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Steve Kilbey tells Scott Kara about giving up control and living under the Milky Way Print E-mail
Friday, 27 July 2007

Steve talks about the effects of having Milky Way in the band's quiver, and how he used to try and control all aspects of the band's songs. This appeared in the New Zealand Herald.



HD Still seeing stars above the Church

WC 889 words

PD 27 July 2007

SN New Zealand Herald


LA English

CY (c) 2007 The New Zealand Herald


ROCK: Church leader Steve Kilbey tells Scott Kara about giving up control and living under the Milky Way

STEVE KILBEY reckons he's lucky he wrote a good hit song. ``Imagine being the guy who has to play Shaddap You Face every night?'' laughs the laconic frontman from Australian psychedelic alt-rockers the Church.



He wrote the band's 1988 world- wide hit, Under the Milky Way, and insists ``it's a good albatross to have hanging round your neck''.

When he plays a solo show in Auckland's Transmission Room tomorrow he will play Under the Milky Way. ``It'd be churlish not to,'' he reasons.

That dreamy, yet catchy song did for the Church what Don't Dream It's Over did for Crowded House - it made them a household name in the United States and well-known around the world. ``And it still brings a bit of money in'' reflects Kilbey.

But, he says of the song he co-wrote with his girlfriend of the time: ``It never seemed at any time like we actually enjoyed it.

``When the touring and all that was over the song was over as well and then suddenly there was all this pressure to have an even bigger and better hit. Of course, it didn't happen and the parade moved on and we were left going, `What? What?' So it was an interesting experience.''

The Church formed in Sydney in 1980 and despite some creative and personal differences over the years, the core three of Kilbey, and guitarists Marty Willson-Piper and Peter Koppes, have continued to release albums ever since.

Kilbey has also released solo albums with a more unusual and experimental rock twist.

While Under the Milky Way made the band mainstream stars for a time, earlier albums such as debut Of Skins and Heart, including their first rousing hit song, Unguarded Moment, and The Blurred Crusade, featuring Almost With You and When You Were Mine, earned them a loyal fanbase in Australia and among indie rock fans overseas.

In the 80s, with the Go Betweens and the Triffids, the Church's eloquent and poignant rock'n'roll was unique in Australia compared to the brash pub- rock of acts like Cold Chisel and Midnight Oil.

``One thing the Church always had in common was not the things we liked, but the things we hated.

``That kept us united through bad times - so we were determined we weren't going to be an Oz pub-rock band.

``But we were never as big as the Chisel, or the Oil. We were selling out big pubs, they were selling out arenas.''

On the band's first best-of collection, Hindsight, from 1988, Kilbey states in the liner notes that the song It's No Reason was when ``rock'n'roll and the Church part ways - my fault entirely I'm afraid''.

On reflection he's not so adamant. ``I think in the early days I didn't like rock so much. I've re-embraced it now,'' he says. ``In the early days I was always trying to get away from it because I fancied myself singing these big ballads, or being a torch singer or something. It never worked.''

That comment from Hindsight gives a small indication of Kilbey's control freak tendencies and the power he wielded over the band, which came to a head on 1983's Seance album.

``That was probably the most solo record that the Church has ever made in terms of me telling everybody what to play and being a complete control freak.''

He says on 1986's Heyday that's all changed and since then the Church have written everything together.

``We re-emerged with that album and we figured out what we wanted to do. I decided I didn't want to have this control, and I could feel it suffocating the band in every way. I think we got much better results from there on in.

``But,'' he adds wryly, ``I was still kind of directing chord changes from my bass.''

Now, he says almost grumpily, he doesn't even bother to show the band the songs he's written by himself. ``They don't want to do those, they'd rather do the ones we've written together.''

He says he's glad he is no longer a control freak. ``It was too much work. It wasn't a position I wanted to be in. So many times I would be like the school teacher with the three naughty boys who didn't want to do what the teacher wanted them to.''

And after 15 Church albums, numerous solo and collaborative albums, you won't catch Kilbey running round like Mick Jagger, singing angsty, emotional and earnest love songs he wrote 25 years ago.

``Some songs that you write when you're 20 you can't play when you're 50. I think Mick Jagger is ridiculous running round the stage singing I Can't Get No Satisfaction at 63.''

Which is another reason he still plays Under the Milky Way to this day.

``It's a kind of universal every-age song. I'm lucky that I can go on doing it forever and not feel silly about it.''

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