From The Vault - Kate Bush

Interview by John A. Wilcox

We were both terribly young in 1985. I was 25 and Kate Bush was 27. It was in the Autumn, and Kate was in NYC promoting her new album, Hounds Of Love. I was a freelancer at the time, and managed to sell a small portion of this interview to the Fairfield County Advocate (now called The Weekly). The full interview has never seen the light of day. Until now. Join a nervous young writer as he walks into a suite in the posh Parker-Meridian hotel in midtown Manhattan to sit with the talented Ms Bush...

PS: Do you feel you've been treated fairly by the press?

KB: Something that you don't have any control over is what they think of you, what they write in their articles. That's their opinion of you and that's the way people are. Nearly everything you say is changed on some level. If they're trying to write for a particular kind of audience, they consider they have to write a certain way, so that's what they're going to do.

PS: And your fans?

KB: I think it continuingly surprises me how nice the people are that my music attracts. I think it's a great honor, really, to have communication from people who really do seem to care about the music.

PS: How much of your work is autobiographical, and how much is written from a character's point of view?

KB: I think it's very much taking on the viewpoint of another character. I can't think of any song that I've written that I would say is truly autobiographical. It's more or less trying to put yourself in someone else's situation, to an environment, something that intrigues you. I think that part of the fascination with writing is actually trying to experience something from another person's point of view.

PS: I imagine even if you're writing from someone else's point of view, some of you comes through regardless.

KB: Yes, absolutely. I think everything you write is an expression of yourself but it's not necessarily about you, it's more about how you feel about things. Hopefully you're working on the kind of things that attract you that you like, that you find fascinating. They don't necessarily reflect on your life but more what interests you.

PS: Are you a lyrics first or a music first person?

KB: It really depends on the song, I find that all totally individual. I used to write at the piano all the time and quite often the music and the lyrics would come together as one. And gradually as I've become more integrated with the studio as part of the writing process, it really does change with each song. Some of them are written purely as a piece of music, then I'll write a whole solo over the top, the tune and lyrics. Other times it's written from a melody point of view with no proper lyrics and sometimes it's actually inspired by a lyrical line that then the music comes from.

PS: So you basically write at home?

KB: I write in the studio now. It's all become part of the same process for me. Production is very much a part of the songwriting.

PS: How are you getting on with the Fairlight?

KB: Very well actually, it's an incredible thing. It certainly changed the writing techniques for me. It's what I was waiting for really.

PS: Any song where you say "I could've done that better"?

KB: Yes, I think you probably feel that with everything you do and that's why you want to do something else rather than just finish the last piece of work you've done. I think once it's done, it's in the past and you want to get on with the next thing and make it better.

PS: Hounds Of Love sounds a lot less dark than your last album, The Dreaming.

KB: I think every album is different for me really. I think the biggest difference was from the third to the fourth album, which was the last one. I feel the reason for that is because I actually became totally in control of the production so it was much more an expression of myself and what I'd wanted to say through the songs. I feel this album is very much a progression from what we were doing on The Dreaming. But it's a very different energy and I wanted it to be so. I don't like the idea of doing an album exactly the same as the one you've just done. Otherwise it's not changing. It's not trying something new and exploring different areas. I think the last album was very intense and from an artistic point of view was very rewarding with some of the challenges we were trying to conquer. And this album I think how I was feeling at the time was I wanted to write something very positive and different from the last album. To get away from the intensity of the emotion and try something that hopefully was still interesting but positive.

PS: Tell me a bit about The Ninth Wave.

KB: I wanted to do a piece of music that was more involved than five or six minutes for a long time and it seemed like a good idea. I think it can be very frustrating sometimes trying to cram in a story that you have to express in, say, two verses and a chorus. And I think classical music and opera, the early very popular music, was something that worked on a much larger, longer timescale than contemporary music. In a way it's quite interesting that everything has become so short in contemporary music. I can't help but feel it's because, in a way the marketing process.

PS: What's the story driving the song?

KB: It's about someone who's in the water. In the sea of the night. It's getting dark and they're very tired and they're alone. It's the past, present and future coming to them to keep them through the night. To keep them from falling asleep and make it through to the morning.

PS: A little simpler than I thought.

KB: Well that's a brief explanation.

PS: You were saying how this album's a real progression from the last album. I think, the only album that you've done that the press gave less than 100% rave reviews to was the Lionheart album. They didn't feel it was that much of a progression from The Kick Inside. Do you agree with that view?

KB: Yes, I do. I think Lionheart was just an extension of The Kick Inside and that was an awful lot to do with the success of that first album. I spent a whole year promoting it with no time to do anything creative and I was left with very little time to write songs. For the first album, it was at least...well it was a lifetime's worth of songwriting that we had chosen from. There was no time to write enough new material for that album. I think it's an OK album, but I don't think it's different enough from the first one. Since that point in time, I made a very deliberate decision to keep the promotion as something that was secondary to the music and not something that took over my life to the point where I had no time to be creative.

