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Steve interviewed before first show in Budapest, Hungary Print E-mail
Friday, 01 October 2004

Originally published by http://www.source.hu/church/ at http://www.source.hu/church/interview.html

The Church will be making their first ever appearance in Hungary on April 18. They will play at the Godor Klub (Erzsebet ter), with special guest Heaven Street Seven. The Church first broke on the Australian scene with their hit "Unguarded Moment" back in 1981, and achieved wider international commercial success with their hit single "Under The Milky Way" in 1988, a song which also featured prominently in the recent film "Donnie Darko". They have since released several high quality releases, including their latest album "Forget Yourself", which has received very positive reviews in music magazines around the world. The Church have recently completed an Australian tour, which included several sold out shows, including the Sydney Opera House. The Church are now Steve Kilbey, Peter Koppes, Tim Powles, and Marty Willson Piper.


Band frontman Steve Kilbey (main lyricist and bassist for The Church) recently spoke to me about the upcoming Budapest show, and several other topics. Below is a transcript of our conversation.

K = Kevin, the interviewer
S = Steve Kilbey

K Good evening, this is Kevin from Budapest
S Hello Kevin from Budapest
K Is this steve kilbey?
S that is steve kilbey

K First of all, thank u for taking time to speak with me
S No Problem

K First question I would like to ask you is if you have ever been to Hungary before?
S No, I haven't

K How does the band feel about playing Bp for the first time?
S I think we're quite excited actually. But I hope someone comes to see it. I hope there's somebody there. But it should be good.

K We're really excited that you are coming
S Well, good.

K I got many emails from fans here that are very excited The Church are coming, they can hardly believe it
S Ahh...Excellent. That's great.

K I heard it was not a very easy decision to come here.Something like the record company not really happy about it? How did you finally decide to come?
S I record company did not think it was a good idea because we hadn't sold any or many records in Hungary, but you know, how can you not go to Budapest if you get the chance? I've never been there, and its one of the famous cities of Europe. The Church have never been in the Eastern part of Europe at all

K Well, you have some fans here really looking forward to it
S (laughing) Lets see

K I actually noticed in your last album, in the song Espionage from Parallel Universe that you mention Budapest. Was that just random?
S I have to say first of all it rhymed. And secondly, I think Budapest is a very mysterious city, and its got that...obviously the song was about spies and things like that - it was along those lines, so using Budapest was more mysterious if it had been Hamburg, Manchester, or something. You know what I mean? But of course not having been to Budapest maybe I was wrong. But it feels to me like it would be a good city for an off duty spy to hang around in for a while. Sort of lay low and enjoy the pleasures.

K I think I know some people like that here actually
S (Laughing) Can I get their phone numbers when I get there?

K I want to ask you about the new CD, Forget Yourself, which I think is really excellent by the way, I am enjoying it a lot
S Thank you
K It seemed upon first hearing it a rather strange album title for The Church. What made The Church decide to call in Forget Yourself? Whats the story behind it?
S You want the real story (laughing)?
K sure
S Ok, the real story is that we had many, many titles, and it got to the stage where no title would be good enough, there were so many other titles. Its like sitting down to name a child, it just becomes ridiculous, each new name that someone mentions just doesn't get considered seriously after a while, and so, uh, we were just sort of having a moratorium on thinking of new names for a while, and I was in the market with one of my little daughters, and she went up to this place, and she saw they had these badges, and she wanted one of these badges with Mickey Mouse or somebody on it. So I bought her this badge, and the guy who was selling the badge said you can get another badge for free, if you want one. And I said alright, and there was a badge which said "Forget Yourself", so I took that and stuck it on my jacket and all day when I was walking around everybody who saw me with that badge said Oh, that's good, that's very typical of you and all this kind of thing. I was getting a lot of comments, and that night, I was kinda thinking about it, and I rang up the other (band) members and I said what do you think of "Forget Yourself", and they all really liked it, so that's kinda how it happened.

K How do your daughters like the new cd? Are they big Church fans?
S Um, yay, a few months ago I was standing looking out the window and I was playing Sealine, the first track, and I heard this little voice join in with (singing) "I will not follow you to the Sealine", so that's my daughter Amy, who is 4 years old, standing there singing along with it, so its pretty funny to hear her singing it.

