To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents
Hello, I'm Mark Radcliffe, and this is "Talking with Kate".
I suppose, like everyone else, I was first confronted by Kate Bush, when I heard
"Wuthering Heights". Still one of the most extraordinary pop records ever made;
an astonishing, intoxicating debut single for an artist who seemed like no
other; a passionate, driven, unique and - let's be honest - drop dead gorgeous
woman who at the time was just 19. Since then, her career has been one the most
correct fascinating in music.
Despite a love of dance and expression she toured just once before retreating into the studio to make a series of audibly different, yet consistently fascinating albums. Which reached a peak with "Hounds of Love" in 1985. One side contained irresistibly off-kilter hits; the other, an ambitious song suite. There was another classic album of "The Red Shoes" in 1993, and then nothing. Nothing until November 2005 when a new double album "Aerial" was released to an avid public. The Bushites came out of hiding to enter the shelves eager to immerse themselves in "Kate World" once again. "Aerial" entered the charts at number three. Brit nominations followed. After 12 years with barely a peep, Kate had produced a contemporary classic.
("Joani" segment played)
Given our lengthy career as a minor disc jockey on a range of popular music radio stations, I've been lucky enough to meet and talk to most of the artists whose work I've admired. On occasion, I'll admit I get a little blasé at the prospect of interviewing another band or singer, but talking with Kate was different.
I pursued her relentlessly across the airwaves, building a montage of her photographs on the studio wall, and when I heard there was a new album I raced in there, called the head of her record company, who conveniently went to the same school as me and got an early interview requests straight to the notoriously publicly publicity shy enigma.
The adolescent fantasy, who'd retreated into a private world of studios and motherhood. I got a call back. Kate might do it. But she wanted to talk to me, and they'd given her my mobile number. For days I jump every time the phone rang and was then disappointed when it wasn't her. And when she did ring of course Sod's Law it went to answerphone.
I've still got the message saved though. It's not a bit everyday you get a missed call from Kate Bush is it?
Eventually we did speak at length. And we got on well. She was funny and interesting and well, normal and I was... well she could tell I wasn't a stalker or anything. So she invited me to her house for cheese flan and a chat about the new record. The record is wonderful. The cheese flan was delicious and the chat... well decide for yourself. Here's me... talking with Kate:
Mark: It seems to have taken quite a long time (laughs) first album since 1983, does it feel like a long time to you?
Mark: Why's it taken so long?
Kate: Well, I suppose when I finished the last record, I really didn't want to go straight back in and make another one. I thought I'd take a year out...
Mark: Which takes us to 1994
Kate: Yes, it's been a long year. After about a year, I decided really that it was just something I want to kind of stay with a bit longer. I suppose really, since I was about 17 or 18, I'd gone and made a record, promoted it, and then gone straight back in to do the next one. And because they take such a long time, there's the impression that, you know, there's these big gaps in between where I'm not doing anything. But with a lot of those records, I was actually working on them for a long time. And it's... it's quite an intense process. And I think it got to the point, at the end of the last one, where I just thought, I don't want to just go straight in and do another one. I want to just take a break, and do some other stuff.
Mark: Why does it take so long?
Kate: Well, that's a very good question. I ask myself that. The actual writing is normally very quick. And with a lot of them, what I do is go in and just write straight onto tape.
Mark: Right, so that's the first time the song exists outside your head is when you go into the studio...
Mark:... so its all just in there and all just flows out. In one take?
Kate: No, no. It just sort of comes together.
Kate: It's a bit different with piano/vocal tracks, that would be written at the piano as opposed to written onto tape and then once I've written it, I would just put it onto tape so that's a different process. Because that's the way I used to write when I was a little girl I used to just sit at the piano and write the songs and, in a way, it was like I was the tape machine I guess. But once I started working in my own studio. I wanted to stop making demos, because the problem was, you'd make a demo, and it'd be really good, but I couldn't use it because it wasn't you know, technically sounding right. So you try to reproduce it in their never sound the same wouldn't have the atmosphere or the buzz. So I thought, well let's just not make demos, let's put it straight on the master tape, and that way even though you might redo elements of it. You've always got an initial energy and atmosphere.
