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The Time Being | Steve Kilbey
  • second prize in a beauty contest
    this aint the northern hemisphere and here summer rules in royal blue and bursting green the surfers surf the dealers deal the users use the bills hit your  letterbox damp from the torrentials my back courtyard is an alluvial plain peopled by bugs and ants and spiders and snails and slugs the plants go on growing the cactus out from thorns spring delicate unanticipated flowers i smoke my weed i swim my laps i meet my friends i struggle with my money i get behind on everything i get confused by everything my mother has finally succumbed to forgetfulness and is going out now on a wave of mixed up memories the cafes are full a new one seems to spring up each day and there are the cashed up geezas and their bints sipping their java and munching on the smashed avocado on spelt bread that night they will drink boutique beers and snort some heavy cut coke through a rolled up ubiquitous fifty dollar bill they will watch net flix and order a svens pizza they will go to a bar where they have to shout over the music i have forgotten how i arrived in this place here in this peaceful warm bedroom where i sit and type and type there was music there was drugs there was violence there were crowds there were cops there was sex there was  a limo and an ambulance you were rich poor in the middle totally bankrupt its always summer you pickup your girlfriend in your datsun 120b you could get your bass amp cabinets in there dad always puts too much chlorine in the pool and your eyes are always red your nose is crimson with sunburn russell and johns hair has been bleached white by the summer and […]
  • bank error in your favour
    in the darkness before i was born in the oblivion that spawned me whole again and again to sing to steal to hammer my bass where the vortex sucked and the whirlpool engulfing before i was me before i was you before i was all of them in a moment of capture in the high resolution of the first rays of knowledge as the magic attacked my bones and i lost my mind and i lost my mind at a servo and i was swimming in the blackest sea and stuff was grabbing at my legs and women were slapping me around on the end of my leash and the eternal eludes us of necessity and the impermanence of absolutely everything you can name it was lovely to sink into it all they were singing lovely music in my ears as i sank fathoms it was my dream it was my life it was all made up and yes i was earnestly hemming away the evening of silk and i was moving away from the light of the day and i was fixed on a star and set over the city gates and the people at my shows shook all their heads anxiety was riding high on a roll the lightning jabbed the horizon the thunder fell down on coogee beach where the shadows are suntanned and within the whispers you can hear the sea the summer had us by the scalp and the hairdresser did the blonde streaks with a sneer and the magazines were so way out of date and the cigarette smoke curled like a beggar around a coin the screeching tyres and seagulls on arden street its a fish n chips kind of night i glide on the wheels of imagination through the surging crowds who […]
  • my big fat doco
    yeah my big fat fucking doco youve heard me youve read me you looked at my paintings now watch my one n a half hour doco for the complete SK fix you know youre craving me me me me me me sigh yawn me me swimming me playing my bass me blah blah blahing on and on boy after three fucking screenings i so sick of you kilbey its a funny film ha ha ha look if you love your olde SK as you do you probably gonna love it after everything now this… it turns out im just a regular guy after all who happens to be a bit of a “genius” (chuggys words not mine) just a regular guy who plays a mean fender jazz and sings like a broken lark just another  regular angular looking idiot who wrote yer fave song (or whatever) age still not wearying me i hop about like st vitus dance motor mouthing at a hundred miles an hour narcissus yet humbly stupid and turning arrogance into your bemusement the jumped up little sod getting his comeuppance and now the bastards come good hes a regular old guy who chucked together some words and music and created empires in a few peoples heads god the ones who love me they dont ‘alf fucking love me and the ones who hate me do so with their fiercely passion but most people dont care and if i was them i probably wouldnt care either a doco thats a populist thing right? heres the populist me look i got an arc i go from one thing to another does that really happen? who am i and who are you anyway? who are we and why are we watching this doco about this geezer for gawds sake..? […]
  • man woman life death infinity * the church
    yeah ha ha such an exciting time to be a fan of ol’ SK new church album is done and (fairy) dusted its not like much that came before with its new old sound not quite one thing or another pretty different pretty fresh     another century i gotta get directions off you the mirror flare could be anywhere yeah you probably already heard this song what a great leap forward this one is definitely one of the best things the church have ever done the word brilliant springs to mind but modesty has me refrain   submarine nature loves a winner we gonna end up some creatures dinner devil loves a sinner you were on the menu youre just a beginner weird progressive kraut rock song a whole new sound here too kinda charming jammy quality   for king knife a wicked little mannikin a squirrel and a bird i heard the show will start without you a childs song a fairy tale sung with wide eyed wonder by a naughty boy naive rock and english kids books from the 1950s   undersea fly makes a honey man bee sorta i can see the water you wanna take the rest of the stuff? everybody says that we can never get enough i say to band lets imagine a brand hyped up new band is in town and youre there and they come out n play their first number so then this song is the song we were hoping to hear   before the deluge well i never really had a clue my hands so full of sandals my feet so tender bare stumble in a cyclone of drones theyre watching everything we cannot see the most typical church track travelling music dark and nasty   i dont know […]
An excerpt from the coming Kilbey biography Print E-mail
Wednesday, 08 March 2006
Robert Lurie has supplied an excerpt from No Certainty Attached, his biography of Steve Kilbey.  You can (and should!) pre-order the book from his eBay store and it is due to ship on June 15th 2006.