K I believe the song "Glow Worm" from Hologram of Baal was also about your daughter?
S Yay, that was about one of my other daughters. My other pair of twins.

K Actually, I recently got married, and we used that song in our wedding
S Oh, good on you. Congratulations

K The band who was playing in our wedding, called the Dollar Boys from Szeged, Hungary offered to play one song for us, that they would learn and play, and that's the song we choose.
S It's a very simple song, isn't it?
K It's a simple sound, and it sounded good
S Did they get it right?
K No (both laughing)
S But its only three chords (laughing..)
K But they tried, they really tried
S Well, that's good, and was it romantic?
K It was actually very romantic, and the lyrics were on our invitation, which I why I sent you one. I felt if we used your lyrics, we should at least send you an invitation. And we got a lot of nice feedback about that. They were saying "who is this steve kilbey?", Its very beautiful.
S laughing...that's good man. That's wonderful actually. I mean, I can't tell you how happy that makes me. I just hope its not an auspicious way to start your marriage. I hope you don't come to hate that song one day (laughing).

K The church obviously have a huge back catalogue of songs, when starting the tour, how do you decide what songs you are going to play? I imagine it's a very difficult process?
S It is actually. And it always leads to lots of arguments, and um, then the road crew coming with their opinions, and then they get argued with, and uh...everybody gets angry, and uh, I don't know, its just a process of like battling it out I guess, and this album, we tried to play quite a few of these new songs, and you know, of course a few old songs. But you cant play everything that people want to hear, and you cant even play all the things you want to hear because it becomes compromised, and uh, I don't know how else to do it, I mean, you cant have one person saying this is what we're going to do, and you cant have the audience telling you what to do because they don't know themselves. I mean, every time we play "Under the Milky Way" one person will come up and say I am glad you played "Under the Milky Way" , that song means a lot to me, and then another person will walk up and say I don't know why your still playing that song, you know? Why don't people just get over it and you guys should stop playing it. So its very hard, it's a hard thing, and you know, there are like 200 songs to pick from, and we can only play 15, and um, we cant go changing all the songs around every night doing different songs because the guy doing the mixing usually has things set up to work in a sequence , so we normally settle on what songs we are going to play, and then stick to that during the whole tour, and then something kinda, uh...we were doing a song which wasn't working out so we stopped doing it, and put another one in, so..
K Lay Low?
S Yay, "Lay Low" bit the dust. It just wasn't fitting in with the other stuff, it was too, like...noisy...disorientating.

K Are there some songs now that everyone agrees they loves to play?
S um, lets see. I think the only song everyone really agrees they like to play is "Myrhh". I think that's the only song you find everyone in the band pretty happy about playing, um, or we all agree that it's a good song. Um, you know, it changes all the time. Sometimes I play whatever particular song and I'm like, "Oh god, I'm sick of that song", and then another night something happens, and for some reason it becomes appropriate to that show, you know what I mean? Its like, you realize, uh, having a girlfriend and one day you look at her, and you see something in her you've never seen before, some beautiful quality, and it can happens with songs, you know

K So are The Church looking forward to the European tour? Do the Church still really enjoy touring, and do you feel its something you have to do to support the new album?
S I love to play live, but I don't like traveling around too much. Um, you know, planes, especially now with all the terrorist type of thing, especially in America, makes everything harder to travel because there is so much suspicion and paranoia and all that blah, blah, blah, blah, but actually getting up on the stage and playing, I still get pretty excited about.

K The Church have very good reputation for live performance...
S Do we?
K yes
K I just wondered, The Church seem very confident on stage, so I just wanted to ask, do you ever feel nervous or anxious before a performance? Or is it just so natural now?
S um. Once upon a time I really felt nervous when I went on stage, like in the early days of performing, and when I first started playing in front of people. These days I still get a slight tinge of that. But as soon as I kinda walk on stage, it sort of immediately just converts to energy. I use to find...that I use to be in a debating team...and um, in high school, and I felt before I was going to speak I felt this terrible nervousness, like butterflies in my stomach, and palpitations, and hot flashes, and as soon as I started I found all of that energy suddenly divert itself into what I was doing. I was always very grateful for that. I was never confident it was going to happen, but it always did seem to happen. And, like I am sure when we are in Budapest, I'll be really nervous, you know, playing somewhere like that, especially if a few people do come to see us, and they are excited, and there is a lot of expectation, because, you know, you gotta....plus they don't speak English, so your up against those things, so I'll be very nervous, will they be into what we do, will they kinda like us, and will we like them? And sometimes when I play big festivals and stuff, that's pretty nerve wracking, when your waiting backstage to go on, and you hear some guy going "Ladies and Gentleman, The Church!", and you walk out and there's 10.000 people looking at you. Its sort of like, a moment of truth, and you just gotta have the guts to go out and do it, you know..