Mark: It's called "Aerial", there's "A Sea of Honey" and "A Sky of Honey"... what's the concept that's driving it?
Kate: One of the things I thought I did wrong with the last record, was that I think it was too long. And what I was trying to do, was give people as much for their money as possible. With the last record I was making a CD, as opposed to a vinyl record.
Mark: It's a problem then isn't it? I think a lot of my favorite albums, there might be eight tracks on it and it's great and you can turn it over and everything. And there was this thing with CDs... it can take 70 minutes, therefore we should do 70 minutes, and it's a mistake... is that they can be a mistake.
Kate: I think it's very difficult, ‘cause as an artist you want to give people their money's worth. In a lot of ways, people's attention span doesn't really last that long. And what was so great about vinyl records was you had that forced gap. I suppose, also, I always really liked the process of making "Hounds of Love", which was a sort of... similar idea... except that was one side of a record, rather than a two record set. So in some ways, this is a bit like a kind of larger version, more like a sort of... "Irish Wolfhounds of Love".
"Aerial" is Kate Bush's first album since "The Red Shoes", 12 years ago.
("King of the Mountain" is played)
The lead track and first single from the album is called "King of the Mountain". When it was released in October 2005, it was a tantalizing taster for the album and got to number four in the charts. Like many of Kate's earlier singles "King of the Mountain" was a great airplay hit and will be a staple of Radio Two's playlist for many years to come I imagine. "King of the Mountain" has enigmatic lyrics and is accompanied by an equally inscrutable video containing references to National Enquirer-style fantasy objects such as the man in the moon, a Himalayan yeti colony and William Randolph Hearst's mansion. All linked by an animated Elvis Vegas suit. I might be a bit thick, but despite this cascade of iconic information, I'm still no wiser as to what the songs actually about.
Kate: Well, I think a lot of people haven't got a clue what it's about
Mark: But you like that though, don't you?
Kate: Yes I do, I think it's brilliant, and I think whatever I have in my head when I'm writing it is important to me, but I think it's very important how that works for people who then listen to it or see it or whatever for that is, and then they become part of the process. It's like when you read a book part of the process of reading a book is that you as the reader... you're... you're as important as the book really. It could actually exist as a book in as you were there reading it. I think you become part of the process so how you interpret it, and mis-hear lyrics and ideas is...great.
Mark: So, you don't what to say what it's about? Because you think that kind of negates that process for people then?
Kate: Yeah, I think so in a way. I mean, I thought it would be interesting to put this out as a first single, because people might be intrigued by the lyrics, because they're not, you know terribly straightforward. I don't think of myself as somebody who's got to come out and write hit single and I thought it might give it a bit of mileage that there might be a story there to discover.
Mark: You'd rather not have to talk about it at all wouldn't you?
Kate: Yes, I would, but I want people to know the records out there. And so I have to let people know that it's out there. But I know, I just get on with my life, and so this for me is just a very small part of it. And yet for people standing at the outside looking in, this is a bit that they see and then they have this impression of me just retreating away into you know, some sort of big... vampire castle or something.
Kate: To me it's mad because, you know, this is just a little bit, where I come and say "Hi, the albums out, please come and buy it".
"Aerial" is a two CD set. The first disc contains seven songs, some of which seems to be concerned with feelings, whilst others are absorbed with direct references to Kate's domestic life. When I first heard this album. I'm surprised at this apparent frankness, and I couldn't understand why an artist to seem so protective of her privacy present songs that seemed to put her deepest feelings up to public scrutiny. Wasn't there a contradiction in that?
Kate: I don't think that is a contradiction. I think that in a lot of ways, it makes complete sense and it's not that I guard my privacy fiercely but I think the creative process is something that's very difficult to focus on. You have so many distractions there such an incredible amount of stuff that comes in to interfere with that process, you know, you got so many technical things interfering with doing a vocal for instance. I often think it's like an actor trying to get into their role and they can't have that take because the lighting was wrong...
