arrowHome arrow Written arrow Interviews 1983 to 1986 arrow Creem magazine talks to Steve about all things Churchy Friday, 19 January 2018  
The Church
  All I ever wanted to see...was just invisible to me.
Lyrics (ext. site)
Discography (ext. site)
Image Gallery
Video and Audio
Guitar Tab (ext. site)
- - - - - - -
Buy Church Music
Contact Us
- - - - - - -
Old Shadow Cabinet
Top Sites

Official band site
Official Site


Discography and Lyrics
Discography, Lyrics, Tours


Hotel Womb - Bulletin Boards Dedicated to the Church Fan



Steve Kilbey's blog
Steve's blog

Immersion Music - Peter Koppes' label
Peter's Labels' Site


Spacejunk - Tim Powles 
Tim's Studio Site


Marty Willson-Piper's Official Homepage
Marty's Facebook


 Heliopolis - a Steve Kilbey site now hosted here

Steve Kilbey fan site, 

(archived here)

Creem magazine talks to Steve about all things Churchy Print E-mail
Friday, 01 August 1986


(America?s Only Rock ?n? Roll Magazine)

August 1986


Psychedelic Confessions And The Church

by Bill Holdship


It?s a fairly typical backstage scene. A small group of people, almost none of whom know each other (or seem to care to), have worked their way back here to meet the Church. There are less people than there probably will be later for headliners Echo & The Bunnymen (who should be going onstage any moment)?and the faces look alternately bored, indifferent, nervous, excited and/or important. Church guitarist Marty Wilson-Piper [sic] wasn?t feeling well and left immediately following the band?s set, which looked fantastic from the one song we managed to see (?thanks? to a burnt-out headlight and a Detroit traffic cop), was reportedly great, and had to be real good if it was anything like the club date the band performed in nearby Lansing a year-and-a-half ago.

The other members of the Church?lead singer, bassist, songwriter Steve Kilbey, guitarist Peter Koppes and drummer Richard Ploog?are still here, cordially greeting their Motor City congregation, though you get a sense that, only 10 days into the tour, these guys are already a little tired. It?s not only the monotonous bus travel and the show every night (with all the hassles reserved for opening bands)?the band just completed a day of radio interviews. Plus, after the Bunnymen jaunt, it?s off to Europe for some dates, and then back to America for a headlining club tour later this summer. Of course, the most unglamorous aspect of all this is that the Church have been making great records for six years now, and they?ve been trying to break in America since 1982, the year Capitol released their excellent debut LP which almost no one bought, reviewed or heard. They were perhaps the only Australian band ignored during the Men At Work/Midnight Oil-inspired ?Down Under? press hype of several years ago. Ironically, they were probably the best.

In many ways, the Church are a classic case of perseverance. Dropped by Capitol, the band gained a small cult of American fans who were forced to buy their next two LPs, The Blurred Crusade and Seance, in import stores. Warner Brothers signed ?em, combined two Church EPs, called it Remote Luxury, and released it as their second American LP in late 1984. The band toured to support the record, played the game, and returned to Australia, reportedly totally ?defeated? by America. Explains Steve Kilbey: ?We got a good reception on that tour, but we didn?t make any money. In fact, we lost a lot of money. Luckily, we didn?t end up burying everything?very lucky for us. But we did go enormously into debt, and we didn?t know what would happen after that.? What happened next was Kilbey recorded a solo single (?This Asphalt Eden?) in Australia before rejoining the band to record Heyday, their most consistent and probably best LP to date.

All this would exhaust anyone, so it?s not surprising that Kilbey seems just a little displeased when his road manager interrupts him in the middle of a conversation and drags him away to do an interview with the guy from CREEM. And it doesn?t help matters that he has to record an identification spot for a tragically ?hip? and shamelessly self-promoting local ?new music? (their definition) radio station first. But nice, reserved guy that he is, Kilbey doesn?t protest or let his displeasure show too much.

