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Keeping Faith in The Church: Steve talks about Seance Print E-mail
Saturday, 01 January 1983

Unknown Australian source
1983

Page 1 only (page 2 missing)

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Keeping faith in the Church

By Toby Creswell

“I’m more pleased with Seance than all our other records put together,” confesses Steve Kilbey, the singer and songwriter of the Church. Kilbey is braving a mild hangover and his renowned dislike of interviews to promote this, the third Church album. Since their dramatic debut with their first single “The Unguarded Moment” in 1981, the Church have maintained a pretty low profile; a trickle of successful records, a spot of European touring but nothing really dramatic. Those associated with the band hope that Seance might give them that extra push which sends them well and truly into the big league; right now, they could certainly use a lift.

Although Kilbey speaks with the same sort of understated deadpan that characterises his singing, he can’t disguise the obvious pride he takes in this album. Though it covers familiar Church territory with its emphasis on melodic guitars and traditional modes of pop music refined from the mid-Sixties, the Church have given themselves an edge, an unquestionably “modern” aspect to their sometimes predictable sound. Talking to Kilbey, one gets the impression that this is the first major step the band has taken since they began, a new beginning even.

Significantly enough, Seance marks the band’s first real attempt at self-production and it comes at a crucial phase in their career. Indeed Seance was almost just what its title describes it as -- a message from the dead: only a few months ago, financial pressures had brought Kilbey to the brink of disbanding the group.

“A few months ago we found ourselves in this awful catch-22 situation,” he explains, “where you can’t afford to stop. You have to play gigs to pay the road crew or to keep the PA on the road, but every time you play, it costs you money. It dawned on the four of us that we were going around in circles to no purpose and we came very close to throwing in the towel -- I know I did. Then I thought that life would be really horrible without these other three guys. The tour through Europe really pulled the four of us together. Each of us went through his own crisis and I think we learned that we can depend on the others. I thought then that it wouldn’t be the audience applause that I’d miss or making records; it’d just be the travelling around the country with three people that you like. I couldn’t do it without them.”

This is a decidedly different Steve Kilbey from the man who three years ago spoke of this same band in terms of hired hands, replaceable parts in the service of his songs. Of course the Church are a decidedly different group as well --  the camaraderie which Kilbey speaks of is apparent throughout Seance, particularly in the inspired drumming of Richard Ploog. Though Kilbey remains the sole songwriter, he tailors his craft in the service of the band, taking note of their tastes and abilities. The final assertion of identity came in the choice of producer for this vital third album -- themselves with engineer John Bee assisting. Though they had produced the Sing Songs EP together, that project was intentionally rough and underdone; Seance involved over a month’s solid, pressurised work.

“I was thinking while we were doing The Blurred Crusade (with American studio whiz Bob Clearmountain), ‘This is the last time I want an outside person in the studio.’ I’m not quite sure what producers are supposed to do; I can’t conceive of a band that’s so badly organised or hasn’t got enough ideas of its own that it needs somebody else.

“When I’ve written a song I know the mood it should conjure up and for anyone else to interfere in that is just not necessary. That’s why I can’t listen to the first album anymore and parts of The Blurred Crusade -- I hear influences that I don’t want in there and that’s why I like Seance so much. It really is me, almost undiluted me. If you’re going to make a record why not make your own record? Why make it partly yours, partly some other guy and partly some engineer who had too much to say? John Bee co-produced the album with us -- he’s been in on it for such a long time that I feel his suggestions are kind of valid, whereas to rope someone in... I feel kind of touchy about it every time they offer a suggestion.”

Seance was put together early this year with Kilbey trying a number of different approaches in his songwriting, from the laboriously crafted “electric” to the free-form “travel By Thought.” The latter track is an experiment in improvisation which Kilbey set up to break some of the tension during the sessions and to which he later simply added lyrics. The icing on the cake comes from Englishman Nick Launay, producer of Midnight Oil, Models and Theatre Of Hate, amongst others, who was asked to do the final mix -- a skill Kilbey is planning to master.

“Travel By Thought” highlights a side to the Church that is rarely seen by Australians -- the Church as innovative popsters. Their public image here has been orientated largely towards the Top Forty AM market and a substantial section of their audience is young girls attracted to their four fresh faces. While they.... [Cont. on 14]

* * *

Quote highlighted on page 1, that appears in the missing part of the article:

‘To put a myth to rest forever, I don’t think my songs are the greatest. I think they’re quite good.’

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Transcribed by Mike Fulmer

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