Kate: Or they get a great take and then they've got to do it again because a bit of the set fell down. It's almost like hanging onto that creative intention is actually very difficult throughout all the distractions that come along and I think for me to get into that creative process, I have been a sort of quiet place that I work from. And if I was living the life of somebody in the industry as a pop star, whatever... it's too distracting. Its too to do with other people's perceptions of who you are and what's important me is to be a human being who has a soul, and who hopefully has a sense of who they are and not who everybody else thinks you are. And I think that's something that's very difficult for people who become extremely famous to hang on to just being a human being.
At times "Aerial" features lots of instruments, sounds, voices and complex arrangements. Other times, it's just Kate at the piano. But then, she's always had a vivid musical imagination. And I wondered where that first surfaced?
(Mrs Bartolozzi played)
Kate: I was probably about 9 when I just started playing around with just little ideas, but by the time it was 12 through to 14 I was taking it very seriously. I mean, I come home from school and I'd sit and play the piano.
Mark: Even at that age, you knew that you were going to have a crack at it?
Kate: I don't know, I knew it was something that I felt semi-obsessed by really that getting hooked process, which I think, again, I was very lucky to find that so young, because it allowed me to have a deep connection with that somehow.
Mark: Do you still play the piano for fun, or does it feel too much like work?
Kate: Well, I think my work is fun! And so there's not really a distinction. It's one and the same.
(segment of "Mrs Bartolozzi" played)
There is a song on the album primarily about a washing machine.
("washing machine" segment of "Mrs Bartolozzi" played)
Kate: Mrs. Bartolozzi
Mark: There will some people who will say "perhaps you ought to get out more often, if you're writing a song about a washing machine"
Kate: Is it? Is it a song about washing machine? I think it's a song, about Mrs. Bartolozzi.
Mark: I don't know who Mrs. Bartolozzi is
Kate: Well, she's this lady in the song, who... does a lot of washing! (Laughs)
Mark: It's not you then?
Kate: No, it's not me,
Mark: Is it a real character or a fictitious one?
Kate: No, it's fictitious, but as soon as you have a child a washing suddenly increases enormously...
Mark: Absolutely. Ours is on all the time at our house
Kate: And I spend all this time washing...
Kate: What I like too is that a lot of people's actually think that it's funny! And I think that's great, as I think actually it's one of the heaviest songs I've ever written.
(segment of "Mrs Bartolozzi" played)
Kate: It's the idea of this woman who's kind of sitting there looking at the washing going round, tumbling around in the water, and water becomes the sea, in the clothes, and the sea and the washing machine and the kitchen... and I just thought it was an interesting idea to play with.
(segment of "Mrs Bartolozzi" played)
Mark: There's a journey that goes on in that song I don't know where it leads. And he gets very sensual sounding it almost gets sexual sounding a one if the waves were different kind of waves. Or am I reading too much into it? There's one place were your skirt is up around the waist, and I was sort of reminded of the cover of "Never Forever", the drawing of you lifting your skirt and all these fairies and goblins emerging from under it.
Kate: (Laughs) I still can't look at that without laughing!
Mark: It's great! I like that!
Kate: Oh, did you?
Mark: Yeah, yeah I do!
(segment of "Mrs Bartolozzi" played)
Mark: I always think of this sensual thing that comes out of a washing machine, and doing the washing and all that, and I'm almost thinking you're kind of the musical Nigella... the sensuality of the domestic experience.
Mark: Did you think about that at all?
Mark: Is that song about sex?
Kate: I don't think it's about sex, but they do think it is quite sexy.
Mark: It made me think about that John Donne poem, "The Good-Morrow" the key line: "And makes one little room an everywhere"... the idea that everything you see is through this kind of... this domestic world that you create around you... that one place can be a kind of spy glass to lots of other places.