?Hi. This is Steve Kilbey of the Church for pop radio W?? He does the spot several different ways. One of the jocks then asks Kilbey to do another identification, but this time to make it ?wacky? and totally off the wall. Kilbey looks a tad bewildered and uncomfortable. ?Hi?Uh, I was going to say something totally ridiculous here, but the only thing I can think of is: this is Steve Kilbey of the Church, and you?re listening to pop radio station? ?which is pretty ridiculous in itself.? He says it without the slightest trace of sarcasm in his voice, and I immediately decide that I?m probably going to like this guy.


The Church are one of those scarce ?magic? bands that recall an abundance of things, musically and emotionally, yet still somehow manage to sound refreshing and new. ?Psychedelic? has frequently been associated with their name?but whereas today?s ?psychedelic? tag usually means either the Paisley Underground thing or the gloomy strains of the post-Joy Division brigade (who?ve based entire careers around one Doors song), the Church mean ?psychedelic? in the more dream-like, ethereal, ambient, and (ah, what the hell?) ?hallucinogenic? senses of the term. The Church may be about disillusionment (they?ve even titled a song ?Disenchanted? on Heyday), but they at least wanna make you feel good along with your disillusionment.

Some key words to describe the Church: Melancholic. Bittersweet. Wistful. Hypnotic. Mesmerizing. Foreboding (at times). Haunting. Extremely melodic. Very beautiful.

It?s not important to decipher any of Kilbey?s oblique lyrics to get the full emotional effect of what?s being said. In fact, I couldn?t tell you what one of their songs is really all about, but I can guarantee that a lot of their songs make me feel what they?re all about. Take the wonderful ?When You Were Mine? from The Blurred Crusade, for instance. Kilbey?s chords and voice coupled with the heavenly guitar textures and weird vocal harmonies convey the overwhelming emotional power of those four title words better than Prince?s song of the same name ever did?or as well as any lyrical song based around that concept does, for that matter. The Church feel the way your emotions might feel if they?d just entered the calm that follows a violent storm at sea. Or the way your mind feels sometimes right before you fall asleep after a hard day. Or the way you might feel sitting in front of a fire after you?ve finally accepted that the relationship?s over. There is a sadness throughout?but it?s a bright sadness.


?That?s exactly what we?re trying to do,? says Kilbey. ?That sad, triumphant feeling. It?s like the music from the movie, Exodus. It?s certainly not happy. It?s sort of got this sadness to it like there?s been a great loss and pain?but you?ve come out the other end sort of feeling enriched by the experience. That?s exactly what we want to convey. And I suppose disillusionment comes under that heading a little bit, too.?

Some of the new LP has an almost foreboding quality as well. It could almost scare you if you were too stoned or something.

?Yeah? Well, I?m glad you said that because I?m afraid that sometimes the album pulls a few punches. I think it could?ve had a bit more of that quality to it. It?s like mixing a cake. It?s going to have a bit of this and a bit of that, but sometimes it gets out of balance and isn?t perfect?Some people think it?s too smooth and look upon it as a polished piece of work, and I?ll agree a little bit with that. But it?s sort of like a ship moving, changing courses. The next album will be a little more rough because that?s the side we didn?t explore as much on this one.?


?I guess we sort of bring the ?psychedelic? tag upon ourselves. The paisley shirts on the Heyday cover are really supposed to be kind of an irony. People in Australia will understand, but we never gave a lot of thought to what the reaction would be overseas. The American press has sort of been half and half about it, and the English press are probably going to hate it?and the album?s probably going to get dismissed. Whereas if we were all wearing white shirts and oversized suits on the cover, the album might be taken a little more seriously. So I guess we bring it upon ourselves, but I?d rather be described as ?psychedelic? than anything else. I mean, I?d rather listen to the Paisley Underground bands than some West Coast bland-out type thing. All I can say is the next album definitely won?t be ?psychedelic.? There won?t be any way that people will be making that association with us anymore.?


?We?ve basically taken all the bands we were influenced by, and mixed them all together. I mean, right at the beginning, obviously anyone who plays the guitar and sings is influenced by the Beatles. Anyone who writes lyrics is influenced by Bob Dylan somewhere along the line. We liked all the great psychedelic bands. We liked Mott the Hoople, T. Rex and all the good ?glam? bands. And we liked all the good new wave bands. And then you take a bit of this and a bit of that, and you just mix it all up? To me, the modern era of rock music, this is terribly old-fashioned, but it started in 1963 with the advent of the Beatles. At the time, I liked McCartney best, but looking back now, my favorite Beatle was George Harrison. All Things Must Pass. I think if I had to take either a Beatles album or All Things Must Pass to a desert island, I?d opt for George Harrison.?

