The Complete
published writings
of Kate Bush

Kate's KBC article
Issue 20
"An Interview With Auntie Hetty"

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[Here is an interview with Kate, which seems to have been conducted by Kate, as well, under the fictitious name "Auntie Hetty". It appeared in the twentieth issue of the Newsletter. ]

An Interview With Auntie Hetty

Let me introduce myself. I'm Kate's Auntie Hetty, and I've been waiting to do this interview for years, but she's such a busy dear, and I like to keep myself active with my amateur dramatics. Such a lovely group of boys and girls--so enthusiastic-- keeps them away from nasty things like sniffing glue and listening to Sigue-Sigue Sputnik. I'm terribly into Method acting and have just had a nice long sleep. I was playing a woman alcoholic who'd been up for three days and three nights, so I stayed up for three days and three nights and drank both bottles of sherry (from that lovely boy who played Bottom three years ago in Little Hampton). It's so much more fun than acting. But I feel most refreshed now, and as I enter Katie's front gate I notice the garden's a little untidy-- I really must tell her about old Mr. Squashy, and I've some lovely hollyhocks she could put by the door.

So, with a nice cup of tea, I refer to my notes, take up the old crochet hook and begin:

Now Katie, dear, we're all so pleased about this album doing so well and we heard a lot about a film called The Ninth Wave. Will that be your next project?

"The film was something I very much wanted to try. The b-side of the album was originally written with visual ideas in mind, and I am intrigued by the combination of pictures and sound on film. I went as far as approaching a couple of people about the idea, but I found the success of the album and the rate of single releases extremely demanding, especially as each single required a video, 12", single artwork...It soon built up, and there was no time to even think about this film. The promotion for this album almost lasted a year. By the time I'd taken a break, the gap between albums was already becoming too big to consider fitting in another project. I've now had a holiday and some time to do nothing, and am in the process of thinking out some ideas to take into the studio."

Oh, I see, dear. Well, you must have been very busy. Did you have a lovely holiday?

"Yes, it was...lovely."

Now, you have a video E.P. out called The Hair of the Hound, and it's been at number one in the charts, which is very nice, lovely. They must have taken a lot of time to do. You see, I understand these things--Amateur dramatics is the same thing, you know: rehearse, rehearse, struggle, toil, iron your costume every night...

"I really wanted to try and make videos that looked like short films this time. I think I've always wanted to do this, but apart from one or two of the previous videos I have not achieved it. I started approaching film directors. I believed that video and film were two very different worlds, and that people who made videos would be less likely to make a pop "video" look like a piece of 35mm film.

"All the people I approached were very kind but very busy, and I began to realise that unless I was extremely lucky, no one that I wanted would be able to shoot the promo.

"I am a big admirer of Terry Gilliam's work--he is a great director. I asked his advice; could he suggest people I could work with who were good. He recommended David Garfarth, who had worked as a cameraman for him. The lighting cameraman was Phil Mayheux-- who, interestingly, worked on the Max Headroom special, which was superbly lit--"

Max who?

"The video [ Running Up That Hill ] took eight weeks: six weeks' training and choreography working with Dyane Gray, and three days shoot, plus editing and various meetings.

"Cloudbusting took eight to ten weeks, working with Julian Doyle, who has worked many times with Terry Gilliam. He is multi-talented, and covered many areas of the shoot, with Brian Helighy lighting for the first time--it's hard to believe that it is his first time at lighting."

Yes it is so atmospheric, I love the story. But I'm very upset that you didn't bring that lovely Donald Sutherland to see me. You know your Uncle Bertie used to get quite, hmm, yes. Now I noticed you didn't move your lips to the music in three of the videos--or should I call them films?

"Well, they were all shot on film, but all eventually were edited on video.

"Apart from Running Up That Hill, which was edited totally in the video suite, the others were edited on film as much as possible: doing all the cuts--except the ones that need special effects: slowing down, speeding up. All this is much quicker (and sometimes cheaper) to do on video, and with promo deadlines video is so convenient. But it does change the quality of the pictures when the film is transferred to video: it somehow loses its depth. But I'm sure in a couple of years the quality will be brilliant. Video is advancing all the time, but for me you can't beat the original quality of film, it's a very ancient form. The advantage of video is being set loose on all the effects, although on the E.P. all except Big Sky have been approached from a purist film-maker's point of view: very few special effects. We deliberately encouraged this, again trying to emphasise the film aspect. Which has a lot to do with no lip-synch: as soon as a performer is 'singing', they become that performer doing other things while singing. Which is great live, but on film, people acting out events without the lip distractions have more chance of playing a character. I found it very interesting and much more enjoyable. I'm always concerned about the miming being as accurate as possible, and that takes a lot of concentration and makes me behave like a singer. So without the lip-synch I could put much more effort into a character. I felt a little nervous about it in Cloudbusting. In Running Up That Hill it was different: no lip-synch, but I was trying to act a dancer, and they are facial expressions I know the sensations of. But playing a little boy, and playing opposite Donald Sutherland, I began to wonder if I was going mad, voluntarily putting myself in these situations where I had a ninety percent chance of looking a total absolute idiot! But if anything, Donald made it seem extremely natural, he was just like my Dad. He could make it rain, and I would watch him being taken away. I must say it was an extremely moving experience, burnt strongly into my memory upon the hill with the machine and the wind..."

I had a similar experience with Sir Cecil Dill in the last performance of Ooh, Was It Really? at Dulwich. He was playing Mortimer West, and as he rushed on the stage with his epee in his back and said, "Good God! It was him all along!" I knew I would never forget that moment, and with tears in my eyes I said, "Ooh, was it really?" and down came the curtain to the roar of applause, with that smell of old velvet--Still brings a tear to my eye.