K There is one song from the new album I would like to ask you about. I liked all the songs, but one song that really got my attention was Maya. I think its one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. I just wanted to see if you could shed some light on that song, about who/or what is Maya, or what inspired that song?
S Can I ask you what you think it is?
K The funny thing is that I just don't know, I cant articulate it. It means so much, but I can't explain it?
S Well, do you think I will ruin for you when I say what it is. If you think that its got so much in it that you cant explain it. So if I put some explanation, like - I wrote it about blah, blah, blah, it can only disappoint and frustrate you, cant it? It will somehow put a shadow on your own interpretation. Because even though you'll go "oh, this is my interpretation, its just as valid". When the songwriter says, oh no, I wrote this song about this, its very hard to sort of in your own mind go against that with your own feelings, isn't it? So I'm worried. - I mean, I can easily tell you, but I'm also worried about ruining what you got going. And I'm sure what the kind of things that ...are intriguing you, I'm sure they can't be put to words, really. It's just a kind of feeling your getting. I'm very loath to ruin it for you
K Ok, don't tell me! Laughing
S But you can appreciate that, can't you?
K of course I can.

K Many people feel one thing that makes The Church unique and special is the lyrics. They are just better than what you normally hear. Do you spend a lot of time writing the lyrics, or does it come very naturally and easily for you? What is harder for you, to write the music or the lyrics?
S um, I'm surprised that people in Hungary speak English that they can tell they are good lyrics
K Actually, Hungarians are quite good with English
S Are they?
K Yes
S Good then, then I am very flattered by that, that the Hungarian listeners think that the lyrics are good. Well, um, I think what I have to say is that I have been a lyricist for all my life, right from when, oh, as soon as I could speak I was examining lyrics and phrases, and when someone would read a story I would take words from that story as they were reading it, and sort of turn them around in my head and look at all the combinations. So all my life I've been practicing to be a lyricist. You know, I thought...I dabbled in a bit of poetry, and you know, trying to write things, and stuff, but in the end lyrics is really my specialty, it's the kind of thing I was most obsessed with, and I have spent a lot of time in my life thinking about lyrics and so now, when I sit down to write the lyrics for songs it comes kinda quickly because I have all these ways I've developed over the years. You know, when you hear that song "Maya" it gives you all those ideas. When I hear a piece of music The Church or somebody has written, or I've written myself, or whoever has written it, I get all those ideas too, just like you do...but I'm very...I'm good at, like, being able to give them names and being able to get them down on paper. But the thing is that when you are dealing in that kind of imagery you have to use very subtle language. You can't just go ahead and use those obvious kind of things, and I think this is what my niche is in the world of rock lyricism, is that I am one of the few lyricist, who these days, deals with those subtle concepts, you know. Its not all...you know...I'm the very anti-thesis of what rap music is, because rap music is very simple language, kinda slogans, sort of, you know, like, giving you very obvious choices, you know, like "I do this", "you should do, so I don't do that, you shouldn't, you know what I mean? Whereas what I am doing is the very opposite of that. I'm like, what I'm doing is kinda just floating very...well, not always., but what I specialize in really, is very kind of subtle ideas or very loosely sketching in a situation and then giving the listener some hints of where I'm going, but not sort of spelling it all out, not kinda saying, you know, "It was a sunny morning and the sky was blue, and I felt good because my baby was back". You know, I don't do a lot of that kind of thing. Sometimes I do throw in very simple things and...

