Kate Bush


“You can get a bit scared of it all, coming back into it… I don’t want to sound negative, but it is always a bit like being locked away.”

The strange thing when I meet Kate Bush is that she seems so startlingly ordinary. Dressed in jeans, boots and sweatshirt, with little make-up and a lot of charm, she is slightly ‘sweet’, very much at ease, pert and perky, perfectly friendly. Her tiny tear-shaped face is one of bright delight and then wan concern. She looks tired and rather plain until she smiles sweetly enough certainly to make the thought of tackling the tickly, tricky subjects (the validity of The Rumours, the calculation of her image, the spite and spit of the Vermorels’ book on her) too churlish to bother with.

She is sincere and considerate, enormously perceptive (she asks me if I mind if she smokes but not if I want one). Huddled up on a cushion, she doesn’t look at all striking, neither frail waif nor seductive sorceress. She is sort of gooey, drippy, with a girlish soppy sense of humour (oh dear, forgive me). We sit in a big bare room, a dance mirror alone one wall, a large floral painting of a baby floating out of a sewer pipe in one corner and two Swedish chairs, a Spanish guitar, a Delius record and ashtrays scattered around. A huge calm toy dog watches us from one corner.

“It’s a really nice day today,” she sings as she makes the tea. She is terribly nice and looks like she hasn’t got a care in the world.

Kate Bush has been away…somewhere for nearly three years. Everyone seems to have heard something fantastic or drastic about her. But all the rumours, about break-ups and breakdowns, loves and deaths, this and that, that drift round this business like a nasty, unavoidable smell, all falter against her sunny charms and happy confidence.

Are you happy ? I ask her.
“Ooh yes,” she says with a childlike delight that could kill any rumour and which, given the dark drama of her best songs, is almost disappointing.

She’s very relaxed. When asked about a sex symbol she says three words: “Gosh !” and “Klaus Kinski”. We find she’s still saying those classic quaint hippy-isms she’s so renowned and teased for. Things that are “cosmic” and “karmic”, talking of “new energies”, the “inspirational forces of teachers”, “where we’re at” or “having built myself as a person”. Once she even tries to stop herself saying she had “found herself”. But it slipped out. She doesn’t care. It’s all very fetching.

So she’s been away, writing, dancing, building a studio, making a slow, involved, neatly epic new album, watching videos, thinking…

“There was some re-evaluation, yes. Taking so long a break made me realise what was important, which was my work much more than being famous. I did think it would be harder coming back. Actually, it’s quite exciting, coming out to a Brand New World, meeting people, not being locked away…communication’s a really important thing.” The phrase drifts out like a wisp of smoke; she says it to herself as much as to me.

Did you miss it at all ?
“Actually…no. I didn’t.”
It’s almost a whisper. Then a smile. Like a secret.

Signing for EMI when she was, incredibly, just sixteen, Kate was number one for four weeks with her first single, a centre of attention at nineteen. With eleven hits, those fierce, fraught, erratic, erotic videos, the Pamela Stephenson impersonations, the Vermorel book, the devotion and obsessions…she has been ever since. One wonders about the effect on one so sensitive.

Can you stand the scrutiny?
“By and large, yes. When it started I had to be quite strong. I couldn’t cope with it as well now as I did then. I’ve changed a lot since then. I wasn’t naïve, no. I was more innocent then, but not the lost little girl the press presented me as. They patronised me. I do get shocked by the attention, though. The way I work is very isolated. I won’t go out for months, literally, so there’s definite culture shock when I do.”

Are you shy?
“Yes, I am. Not as shy as I used to be. I’m still fighting it. Why ? Oh, there’s nothing good about being shy, it should never stop you from doing things especially on a work level.”

Can you chat up people?
“Oh… I don’t know. That’s probably when I’m at most shy – in social situations.” Her voice trails away, as if she’d almost forgotten those.

Do you feel vulnerable, at a disadvantage, meeting people?
“No, not really. It’s true a person’s music says a lot about them, is revealing, but that doesn’t unnerve me.”

How do people react to you? Do you frighten them?
“I think they’re great, actually. Great. I do frighten them a bit, though.”

They think you’re a bit strange?
“Yes, maybe.”
Do they take up the image…the sexuality…the strangeness…the…”
“The weird energies…?”
A perfect phrase.
“No, people are mostly very nice. Very gentle and sensitive, mostly.”
And are you a bit strange?
“A bit, yes, I suppose.”

Always at her most animated and cheerful when she’s back in the world of her work – the engineers, musicians, songs and studios and producers – Kate Bush is already looking forward to the next two-year project.

“When I come out into the world like this, it’s only to say, ‘Here’s the album’, so I can get on with the next one.”

