A Conversation with Kate Bush
Mike Ragogna: Kate Bush, wow. How are you?
Kate Bush: I'm doing great, Mike. Thanks for having me.
MR: First of all, your album Never For Ever made me a Kate Bush fan forever and ever.
KB: Thank you, so much!
MR: I already said, "Wow," right? Okay, getting to your new album 50 Words For Snow, can you tell us a little bit about what inspired it?
KB: Well, I guess originally, I thought I would try to make a kind of wintry album, then it quickly became all about snow as I began writing.
MR: And lyrically, it's like the songs emulate the complexity and uniqueness of each snowflake.
KB: Yeah. It's so fascinating to think about how each snowflake is completely individual -- there are millions and millions of them but each one is so unique. I think snow is so evocative and has such a powerful atmosphere. Here in the UK, we don't really get much snow, and I suppose that's why it's such a precious thing to us. What I was trying to do is create an atmosphere that was run throughout the album that somehow felt like there was a kind of snowy landscape, you know?
MR: Absolutely, especially with songs like "Lake Tahoe."
KB: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I don't think that that one is specifically all about snow, but I like to think that the atmosphere is still running from that first track.
MR: True. The song, to me, isn't even really about Lake Tahoe, per se. Would you agree?
KB: No, I agree. I mean, Lake Tahoe is such a large mountainous lake with incredibly cold water and so that's really why I chose that lake. It's a vehicle for the song, really. But it just happens to be a huge lake with ice-cold water.
MR: Nice. Could you go into some background on "Misty"?
KB: The thing about that song, aside from having sort of unusual subject matter, is that it's a very long song -- it's the longest song on the album. I think it runs about 14 minutes. It wasn't even that I set out to write a song that long, but I was trying to explore the idea of working with longer song structures and moving away from the more traditional form. I wanted to be able to tell the story through a much longer piece of time and so I was able to go through various elements of the story and, hopefully, make the song build. The subject matter is sort of just about a girl who builds a snowman, and later the snowman comes to visit her in her bedroom.
MR: As snowmen often do.
KB: Well, I don't know about that unless people just keep quiet about it. (laughs)
MR: (laughs) The next track, "Wild Man" is a little bit more of an adventurous track as far as the production.
KB: Yes. And I guess in some ways, you could say that it's the most immediate song on the album. I wouldn't say that there are any songs that are particularly pop-esque, but that song is, I suppose, the closest you would come to that. It's really a song entity for the Yeti--this mysterious creature that no one is sure whether or not it exists. It's about how precious that mystery is, you know? We have such little mystery in our lives generally because of how we live now. I mean, of course, mystery is all around us, but the way we live our lives now, we're too busy to be bothered with it.
MR: Would you say that this album is maybe a continuation of the approaches you began with the albums Red Shoes and Sensual World?
KB: Yeah, I guess so. For me, each album is a sort of an evolving process; it's quite a natural progression to move from one album to the next. So, yes, there are a lot of connections with all of the albums. I guess the main thing is that I've started exploring much longer song structures on this album. I would say that that's what makes this one a little different than previous albums.
MR: Will there be any music videos associated with the album?
KB: Yeah, I think so. We're working on something at the moment, which is great fun and I hope people like it.
MR: That's great. I hope you know your status of being one of the great music video pioneers. There was a period of time on the USA Network where you couldn't get away from Kate Bush videos. (laughs)
KB: Oh, really? I'm so surprised. I didn't really think my videos got shown very much in the States at all. (laughs)
MR: Now, I have also heard some great stories about you through the late Bob Mercer. I know you were close with him and he nurtured you at the beginning of your career.
KB: That's right. Oh, dear Bob. He was a lovely man. He was very supportive, especially in the early days over those first few albums I ever made. It was actually Bob that first signed me up with EMI record company.
MR: Yes, he told me that, and also that you were one of his favorite artists that he ever had the pleasure of working with.
KB: Oh, that's so sweet. He was a real sweetheart, Bob. I think he is sorely missed by so many people. He was a very kind man and he had a fantastic sense of humor. As you well know, he was a lot of fun to spend time with. I think we all miss him terribly.
