F or more than a decade, Kate Bush has been silent. The 47-year-old British singer who crafted a string of much-loved art-pop albums in the '70s and '80s took a break after 1993's The Red Shoes. Now the enchanting chanteuse is back with an ambitious new double CD, Aerial (in stores Nov. 8). We tracked her down at home near Reading, England, where the squawks, yelps, and boisterous singing of her 6-year-old son, Bertie, are loudly audible in the background. His mum fills us in on her return to her day job.
So have you actually been working on this record for the past 12 years?
I wrote the first song 9 or 10 years ago. And then I'd have a very big gap and I wouldn't do anything again for maybe three years. Albums take me a long time. When I got to the end of the last record I actually felt that I didn't want to go into the studio and do another one again. It's what I'd been doing since I was 18. I just really wanted a break. So I thought I'd take a year out, and the year sort of somehow turned into 12.
On your new single, ''King of the Mountain,'' you seem to be suggesting that Elvis Presley is still alive.
Yes. This is very good, because a lot of people aren't sure what the song is about. I haven't wanted to interfere with a process that might be a bit of a playful puzzle, which I'm very happy to encourage because I don't think there are enough nowadays. But you seem to have got it. Well done!
Why a double album?
I came up with the idea of this conceptual piece, for want of a better word, because I don't want to call it my ''symphony.'' [Laughs] But listening back to it [after it was recorded], I would get to about the third song and think, ''God, this is really tiring! So what's it gonna be like for people who've never even heard it before?'' I really think the best length for a contemporary album is about 40 minutes, so I got quite excited by the whole idea of making two discs.
At one point on the new album your son can be heard saying, ''It sounds like the birds are saying words,'' and then you proceed to sing in what sounds like some kind of avian language. Do you, uh, speak bird?
[Laughs] Not yet. But I'm still working on it!
One of the most beautiful new tracks, ''Mrs. Bartolozzi,'' seems to be about doing the laundry. Kate Bush does housework?
Yeah, I have spent large amounts of time doing the washing. [Laughs]Some people find this amusing, but I actually do try to run a household, which people find very hard to get their heads around. I can't understand that, because to me it's perfectly normal.