Kate: Well, I think in some ways, you know we all see our lives from inside our heads, which aren't really connected to the physical world or the structure of time at all. That's what's so interesting about art forms like music and books there to do with the passing of time there's a connection of you being taken somewhere on a journey that is not the same as perhaps a painting. Its almost something that is set in that instant. You know what I mean, whereas its music and stories unfold with time
("Wuthering Heights" is played)
Kate Bush's work is often linked with literature.
Kate loves narrative, because it can both expand and freeze time, it can take us on a journey, it can take us within ourselves or forces to turn outwards and all those ideas were there right at the start of her career.
Mark: Were you always reluctant to be a celebrity right from the beginning?
Kate: Ah, but I don't think of myself as a celebrity. I don't think I am. To me that's a dirty word, really.
Mark: Well, reluctant to be a pop star or reluctant to be famous.
Kate: I don't like pop star either.
Mark: I know you don't, you've laughed...
Mark: Famous. You can't argue with famous.
Kate: Infamous, I would prefer.
Mark: Celebrated. Cherished.
Kate: Ohhh, cherished is lovely I wouldn't mind that...
Kate: I mean, I find it completely ridiculous, this obsession with celebrities. The important people are surgeons and doctors and people who actually put people back together and make a difference in people's lives, not somebody who's in an ad on telly. I mean, OK so that's valued for what it is too. But why so much attention on something that so shallow?
Mark: Some people seem to kind of want fame just for itself. Maybe there's the nothing wrong with... that I can't understand it, you find that kind of difficult because fame... which you undoubtedly attained... is almost a slightly unwanted byproduct of what it is that you do, isn't it really? Has there ever been a time where you enjoyed the fame when you were younger did you enjoy being "Kate Bush the pop star". I noticed that you laughed when I said pop star because you obviously don't see yourself as a pop star. But your pop star I saw you on "Top of the Pops" doing a number one hit single. So you must've been. Did you ever enjoyed that?
Kate: I think so, a lot of times when it's fun, and I think that's again that's important, if you can, to kind of try to keep it fun, because in a lot of ways. It's quite ridiculous really, what I desired was not to be famous, and I think that's the difference. I didn't want to be famous. I wanted to make a record, that was the big thing. And I was on a mission from God, and that's what I was going to do.
Mark: Were you always nervous about that? I mean in the beginning, it must've felt as a young girl, I mean, it must've felt great.
Kate: Nervous about what?
Mark: Being known, being famous, being bothered when you go out.
Kate: No, I thought it was absolutely hilarious at first.
Mark: Even at that age?
Kate: Yeah, was fun! And it was my first record was very successful, which was I think was a big surprise to everyone.
Mark: Was it a surprise to you?
Kate: Yeah, it was. I didn't expect it to do as well as it did. I mean, I hoped it would do well, but it was extraordinary success for a first record.
Mark: You were quite a long time on that. Just very briefly I don't want to go through the whole thing again, but when you're kind of signed to EMI for a long time they let alone to sort of find your feet a bit, didn't they?
Kate: Well, that's what they say.
Mark: Right, so they were pressurizing you at the time?
Kate: No, they weren't pressurizing me, quite the opposite. I wanted to make a record, and I think in a lot of ways, what they did is they signed me. Because they could see that there was potential there... then they just left me. And I think there was an element of their not wanting someone else to sign me. I mean through the help of Dave Gilmore, I had at least two of the tracks that were on the first album that was presented the record company, so "The Man With A Child In His Eyes" basically got me signed.
("The Man With A Child In His Eyes" played)
Mark: Looking back on Kate Bush at the time, and you used to present things... I had a flashback to that "Not The Nine O'clock News" Pamela Stephenson, what was it... "Oh England My Leotard", or something.
Mark: Do you remember that?
Kate: Yes I do.
Mark: Do you find that flattering, maybe you find it insulting. Or maybe you thought, "I've arrived and being taken off on 'Not The Nine O'clock News' " which is the biggest TV show of that era.
Kate: I was obviously very flattered, because she was very beautiful. I think at the time it was very nervous that I was thinking that people were just taking the piss out of me because I was having the piss taken out of me so much by everybody. But I saw it a couple of years later, and I thought it was brilliant. It was really wonderful.
