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In Through The Conquista-door - The Church in Spain Print E-mail
Friday, 01 June 1990

This interview was in Juke magazine in May or June 1990. The concerts referred to were on May 3-5, 1990, according to the Concert Chronicle at the discography site.

The Church are big news in Spain. They're more popular here than anywhere else in Europe. They sit in their hotel rooms and peer outside at the venue next door. They're booked to play there tonight. Five hours before show time, and the queue is already starting to form.
Marty Willson-Piper used to live in Madrid for a time and speaks passable Spanish. That item of information is gleefully seized upon by their record label, who rush him off to a round of interviews. A number of Aussie acts like the Oils, Hunters, Kylie etc , have been here of late, all flapping their Australian flag. But the Church have always prided themselves in the fact that their music is universal. It could have been written at any time in any place in the last twenty years. Only Steve Kilbey and guitarist Peter Koppes live in NSW. Marty is based in Stockholm where his lady lives, and their new drummer J.D. Daugherty calls New York home. All their business, even their fan club, is done from America. J.D., who used to drum for Patti Smith, replaces Richard Ploog, who's officially taking a year's leave of absence, although unofficially it could be longer. Ploog went over the top in Brazil when he reportedly smashed his drum kit and threw it into the audience. The split was announced earlier this year.
        In Australia, "Metropolis" has been a hit for them, after a long time. Even then, when the band launched its current world tour from there, all they did was a handful of theatre shows. In Europe they sell a considerably lot more records, but everyone on the tour gets the impression that even the European tour is just a trial one for the big one -
the United States.
       The U.S. is their biggest market, the place where they're most appreciated. Years ago, Creem magazine was hailing them as the best band of the 80s. " Under the Milky Way " and  Starfish  broke them into the Top 40 and the new one Gold Afternoon Fix sold a quarter of a million copies in its first three days of release. At the time of writing it was No. 66 ( although indications were that it wasn't going to crack the Top 40 ).
        Even England, which used to be a problem, is thawing. In the mid-80s, since Steve Kilbey told one of the English music papers that he took acid and had a great collection of paisley shirts, that image has dogged them. Now England is swept in the midst of Acid House, and there seems to be a crossover interest ! The LP gets a gushing review in an Acid House fanzine called Rave , and there are suggestions that " Metropolis " should be given a House mix by a British mixmaster.
       Kilbey is certainly amused by this slight change of face, but far from impressed. " Maybe the Church of seven years ago might go down well in some club in Manchester today " he shrugs, "but to be honest, I think we're far too 'musical' to be appreciated in England.
        " It doesn't really worry us. England ceased to be a priority for us ages ago. We sell more records in one suburb of LA than the whole of England. "
         Kilbey likes to play live but hates to tour. In Amsterdam he's  faced with a cool audience, and blows his cool, throwing beer glasses at them from the stage.
         Tonight at the club in Madrid, they play a set that is close to exhilarating. The young Spaniards go wild, leaping on each others' shoulders and throwing their bandanas in the air.
         " Madrid, you're the best audience we've ever had, " Kilbey calls out, " And I wouldn't say it if I didn't mean it."
          Knowing Kilbey, he wouldn't either.
          But the Church are far from being slick or consistent. The next day at the Arena Auditorium in Valencia they fail to spark, and the audience responds somewhat disappointedly
          It's not strange that Kilbey should despise touring. When the entourage hits Barcelona, there's not much to do. They sightsee around the harbour, drink cheap wine ( 25 cents a bottle ), and sample assorted seafood dishes, take their lives into their hands when they go on a cable car ride 400 feet above the harbour, and walk past shops and bars gazing at their bright shutters and faded signs. At night time, someone recommends they check out Club Baghdad, behind the opera house. There huge blonde and black women urge customers to come up onstage and have sex ; transsexuals come armed with dildos, whips and vacuum cleaners.
        Not surprising, then, that Kilbey despises the touring lifestyle. Lost in his world of science fiction, art and poetry, he seems to have very little need for anyone else. His music is all that matters to him.
        As a kid, he remembers, " I created my own world, one which was invented by rock and roll music.It didn't matter to me that I lived in Canberra, which is a pretty uninspiring place. I hung out with kids who only shared my taste in music, all that was important was for me to get down to the import shop and get the latest record by who-ever, come home, shut myself up in my bedroom and play and play that record until I could write a song that imitated it. Everything else was irrelevant to me."
       He finds himself in a sad situation. On the one hand, he finds it hard to relate to people who're not in the music biz and their concern with domestic duties, at the same time, he finds a lot of music people shallow and phoney. It's not surprising some people accuse him of being stuck up.It catches him surprise, because he honestly believes he's not.
     Over a plate of paella he confesses : " Our biggest problem is we want to convey the music as honestly as possible. But it's very hard to just get up onstage and play - that's all I want to do as a musician.
      " But you need to be a diplomat, a businessman, a party-goer, a charmer... sometimes all at the same time. It's impossible to do but you're expected to be good at all of them equally as well. If you don't do each as well, you can get crucified.
       " But because I adore the time I stand onstage, it's something I put up with. If I can do that as honestly as I can, then I'm satisfied. "
        British band the House of Love, to whom the Church have been compared to, have also been touring Spain. In fact they played the Arena Auditorium a few days before and drew less people.
        Says the man from English magazine Sounds with a knowing wink, " when Kilbey and Guy Chadwick (of HOL)
meet up, you can expect a whole lot of mind games to happen. "

For even Kilbey, despite his desire to be as pure as possible, in enough of a pop fan to know that mind games and status billing are all necessary parts of the process.


Kindly transcribed by Resonator on

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