XL Magazine (Italy) talks to Kate about 50 Words For Snow
“Hello, it’s Kate. I’m sorry I’m a bit late. You know, I’m usually on time”.
Getting a phone call from Kate Bush is not something that happens every day. Yes, that Kate, the iconic recluse that is now a model for a lot of female songwriters, the European muse.
It is even more unusual to hear her apologise for being just a few minutes late. It is such a big surprise. But it does not last. The singer has decided to drop her own reserve to talk about her new album, 50 Words For Snow, that is going to be released on November 21st. Those who know her are well aware of the amount of care she usually puts in her recording process. Her last album of new songs, Aerial, was published six years ago, and the one before that, The Red Shoes, came out in 1993. Three records in almost twenty years, an eternity.
“I’m obsessed with the idea of doing something new and hopefully interesting”, she says as if in need of a justification. “I love making records, but I feel such a big responsibility. It takes up so much time: weeks, months, years in a studio, trying to do my best. But this makes me happy.”
“Yes, happy. I’m not the snob, eccentric woman some might think of. I’m just trying to lead a simple family life. I’ve never thought of myself as a star. Being in the spotlight is not a part of me. Making records can be quite stressful.”
50 Words For Snow is built around the theme of snow; more than a concept album, it sounds like a literary calembour. The record includes 7 long songs and features cameo performances by the likes of Elton John, Andy Fairweather-Low and actor Stephen Fry.
“I’ve decided to focus on snow, because for me it has a very magic quality. I started thinking about how it feels when it snows, and then gradually gave birth to these stories.”
The new record was preceded by Director’s Cut, a collection of re-worked material from The Sensual World and The Red Shoes.
“It’s been like getting over an obstacle.”, she says.
“Having to confront with oneself is a very ambitious task for any artist. I was wondering if those tracks were representing the artist I am now. My voice has changed, my relationship with those songs has morphed. I couldn’t imagine how difficult it would be to re-approach them vocally. It’s been a very interesting exercise for me. I’m quite proud of it.”
While she was playing with her past as she would do with a Rubik’s cube, Peter Gabriel was doing more or less the same with his own projects.
“It’s pure coincidence, but I’m quite interested in Peter’s idea of working on his back catalogue. I think we’ve been fascinated by the same artistic challenge. It’s even more interesting, as I haven’t heard from him for a while. He’s an extraordinary artist, a truly talented one. I love his voice, it gets better with time.”
After successfully going through the Pillars of Hercules of her past, the artist who created Wuthering Heights has been working steadily on her new album.
“Some say my new songs are too long, but a song tells a story, it must follow its path. Long journeys need time, and I don’t make music because I’m interested in the charts.”
The new album is also the fulfilling of a dream, a duet with Elton John.
“I’ve been a fan since I was a little girl. My biggest dream was to be able to play the piano like he does. It was such a big privilege to cover Rocket Man twenty years ago, one of my ever favourite songs. When I wrote Snowed In At Wheeler Street I called him: it was just perfect for a duet.”
33 years after her debut, the music industry is still waiting for her successor. Every new female songwriter, from Bat For Lashes to KT Tunstall or Florence and the Machine, seems to be born from one of her ribs.
“Really?”, she laughs.
“I’m flattered, but I don’t think I’m so inspirational. It’s interesting there seems to be so many female artists around lately. I’ve heard about Lady Gaga, she’s great. She sounds convincing, though I must admit I don’t listen to music that much. I haven’t got enough time to do all the things I’d love doing.”
What does Kate Bush love doing? Her voice sounds shy:
“I like going to the cinema, meeting friends, gardening, baking cakes, reading. But I really can’t keep up with everything.”
Her fans dream about a tour…
“I don’t know. I need to breathe. When I’m ready, I won’t draw back. I miss the stage.”
Creative autonomy is the core of her universe. That’s why Fish People, her own label, was born.
“I wanted to feel a bit more independent from the record industry, while getting more control over my creative side.”
The only taboo topic with Bush is her private life. She hesitates on confirming she still lives in the UK, and keeps silent for a moment before accepting to describe her home: “…a pleasant place, the perfect one for me to live in…”. Then she apologises again, as our interview is over.
(with thanks to Antonello for providing this translation)