To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents
(This article was taken from Andrew Marvick's The Garden.)
The MuchMusic interview
[The following interview was aired on May 30 on Toronto, Canada's CityTV, which isn't shy about showing KB videos and doing interviews with her. The interviewer was Laurie Brown. Excerpts of videos were shown during the course of the interview; these are identified in brackets. Transcribed by Tippi Chai (Thanks, Tippi!). Edited by Andrew Marvick.]
[Laurie Brown's introduction:]
What happens when you have a four-octave-range voice; Pre-Raphaelite Anglo-Irish looks; incredible ability to compose at keyboards; a career in the British and North American charts over the last decade which brought 17 hit singles, since the age of 17; a background in dance; and a working knowledge of literature and drama? [Kate's vocal range, although very great, does not cover four octaves. In her recordings her voice covers approximately three full octaves and between one and three half-steps beyond that.] Well, it seems you have all the ingredients for a classic British art rocker. You also have Kate Bush. Kate has never performed live in North America and hasn't in England for the past 7 years. [Strictly speaking, both these statements are untrue. Kate performed live on the U.S. television programme Saturday Night Live in December 1978, and has appeared (briefly) on stage in England several times since 1979.] It seems that she's someone who prefers to view the world behind her own garden wall. Yet lately she has been seen doing other projects. She sang live at the Palladium with David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, who produced her first album, and she also did a track and video with Peter Gabriel, a very compatible music companion to Kate's own work.
[Don't Give Up is shown.]
Also Kate apppeared in the video of Let It Be, the Ferry Aid single, a UK charity record to raise money for the family of the victims of the British ferry disaster.
[Kate's appearance in Let It Be is shown.]
All of these renewed activities in England have Kate Bush fans hoping that this bodes well for some future live performances, especially here in North America.
[The interview begins:]
"I think that other people tend to assume I don't like doing live performances because it's been so long since the tour that we did. But it's really my other commitments, they are just too involved, and since then the albums have taken longer and longer progressively. And with videos and promotion that go immediately after an album, I just haven't felt the time or the space to really get one together, because it would take a long time to put it together. But I would like to, very much so, and I have really wanted to since the last one, but it just hadn't been really the time and I'm hoping that it will feel right and that the time will come again."
[A section of Wow from the Hammersmith Odeon concert film--not the montage from The Whole Story-- is shown.]
I understand that you've built your own studio and you're working from that now.
"Yes, and the difference that makes is phenomenal. One of the best decisions I've ever made is to get that studio, because automatically I'm relaxed, and can put the ideas straight onto tape, which again I just could not afford to do when working in a commercial studio. It's so expensive; you have to work out a lot before you go in and there's not time to experiment and change things as much as you'd like. Or if you do, the pressure of what it's costing I think actually becomes anti-productive."
I'm interested in how your song writing process works. When you're trying to communicate with other musicians and tell them exactly what you want, do you give them a tape on cassette?
"It very much depends on the musician. Some people would not want to come in to the studio without having had a cassette that they could listen to and work some ideas out from. But normally what happens is the musician comes in, we play the track, which would have the basics on it. I sort of work backwards to most people in a lot of ways in that the bass quite often goes on nearly as one of the last instruments. So the track they would hear would have the drums, piano, voice, some keyboards, even guitar sometimes. And quite often now, we have a very good atmosphere going on the tape before the musician comes in, so although it might be very rough, what's on there is a very strong mood of what it will be like at the end. It's got all the feelings in there, and it's just a matter of tarting it up!"
Yeah, because you don't want to lose that atmosphere.
"Yes, it's very difficult to re-create things like that, and that's why it's so good for me to be able to write straight on to tape. You might get some really dodgy things, and quite often you do; but there might be something that is so spontaneous that you won't be able to do again in the same way, and it's there on tape."
[Wuthering Heights is shown. Laurie Brown then addresses the camera:]
This year Kate released The Whole Story, which is both a home video album and a compilation record of all her biggest hits, and one new track, Experiment IV. She also re-recorded the vocals for Wuthering Heights.
