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Mark Radcliffe: "Kate Bush is that old-fashioned thing - an artist"

"She's got everything: she’s personable, beautiful, talented and yet she has a layer on top of that of sheer originality." Mark Radcliffe reflects upon the news that Kate Bush is playing live again

Kate Bush onstage in London

On August 26, at London’s Hammersmith Eventim Apollo, Kate Bush makes her long-awaited, never-dreamed-of return to the live arena. Rumours of a big, theatrical extravaganza are buzzing, but the show has been kept firmly under wraps. This week Kate herself implored fans to just connect with the rest of the audience – and her – rather than view the shows through smartphones and cameras. As the excitement builds, The Big Issue spoke to a host of people who know and love her about what makes Kate great, and what to expect at the gigs… hold on to your hats!

Here, MARK RADCLIFFE, Radio 2 and 6Music DJ who’s bagged the best interviews with Kate Bush at her home, unravels the mystery of her music…

There’s no one else in the whole world who would have thought of doing this

She’s got everything: she’s personable, beautiful, talented and yet she has a layer on top of that of sheer originality. She’s a one-off. Her work is magical. I love her voice, I love her piano playing, I love her composition and ideas. Her records take you to another place.

My favourite album of recent times is A Sky of Honey, the second disc on Aerial, which has birdsong all the way through, tracking a day with birdsong. I love the song on there Somewhere In Between, it works as a piece of pop music but it’s in the middle of this concept album.

There’s no one else in the whole world who would have thought of doing this. 50 Words for Snow, those long songs, just her at the piano; she does exactly what she wants to do and has the confidence to carry it through.

From a very early age she could make the music industry bend to her will, whereas the other way around was the norm. She then took time off to be a mother to her son, even though she was kind of working but not at any particularly great rate in those years.

Kate Bush is that old-fashioned thing, she’s an artist – she creates this music and a by-product is people want to know about her personal life. And she doesn’t want to tell them. She doesn’t want to put it on Facebook, it’s her private life. What she prizes over all else is being able to live a normal life with her family.

The thing I found most surprising when I met her is that she was completely normal, she’s a really friendly, chatty, welcoming, working mum. The first time I went to her house she hadn’t had time to make any food so she’s got this cheese flan from the supermarket, she hadn’t made any particular effort in what she was wearing, she was just going about her day and that day happened to include me as well as taking her son Bertie to school and whatever else she was doing.

She’s absolutely not crazy (despite tabloid clichés). It’s not for me to speak for her, but I don’t think she’s wildly over-concerned, my impression was she finds it quite funny that they think she swans around in a batwing dress in a gothic castle. She’s picking up cheese flans from the supermarket!

I never thought I would get the chance to see her live, I didn’t see her one and only tour and I just never thought it would happen. When I’ve interviewed her I’ve always asked about it and she always said “I’ve not ruled it out”, but I never took that as an indication she was really serious about it. So it was quite a big surprise when she announced the dates.

I would be very surprised if it was anything other than quite theatrical, dramatic and well-designed with some over-arching concept to it, but I’m guessing.

I would be very surprised if it was anything other than quite theatrical, dramatic and well-designed

That picture of her in the lifejacket; water has cropped up in her work quite a lot, I don’t know whether there’s some aquatic theme. Will she dance or sit behind the piano or both? Will she talk or will it be a sculpted whole piece? I would be amazed if she bounded on and said “Hello Hammersmith!”

Keeping the shows under wraps is her way in everything, really. My feeling is not that it’s an overwhelming desire for secrecy. She’s lived outside show-business and her way of doing things is to just get on with it without distraction.

She cares very much about what people think about the work. She always asks you very carefully about it. She is interested, and the reaction to records is very important to her, she pours her heart and soul into them.

She is wildly imaginative and creative, and she’s fantastically single-minded, quite pragmatic about what needs to be done, not an airy-fairy flighty idea: it’s work, it’s art, the process of creation, and she takes all that very seriously. She has meticulous control over all the music and the artwork. She’s a one-off, a true original. And she’s fantastically good humoured and giggly and smiley.

Words: Mark Radcliffe

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