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Steve talks about The Slow Crack and Starfish Print E-mail
Friday, 01 January 1988
Interview by Toby Creswell

I've got a terrace house and the back part is slowly scparating from the
front, eventually my kitchen will end up in the back garden. There's this
inexorable crack which is getting bigger and bigger every day. One day I had a
builder out to fix it and he said 'you've got a slow crack' I thought it was a
great name for my next album. When I told Marty he said you really mean the
slow crack between you and the rest of the band."

Steve Kilbey could only agree.  While his band the Church may have just
returned from Los Angeles with an album, Starfish, in the can, singer Steve
Kilbey is actively pursuing a solo career which is providing artistic and
financial rewards outside the band he has led for seven years.  Hence Kilbey's
third solo album in less than a year, The Slow Crack.

When the Church first emerged back in 1981 with the single "The Unguarded
Moment" Steve Kilbey was already announcing that he wasn't totally fulfilled
by the band, nor did he expect to be.  The rest of the group - guitarists
Peter Koppes and Marty Wilson-Piper [sic] didn't seem perturbed, but then they
were rarely consulted about anything by the media.  In a sense Kilbey was just
being realistic about the fate of any group and he was being honest about his
own ambitions.

Over the years the Church has begun to assume an identity greater than simply
being a backing group for Kilbey.  Other members of the band have been writing
songs and group now tends to compose an ensemble.  Drummer Richard Ploog has
played with other bands, notably Salamander Jim, while Wilson-Piper (sic) and
Koppes have both released solo records recently.  On a personal level the band
has become a closer if still volatile unit.  But the changes of recent years
have lifted a weight from Kilbey's shoulders.

"Seeing that the Church want to be more of a democracy there's no need for me
to write songs for them because they want to write their own. And there's so
many things that the Church don't want to do. The Church don't want to have
synthesisers or sequencers or lots of pianos or drum machines or record albums
at home. The Church has turned into this concept which has its particular
parameters and it doesn't seem to work when we go outside them. I just want to
do more things than the things the Church does."

Those things include publishing poetry. His first volume Earthed came out this
year accompanied by an instrumental LP with the same title and another volume
is in the works. Prior to that a collection of home recordings, Unearthed was
released on the independent Red Eye label. To Kilbey's surprise these projects
have proved almost as lucrative as the Church albums. Unearthed has been
picked up by the Enigma label in the U. S. (home of Poison and the
Smithereens) while Rykodisc has leased Earthed. A couple of tracks from that
disc have been picked up for a documentary film on eye operations in the U.S.

"With the Church albums they always cost more to record than we ever recouped
 from the advance. It's strange when I think that The Slow Crack cost $300 to
 make and Starfish cost almost $300,000. And it isn't a thousand times better.
 You spend more and more money to get that small improvement."

Not that money has ever been a big motivation for Kilbey. He's a man who is
decidedly Romantic, philosophically and artistically. His songs aim for an
ethereal quality and have an abhorrence of the everyday. Kilbey's conversation
is peppered with catchphrases like 'higher conspiciousness', 'surrealism' and
'psychedelic'.  Yet at the is quite pragmatic and profoundly cynical about
some of aspects of what he does. Most importantly however he is not in the
least sanctimonious about his work, at times even self-deprecating.

The jibes of critics, particularly those in this magazine as Kilbey frequently
points out, have hit home over the years. Their attacks are somewhat mollified
somewhat by the legion of Church faithful who are literally fanatic about the

"People say, particularly critics, that the Church never change; that the
records are all the same, but they don't say it about the Angels or the Smiths
or AC/DC.  "These are all bands who have developed a style originally and kept
on re-defining it.  With us it just seems that the same things keep coming up.
Which I think is both good and bad.  I think there's conceptual corner into
which we've painted ourselves - we have a lot more variation than bands who've
been ploughing the same old furrow.  Heyday, the Church's last album is still
the basic jingle-jangle melody and monotone singing and 4th form lyrics and
all that, is still a lot different from Of Skins and Heart.

