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Steve talks to The Music Paper about freedom and success Print E-mail
Sunday, 01 July 1990

The Music Paper (USA)

July 1990

Interview with Steve Kilbey

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MAKING MODERN-DAY MOOD MUSIC


Singer/songwriter Steve Kilbey on the joy of artistic freedom and the weight of commercial success.


by Kris Nicholson


It?s been ten years and seven albums since Australia?s Church baptized the music scene with their ever-evolving brand of moody and melodic guitar work. In a recent interview with Steve Kilbey, the band?s main singer/songwriter and bassist, he discusses his solo projects as well as his work with The Church, life on the road, and his secret for keeping the music exciting as well as taking a serious look at Gold Afternoon Fix, the band?s follow-up to their highly successful Starfish album.


THE MUSIC PAPER: I?m really excited about the material on the new LP and I?m also impressed by how busy you?ve been between Starfish and this record. I suppose you have a lot that you want to express musically and you can?t fit it all within the framework of The Church.


KILBEY: Well, the group gets together every two years to record an album and do a tour.


TMP: And that?s not enough for you?


KILBEY: No, I?ve got a lot more ideas than that.


TMP: In addition to the Hex project with Donnette Thayer, you also recorded a fourth solo record in between the last Church record and this new one. What is it that you like about working outside of the band?


KILBEY: Within a group you?ve got to be more democratic. It?s like the difference between playing football and tennis, I suppose. The group is a real team thing and there?s a psychological side. You have to make lots of compromises. On the other hand, there are the very positive experiences you have: people to exchange ideas with and the fact that everything isn?t on your shoulders. On your own you can do whatever you like. You can be more indulgent, more experimental or strange. You can be whatever you like.


TMP: Have you ever done a tour to support your solo material?


KILBEY: No, I did one show in LA. But I?ve never really figured out the right way to do it. I don?t think it works with just an acoustic guitar, and yet it always seemed like an incredible drag to have to get another whole band together.


TMP: Apart from all your other interests, do you still find The Church to be a very satisfying experience?


KILBEY: Oh yeah! I think we?ll be together a long time. It?s already been 10 years.


TMP: Tell me how The Church approaches songwriting.


KILBEY: It?s like, whoever is there at the time picks up and joins in.


TMP: But you?re always the catalyst?


KILBEY: Yeah. I guess I have to be the common element there. I think I give a sort of direction to a certain extent. Even a democracy needs a leader.


TMP: But everyone gets to vote.


KILBEY: I guess I?m not so much the leader as the arbiter. Someone who decides if something is Church-like or not in the long run.


TMP: I get the impression that you do a lot of writing. When do you find the time to do it?


KILBEY: I have really concentrated bursts of productivity. When I?m really going, when The Church is writing a record, I might write ten pieces of music in a day and then I?ll write two or three sets of lyrics. It?s very intense. Then I have long periods of not doing much. It?s pretty much on demand. If we had to make a record tomorrow, I?d start writing tomorrow.


TMP: So you work best under pressure.


KILBEY: I think so.


TMP: What about your solo work? There?s not as much pressure to do that.


KILBEY: I have a studio in my home, just an 8 track. So I go home, eat my dinner and fiddle around. The records that come out of that are very informal. They?re sort of like a sketch book, a journal or a set of snapshots of what I?m doing at the time as opposed to, ?This is an LP, this is a real serious thing.? It?s more spontaneous and closer to the source than a Church LP. What The Church does get filtered through a lot of processes before it?s finished.


TMP: Does The Church have creative control over the music they make or do you have people telling you to write another ?Milky Way??


KILBEY: Well, that sort of thing gets mentioned, but we?ve always just operated by doing whatever we come up with at the time. It?s pretty hard to control that. When you?re a creative person, you have your own identity.


TMP: I guess it would be difficult to do exactly what someone tells you to do.


KILBEY: Well, it depends on how badly you need the money. You might be a musician and realize you have to sound like Bon Jovi if you want to pay the rent next week and then you?ve got to do it. We?ve always been in the fortunate position of being able to do what we like, so that?s what we do.


TMP: Did the success of Starfish give you more confidence to experiment on this record?


KILBEY: Yes, in some respects, but that gets weighed against the fact that you?ve got to repeat your success. So the freedom gets canceled out by the desire to be a success again. It?s not a straightforward thing that now we?ve had success we can do whatever we like.


TMP: How do you deal with the situation?


KILBEY: I deal with it by just burying my head in the sand and doing what I?ve always done, which is to knock out whatever comes into my head at the time. If all you?re doing is thinking about what you should be doing, I don?t imagine you?ll ever get anything done.


TMP: The Church is a very guitar-oriented band and has a very distinctive sound. When you hear a song, you know it?s The Church.


KILBEY: Well, you hope when you?ve been doing something for so long, playing as well as we do as individuals, and then being together in a band for 10 years, if you didn?t have an identity together by then you might as well get out of the business. I don?t know how it happens, but at some stage you transcend being the sum total of your influences and you become you. When I open my mouth now and sing and play bass, I?m not trying to be anyone else.


TMP: Were you ever trying to be?


KILBEY: Oh yeah, when you?re first learning to write songs and play you?re constantly trying to be whoever your hero is at the moment. Eventually you wake up one day, write a song and sing it, and realize, ?I?m not someone else anymore, I?m me.?


TMP: Who inspired you in that way?


KILBEY: Dylan, Bowie, Neil Young, Pink Floyd... to mention a few.


TMP: Church music is very strong emotionally, very moody.


KILBEY: Yes, we are very mood-oriented, I agree. We?re much like a painting that creates a mood, or a film. I?m very much into creating a mood and then letting people enjoy it and take it wherever they want it


(continued on pg. 16)


((anyone got page 16?))

Transcribed by Mike Fulmer

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