MR: Very true. He was extremely loyal too. Anyway, getting back to the album, would you consider it a wintry album, but could one also listen to this album in the summer to cool down with? (laughs)
KB: That's a lovely thought. (laughs) I mean, I thought this was very specifically an album that worked with this time of year because I very much had in mind the atmosphere of winter and snow. But listen, if people wanna play it in the summer, then that would be great.
MR: (laughs) Kate, you now have so much experience through your music and working in the industry, is there any advice that you'd like to pass on to new artists?
KB: Well, I think it's a really tough world for new artists. If you believe in what you do and you really want to be in music, just stick at it. It's always a learning process. Enjoy it because I think making music is a privilege, really. In an ideal world, it should also always be fun. As much as possible, make it fun.
MR: Beautiful. How do you feel you changed, as an artist or a person, since your first album?
KB: Oh, I don't know. My first album was a really long time ago now. (laughs) Most simply put, then, I was young and now, I'm old. (laughs) I guess that's the main difference.
MR: (laughs) When you look back at songs like, "Hounds Of Love," and "Running Up that Hill," as well as "Don't Give Up" with Peter Gabriel, which were all hits in the US, do you think of that time in your career as sort of an anomaly?
KB: I don't know because I don't really look at my work as a linear career. For me, what I do is make albums. I'm a recording artist. I love the process and I'm very lucky that I've been able to keep such a loyal audience. Some of them right from the first album. There are loads of people who liked my music back then, and we've kind of grown up together, you know? We've kind of gone through similar things in life. So, I don't think of it as a career. I just hope that each album is a little bit different than the one before and hope that there's a progression in what I'm doing. That's kind of enough, really.
MR: Beautifully put. I have to ask, of the 50 actual words for snow, which is your favorite?
KB: (laughs) Well, my favorite is furloopingjumpala. (laughs) What's yours?
MR: I would have to say mine is shnamistafloppin. (laughs)
KB: Oh, yeah. That's a good one.
MR: How much fun was putting that list together?
KB: Well, it wasn't as much fun as getting Stephen Fry to say them. We had such a load of fun doing that -- he's a lovely man. It was really fun working with him. I have to say that the whole album was a lot of fun to make. It came together really quickly, it had a flow to it. It was like there was a kind of simplicity that ran through this album, although there was some complex structures and ideas going on. What I hoped that song allowed to happen was to have a bit of fun, you know? It's not meant to be taken seriously at all -- it's meant to have a bit of a sense of humor. Stephen Fry is very popular here; he's a lovely man and very talented actor, and very intelligent. He's the kind of person that whenever he says something, it's with such a sensible authority that people automatically assume that it's important. So, I thought that it would be great to get him to read the words because he still maintained that sense of authority. He also just has an extremely beautiful voice.
MR: That's great. Speaking of beautiful voices, the album includes a track called "Snowed In At Wheeler Street" with Sir Elton John, right? What was it like working with him?
KB: It was fantastic. He is one of my great musical heroes, and when I wrote the song, I very much had him in mind and hoped that he would be interested enough to come and sing on the song. At the risk of sounding corny, it was like a dream come true having him come into the studio and sing so beautifully. I think his performance on the song is so fantastic; it's so emotive. I love him singing in that lower key. I really couldn't have been happier with what he brought to the track.
MR: It really is fantastic. His Elton John album is one of my favorites.
KB: I guess I love that album, but my very favorite album of his was Madman Across The Water. But I love everything Elton does.
MR: And, of course, there's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Hey Kate, what does the future hold for you? Will you be touring to support this new album?
KB: Well, as you know, I've done very little live work. It's been a very long time since I've been on tour, and I enjoyed every minute of it when I was on the road, but I've kind of become a recording artist only and I love my work. But I worked on these latest albums for quite an intense amount of time and the both come out this year -- which is unheard of for me. I'm really looking forward to taking a break and thinking about what to do next.
MR: That's great, and yeah, there's the other album that we'll have to chat about! Kate, I really do adore your body of work...okay, and you. (laughs) Thank you so much for taking the time to chat.
KB: Thank you so much, Mike. Thanks for having me.
2. Lake Tahoe
4. Wild Man
5. Snowed In At Wheeler Street
6. 50 Words For Snow
7. Among Angels
Transcribed by Evan Martin