"I can go into the studio with synthesisers and drum machines and do the songs
 but then what are the other guys going to do ? And I don't think people who
 buy Church, albums and there's 100,000 or so around the world who buy
 everything that the Church puts out, I don't think they want that. I think
 they want us to keep refocusing our vision until we get it right - which I
 don't think we've done an album where we've got every track right on the

The latest Church album; their fourth LP with three EPs in between albums is,
in Kilbey's opinion, getting closer than previous releases. The album was
recorded in Los Angeles with legendary session musicians Greg Ladanyi and
Waddy Wachtel producing and giving the band a leaner sound. After seven years
together and no appreciable recognition outside the converted it was certainly
time for the Church to try something different.

"It was kind ot a tense relationship " says Kilbey of the sessions for
Starfish. "They (Ladanyi and Wachtel) weren't terribly impressed about making
a record with us and our attitude was pretty much the same thing.  I did it
because I liked the random factor. It's just ridiculous on paper - a band like
the Church going to California and doing an album with these two 'dudes'. But
I think something good came out of the relationship."

"For this album I've written two songs which I knew the Church had to do and
 when I played them to the other guys, democracy aside, these were obviously
 good songs we'd be stupid not to do. When I wrote those songs I earmarked
 them for the Church. It just seemed fair that Marty and Peter should have a
 song on there and they had some good songs. Then it was just a case of OK,
 the rest we're going to write together' "

"I think it's a mixture of familiarity and contempt:' says Kilbey explaining
the internal relationships within the Church. "I think I'm quite a good
songwriter and yet sometimes I bring along really good songs and the rest of
the band don't want to do them. There's a sort of frustrating feeling there.
We've been together seven years and you tend to bond together. There's this
feeling that we haven't made our definitive record, we haven't accomplished
our mission together.

While the Church sound has been based on the traditional four piece line-up of
two guitars, bass and drums Kilbey's interests lie much wider. His passion for
the ringing tones of Byrds' guitar were a foundation of the Church but then
his tastes for white noise and pure pop are still looking for an escape. What
has remained constant is the muse.

"I can't say I write about this or this or this,' he explains. "I think I
 explore my own subconscious landscape. There are so many obvious thoughts -
 important, valid thoughts - but what's bubbling underneath are the things
 that interest me. The sort of things you think about as you're falling
 asleep; memories, half daydreams, they're the sort of things I write about. I
 find that's more interesting than the day to day world of stock markets

"The way I create music is that I play the first thing I think of and build on
that with the next thing I think of.  Then I put the lyrics on top of that.
With the song "Fireman" I started thinking about an arsonist and it went from
there. It doesn't mean anything and then on the hand it means many things.
People say to me 'I don't understand lyrics' and I tell them 'Don't try'.

 The Slow Crack represents a step beyond Unearthed in as much as it's a
collection of eight songs which were recorded specifically for release.
Kilbey chose to record at home partly to avoid conflict with the Church LP and
partly for the intimacy that home recording allows.  He confesses that the
album has tape hiss. bum notes, rumble and technical problems, but these
drawbacks are compensated for by the honesty of the project It's like an
evening at home with Steve Kilbey in your living room baring his musical
shortcomings.  It's as direct as possible to the source."

The songs range from a cover of Company Caine's "A Woman With A Reason" to a
couple of electro-pop songs, a blues piano track, "Surrealist Woman Blues" and
a track Kilbey describes as "the most pretentious thing l've done in my
pretentious life. I put a bit of Shakespeare to music."

Given Kilbey's search for inspiration in the unconscious. his florid imagery
and his Romantic ideals to say nothing about the ambient tunes on Earthed one
be forgiven tor seeing him as a born-again hippie.  Fortunately he's got far
too well-developed a sense humour for that and the innate cynicism of a man
who has been in rock & roll for most of his adult life.

"To be part of the Nw Age meant you had to be a big par of the old age
movement, capitalism, to get the money to afford the Transformation courses.
I'm not terribly interested in it. I, as much as the person, would like a New
Age to dawn, but I don't think becoming a vegetarian for a week is going to
help that.  It's going to take a lot more than a week down the coast with a

Kilbey has found his own level of contentment with what he believes to be two
successful albums.  Starfish will hopefully be the Church album that will
break the band on an international market while The Slow Crack is a further
step in a long satisfying solo career.

"I think it's good to have both going at the same time' "It's like having a
healthy body and a healthy mind. One of the first signs of dry rot is when
people start to move away from that inner-city type thing. I think the first
sign of stagnation is when everything you do is geared to maximum consumption.
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