Mark: You were marketed...In quite a...
Mark: ... sensual sexual way weren't you?
Kate: I don't think I was marketed
Mark: Well, the photographs that came out, were very sensual photographs. You know, very womanly photographs there is nothing wrong with that. But does that kind of... did you go along with that, or you quite surprised to see that kind of images when they came out?
Kate: A you make it sound like it was something I was put together against my will
Mark: I don't know whether it was or it wasn't. I mean you were young, it would be quite understandable if some of it did.
Kate: You mean the early photographs?
Kate: No, because at that time I was a dancer and I think...
Mark: That was what you saw yourself as first and foremost?
Kate: No, I saw myself as a singer, but I was also a dancer and how do you present yourself as a singer in a photograph unless you are standing in front of a microphone? I was very comfortable in my body, I was a dancer and most dancers are. I mean, all the dancers when I was in dance classes used to wear leotards it was no big deal.
"The Man with the Child in His Eyes". Clearly the work of a teenage prodigy.
("Pi" is played)
As you would expect Kate's new album, "Aerial" is a more mature affair, but it's no less passionate than her early work. The record also has a playfulness that's really refreshing. She's not afraid to have a laugh.
The two songs we talk about next illustrate Kate's playful side... and her passionate spirit.
Mark: When I first heard the album I didn't have any track listings. And then the next one seemed to be a sequence of numbers. And then this into a few times when I picked up on 3.1... and I'm pretty sure from my basic mathematics, which I haven't done since "O" level. Well you see, that's how old I am... we are... I think we're about a month apart... I thought "that sounds like Pi". So why are you writing about numbers in a way? Why did Pi become the subject of the song?
Kate: I really like the challenge of singing numbers. Because numbers are so unemotional is a lyric to sing. It was really fascinating singing that. Trying to sort of put an emotional element into singing about a seven you know, into really care about that nine.
Mark: Did you care about...
Kate: I really cared about that nine.
Mark: Are hooked on Sudoku or whatever it's called? Number puzzles or something like that? Are you in a numerate sort of person?
Kate: I find numbers fascinating. I think the whole idea that nearly anything can be broken down into numbers is a fascinating thing. And I think also we are completely surrounded by numbers now in a way that we weren't even 20, 30 years ago we're all walking around with mobile phones and numbers on our foreheads almost, and it's like computers... you know numbers are a very integral part of how we live now.
Mark: It's often been said that Kate Bush could sing the telephone book and would sound fine to me. You've kind of almost done, it really. It's a sequence of numbers. Why Pi?
Kate: Well I think... (laughs)
Mark: That's the dog snoring, by the way
Kate: I don't think he thought much of that question, he's getting fed up.
Kate: I suppose, you know, I find it fascinating that there are people who actually spend their lives trying to formulate Pi trying to take it to just a few more numbers further, because you know when I was at school it was a recurring number. It didn't go into the details past the point really. So the idea of this number that is in a way possibly something they could go on to infinity. And yet people are trying to pin it down and put their mark on it and make it theirs in a way I guess.
("Pi" ends "Bertie" begins)
Mark: Then there's a song "Bertie", about your son, in a kind of medieval sort of style that then leaps in consecutive tracks from singing about numbers to singing about your son. You know, for the most emotional subject, you can go to then.
Kate: As those really with the song like that you could never be special enough from my point of view. I wanted to try to give it an arrangement that wasn't terribly obvious. So I went for sort of put this early music...
Mark: Yes, very jaunty and medieval and kind of brings a childlike sense of fun to the thing
Mark: Being a mother, and the mother and son, how much is that inspired and infused this record do you think?
Kate: I think it's all over it. It's everywhere in the record, it's such a big part of my life. So he's a very big part of my life.
Mark: The life you lead has been because you prioritize being a mother, more or less, above everything else, isn't it?
