Interviews & Articles


Greater London Radio
with Janice Long
October 1989

To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents

Date: Thu, 28 Mar 91 12:17:32 EST
From: Andrew B Marvick <abm4@cunixa.cc.columbia.edu>
Subject: Greater London Radio, by Janice Long October 1989

Interview with Kate Bush conducted by Janice Long
for Greater London Radio, October 1989

[On the twelfth and thirteenth of October, 1989, Janice Long broadcast her two-part interview with Kate Bush during her morning shows on Greater London Radio. The interview had been conducted at Kate's own studio in Welling, in a very relaxed atmosphere.

[IED has not heard this interview himself. He only has a transcript which appeared in the thirteenth issue of Cariad Kate (actually now known as Never Forever? ), the Welsh Kate Bush fanzine. Unfortunately, this means that IED can only present the EDITED version which was published in that fanzine. To quote the transcriber: "Owing to the length of the interview and in order to allow the text to flow easier <sic>, a few edits have been made." IED does not take responsibility for the inevitable distortions (see for example Kate's obviously post-edited answer to the first question) which resulted from ill-considered editing of The Word of God...Edited by Andrew Marvick, from an original transcription by Robert Brown of Colchester, Essex.]

Why is there such long gaps <sic> between albums being released?

"I think the problem is, too, that there seems to be a longer gap between each album progressively--which is a bit frightening for me, too. All I can say is that after each album is finished and the promotion is done, I can't just start an album straight away, because otherwise it's just a continuation of that last album. And the whole thing about writing an album is that you want to find something new to say, and at the same time, try to find out who you are at that point in time. You know, what you want to do. What direction you want to move in. So it's very much a self-exploratory process as well."

Now, the thing is, people wait with bated breath for the next Kate Bush album, and they get very excited about it. How do you feel about it? How do you feel about that--knowing that people are still excited about you?

"I think that's quite hard for me to take in, really. I just feel so lucky that I can spend as much time as I need to to make an album, and that people are actually still waiting to hear what I do. It's very exciting for me, and I think sometimes it feels like a big responsibility. It is really important that I put as much as I can into each album, so that it is, hopefully, worth waiting for. It's not something I'm terribly aware of. It's almost too much for me to think about, really--that there are people who want to hear it after such a long time."

So what happens? Do EMI breathe down your neck and say, 'Come on, Kate, the punters are waiting!' Or do you wind down after one album and then just get into it gradually yourself?

"Well, I think the record company know me well enough by now to know that really they just have to leave me to it. I'd really like to be able to make an album quicker. I dream of making an album in eight weeks, but if I did, it would be something that I wouldn't be happy with. Unfortunately, it's just a very slow process for me, and I think they realize this. And they know there's not really much they can do about it, because I couldn't possibly give them an album until it was written and finished."

What sort of influences do you have when you're making an album? Particularly other music?

"My normal way of working is not to listen to other music when I'm making albums. I tend to listen to music after I've finished. A good example of that is after I finished the Hounds of Love album. My brother Paddy played me a tape of The Trio Bulgarka, and I'd never heard anything like it. <This is a slight distortion of the facts. Paddy had in fact been an enthusiast of Bulgarian vocal folkmusic since the late 1960s, when he discovered the genre through an album by the Pennywhistlers. Since Kate was heavily influenced by her brothers' musical tastes at that period, it is unlikely that she didn't get at least some preliminary exposure to Bulgarian music at an early age--IED> I was devastated, like everyone is when they hear it. And by hearing it then, it gave me a lot of time to listen to them and gradually think that maybe we could work together. Bearing them in mind, I actually wrote a track, and then it eventually evolved into the process of working together. But it was probably three years before I actually got around to doing something about it. It just shows you how slow the whole evolving process is."