"I wanted to put a contemporary mark on it. I felt it sounded like a very little girl singing that to me, and the production was very much a Seventies production. And although there were some other tracks in there that you could say the same thing of, they weren't as blatant as that one was. If I had had the time I probably would have done the same to some of the other tracks. But there was just no time; there was too much to do with recording and writing Experiment IV plus doing the video. It was a very intense period to get that out on the deadline."
Where do you think your main strength lies; in your family or music?
"I think that's a very difficult question, because my family are very important to me and have been around since I was born, whereas my music is something that came much later. But there's such a personal involvement with my music that's very much inspired by people. But it's a very private thing and it's very much a release for me. I think I've got a tremendous amount of support from my family which is very important to me. And I don't know if music supports you; it's not necessarily a comforting thing, but it's like a very close friend, I guess."
[Oh! England, My Lionheart, from Hammersmith film, is shown, intercut with several photographs of Kate as a child, taken by her brother John Carder Bush. Laurie Brown then addresses the camera again:]
Kate Bush is an artist who discovered videos early on and she made a lot of them. Some of them you are seeing here for the first time. You can tell she had plenty of input, because they are just as complex and free spirited as her music.
[Army Dreamers is shown.]
I was reading that the two videos that you're most pleased with, and the ones you like, are Running Up That Hill and Army Dreamers. What was it that you didn't feel you liked about the other ones?
"I have a couple of favourites since then--"
"--but the main problem is that when you write a song, you write it as a song, and not as something that's visual. So quite often there isn't a visual story contained in a song, in a way that there should be to actually put on film. Budgets are a particular problem; it costs a lot of money. And time - usually it's such a rush job to get it together. But more recently we've been trying to get them done as much up front as possible, and spend more time, effort and money on them."
What are you new favorites?
"I was quite pleased with Cloudbusting and Experiment IV. And particularly with Army Dreamers, there was very much a visual story that was adequate for film, rather than just putting a song together; they very much had visual information that worked well on film."
[Experiment IV is shown. Laurie Brown again addresses the camera.]
Kate Bush is a real innovator when it comes to creating texture in pop music. She achieves this through a layering process, taking two or three completely different types of sound to create a whole new sound, a process that became a lot easier since the advent of the Fairlight synthesizer, the first sampling machine.
[The Dreaming is shown.]
Is the combination of unlike things a kind of oxymoron, something you apply to your visual work as well as your music?
"They are very similar processes, but they are not...The way you approach them is completely different. With sound, for me what I'm trying to create is very much the atmosphere, the mood of what the song is designating. It does create its own personality in a way. And it is a matter of treating that personality in a way that it wants to, and quite often you think of things that would be nice to try on a new track and you put them on and the track just won't accept it; it just won't work. So there are only certain things that will happen. But visually, it's not so much a layering process as the jigsaw, you know, putting it all together. It's not quite the same way of layering things up that you do in sound."
Sometimes all these different images almost look surreal. I'm thinking of the roller skaters in the white gowns and the dunce caps. Was that just a neat combination of things, or does it add up to some point?
"I think very much with that one it was the combination. It was a kind of silly video really, which...We wanted it to be slightly comical and it was playing with several different images of knowledge, really the lack of knowledge, i.e. people like dunces and jesters. It was a real romp [?--words unclear], where there were just loads of people involved, the one you're hearing in the next minute, they're very much just images put together, to try and make it fun more than anything."
[Sat In Your Lap is shown. Laurie Brown addresses the camera:]
You can find dance everywhere in Kate's earlier work. Like David Bowie, she studied with choreographer Lindsay Kemp, and has incorporated both choreographed dance and spontaneous movement in her live and video work.
[Excerpts from several videos, including There Goes a Tenner and Suspended in Gaffa, are shown.]
Obviously you are someone who feels that the world of dance and the world of rock can coexist. But does dance absorb rock better than rock absorbs dance?
"I think there is a very basic logic to that, in that if you dance, it's very, very unusual to dance without music. Dance is always something that is done to music, this is what dance is about--you know, the rhythm. Even if it's just someone tapping out rhythms on a drum. That is, music is sound, and dance works hand in hand with sound. And I think music can stand on its own, but in some cases what it makes you want to do is dance!"
I think Running Up That Hill is one of the better examples of how dance can be used well in rock music.