Kate: Yes, it's such a great thing being able to spend as much time with him as I can, and you know he won't be young for very long and already he starting to grow up and I wanted to make sure they didn't miss out on that. So the idea was that he would come first in the record would come next, which is also one reason it's taken such a long time. To me that was really difficult at first I couldn't really work, because I'd always had as much time as I wanted in the studio, you know, I'd spend 14 hours day working on an idea you notice sort of going with the creative flow and I couldn't do that anymore. At first I found it crippling, because after two or three hours I'd have to stop. But actually I think it's one of the best things that could have happened because what it was in forcing me to do was keep standing back from it. And I think it was really good, but also, it was like on holidays as well and wanted to spend my time with him, so there were very big gaps in the whole process.
Mark: Where you didn't do any work on the album at all ?
Mark: So, it's easy to see how time stretches out, isn't it?
("Bertie" ends and "Prelude" begins)
As we already said, "Ariel" is an album split into two parts. "A Sea of Honey" and "A Sky of Honey". The first disc, "A Sea of Honey" contains seven separate songs whereas the second, "A Sky of Honey" is a nine piece song suite that needs to be listened to in a single sitting, as Kate said, to take a listener on a journey.
In his review in the Independent Andy Gill described "Aerial" as having a core of contented domesticity at its heart, nowhere is this more abundantly apparent than in "A Sky of Honey". I'm already blocking out summer afternoons in next year's diary, so I can listen to it in the garden. Kate has expressed in understandable reluctance to have pieces of "A Sky of Honey" played in isolation outside their proper context. I asked her why.
Kate: I feel very strongly about the way things have moved. Its like the art form of an album is seriously under attack, with iTunes and people's lack of time or attention span to sit through a whole album everything's becoming very fast - gimme a quick hit now - people will go onto iTunes and just pick the one track they want off an album they won't listen to the whole album. I know that the album will always exist as an art form, but I think it's a shame. I don't like to see stuff being dissected like that. It's very much a symptom of the way we live now - everything's sort of disposable.
Mark: Yeah, sure, I see what you're saying, definitely... because I mean, I kind of forget what I hear a track from a my favorite albums and the next track doesn't follow, because that's a sequence of things I remember, how wanted to be. I don't like iTunes as I can't work it anyway.
Mark: What about the relationship between your voice and the birdsong, because it's almost like... there are parts of the record where you actually you let your voice have free reign, don't you. It's kind of, you got a wide octave range anyway, but you've...really kind of let rip with the voice... is kind of like taking off in the fight really at times, isn't it?
Kate: Well, I suppose I was just kind of playing with the idea of how could human language connect with Birdsong.
Mark: There's times when it's kind of it's almost like the rhythm of the wood pigeons or something. They're creating their own natural rhythm through their voices. Perhaps it's manipulated natural rhythms and you spent ages just trying to drop in the right places...
Kate: No, no, it is just the natural rhythm. I think Birdsong was really beautiful sound. What I find interesting about it too is the way they mark the day. Like for instance the dawn chorus... they seem to be very strongly connected with light, and I think in some ways, that was sort of the explorations I was trying to go off on... with this the connection between their song and light in the passing of day. And as the sun goes down, all the birds sing again, the beautiful thrush and blackbird songs.
Apart from her feathered friends Kate is invited some other old acquaintances to help on "Aerial". Here's one of them. Can you hear who it is yet?
(Rolf Harris' voice)
Mark: How did Rolf come to be involved again?
Kate: You know, it's very interesting, because when people hear the records, the only two points that they stop to comment while they're listening is after "King of the Mountain". People go. That's real drums, and I think, you know, "My God" , you know, where we got to the people have to comment that there's real drums on the track, and the next point they comment is when Rolf comes in, and they go "is that Rolf Harris?" And they have this really childlike delighted look on their face. Because they know it's Rolf, but they just wanted to be confirmed. I think it says a lot about how he's touched a lot of people. He's like a national treasure of ours now, isn't he?
Mark: Well, he's been around, you know, ever since we were kids. The public safety, swimming adverts and things like that.