You don't follow trends at all, do you? <For those thinking that the Bulgarian music influence was a trendy one, remember that Kate's involvement with the Trio Bulgarka actually pre-dated the first re-release of Marcel Cellier's recording of Le Mystere on 4AD by several months. Neither she nor Paddy could have had any idea that Bulgarian vocal music would become chic in the West.>

"I think again, Janice, that it's just as well I don't, because if I did, by the time the album was out it would be three years out of date! I don't stand much chance of being hip--unless it comes right round again, that is."

To many, you're something of an enigma.

"I don't know about enigmas or anything. I just take a long time to make an album."

But we never ever read about Kate Bush, you know, hitching up her skirt and dancing around at the Hippodrome, or--

(In feigned indignation:) "I should think not!"

--or Kate Bush being seen at the airport, darting off here and there. You manage to keep a low profile, don't you?

"Yes, I guess so. I think that it is very important to me that I get that break again, between albums. I need a lot of privacy, and just to be at home. It's such a different world out there, and it's not really something I've ever wanted to be a part of. Making records and just being involved in music is really what attracted me to what I do. And it's not really me to go to all these clubs. It's not really the kind of thing I like to do."

When you actually set about doing an album, are you terribly intense about the whole thing and spend all your waking hours writing tracks?

"Probably not when I first start the album. That's probably a relatively relaxed process. But then once I've got into that process a bit, it all starts where you think, 'God! This is rubbish!' From that point onwards you're beginning, and it does become very intense. I do really have a very obsessive attitude about my albums--where once I'm in there, I don't do anything else. I can't do my other projects because it all feels like it's distracting me. And because I know it's going to take me such a long time, I feel I have to keep this intensity going, or I might never ever finish it."

Do you let other people come in and listen?

"Yes. It's very important to let others hear it. But more and more it becomes a problem, because the way I'm working in the studio. Quite often the song will sound like it's in pieces until it's in a quite developed stage. The other problem is, if you know you want to change lots of things in the tracks, the chances are that if you let people hear it in an early stage, they will latch onto the whole structure of the song and they can't allow for any differences later. In some ways the most useful ones are at a much later stage where the songs are almost finished and they're easier for people to hear. Then you can hear how people react."

Do you always write in the studio?

"Yes, I do now. I play around with ideas at home, but most of the writing goes on in here, and that's important, too. Because years ago I'd make demos, and there would be things that I wanted to keep, but of course you can't, because it's a demo. It's the eternal problem. By having your own studio, you can get around that. You can actually make the demos the master, and keep all those little bits that are interesting, but then make the rest sound much better. I work very closely with Del (Palmer), who engineers for me. So most of the time it's just the two of us in there. He works a lot on the rhythms and things, so at least I'm not totally alone in there. Once the song feels good enough to work on, then you bring musicians in and just sort of layer upon layer. You sort of create the picture, as it were, and just build up the sounds that seem to work for what the song is saying. It feels as though songs have personalities. You can try something on a song and it will just reject it. It doesn't want it. And yet you can tray that on another song and it will work so perfectly. They're all so individual."

What about the tense atmosphere when the album is in its final preparation stage? Do tempers begin to flare?

"Yes. I think healthy argument is a very important part of the process, really. Creative or otherwise. Because it can be very constructive. The problem is actually having a strong enough direction, knowing what you want to do."

How important is it to you that te person listening to your record understands what's going through your mind? Or do you mind if they have their own interpretations?

"I think it's wonderful if they have their own interpretations. I think that's really important, although it matters to me that the lyrics are saying something, and I spend a lot of time on lyrics. They're very difficult. I think a lot of the power of lyrics is the sounds. The whole thing is just a combination of sounds and textures, and definitely different words have a different feeling that go with them. The way consonants mark things. It's a very percussive instrument, in a way, words. And I think that's what's very important, that they feel and sound right."

You always come up with something very distinctive to the way you look, and also video-wise, as well.

"Well, I think that's jolly nice of you to say!"

I'm just being a creep.