Now, where was I? Oh, my dear, you've made more tea. I didn't see you go!

I notice that you directed two of the videos. Did you enjoy doing that?

"It was very interesting and extremely educational. I've had a lot of encouragement from people to get more involved, and it can be difficult sometimes to find directors who are enthusiastic about the amount of involvement I like to put in. I found it took all my time rather than most, and the actual shoots felt very relaxed. Cupcake, Aunt Hetty?"

Ooh, don't mind if I do, dear.

"I am extremely lucky to have worked with such a good film crew: Mike Roberts was the cameraman. He's worked on The Killing Fields and The Mission, and Billy Camp was assistant, who organised everyone and everything so efficiently on the days of the shoot that I could almost relax. I used two different lighting men: Hughie Johnson; and Roger Pratt, who again worked with Terry Gilliam. The crew were so receptive, and made a very daunting, expensive task a lot of fun.

"It is very like making early albums: I feel a bit disappointed with the results, not having enough rehearsal, a big enough budget, etc., etc., but the shoots were so much fun. It's such a good feeling to work with a big group of people. I seem to like working with such a crowds. On both Hounds of Love and The Big Sky shoots there was a relaxed air--both shoots involved crowd scenes, and The Big Sky was especially satisfying. Besides a large number of performers to fill a stage and give the effect of a live concert, we needed an avenue of people, from the Wright brothers to two astronauts, to simulate aviation history. The Wright brothers looked remarkably like Dave Cross and Peter FitzGerald-Morris, and one of the astronauts looked so like Jay...We also needed a large, enthusiastic crowd, so we asked Dave Cross to organise some members of the Club, and two hundred beautifully behaved people arrived on the day of the shoot. It was very moving, they filled us all up with energy-- It made it feel like a real concert.

"All the film crew remarked on how incredible everyone was. They had been terrified with past experiences of invited audiences, but I told them they hadn't met the right ones. Everyone left just as beautifully--nearly everyone with a burnt thumb from being a star in the sky holding up lighters and waving. I'd never been in the same room with so many stars before."

Oh, the little angels, how lovely! Did it take long to edit those clips?

"No, I worked with John Mister as film editor. On both those shoots we worked to very detailed storyboards, and in both cases could give John a photostat of the script beforehand so he'd know the gist of what we were working on. Then he'd do a rough cut by himself, following the storyboard. Then we'd work together until we were happy. He was great to work with, and both edits were very quick: just taking them into the video suite for bits and pieces. But it would have to be transferred to video for T.V. showings, anyway, so all ads [sic--Does she mean 'adds' here, as inq. 'additions'?], etc., end up on video.

The Big Sky was a little more complicated. The beginning part on the rooftops involves chromakey, where all the live action goes on in front of a blue screen and then the various weather effects were put in at the edit. The pieces of film with the weather were chosen beforehand and transferred to video; they then replaced the blue screen."

That sounds awfully complicated, dear. We just roll our scenery up and down from the wings, it's so much easier.

Now you must tell me about all these darling people you've been working with. What was it like working with that lovely Peter Gabriel again?

"I was so excited that he asked me to sing on that track-- It's such a lovely, haunting song, and I love his work. But I do get nervous, especially when it's something I really like. His music is very strong, and he is a great person--I love working with him."

And those dear Big Country boys...

"Yes, I like the Celtic influences in their music. They were lovely to work with--I really enjoyed it. They asked if I'd like to do some backing vocals, and I went in for an evening. They were really nice. It was fun. I like working with different people.

"I really enjoyed doing the Comic Relief concerts."

Oh, but my dear, the language was appalling. I'm afraid I had to write to Points of View. I was more than a little shocked that you and Cliff Richard of all people...

"It was fantastic. I'm a big fan of so many of those comedians--they are so talented. For me, alternative comedy is the most exciting thing coming out of this country at the moment, and to be involved in something with them all was really fulfilling. I felt nervous there, too, it's been a long time since I've performed live to an audience, but they were so warm. Unfortunately the piano pedal jammed on the first night in Breathing and I sang to the most horrific combination of chords you can imagine, so the second and third nights were relatively relaxed after that!

"Singing with Rowan was hilarious. He's one of those people who can make his face and body language make you laugh without him having to speak. Again, I was so pleased that they asked me to take part. I wouldn't have missed it for the world. I just wish I'd been brave enough to ask most of them for their autographs-- 'Er, Ben, would you? I say, Rick, I've got this nephew...Just sign it, don't bother signing it to him...' You know, you're meant to act nonchalant, but I found myself starstruck."

I did see gorgeous Ronnie Corbett and the Monty Python chappies-- Wasn't Terry Gilliam there?

"Yes, he was...Just so much talent. British comedy is unique and the best."

Here, here, Gr-r-reat Britain...

I hear you sang Brazil on the soundtrack to Terry Gilliam's film.

"Yes, what a beautiful song--and I always thought it was a really bad cabaret number, but actually it is very sad and nostalgic."

Of course it is, you silly girl--One of the best tunes ever...Br-a-a-zil-l-l-l...

"Michael Kamen did the orchestral arrangements. He worked on The Ninth Wave: Watching You Without Me and Hello Earth. He is very clever. He did the music for the film, and was putting the soundtrack album together with Terry, and they played me this beautiful arrangement without a voice. I'm not sure if this piece was in the film or not, but I don't sing in the film at all. It has such a 30s/40s feel, and Michael asked if I would sing over it--My immediate reactions were fear and 'Yes'."

Now, just before we have another cup of tea, I want to ask you if you're going to work with any more famous actors, because if you worked with that lovely Peter O'Toole you could tell him to pop in and see me and have a nice cup of tea, and we could act out one or two scenes from Romeo and Juliet...

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