Kate: Yes, really part of our culture, and I think he's a very talented guy is well. We all recognize him as a brilliant painter and very seriously accomplished painter.
Mark: A portraitist by royal appointment now, isn't he?
Kate: Well, absolutely, and I suppose really that's what he sprung to mind because I needed a singing painter.
Mark: And there aren't many in the Yellow Pages
Kate: There aren't many.
Mark: You've got Rolf doing the painting, and that's weaved through it, and you talk about the light in Italy at one point, and you talk about the rain goes on Rolf's paintings, and smudges the colors and things. There's a track on their called "An Architect's Dream", and in that there's a line where you say, "it was the best mistake he could make". Is that a kind of key phrase that like even though you get this precise way of making the sounds in your head that sometimes it's what you might call the mistakes or the accidents that are kind of a really special moments?
Kate: Yeah, well, I think in a lot of creative processes, that's the best thing can happen to you... is to make a mistake, and it's something you would never have consciously thought of, and it just happens. And it gives you somewhere to go off to that is far more interesting than something you would've thought of.
Mark: There's a lot of kind of folk instruments pop up, a lot of technology, and you kind of... Fairlight and things like that... right at the forefront of technology. It seems you want to humanize it with some kind of texture of folk instruments that you've used on different records.
Kate: I really like the combination of technology and acoustic, and I think it's very interesting to combine the two, so you get a kind, of a don't know, interesting textural thing that comes with using very warm acoustic sounding instruments with cold electronic sounding.
Mark: Right, here's some theories, some "Aerial" theories, right, of mine… mother and son relationship, a lot of water images in what you do. "Ariel" is the little mermaid, there’s one. Sylvia Plath wrote a collection of poems called "Ariel", very intense love poems...
Kate: Did she?
Mark: Yeah, there's a Shakespearean spirit in ‘The Tempest’ called Ariel...somebody got the Tempest... and there's also Ariel washing powder for the washing machine we were talking about before.
Kate: Uh..uh.."Product placement"?
Mark: None of those, presumably?
Kate: Well, I think, I think all of them, [They laugh] and many more. But that's what I liked about the word was it's got so many levels to it. It actually means "of the air", and, you know, also I always have an image of aerial suggesting height, as well so, it felt like it worked very well for the second disc. Uh, you know, with the sort of theme of birds...and also an aerial is something that collects and gives out sound waves, and we've all got aerials connected to our televisions and our mobile phones, and…. I just thought it was an interesting word that had lots of puns.
Mark: Well I'll tell you what I think... here's Rolf Harris, in your garden, painting a picture with all the birdsong going on and everything, and it seems to be a kind of dream sequence or something the develops into a Midsummer night from that.
Mark: Anything in that or am I clutching at straws?
Kate: No, I think that's great! I think it's what you want it to be. If that's how you see it then I think that's lovely.
Mark: It's wrong
Kate: I don't know if it's wrong
Mark: It's not wrong?
Kate: It's not wrong, it might not be what I thought of when I was writing it. Again, I don't think that particularly matters if it does something for you, if it takes you on a journey, then that's great. Somebody said to me, they said "it's not like listening to record it's like watching a film or something". And that was just the most fantastic compliment anybody could have said, I mean, if that's the only good thing that anyone says, then that's wonderful.
Time constraints means that sadly we can't present the whole of "A Sky of Honey" as Kate intended it to be heard. That's a genuine shame, because when taken as one continuous piece of music, it's breathtaking. But one of the pieces from the suite, which I feel gives a real flavor of the whole thing is called "Somewhere in Between". Here it is:
("Somewhere in Between" is played)
That was "Somewhere in Between" a section of the "A Sky of Honey" disk from Kate Bush's new album Ariel, and you're listening to Mark Radcliffe on Radio Two, and I'm talking with Kate Bush. "Aerial" has been 12 years, on and off, in the making. For a major artist like Kate Bush the responsibility to get the work finished must have been almost suffocating at times.
Mark: Do you need a team of people around you to do the work or do you work a lot on your own?
