Peter Gabriel for opening the windows. What do you mean by that?
K: Well, he sort of opened the windows and let some light in for me. He was a very important person for me to meet because I think we've worked on some quite interesting things since and if we hadn't met at that concert I'm sure we wouldn't have got together. I hope that in the future we will continue to do occasional work - I would very much like that because I can really relate to him as a musician and it's so good to work with other people. I really enjoy it. It's a different responsibility and the feedback you get from the other person, it's like when you work with a dancer, it's just so wonderful, that feedback of people bouncing ideas back and forth.
I: And from his wonderful album you appeared on the single "Games Without Frontiers", am I right?
K: Yes. That was fabulous to do - I was really thrilled that he asked me. It's great - it's one of the few sessions I've done and it's such a buzz, it's really wonderful.
I: Do you get asked or do you just not do ones you're asked to do?
K: I've not been asked that much and I do feel that it's quite important who I choose. But so far all the people have been so exiting that I've taken up.
I: That is a great opportunity, to have someone like Peter Gabriel ask you to help him, because he is one of the best right now.
[end of Part I]
I: Did the tour (1979) change the way you felt about what you wanted to do in live work in the future?
K: Yes, it did. I think it helped me tremendously because I felt that it worked and if it hadn't then it would have again totally changed my idea of live work. It makes me want to go on further, makes me feel that the show was an incredibly important starting point and yet it was quite embryonic in so many ways and there is so much more to do. The thing that worries me is when to do the live work, because of things like money and time that's taken up rehearsing as well as actually doing the tour.
I: Isn't it true that almost no matter what you charge, you're not going to make money?
K: Well, I think probably if you do play in huge halls you can do it, but we didn't on the last tour, there was no way, mainly because of all the sets we had and huge crew to move the sets and theatrical props and things. I don't think we ever could make money on the tours that we do. But in so many ways that not important - as long as you can just break even that's fine. I don't really expect to make money because I make so much more out of doing it - I get so much more for myself than money.
I: You would never want to do a concert just singing with a microphone?
K: Well, I've thought about it a lot and I think it is the ultimate way in so many ways to perform, because it's so simple and simplicity is what everything should be. But I do feel that I've got more to do in this area before I can then revert back to being just simple. It seems that nobody is really trying this area and I wanted to - especially connecting dance, theatre and music together. Because they are so compatible and Wagner did it very well a few years ago, so I would like to keep trying.
I: Are you still practising in dance?
K: No, I haven't, I've let it slip for a while. I think the album was the main reason for that. I tried to do some classes before we started in the afternoon and after about a week I was just so exhausted that my energies weren't going on either the dancing or the music properly.
I: "All We Ever Look For" is the fourth track on side 1 and it mentions your father, mother, brothers. Did your family actually inspire this song?
K: Yes, they did. Families as a whole did and because I am a member of a close family they were obviously in my mind a lot. It's interesting the things that we do pick up from our parent - the way we look or little scratching habits or something and obviously the genetic thing must be in there. All the time it's going round in a big circle - we are always looking for something, all of us, just people generally and so often we never get it. We're looking for happiness, we're looking for a little bit of truth from our children, we're looking for God, and so seldom do we find it because we don't really know how to look.
I: And that's what the song is about - as you say, all we ever look for Another Womb; All we ever look for - a god, a drug, a great big hug, all these things. It's amazing really that your family has managed to remain so close considering that your success must have thrown a spanner into the works in some way, at least upset the apple cart of ordinbut if you get a proper sound when the instrument is actually being put down on to tape then there's not much need to change it. That's the point when the main concentration went on - when the actual musician was playing his part, playing his overdub, we would be very strict, and I think they worked incredibly hard because I did push them hard at times. What they did was so beautiful, so perfect, their sounds, so right.
I: The next track is called "Violin" (they had already discussed "The Wedding List") and to me it has a lot of new wave feel. Does that seem an accurate thing to say?
