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Long Australia interview with Steve 1984 after US tour Print E-mail
Sunday, 01 January 1984

Scott Howlett talks Steve about the band's reception in America, Australian audiences, his Asphalt Eden solo single and getting Peter Walsh for Heyday. Good interview!


On The Street 1984?

The Church: Altared States

Scott Howlett in Sydney thanks the Lord that Steve Kilbey is in a good mood.

When Molly Meldrum took a fancy to the Church and Countdown played their hit single, "Unguarded Moment" for the third time in as many weeks, the writing was on the wall that they were commercially doomed.

When their third LP, Seance, was released, the critics sharpened their pens and the record-buying public looked at the Sydney-based band as "poor tortured Steve Kilbey and his poor torured live band".

For the next two years, the Church proceeded, paying little heed to the criticism. Commercial success was past tense.

In October last year, the Church packed their collective road cases and journeyed to America where they were already a cult phenomenon and critically accepted. Creem magazine called the "one of the most important bands this year."

And so, the Church were given a new lease of life. The grimacing faces that were worn by the band members at any one of Sydney or Melbourne's beer barns were replaced with enthusiastic smiles.

No-one in America said they were sixties plagiarists, they took the band for their worth and as a result, the church made an impression, albeit restricted to the people who already knew of the band before they arrived. They had been given a second chance.

Today, Steve Kilbey sits behind the ominous microphone and desk at an independent Sydney radio station. He knows where his audience lies. Kilbey admits the Church have thought about breaking up for the last three years. But with critical acceptance in America comes a renewed outlook. Peter Koppes, the Church's lead-guitarist, has even been known to smile lately.

The Church are not imitators. But they are innovators, Kilbey says.

"A lot of people don't understand this, but the Americans really dig our music and know what we're trying to do. People went crazy everywhere, hurling lots of superlatives around. We got two or three encores every night. Most of the venues were packed and sometimes people couldn't get in.

"After all, we were one of the first bands to do this type of music, if not the first. We flew back (to Australia) and everyone is walking around in paisley shirts and all the bands are playing 12-string guitars and bands such as Lloyd Cole and REM are popular.
"We were around years before that stuff. When we went to America, people knew that and knew that were were the first in the 'neo-psychedelic' area. Then to come back here and just go back into that rut of playing to all...I've said this before and I'll reiterate. I'm not talking about the Sydney or Melbourne audiences, but I'm talking about everywhere else you've got to play. I love playing in Sydney and Melbourne but as soon as you step outside of those's like going out with the most beautiful woman in the world and then having to go out with Phyllis Diller.
"In America the crowds were on our side even if the gig wasn't very good. Everyone says the Church area a rotten live band...but the (Australian) audiences are fucking rotten. when we go to American, the people say what a great live band we are. Give us a good audience and we'll be great.
"Four years ago when our first album came out, no one knew what to do with us. We were perceived as an old-fashioned band because at that time everyone was being amazed by the Human League. four years down the road, everyone's being amazed by guitars and paisley shirts so people are tending to rediscover us."

For the last two years there has been much discussion concerning the future of the band. This recent US tour has, however, redefined their outlook and put an end to the speculation concerning their break-up.

"Everyone's starting to make a bit more of a decent wage out of it now (prior to the US tour, everyone in the band, apart from Kilbey, was on the dole when they weren't on the road). We worked hard for no profit in the past. People are always sort of anxious to see us break up and ask us whether we are or not. But at the moment we are probably as stable as we've ever been we were in our heyday, I guess."

The Church are about to enter the studio to record their fourth album. since their Sing Songs EP, Church records have been produced in association with John Bee of EMI Records.

For this new vinyl venture they will team with English producer Peter Walsh, who in the past has produced new Gold Dream by Simple Minds and an album by Scott Walker. Kilbey likes both. He says working with Walsh is something he has always wanted to do.

"Peter Walsh and the funds (for the hiring of Walsh) became available, so we jumped at the chance. i wouldn't be surprised if there is a change in style on this new album. We have about 20 new songs to pick from and we've written a few really good instrumentals which I haven't put melodies or lyics to yet.
"But we're not really quite sure which way we are going to go, or what's going to happen. We never really are. We just go in and the thing becomes apparent as we go along rather than saying "Yeah, we're going to change direction this time'."

Although the new Church album is not expected to be released until late October, Kilbey has taken the opprtunity over the last six months to record and release his first solo project - the single "This Asphalt eden" (EMI).

"For every song a aChurch album, I've probably got five or six songs that are sitting on a tape, on a shelf, at home, that won't probably ever be used. This single was just three of those songs.
"I always liked 'Asphalt Eden' for some reason, and had some kind of compulsion to do it and to want to see it on vinyl. Theo other two were other people's suggestions and I often listen to what other people say regarding what songs I should record. Sometimes I wish I didn't.
"I'm fairly happy with it, although I'm never really pleased with anything I do. I don't know why. After it's finished I always think whether I've done the right thing. I don't know what people are going to make of this new single; I don't know if people are interested in making anything out of it, apart from enjoying or hating the song."

Now that Kilbey has finally released a solo single, he is eager to do more and The church's American record company has shown interest in releasing a Steve Kilbey solo album.

A recent tour of Queensland, Victoria and NSW has proven worthwhile for the band. The gigs were so well attended and the crowds were receptive to songs on the band's commercially failed EPs Persia and Remote Luxury. The tour proved that the Church still has an audience in Australia.

But Kilbey says the possiblities for expansion hae expired and, for all intents and purposes, Australia is a dead end for the Church.

"We got to go where things are happening." he says.

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