Kate: I think a lot of the process is quite insular. It's similar to being a writer, as you know, it's that quiet place again. But yes, I do. I do have to have a team around me and this is a small group of people who it's very important to me, their feedback. I know it's very important to me what Danny thinks of my stuff...
Mark: He's your partner and Bertie's dad?
Kate: And he's very critical, which is fantastic, which is what I want.
Mark: Who else?
Kate: I suppose in the studio context, I work with a sound engineer that I've worked with for a very long time. So...
Mark: That's Del?
Kate: Yes. So that's important too
Kate: But you know what's interesting. I think sometimes when people say that you can't do that or it wouldn't work was actually the beginning of something that made me think "Oh, so this must be quite interesting then". Because in a way, I think you have to make things that you like. And if somebody says that they don't like it... it's challenging your own thoughts of whether you really think it's any good or not, and if you really do think it's good, even if people say they don't like it... there's maybe this sense in there that maybe it's not right yet. But that doesn't mean it's not good.
Kate: That what's good about having people around you who were quite critical
Mark: Right, so sometimes the criticism can be really positive thing then?
Mark: Yeah. Even though you got you this team of people, this support network of people you need around you, it's in no way a democracy. It's your record. And you kind of make your own decision absolutely. I mean, you write it and you produce, it is entirely her vision in the end.
Kate: Yes. And that's what's the buzz for me. I don't think I could work with a producer, I'd find it terribly infuriating. I just wouldn't like it.
Mark: Well, you've got a new album out and you're very proud of it, and you're very proud of it. Reaction is very positive. Is there any part of you that thinks. Actually, I wish I could get out on stage and to do this for people.
Mark: But you won't.
Kate: I don't know if I won't. Normally something else comes along to sort of take me away from even pursuing the idea the any further. Yes, I would I would like to do some shows.
Mark: So you wouldn't rule it out?
Kate: No, I wouldn't rule it out, but then, I haven't ruled it out for the last 20-odd years.
Kate: I haven't done it yet
Mark: It just hasn't happened yet.
Mark: Have you got songs lying about that might form the basis for another record?
Mark: No, nothing?
Kate: No, there's bits and pieces, but I wouldn't use them.
Mark: Right, because at current rates, if you repeat the gap between "The Red Shoes" and "Aerial"... we should expect a new album in 2017. Is there any prospect it would be sooner?
Kate: Well, I hope, so, yes. I like to be unpredictable, because I've heard this before... then I'd be like 84 or something before the next one. I like to think that I'm not that easy to pin down.
Mark: That's for sure!
Mark: Do feel a relief now that it's out? Is a great to have the it finished?
Mark: Is it also frightening because now you've kind of got to see what people think of it?
Kate: No, it's fantastic. I'm so excited about it coming out. It took so long to make I just thought I was never going to finish it.
Mark: Did you? There were days when you to sort of almost crying with frustration and beating the mixing desk, because you thought you were never going to finish it?
Kate: I don't know about beating in the mixing desk, but... I just... it took so long trying to piece it together and try to make it work in so many times I just thought I was even have the energy of the strength to sue. To try and finish it. So it's fantastic relief to have it all done. I mean, when I first finished it I thought like I was being let out on good behavior.
Mark: Did you doubt what the response would be?
Kate: I think I did worry about there being such a long gap, I was worried that... without wanting to sound sentimental, I was worried that people would forget about me.
Kate Bush, through the quality for work, and the way do she chooses to live her life, is one of that select group of artists who become... what would be the word... I think "cherished" about right, and inevitably having delivered a contemporary classic like "Aerial" last year. Kate has once again retreated into her private world. I hope she won't stay too long this time... I'm not getting any younger. We have to respect that she plays by her own rules. She's a working mother, and is the mothering bit is what matters most, it seems appropriate to end with her singing about her own mother. Thanks for "Aerial" Kate, and for having me around to lunch. See you soon, I hope. This is "A Coral Room".
(A Coral Room" is played)
[Transcription by Chris Williams]
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