"Well, it's very nice that you think that, because very much what we were trying to achieve was to make it a serious piece of dance, which I didn't feel I'd done enough of up until that point. I'd played around with dance, but in a very...sort of theatrical way. And in some ways it was a sort of saying-goodbye to that dancing side of me, by doing it in a very pure way. It is a very pure dance video without any theatre or anything attached, because I feel very much a shift now from dance into film imagery, so they are two very different things. Not that dance couldn't still be incorporated, but it's not the same attitude."
[An excerpt from Running Up That Hill is shown. Brown addresses the camera:]
The years between seventeen and twenty-seven are normally considered to be the most developmental in an artist's life. [This is absolute nonsense.] When Mozart was seventeen, he was playing to the crowned heads of Europe. When Kate Bush was seventeen she had her first hit single with Wuthering Heights. I asked her how spending those 10 years as a successful pop singer influenced her art.
"I'm not convinced they are the most influential years, I must say. I think when you're a kid, they're incredibly influential, I mean so many writers, and I don't know about singers...But from a creative point of view you're always drawing back to things way back in your childhood. But a lot of things have changed for me in that period you were talking about, and I think it's been incredibly useful for me to be successful during this time, in that I've been able to work with people and find sources of information that perhaps I wouldn't have otherwise. Unfortunately, so much of what we do in this business is based on money. Equipment is so very expensive. So if you are successful, you stand a chance of having more of this equipment available and that does definitely affect the way you work."
[A section of Strange Phenomena from the Hammersmith film is shown.]
When listening to your album, from the very first to the most recent, there's a change in your voice and it seems that your voice is lower and a little more aggressive, as if you're working harder in punching out the lyrics.
"Lyrics have always been very important for me, and all people go through phases of things they try out, and at that period when I made that first album, I was very much experimenting with a higher vocal range. It was just something I wanted to try out, and also the production has a tremendous amount to do with things like that. But my voice has changed a lot, and I think that is basically what I see as the difference, that as I grow up, my voice has grown up with me and has become stronger and stronger, and I can do things now with my voice that were not easy for me to do years ago."
Has your voice lost any of its range?
"I can get up there if I need to, but I just prefer working in this range now. I think a lot of females go through that. If you listen to Joni Mitchell, her early stuff is very high, and with each album she gets lower and lower. It's just a progressive thing for people."
[Cloudbusting is shown.]
I've been noticing a theme of science in the last few songs you had out. Cloudbusting was an experiment that went very well, but Experiment IV was one that want wrong. But in both cases the scientists were sympathetic characters, but they were frustrated and manipulated. Is that what you think about scientists?
"I don't think it's always what I think about scientists, but I think they are fascinating in that so often they're trying to create something that they consider positive, productive and very much something that would help mankind, but so often along the way those good intentions end up being used, particularly by other people, for completely the opposite reasons. Particularly experiments that end up being used by the military, things like the atom bomb. I can see that perhaps when the guy was originally playing with that idea, he had no idea where he'd end up, and that I'm sure that he wouldn't have the evil intentions in his head initially. He was so caught up, so obsessed with the pure level of the science that he didn't actually realize how it could be used."
What do you think about scientific experimentation? Are there limits to the things that people should be working on?
"I think that's very much part of the fascination, is that people have to do that, that's what human beings are about--discovering things, and perhaps the problem is that they're normally always connected by forces that do not have that same kind of creative curiosity. The consequences, that's the problem; the consequences are quite often hindsight, rather than on the way."
[An excerpt from Experiment IV is shown.]
"I consider music a really positive force, it's something that is there to help people, to make them happy, to make them think. So many wonderful things, music therapy...It's a very positive energy and there's something incredibly beautiful about music. And the thought of people using sound in such a negative way--and there are definitely sonic experiments that go on, that are used by the military--it's so obscene. The irony of using something that's so beautiful, in a way, to actually kill people rather than help them, I find fascinating."
A lot of your songs and videos are filled with frightening or disquieting images. Are you an uneasy person?
"I think anyone that has any kind of creative outlet is uneasy, and that's what makes them need to express themselves. I think all human beings are uneasy on some level. How can you not be when we don't really know what we're doing here and what we're meant to do with it, it's the continual questioning going on."
[Breathing is shown, concluding the programme.]
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