K: Yes, we wanted to make it very bizarre and very very up and the idea was the mad fiddler, not so much the violinist in the orchestra but the mad fiddler like Paganini or Nero watching the city burn. It was meant to be very fun, nothing deep and serious, nothing really meaningful, just a play on the fiddle, the things it represents, its madness.
I: You have another musician, Kevin Bird, playing the violin - have you yourself ever played that instrument?
K: Well, I did when I was a child, yes, I learnt it for a few years but while I was learning it I discovered the piano, I couldn't really relate to it in the same way. Kevin is a fantastic fiddler, he used to be in the Bothy Band, I think he probably still is, and he's just wonderful - he's so Irish and so full of the music and he was so perfect for the song.
I: It's almost ironic that it does have a very up tempo new waveish feel because in some of your earliest interviews you said that some of your favourite artists were the new wave artists even though you yourself did not transmit as a new wave artist. Do you think there's any paradox in that?
K: Hard to say. I suppose I can't really relate to them, that's what I mean, because I do feel different in so many ways, like the way I go about things. I'm not projecting myself as a new wave person and people wouldn't accept me as such because my music is generally not in that area. But I love the energy, I love the power and the rawness - I love raw music, it's very primitive, it's what so much of our music is about. That's what I love and it's something I've always enjoyed - I've always loved rock 'n' roll and only recently have I started learning to control rhythm in my songs. It's normally controlled me and it's mainly the rhythm box that has helped me tremendously.
I: Your songs all have different identity, very specific mood, based in part on the subject matter and one can't help but wonder in what circumstances the ideas come to you. Let's just take one, the next one - "The Infant Kiss". Where and how did that idea come to you?
K: That's from a very old British movie, I think it's a Fifties movie that was called The Innocents and it was based on a book called The Turn of the Screw. I haven't seen the film for I suppose eight years now but they showed it twice I think when I was much younger and it's a very very haunting film and the fact that it's in black and white makes it even spookier, it's very eerie. The story is that a governess goes to look after two children, a young boy and a young girl who are in fact possessed by the spirits of the previous gardener and the maid - and she doesn't know this, as far as she's concerned they're just two children. She starts noticing that when she tucks the little boy in bed that instead of giving her a little peck on the cheek he give her a very big manly passionate kiss. And in the film they really didn't go into that area very strongly, it was much more the haunting, but it always fascinated me that strange distortion of the child having a very experienced hard man inside. Something that the child could never be without the experience that a much older man would have. It seemed very disturbing and in order to make it very intimate and to make people try to understand how terrible it is for her, it's sung in the first person and it's really confusing for her, she's really terrified by what's happening.
I: I do find this such a beautiful lyric: Word of caress on their lips that speak of adult love, I want to smack by I hold back; I only want to touch. You really do create this picture of a woman who wants to respond as a woman rather than as a governess or a mother. Does the distortion of relationships in general other than just this particular one, appeal to you as a subject?
K: Yes, terribly. I think it is that distortion that makes me want to write about it and there seems to be distortion in so many areas and that's what's so fascinating, because without that distortion things would probably be so simple, so easy and it's always that little thing that makes it hard for us.
I: There follows an interlude called "Night Scented Stock". Have you ever wanted to do more in the way of instrumental or sound without words?
K: Yes, I have. I think perhaps I've always felt worried about doing it myself because I've always written songs and I've never really regarded myself as much as a musician as a songwriter. This album taught me that I should be a little more brave about that because music without words is just as beautiful and sometimes I feel the need to just keep putting words on music instead of just letting the music be. I hope in the future that perhaps I will move into that area a little more.
I: Do you follow the reviews and would you be upset if there are some not completely complimentary reviews?
K: I don't follow them that much. I read the main ones that I've personally done. There are lots of articles that are written where I've not even spoken to the person whose writing it - again this is something that I think the public don't realize. But I have read things that aren't totally uncomplimentary and really it's just someone else's opinion, so it's not any problem.
I: We come to a track called "Army Dreamers" and this is a sad tale, one that has been treated in music several times before: the young boy who doesn't become a man, comes home from war having been killed. But this is from a woman's perspective rather than a man's, which is what we usually get in pop songs. Do you think you've been able to present us with a different perspective?