"Well, I like you being a creep, Janice!"

It's not as if you just release a record, and then there's no sort of strong thing to go with it."

"I don't know, really. I think it's really nice that you should say that, because I think things like artwork--everything that accompanies the records: videos...Again, it's, hopefully, trying to stay within some kind of standard of what you want to say on the album. And I think it's increasingly difficult to do something interesting in music, and in videos, too. They have become so cliche-ed. I think a lot of people would like not to make videos. But it's a pressure that you can't argue with, because everyone does make a video, and until everyone stops making videos, you actually lose out by not doing so, because it's such a good way of getting people to hear the tracks. Television is a very big vehicle for music, and you get people to hear your music that way."

How instrumental are you when it comes to making a video? Do you have quite strong ideas about how your videos are to be seen?

"Yes, I do, but I think it's because I really love the whole process of film. I just find it fascinating. Every time I make a video, it gives me an opportunity to learn about it. Like having your own studio. The amount I've learnt about that process is tenfold. And with videos, because I got involved and the people I worked with earlier on really encouraged me, I have learnt a lot about the process over the years, really."

Having listened to the tracks quite a few times now, it's clear that there are no strong political meassages in the music.

"Well, I think you can cover political isues with the emotion, and for me, that's what I deal with, really. How things effect people. It's the emotional angle that I tend to take, rather than a political one. "Army Dreamers" is really sort of about a mother losing her son. You write something because you've been moved by it."

Can one single thing inspire you to write a song? A personal thing? I'm not talking about wars now, or international things, world things. But if something brilliant happens, can that have you darting off into the studio?

"Yes. I think sometimes it is the littlest things that spark off some of the biggest ideas. It's the little things in life that matter. You know, the old cliche. But there's a lot in that."

But you belong to a business where it's not really the little things that matter. The music business is notorious for being selfish, and everybody looking after themself. Isn't it difficult to maintain that?

"I don't really think that I am part of that, really, because I spend so much time just working on albums, being at home. Working in the studio. It's a very small part of my life, really, that. And I do have to conscientiously make an effort to keep it at a distance sometimes. But I'm very lucky that I've been able to get the priorities right, because there's always such a lot of pressure to do things when you don't want to do them. It's really up to you to try and be strong."

Were you strong when you first signed to EMI?

"I think in some ways I was at my strongest, because I was completely charged with the desire to be doing an album for the first time. All I wanted to do was to make a record. I never really got beyond that on any level."

So it was making the music and having the music heard. Was it necessarily fame that you wanted? And loads of money?

"No. I think it was very much making an album. I just wanted to have ten, eleven songs that were good enough to go onto an album, because that's what meant a lot to me. Writing songs. Trying to get that little collection together, and get it out to the world."

Do you become a total recluse in the recording studio, or do you find time to relax and slow down?

"I do get very obsessed with it all, and people make quite a fuss, really, which is truly nice. But it is just an album. There are lots of other things in life besides working. So many people get wrapped up in their work on so many levels of life, because there is such a lot of pressure for people to follow this high achiever."

Well, it's the protestant work ethic, and also doing the best. <Huh?--IED> Being the best?

"Yes. And I'm very, very lucky. I continually think I'm so lucky to do what I like doing, and to have the time to do what I want. But it is still important to have a good time. That's what it's all about, don't you think? You've got to have a good time, really."

What are your priorities, then?

"Well, I think years ago, really, I wouldn't have looked beyond haing a damn good album. And now, it's nice for me to have space away from it. I like not being quit so obsessed as I used to be. There's a bit more time to play with. Maybe I'm a bit more sociable because I'm not so obsessive. It does get terribly unhealthy, and it's very selfish, as well--making an album, writing a book...Any of those things. Ultimately it is a very selfish act, so you should be more healthy."

What do you do, though? Do you watch lots of telly, or do you go to the theatre?