When she says the fame is enjoyable “for the opportunities, the doors you can knock and that will open”, they’re all to do with work. All the “really brilliant people”, it’s taken her to meet turn out to be engineers or musicians. She sees her best quality as her ability “to work for long periods of time”.

She does. though, confess to a certain conflict: being shy and wanting communication, being a loner and liking people. Feedback is very important to me”.

Indeed, when I mention what a neat series of singles she’s had (The Man With The Child In His Eyes, Wow, Hammer Horror, Breathing, Babooshka, Army Dreamers, The Dreaming, the cane-swishing Sat In Your Lap and the new one, amost subtle sneaky pop single, her most modern song yet) she is positively overjoyed. She seems very easily – if quite touchingly – pleased.

“I can’t tell you what a buzz it gives me for you to say that, really.” she gushes, clearly delighted.

She fends off the sticky business of her obsessive, fascinated followers and the Vermorel episode with a mixture of calm and cuteness, innocence and knowing, that says she won’t be drawn into thinking about them.

“People say there are these people…I don’t know what they mean,” and insisting, “No, nothing that was written about me ever hurt me, no.” She goes on: “Music is such a powerful force. If people are affected by my music the way I was – by early Roxy, or Lotte Lenya or Sgt. Pepper, for instance – that, to me, is staggering. I can’t relate to that at all.” And maybe she can’t.

Who do you do it for – yourself, for family, some vague immortality…

“I’m not sure. It’s very important for me that my friends and family…It’s almost to say, ‘I’m writing this and I want it to be as good as you’d like it be’, like choosing a present…The immortality of music, it’s extraordinary concept, isn’t it? People say I’m a perfectionist, I insist on things being right. But I don’t know that anything can be perfect. When you’re making it, though, you know it’s going to be like that forever…”

She says it like a child: simple, astonished, overawed. She holds her breath.

Kate admits she is very happy, agrees she’s probably “more stable that I’ve ever been. I’ve certainly relaxed.” When I ask her if she thinks most about the past, present or future, she is pleased to say, “The present. I think a lot less about the past now. Which is good.

“I’ve been always felt there are more happy things to life than sad, yes. I feel that’s the only way you survive. I’ve had a very happy life, especially when I left school and was with Lindsay Kemp, it was so liberating, for the first time I was an individual, mobile, free. I haven’t found life very difficult, no. I’m very lucky.”

Do things happen to you or do you make them happen?

“I tend to believe that what you put out comes back. I think you can make things happen.”

What makes you happy?

“Well, I have so little time. I don’t have a manager so I’m always organising things. Films amaze me, films like Don’t look Now, Hitchcock, The Godfather, totally, totally brilliant, The Innocents. I’m sure my love for films will take me closer to them although I don’t know that I want to be in them.”

Is the single about the notion it might be better to be dead – ‘Doing a deal with God, get him to swap places’, ‘Running up the hill’ to Heaven, to be where He is ?

“That’s a nice interpretation. It’s very much about love, really, trying to keep it alive. I don’t know that perfect love exists in any human being but I don’t think it can be encouraged enough.”

Do you think about death much?

“Yes…my imagination’s got a lot of negative triggers. Images are always much stronger when they’re negative.”

I’ve had just a day to think about Kate Bush and she seems to me an intriguing, strikingly strange affair. Certainly the impish, demure modest, meek, very plaintive person I met didn’t resemble the stern, impressively disturbed figure, clad in cloak and crossbow and proud, dramatic stare who stepped challengingly into the soft smugness of the Wogan show the night before. Nor the voluptuous, ferocious creature who lies, breathless and abandoned, over the next LP sleeve. I wonder, turning the rumour on its head, if it isn’t in fact the severe isolation of her life rather that the greedy glare of press and public that gets to her most.

She talks of “ringing friends after two years since the last album was finished and being able to talk with them again.”

She mentions with a touching but very fresh sadness, the death of Klaus Nomi (who died two years ago at least) almost as if she’d just heard.

She says of signing to EMI at sixteen, “it’s quite normal these days, though, surely. Bands, bands are quite young, aren’t they?”

“It really is such a relief it is finished. I know the work has arranged my life but I’m very grateful, it’s given me a lot. It’s a little like living life faster.”

Is it so important?

“It’s a very close second to my friends and family” (that constant, enigmatic phrase). She calls out to one of them: “Would you say I have a separate life from my work?”

“Not at all,” says the voice, “But that’s how it has to be.”

“Your friends are the people you work with,” she continues, “I don’t think it’s possible to have a social life…really.”

She looks a touch apologetic, sounds rather vague and the hint of uncertainty drifting over the silence distracts us both. It strikes me then that Kate Bush lives in a very small world, and at that moment, for no real reason, I feel rather sorry for her.