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Steve talks to Drum Media about Sometime Anywhere, the business and Peter leaving Print E-mail
Tuesday, 21 June 1994
Steve talked to John Tingwell from Drum Media about the music business before the release of Sometime Anywhere. Drum Media, 21 June 1994

The Veteran Rebel
The Church
By John Tingwell

Steve Kilbey has made a name for himself within the music industry as a chap who passionately enjoys doing things in his own way; a habit which has won him a tonne of respect from some (usually fans and other musicians) but, as you could imagine, a load of antipathy from the industry overseers he's snubbed. It's one of the reasons, he says, that The Church has been picked up and dumped by more record labels than the rest of us have had puzzling hairdos. It's also helped the band, nowadays Peters Koppes-less, survive to see the birth of their ninth album, Sometime Anywhere.

Kilbey is sitting at a rickety table in a Taylor Square cafe, fixedly spooning the contents of a giant bowl of soup into his beardless face. Deliberately, he looks up for long enough to ask me what we're going to talk about. Resisting the temptation to suggest we talk about the effect The Benny Hill Show had on Portugese fisherman during the 1970s, I sit down and laugh an uncomfortable chuckle. On one of the new album's tracks, The Maven, Kilbey sings about the horrors of the business end of the music. Perhaps, I suggest, we talk about that.

"You've just got to do what you believe in," he says looking over my shoulder at the traffic on Taylor Square. "It's the only way you're going to achieve any longevity. If I'd played the maven game from the start, I'd be finished now.

"I remember in 1987," he continues, shifting his gaze from the traffic to the top button of my shirt, "when we were signed to EMI, there was an imbecile working there; a big fat man with a suntan and gold chains. He called me into his office and said, 'You're about to make a new album. What are you going to do on it?' I said I wanted to make a double alubm, blah blah. He said 'Well, I don't like what I'm hearing here. What we need is more albums like John Farnham's album. You got any songs like that ?' He was basically saying, 'You do it my way, or you don't do it.' The next day I got a phone call from EMI saying that we were dropped." He shakes his head and a half grin relocates the corners of his mouth, until he again begins spooning.

Kilbey may well shake his head; after being dropped, The Church went on to enjoy a hit with Under the Milky Way, the song ending up in the lucrative American Top 20. So much for doing what the record copmany man says. "Those sort of people are easy targets really. It's like shooting a barn with a shotgun. They're not very hard to hit. I feel like I can write anything I want now."

And so he should. The Church's first album, Of Skins and Heart was released mid-way through 1981 and since then the band, in varying forms, has released a further seven albums. Kilbey's seen the music business around him flourish and flounder, but all the time, it appears The Church, in particular Steve Kilbey, has maintained an even keel. He's grown older (though he refuses to divulge his exact age) and wiser and more confident over those 14 or so years.

"It's very funny to be considered a veteran because inside I still feel like a rebel. I know that sounds ridiculous, but inside I still hate this business. I hate most people in it and I won't go and do all the things that most people do, I won't go to ARIA Award nights, much less accept awards."


"Because I think there's a certain premise," he says, now tucking into an Anzac bickie. "If you accept an award from somebody you're accepting that that person is in a superior position to you. I think it's all just a huge wank. And I do get shocked when I see people who consider themselves alternative getting up there to accept an award. I can't believe that they fall for it. I know the guy from 'You Am I' said something like, 'Thanks for this, whatever it means', when he accepted his ARIA but he still got up there, he still accepted their rules. He was a good boy who went along with the charade. If you're a good musician and you truly believe in what you're doing, you should be able to say no to the award without harming your future. I won't suck up to the bastards."

When original Church guitarist, Peter Koppes left last year, many believe the end of the band was nigh. But no doubt with the kind of determination and one-eyed fixation that Kilbey posses, (see above quote for confirmation of this trait), The Church continues, albeit whittled down to just he and guitarist and co-writer, Marty Willson-Piper, Sometime Anywhere, in spite of being the album that wasn't supposed to be is, it could be argued, the finest moment for the band yet. Certainly it shows up Priest=Aura for being the pouting, moody little wretch that it is. But with Peter Koppes gone, the band, or rather duo, has created a less dense, perhaps more refined, sound. Each track, an inviting pond in which to bathe the lugholes.

As to the whereabouts of Koppes, "He wanted to go off and do his own thing, which I think was a mistake. He wanted to sing and play his own songs because I think it really got to him that Marty got a lot of the credit for playing guitar in The Church. It was strictly 50/50 between those two, although when we started out it was definitely Peter who created that Church guitar sound."

Kilbey's not about to throw in the towel. Apart from The Church, his duties also lie in the production and co-writing areas. Most recently he worked with Stephen Cummings on his forthcmoing album and prior to that, he did the same for Mae Moore. If we are to believe him, Kilbey says that he knew from the very start that he was going to be a musician all his life.

"What else can I do? If you're a musician you've got to make records. I've never wanted to get into acting and all I've ever wanted to do is to make music. So yeah, I was looking at longevity back when we first started. It's a hard thing to give up and I don't know how people can."

Transcribed by Brian Smith

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