These samples are taken from chapter 7 of the current manuscript. This excerpt is fairly representative of the larger work in that it contains examples of the three major elements of the book: 1) narrative scene, 2) biographical exposition, and 3) analysis. This is not the entire chapter; for the purposes of pacing and clarity, certain sections dealing with Nick Ward and the EMI deal have been cut. It should also be noted that Michelle Parker shares the writing credits for ?The Unguarded Moment.? This is detailed in a subsequent chapter. 

CHAPTER 7: DREAMTONGUED MAN FROM THE GOLDEN LAND

     Backstage after the Moving Parts gig, Steve sat on a threadbare couch smoking a carefully-rolled joint. Nick sat atop the dressing-room table, his back to the mirror, holding a beer bottle in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Peter hunched over his guitar case, packing up for the evening.
     There came a quick knock at the door, and then it opened. A tall, long-haired man who looked barely out of his teens stood in the doorway, bouncing from one foot to the other. He wore a black leather jacket and tight jeans, and held a smoldering cigarette in his right hand.
     "Hey, I really liked your show," he said in a thick Liverpudlian accent. "It reminded me of...Cream."
     Steve visually appraised him for a moment. "Do you play guitar?" He asked.
     "Uh, yeah." the visitor said. "How did...?"
     "Good,? Steve said. "I'm Steve Kilbey."
     The visitor strode into the room and shook Steve's hand.
     "I'm Marty."

     To Steve, this new arrival looked like every rock star rolled into one: he was extremely handsome, with the sort of angular face the young Keith Richards might have had, had the Glimmer Twin taken care of himself and kept all of his teeth. Additionally, Marty had a Bolan-esque poise, a tightly-coiled physicality. Visions of Marty onstage, slinging an electric guitar, flooded Steve?s mind.

     They talked for ten minutes about the records they both loved, particularly those from the Syd Barrett era of Pink Floyd, and Marty enthused about some of his own musical favorites: Can, the Velvet Underground, and King Crimson. Peter and Nick paid little attention.

     After Marty excused himself and left the backstage area, Steve turned to his bandmates and said, "He's joining the band."
     Nick's jaw dropped. The usually stoic Peter Koppes exhibited just a hint of surprise.
     "Yeah, he's the other guy," Steve said.
     Peter contemplated for a moment, then said, "Oh yeah, okay, it would be good to have another guitarist."
     Nick, on the other hand, lost it. "Fuck that," he said, "I'm not having him onstage. He's a fucking pretty boy. You don't even know if he can play.?
     "He can play."
     "This is fucked. You are a fucking idiot!" He stormed out and slammed the door behind him.


Steve chose Marty on instinct and, as usual, Steve?s instincts proved dead-on. Still, there was palpable tension in the air from the moment Marty made his first appearance at rehearsals. Compared to Koppes, Marty was a guitar novice. There may have been some resentment from the veteran guitarist due to the fact that Marty had been hired for his looks rather than his abilities. At any rate, Peter refused to teach Marty the chords to the songs. Marty would frequently ask, "What are the chords for this part?" to which Peter would reply, "I had to find out what the chords were myself. You have to find out yourself. Work it out."

     Thus was set in motion the Church tradition of both guitarists playing entirely different, but complementary, guitar parts. Neither knew what the other was doing. It is somehow fitting that one of the unique traits of the Church's music came about not as the result of some grand musical directive, but rather because of the belligerence and stubbornness of the lead guitarist.

     These days, Peter spins the story in a ?tough love? context; he claims he was acting almost as a sports coach, pushing Marty out of his safety zone with the expectation that the young guitarist would deliver. Whether or not this is true, Peter?s original intention is irrelevant?his lack of coddling did indeed push Marty to develop at an accelerated pace.

*****

     Perhaps it was the quick courtship by EMI that caused the Church to be resented by other musicians in the Australian music scene. There was a widespread perception that the Church had not paid their dues (never mind the fact that Steve and Peter had spent the past decade slaving away in dive after dive in Canberra.) Oddly enough, this image of the Church as a transparently money-grubbing mainstream outfit continues amongst some of the Australian indie cognoscenti to this day. In his "definitive" treatment of the Australian music scene, Stranded, critic Clinton Walker only makes mention of the Church twice. The first is by way of a quote from Roger Grierson: "The Church weren't a D-I-Y outfit, they were, 'We want to be pop stars.' That was their schtick--and they did it well' (93). The other mention is a very quick reference to Steve Kilbey?s first collaboration with Grant McLennan. In contrast, lavish praise and attention are heaped on the Go-Betweens, Nick Cave, the Saints, and Radio Birdman; this despite the fact that three out of those four "independent" artists also started out on major labels.