PS: A few years ago, you did some work with Roy Harper. Was that an enjoyable experience?

KB: Yes, it was very much so. It was a real pleasure to work with Roy. I've been a fan of his since I was a young girl and ... he's a unique person and a unique artist. Someone who I think is terribly underestimated and has had very little commercial success. But is a poet really. He's written some classic songs. To me, Another Day was one of those.

PS: Roy's one of my musical heroes.

KB: It's very nice to find someone that admires Roy so much because, particularly in England, I think he's very underestimated.

PS: Why have there been no live shows since 1979?

KB: I really enjoyed that tour. It was a lot of fun and I was very surprised at how successful it was as well. It was an incredibly big commitment. It was really a lot of time and effort. Exhausting cause we were visually putting something together as well.

PS: I saw the videotape of it.

KB: Right. I think the videotape in a way misses an awful lot about what the show was really about. The show is full of people who are all centered on the stage and there's a whole energy of live performance that I feel that the video of the show misses out on. It misses out on a lot of what was really happening.

PS: Do you have any interest in working in a live situation again?

KB: Yes, I wanted to really since that last tour. I needed another two albums worth of material in order to do a new show and that took me to the end of the last album. I just don't feel prepared to take that kind of commitment yet. It would mean probably a year organizing and actually then taking the tour around the country so, I don't know. I'm in a position now where I'm not sure what I want to do next year. With all this promotion taking me up till spring next year.

PS: Back to the album. What's the story behind The Big Sky?

KB: It's really about someone who hasn't got anything to do with their day and how they're looking up at the sky and watching the clouds make shapes. I think everyone's done that really. You get a moment, its not only when you're a kid. You just watch all the different shapes that the clouds make. I suppose it's talking about how he feels the sky is far greater than everything that's happening on our level and that it's just sort of rolling by and the fact that it keeps changing. The whole thing of the river, the way it's always moving and always there and as things change things just keep going on and on, and it's using the power level from the sky like that really.

PS: I was surprised to see that Under The Ivy wasn't on the album as I find it to be quite a lovely song. I thought it'd be a nice fit on the A side of the album.

KB: Oh how interesting. I'm very pleased that you like that. That song was written purely as a B-side for the single. I'd finished the album. We were releasing the single, it needed a B-side, I wrote that for the B-side. I'm glad you like that. I think it's quite important to give people something different on the singles though, because there are people who buy albums and singles and it doesn't seem fair to keep loading off the album tracks when probably a good few of them will be released as singles anyway.

PS: Get Out Of My House is one of my favorite songs from The Dreaming. Very angry and full of power. Tell me what's going on in the lyric.

KB: It's about someone being paralleled as a house and how through abuse and bad things happening to them. They've barred everyone out, they've locked the doors, shut the windows and stuck a guard on the front door to check anyone that comes near to make sure that no harm gets in. I suppose it's about someone trying to get away from things that they don't like and trying to keep them out.

PS: I've always had a soft spot for James And The Cold Gun, a song a friend of mine despises for some reason!

KB: I think I agree with your friend. That is really just a song that I wrote to see if I could write a rock'n'roll song. And I think where that came into its own for me was when we did the tour. It was a perfect song to do as a live performance. It was a lot of fun, yeah it was great but as a song I said it was really just a vehicle to write a piece of rock'n'roll.

PS: What's next for you, musically?

KB: I'm not involved with recording anything at the moment. Since the album's been finished, we went straight into promoting. Making the video for Running Up That Hill. Ever since, I've been promoting the album and will be until Christmas. Next year after Christmas, I'll still be involved in making videos for this album so I won't be clear promoting this album until late spring. It's so consuming. Everything you do once you finish the album, the promotion takes over. It's really from one thing to the other.

PS: What would you consider to be the stuff you're happiest with?

KB: Well, I'd like to think that each album has gotten better. A few songs I quite like, but you have a love hate relationship, I think It's the old stuff that I think you want to just put down and get on with the new stuff. It can be very interesting to hear, some of the old tracks. I mean I very rarely hear them so sometimes I almost forget about a song and then I listen to it and I'd forgotten about that bit of guitar here and there and it's great, I really enjoy listening to that. In fact sometimes its hard to, you know, imagine that you did it. Because if you don't listen to it, it just goes into the vaults of the past. I don't think you could never be content with what you do. I think you get little moments when you think 'oh yeah, that nearly worked' or you could enjoy it for a moment but I don't think you ever really content with anything that you do and I think that's what gives you the drive to go on to try to do something better.

PS: As far as your goals go, what haven't you achieved yet that you set out to do?

KB: I think it still surprises me that I'm doing what I'm doing. I never expected to have as much involvement as I do, in fact more than I ever imagined, so I consider myself very lucky. I work very hard in the hope that I won't lose the honor of being involved with music.


Special thanks to Roz for transcription help!

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