Did punk come into it at all for you?

?Very briefly. Very briefly. I think punk?s sort of like getting into speed. It?s something you do for like three months and think it?s great, and then you realize you can?t handle it anymore? Everyone in the band loves the Velvet Underground, but I guess it really doesn?t show up in the Church because we?re sort of quite polished players. I suppose more the ?Pale Blue Eyes? side of the Velvet Underground is in our music. I mean, though it?s terribly uncool to say, I love that Lou Reed Rock ?N? Roll Animal album. I love the guitar on that. I think we?re more influenced by that sort of ensemble type of arranging and playing?that guitar sort of thing.?


?I decided that it was time the whole band wrote an album together rather than me writing the songs alone. Four heads are better than one. Those guys are all good musicians, as well as songwriters, so we just thought we?d all do it together. We all stood in a room and jammed out songs together, so the music was definitely a group effort? I really didn?t want to put the lyrics on this album. I haven?t wanted to do that because the lyrics don?t stand up alone?they?re not supposed to. I think it?s a funny thing putting lyrics on albums because people tend to take them out, look at them, and make too much of them. I didn?t want the lyrics printed, but I eventually collapsed to the pressure from everyone else. But most of my lyrics, especially on this album, are inspired by the music. The music definitely came first.?

Do you put a lot of thought into your lyrics?

?Oh yeah. Each line?s got fucking three weeks of walking around the block thinking about it.?


?They?ve been great. I just can?t complain about Warner Brothers. They have the rights to The Blurred Crusade and Seance, and there?s talk of releasing them as a cheap double package. Which I?d love to see happen. But they obviously won?t do it unless we sell a lot of copies of our current album.?


Some of my favorite Church songs are like ?Don?t Open The Door To Strangers? and ?It?s No Reason.?

?Oh, you like those, do you? We found that those type of songs just weren?t happening when we did them onstage. I think that, live, we have to concentrate on the other part of the band. I think with the band writing now, we might?ve left those ballad days behind. Which I don?t know how the general public might feel about that.?


?There seems to be a very small group of diehards in America. I think the people who get into it, they really like that. That there?s some group from Sydney that nobody?s really heard of, that?ve made five albums?they really like that kind of thing. I used to be like that? I don?t know that we are a critics? band, really. The English critics haven?t made up their minds, and there?s still a few disbelievers in Australia. And a guy reviewed us in Canada the other day who said we played ?anti-music.? Everything we play is ?slush.? So there?s a critic we didn?t seem to impress. But it does seem like we?re making headway. There is definitely some light at the end of the distant tunnel.?


?I read this hilarious review in NME that said there are two bad things about the album: ?The Church have unearthed the Moody Blues? old mellotron, and have found occasion to push the string button HARD.? And I thought, well, I liked the Moody Blues. I especially liked the songs Justin Hayward used to write back when I was a teenager. They?re certainly no big influence, but I guess today it?s sort of slightly embarrassing if people think you liked the Moody Blues.?


Do you have a favorite Church album?

?I think there?s good bits on all of them. As well as bad things. But I?d say Heyday. Probably Heyday.?



?It?s just amazing to me to be in CREEM. I mean, I used to read CREEM when I was like 16 years old, which was a long time ago. It would be very hard to get in Australia, and no one else I knew read it or was even interested in it. But I used to read CREEM like the stuff in it was really gospel. Lester Bangs and all that stuff. And it was so important. So to think that I?m even going to be in there now is just amazing.?

Transcribed by Mike Fulmer

Last Updated ( Sunday, 18 December 2005 )
Most Read

Mambo is Free Software released under the GNU/GPL License.
design by
Page was generated in 0.031374 seconds: Left = 0.014425, Top = 0.014363, Main=0.016115, Right = 0.014267 Bottom=0.016316

0 queries executed