K: I hope so. As you say, this area has been covered a lot and actually it's talking about the mother's point of view where she's let her son join the army; doesn't matter how he was killed, it was probably an accident in fact, he probably wasn't killed in battle at all. But she goes over his younger life and thinks when he wanted a guitar and that maybe if he'd had a guitar he'd have turned into a pop star rather than a soldier and if she'd have been able to give him a good education he might have turned into a politician. She's grieving over her motherhood and thinking that it's her fault because she let him go and she thinks there are perhaps lots of boys who would rather be pop stars and politicians than join the army, but joining the army is much easier.
I: Do you yourself look forward to motherhood?
K: I really don't know. I don't think I look forward to it because I don't know whether I would ever be a mother. I think it's an incredibly responsible job and something that you have to learn about - it's not natural, I think it's something you really have to learn about and be prepared to make tremendous sacrifices for. And while I have such a strong love with my mother still obsessive in me I can't really see me being a mother, it would be so unfair.
I: The greatest love one has tends to be an obstacle towards the exercise of all the others?
K: Yes. Yes, that's true.
I: You've given a thank to a chap called Kevin McAllier for playing you Chopin. Did he soothe you with his playing?
K: Yes. What used to happen was when we were rehearsing for the tour and things like leads were being clicked up, Kevin McAllier, who was our keyboard player, would just sit and play Clair de Lune, and some lovely Chopin nocturne. I just love watching people play it because it's things I can never play on the piano, I was never classically taught. It's beautiful to hear someone play a piece of music on the piano, it's just incredible. It used to really help me a lot and because Kevin helped us on a track that didn't actually go on the album, it was so important that he got a credit because he's a fantastic musician.
I: The last track on the album, previously released as a single, is "Breathing" and this is also war related. I am wondering if the sequence thing of this album is intentional, that army dreamers go right into "Breathing"?
K: No, the sequence wasn't really meant to be like that. When you do put the songs together the most unexpected ones will link and the ones that you thought so obviously would flow into each other just sound so wrong. And that just happened to be the way they seemed to flow. It was quite unintentional they should be placed together.
I: This is a song whi: Has this terrible threat of nuclear war persuaded you to do anything in a more overtly political way or to write any more songs about the subject?
K: I'm very wary of it because as you know I don't really write politically at all. On this album it's the first time I've dealt in this are and it was only because it moved me emotionally that I went into the political. Unless something else political can get my emotions, I wouldn't, I would rather stay away because there are so many good writers that deal with these areas a lot. It would have to be something very special for me to feel that I could do better than them.
I: That's all the tracks on the album. Are you convinced that this is your absolute best so far?
K: Yes, absolutely convinced that it's my best so far. But again I feel there's just so much more to do that in so many ways this is like the first album again; it's like a new beginning to grow from and that's very exciting. I hope people will like it but it's certainly set a new stone for me to build upon.
I: You mentioned there's a least one unreleased track - are there tracks we will never hear or will they come out as singles?
K: I think they'll come out. Some of them have already come out as B sides, tracks that weren't on the album we put on the B sides of singles. That's something I've always wanted to do, it's so good to give the public something not on the album, especially if they're going to buy that too. It's quite exciting because you can dig up little novelty tracks that you've forgotten all about that you did years ago and for a B side they're smashing because they're one off and people have never heard them and it's a monument in time that may be from years ago.
I: You mentioned there are some ideas for you now as you consider your next recorded work - do you think you will do more recording next or will you do live work or will yo go home to the farm and think about it?
K: As I was saying, I really don't know. I want to do both so badly - the logical move would be to tour next but I'm so worried about making that decision, it's a long piece of time to give away and I want to do an album so badly. It's very difficult for me at this time to choose. I hope that as the months pass now with this promotion the answer will clink in my head - it always does that at the last minute.
I: So Kate Bush, two and a half years in the limelight and you're not jaded yet?
K: I hope not, no.
I: Thanks very much.
K: Thank you.
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