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The Time Being | Steve Kilbey
  • 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 […]
  • oh honey
    you all know everything here is true its just the way i tell it ive been a sponge for drugs and loud rocknroll and my once brilliant mind is now dark and haunted why you know when i was twenty years ago i flew to Los Angeles and played on david neils sessions for  what would become the wilderness years but dave had a huge stack of songs and oh honey was one of them since covered by that alt country rock band whose very name keeps escaping me the truth is its daves most fantastic song and an instant classic the saddest most burnt out song you ever heard in your life i know because i played on the version that dave recorded a demo in a place on sepulveda down in santa monica or something Oh honey that sunny day just faded to a dead white gray and people say strange things to me about you all the time but it just made him too damn sad and he shelved it imagine a cross between neil young and the stones at their saddest and most regretful oh honey was a knockout this is a terrible thing to admit here but after david died i started telling people i had written this song and in my own defence i must say that the descending bass line was actually my idea dave told me steve that damn bass line IS this song now! so it isnt entirely untrue that i kinda sorta did in a way write this song plus i suggested some words which david pretended to ignore but he later secretly adapted them n then denied to all they were mine so he wasnt the angel you may think i was telling all this to the captain as […]
  • fate heeler
    i’m my dream i live this life and in my life i live this dream and now my mind is truly blown away down the street asleep at the deal i got ripped off again and again but who is the real loser? the more i shot the more i missed the more i missed the less i could bear to shoot eventually the arrows i loosed well all were lost on a train to the northern beaches to meet with my friend or on a plane sitting in business class i was trying to chat up the female pilot she came out and and talked to me too except we hit some turbulence over the indian sea an unexpected jolt and i wake up in sydney and its freezing the flowers in the vases wilting inexorably the dust and cold clutter drift away then i dream im on the phone to someone going round and round and round im speaking some other language i cant understand what im saying but this is how i am anyway jotting down phrases to regurgitate in songs and poems i strumming my guitar in Cosa Met in Thailand in a cluster of cottages just back from the sea someone yells out to shut the fuck up..! but its too hot to sleep and my friend wants to hear her song we walk down the beach but the water is so warm there are no sharks she says as i gingerly enter the black oceans maw after our swim i pick up my guitar and in some strange time signature the guitar is detuned now and im too out of it to get it back in tune i like it just as much like that anyway says my friend more gone than me i […]
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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