"Yes, I love watching telly, because when we spend a lot of time in the day listening to music, you don't want to get home and listen to records. I love watching comedy. I really love gardening. I did quite a bit of gardening over the last couple of years, which was really good for me. It's so nice to get outside, too. You get stuck inside all day, so at least I've been getting out a bit more, and not being so obsessive."

What sort of comedy are you into?

"Well, I love all the Comic Strip stuff. Ben Elton's writing is superb. I think all those people are just so inspiring. It's exciting! There should be something like that happening in the music business, too. There should be a real centre of inspired, talented people, putting out stuff that makes you think, that re-educates people. I think they have done a lot for women with their comedy. They can be women without being used as some sex object, or something to be made fun of. Women are actually women in their comedy, and I admire that."

I think it's all right for women to be a sex object, if that's what they want to be.

"Absolutely. Yes."

Are you a feminist?

"Yuck! God, I hate that word. It's like calling someone a Sadist! I think it's really unfortunate that that word has been so associated with very extreme...extremist persons. Radical behavior. And I think although it probably had to be put in a bit at the beginning, I think all women are rather offended by that term now. What really has power is when you get people like Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French up there doing something really good, as women, being people, just being women. Women just getting on with it and doing it, and doing it well. Which I think a lot of women are doing now. And there's not such an alienating process going on between men and women."

Do you do a lot of travelling? A lot of the tracks seem to have an Eastern influence?

"A lot of people have said this. I think a lot of the drum rhythms have a suggestion of the East. But really most of the influences are obviously Bulgarian--which I guess has an Eastern flavor, really, doesn't it? And in some ways we've used the Irish musicians in a slightly more Eastern way this time. They don't necessarily sound out-and-out Irish, so I guess all this coming together makes it sound Eastern"

I read somewhere before that you were into Irish music. Is it traditional stuff, or what?

"Yes, it is that. I just love Irish music. It's so emotional, and passionate. It's very, very happy, and it can be very, very sad. It just does something to me. I guess it's because it's in my blood, as well. My mother's Irish, and as soon as I hear the pipes, you know, I feel my blood surging through my veins. And I think the Bulgarian music has...it moves you. The sense of melody and everything. It feels like very old music, stuff we're not in touch with any more. Probably when music was music, and men were men (laughing), and the women were very lonely!"

About "Deeper Understanding": On the way here, the driver kept leaping because he though his VodaPhone was going.

"It's very interesting that you should say that because so many people have. If they'd have that track on, people would be talking away and then they hear the computer sound, they're completely distracted. And I think it reinforces in a way what the whole song is about, which is rather nice. It's almost like people respond more to a machine talking to them than to a human. It's like we're all keyed into mechanical information."

Do you like all of that? Having a studio? Do you get excited about new gadgetry?

"Yes. I suppose it always wears off a bit...It's just fantastic. I really can't believe that we got such a good studio that I can work in and make records in. Because I couldn't do it in a commercial studio now. I think it would be impossible for me, and I'd get so nervous--I'd feel completely out of my depth. I've got so used to having the privacy, and I can just pop in and have a cup of tea."

There is a possibility that you might tour?


Go on Kate, go on, do it!

"If I do decide to tour, you definitely will (rest of answer lost in laughter)..."

And other than that, now that the album is completed, what are you going to do? Just sort of wind down?

"Well, definitely my philosophy is to take things step by step. And having finished the album, which I'm so relieved about, I'm kind of going through the promotional work. And I guess a lot depends on how the album is received. If it's received really warmly, then maybe (long pause)...Well, maybe I'll be absolutely thrilled. I should be so lucky!"

Well, you've done it again, girl. Thank you very, very much indeed, Kate Bush.

"It's really been nice speaking to you..."

And you. Thank you.

"...And keep being creepy!"

To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents

"The pull and the push of it all..." - Kate Bush

Reaching Out
is a
Marvick - Hill
Willker - Mapes
Grepel - Love-Hounds