K Hard for me to believe, but The Church has existed nearly 25 years now. What is the secret to The Church survival?
S I think there are a number of things that are the secret to our survival. I think first of all, I think me, Peter (Koppes) and Marty (Willson Piper), the longest serving members, all kinda like each other at some level, you know, and are rather fond of each other. And I think we always were, and we all respected that each of us brought a different thing to the table that the other one didn't or couldn't do, you know. Marty brought his kind of slash and excitement, and intensity. Peter brought his deep musicianship, and deep sense of melody and beauty in music, and I kinda brought the lyrics and the voice and a lot of ideas about where to getting things to go. And then you know Tim's come along, and brought his studio expertise, and his excellent drumming, and his kinda - he's a very balanced member. He's the most balanced member of the group. He's the least likely one to start yelling and screaming (laughing), so in that way, it's been good. And we still feel, and I think the audience still feels that we have something left to give, and we still feel that we have more to give than we've already given. If there was that much time for us. If we could exist for another 25 years, I think we could go on, within this blueprint that we have is a way for it to evolve and not become ridiculous, because I think if we can just keep on creating beautiful and sublime music and thoughtful lyrics, and everybody gets better and better, it shouldn't matter too much about anything else, and after a while people can get over the fact that "oh god, they've been around for this long"....and just not worry about that. If you go and see an orchestra, you don't worry about how old all the people are, you know, you just want to close your eyes and listen to the music. Anyway, that's my theory.

K One thing I noticed in the reviews for Forget Yourself, or one thing I commonly read is its really good, but not as good as Starfish, or Heyday - and I always felt that the new material, well, first of all, its different, but second, its just as good if not better. I think the band continues to grow and get better. S - Thank you
K So it must be very annoying for you to read those reviews that always compare you to something 15 years ago
S Yes! It is, what can I say. You want me to go into my spiel about journalist?
K Yes, lets hear it
S First of all, when you are a journalist. Well, first of all, when you are a human being and you hear something at a very early age, so you're a journalist, and you hear Starfish when your 15, you know, its going to come along and its going to blow your mind, and most of the reason is because your 15 and suddenly your hearing a record that has all these ideas and stuff you've never thought of before, and Bang! There it is! Its impossible for us to replicate that feeling for you 15 years later. Nobody can do that. Its like being married for ten years, and asking your wife every night to simulate how excited you were the first time you had sex with somebody. Its like - there's some things you just can't do. And journalist have realized that- that I'm glad they loved Starfish 15 years ago and that it excited them. But its hard, I can't pull that trick off every time. Its like when you buy a Bob Dylan album now. You're not expecting it to make you feel like when you heard, you know, Mr. Tamborine Man, or something. That's not what your suppose to be doing anyway when you've been around so long. The other thing with music journalist is when something is old, like The Church is, I mean, definitely as a rock band we're very old, and you know, they have to say something negative about you, because that's what young journalist do. That's what they've always done. You know, if I was the young rock journalist, I would write bad things about things that have been around for a long time, because that's part of the game, and we have to accept that. I mean, if your going to be a rock band, and be around for a long time , you do have to accept that your going to get this kind of stuff, and you've got to just kinda wade on through it. You've got to also accept that people think you are a nostalgic act, you know, and there are some bands, like if you go and see the Rolling Stones, and they got a new album out, sure they might play one or two songs off that new album, but that is not what people are there for, and that is not what the Rolling Stones are there for. They are there to play "Satisfaction" and "Jumping Jack Flash", and blah, blah, blah. With The Church, we're not like that. We're not there, and I know you know this, but I'm just answering it for anyone who's interested, we're not there to fucking play songs from twenty years ago - necessarily. You know, if there's an old song that we still like playing, then we will play it. But we're pretty much there to play our new album. And if you've seen us over the years, you will realize that each time we have a new album out we sort of play a load of stuff off that, and then we play, you know, a bit of stuff from the past.

K I go crazy when people start shouting "Unguarded Moment" and other old hits...
S So do I!
K I don't think you'll have that in Budapest. I don't think the know much of the older stuff
S No, I don't think so

K I know you have many collaborations outside The Church, and I just wonder if there is anyone you would really love to work with? Who would be on top of your list now to make an album with
S Can't think of anyone off the top of my head. Hmm...I don't know man, cannot really think of anyone right now. You know, if Brian Eno rung me up now, I guess I'd always be available

K Well, thank you for taking time to answer some questions. It was very nice to speak with you. Just want to let you know again that we are very excited The Church are coming to Budapest

S Ok man, your welcome. See you later. Bye

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