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Steve speaks with The Age, Melbourne Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 July 1997
This article appeared in the Melbourne Age newspaper in July 1997 and was sent in by Rebecca Halfpenny. The article was written by Chris Beck...I think.  

Steve Kilbey

Melbourne : The Age

You're interested in surrealism. Can that be used in ways of conducting your life ?

There is that saying that the ultimate surrealist act is to walk into a street full of people and start shooting them down. But no one is going to look at Martin Bryant and say: "What a crazy surrealist guy." The surrealists themselves had all these grandiose ideas which, as far as I can tell, none of them actually lived their life by.

Is it applicable to music ?

Oh absolutely. That thing of trying to deal directly with your subconcious. Trying to bypass the conscious mind, which is trying to filter out everything it thinks is irrelevant. I'm sitting here and I'm just seeing things that are relevant to me as an egotistical 42 year old man. I'm thinking "There's another man here. How old is he ? Would he compete for a woman I'm interested in ?" And "this chair's comfortable and I'm a bit cold". but, really, if I were a five-year-old child, there would be a wealth of information absolutely bombarding me. As we get older, we learn to filter out all the useless infomration until we are just living this survival, comptetitive, kind of thing. You meet kids before they start going to school and they are walking around like everything's a trip. After starting school the focus changes...To walk down the street, get a job and catch a train home. You can't be concerned with how beautiful your hand is how beautiful the sky is because you'd never get anything done.

But you tap into your subconscious for your songs with The church and your solo material ?

I tap into it for a song and I pull the song back into the world. But I'm as much a victim of the mundane. I know so much about that other world by reading the surrealists and taking mind-expanding drugs. I know that its out there. We are this tiny invisible frame away from all this wonderful stuff, but I'm locked into the nine-to-five, pay-the-bills humdrum as much as anybody.

In your book Earthed, you wrote that magic is fading from this world. What was the magic that you wish could come back ?

I feel that the more computers and TVs there are, and the more advertising and stuff, I think the other things are being squeezed out - if the ever existed. I feel like all the books that we read as kids wouldn't appeal to us so much if there hadn't been, at some stage, you know, the fairies and the dragons and all the things that apparently aren't here anymore. And one feels as a child that they should exist. Magic isn't important any more.

Do you want to have an influence over your two children ?

The only message I want to get through to my two girls is be a child as long as you can. Unfortunately, girls have this incredible pressure, especially these days, to go on diets and put on lipstick and drink beer and smoke cigarettes and kiss boys. I want to say to them, if you are 16 and you want to do childish things, do it. Don't conform to that stupid world out there.

Do you enjoy the feeling of melancholy ?

A long time ago, I perceived this wonderful contradiction in art that very sad films, songs, paintings, photos, books, bring out this wonderful feeling of triumph. You would think if you read a really happy book, it would make you happy. And yet the greatest books tend to be sad. I realised that by writing sad songs I could make people happier. I'm not quite sure how that works.

Is the melancholy you enjoy in your reality or more in prose ?

It's both. If your girlfriend has just said goodbye for ever and it's a cold, rainy day and you are walking along the side of a grey beach and you are totally on your own, I think there is a certain sort of pleasure in that.

What makes you happy ?

The only thing that gives me any real happiness is my two daughters, because when I play with them I can stop being me and go back to being a kid.

You have loyal following. Having met dedicated fans who see you as a special human being, how do you see yourself ?

Sometimes it makes you feel more of a fraud than ever when someone comes up and says "Your music has really helped me." I got an email from a girl who said: "When I was 18, I read your book Earthed and now I'm the associate professor of ancient history at Harvard and it's all because I read your book." And I thought :"Wow that amazing." Then you think, well, why am I such an incompetent person going around causing pain to people I know ?

You use the image of the heart in your music and some of your cover art. Is it a bit of symbol for you ?

I guess it's the heart as opposed to the head, I'm trying to get at. I wish that everything I did was coming from my heart. But my mind gets in the way. You know your mind is your worst enemy.

You are associated with magic and the mystical, but it seems like you academically desire it rather than have a natural connection ?

That's true. That's why drugs came into it so much because I am so much a sensible person and am analysing so much that I have to get out of it... I envy that innocence or whatever it is.

Have you had an omen in your life ?

I will tell you the turning point in my life. In 1985-1986, I was very happy. I was doing a lot of yoga, meditation, a lot of exercise. I stopped taking drugs, I was eating very healthy food, I was spending a lot of time with Karin (the girls' mother) and I started to lead this utterly blissful life. I used to get out of bed every morning and think: "What wonderful thing does the day hold ?" I'd walk down the street and feel like I could communicate with the cats and dogs. The Church was putting along, not big, not small. Then the album Starfish sold a million copies in America. Suddenly it was all about figures. I was listening to people telling me I had to get an apartment in New Yourk. People were saying your next record is going to be bigger than U2.

The outside was affecting you on the inside ?

There's no way if you do a big show in America and you meet the schmoozers and do 10 lines of cocaine and drink a bottle of Jack Daniels that you are going to go back to your hotel room and do yoga. I stopped meditation and exercise, I broke up with Karin, I started taking lots of drugs again. I really feel like someone up there just went "This is your big test." I really blew it. The way I handled success took me off this really wonderful path I was on. I don't think I'll ever get back there. I read somewhere that John Lennon said you can fill the bed up with groupies and have a wad of money in the bank, but it doesn't fill the big hole in your heart. And that's really true.

Who were you in a previous life ?

Well, I actually just had a past life regression, I was a Sikh in the last century, fighting and hating the English. I thought that was amusing because of being born English and that old axiom that you always become what you hate.

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