     To the members of the Church, the ATV/EMI deal brought legitimacy to their enterprise. The label put the band on a salary, bought them new gear, paid for their rehearsal space, and pulled strings to get them higher-prestige gigs. Chris Gilbey swooped in, hoping to shape his new discovery into a hit-making machine.

     The band piled into Studio 301 in Sydney where they began cutting the tracks that would comprise their debut LP Of Skins and Heart. The mysterious ?Insect World? was considered for inclusion, as was a hard rocking number called ?Busdriver,? a song that would eventually be released as the B-side to "The Unguarded Moment.?

     "It's just a loathsome little song I wrote," Steve says. "I remember once as a kid I'd gotten on a bus and I was too frightened to push the button that signaled it was my stop. My mother had told the bus driver where to stop and he didn't; he kept on going. I ended up miles from where I was supposed to be. With that song I wanted to get this Twilight Zone idea of getting on a bus and ending up somewhere where you didn't really want to be."

     Another early track was a sluggish version of "She Never Said," replete with kitschy vocal filter. This track was quickly mixed, mastered, and released as a single. The public greeted it with total indifference.

     To co-produce the LP, Chris Gilbey brought in Bob Clearmountain, an American producer who had worked extensively with Bruce Springsteen. Perceiving the band to be studio novices, the two exercised a very hands-on approach. Consequently, the album's hard-driving sound owes more to Clearmountain's involvement than it does to any vision of Steve's.

     Regardless of who was ultimately at the helm, Of Skins and Heart is a striking debut by any standard. All nine tracks exude confidence and energy. Although Nick Ward's drumming is passable at best, his clarion backing vocals beautifully punctuate "Chrome Injury" and "The Unguarded Moment." As for the rest of the instrumentation, Steve's bass playing is not ambitious rhythmically, but some of his noodling is inventive. Peter's lead guitar playing, on the other hand, is revelatory--quick, clean solos soar to great heights, then fall back into the music just in time for the vocals to resume. Peter manages the feat on this album of being impressive without being show-stealing, this despite the fact that he is clearly the most accomplished musician in the band at this point.

     But the thing that makes Of Skins and Heart stand head and shoulders above the competition is the lyrics. Steve had already been writing poetry and song lyrics for ten years, and the experience shows. Nestled amidst the insistent bass and chunking guitars are some real poetic gems.

     Unlike many Australian songwriters of the era, Steve never shows his hand. Most of the songs require multiple listening before any meaning can be discerned. Even the requisite ballad, "Don't Open the Door to Strangers", is suitably obscure, featuring such slightly sinister lyrics as "Don't leave your thoughts unguarded / Don?t let them float where they will / They never tell me what I want to know / Don't open the door tonight."

     One of Steve's most classic themes--alienation from and dissatisfaction with the modern consumer-driven world--is in full effect, particularly in the album's hit: "The Unguarded Moment." This is one song that would allegedly have not come into being if it weren't for Gilbey's demand that Steve go home and write a hit.

     The fact that he may have been forced to write "The Unguarded Moment" may account, partly, for Steve's lifelong loathing of the song. Regardless of his feelings, it is a great track, featuring catchy melodies, fine musicianship, and an almost Orwellian paranoia in the lyrics. The song's narrator describes the psychic wounds inflicted by indifference and casual cruelty, wounds that make the narrator "feel like dying in an unguarded moment." It's a bold display of sensitivity on an otherwise emotionally-veiled album, and even clunky lines about "men with horses for hearts" cannot derail the momentum of the song. Additionally, the lead lines of each of the three verses provide tantalizing glimpses of Steve's creative struggles: "So hard finding inspiration," "So long between mirages," "So deep without a meaning." This last line could be a rare instance of Steve displaying insecurity about his lyrics. Are they truly "deep without a meaning," or is the meaning simply unknown to the songwriter himself? A belief in Jung's collective unconscious would allow for meanings to exist beyond the author's own understanding. The emotional honesty of "The Unguarded Moment" is a welcome grounding force on the album. It provides a counterpoint to the abstract intellectualism of the other songs.

*****

     The Church in its live incarnation was not nearly as polished or impressive as what was represented on Of Skins and Heart, but in the months preceding the album's release, the band gradually began to find its footing. The newfound cohesion became apparent during a gig supporting a local band called Mi-Sex, a band who had a hit single at the time. In the middle of "Is This Where You Live?" Steve looked up and realized the crowd had stopped talking. It was a major breakthrough; after almost ten years of playing to bars filled with chattering patrons, after being relegated to the role of ?background music? for his entire career, Steve Kilbey was suddenly being listened to. At first the shift was almost imperceptible; one or two denizens broke off from the comfort of their social groups and gravitated towards the stage. Then, one by one, heads began to turn, eyes focusing on the hitherto-ignored opening band. Like a game of Telephone, the question made its way around the room: who is this? Drinks stopped their upward ascent and were held at the halfway point, their owners forgetting to partake of them. The competing voices trickled away. All that was left was the Church.

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