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Steve and Unearthed Print E-mail
Wednesday, 01 October 1986
Steve talks about Unearthed

Unknown Australian source
Late 1986

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STEVE KILBEY jump-starts his solo career with a homemade album, to be followed by a handmade book of poetry. BERNARD ZUEL reads the meter.

It was, as the clichés would have it, the perfect atmosphere in which to speak with Steve Kilbey. Outside, a cold unseasonal November wind whipped the rain into tiny ice-picks that cut through the flimsy summer clothing of the few who dared venture onto the dark street. But inside the comfortable home Kilbey has occupied for nine years, a warm fire crackled while This Mortal Coil played in the background over the wafting aroma of incense and burning wood. While Steve made himself comfortable, mug of tea in hand, I thawed out before the fire to the tattoo of rain that drummed overhead as we talked.

It is near the end of 1986: a year that saw the release of the Heyday album, possibly the Church’s best yet, to almost universal critical appreciation for its unity of purpose, its quality of performance and its re-affirmation of the Church’s uniqueness both within Australia and in an overseas arena overflowing with fads and fakes. They toured Australia several times, trekked across Europe and the USA, yet for all that, Heyday didn’t -- as many predicted -- break through local public inertia to push the Church further up the ladder. But Steve Kilbey for one is not overly concerned. There are many more precious things in his life than success, or the lack of it.

“I don’t really think it is important. I think this is a red herring that people keep following, thinking about why albums sell and why albums don’t sell. The important thing is, does the individual in question enjoy it or not? I think that’s all that really matters. Heyday was an OK record for its time, and my attitude now is to let it rest in peace.”

‘We don’t feel those locks and chains/we don’t listen to the lizard part of our brains/Giving us orders’
                                                                                                    (Already Yesterday)

In the hiatus from now until the return to the studio in 1987, Steve Kilbey has no plans for indolence. The next few months will see the release of his first album of solo material, called Unearthed, and the publication of a collection of his prose-poems under the title of Earthed. Originally to have been a companion piece to the book, Unearthed will see release in mid-December -- not on EMI, but on the independent Red Eye label. Meanwhile, the self-financed Earthed is tentatively set for early February.

Unearthed is not an album the Church could/would have made. It is instead a random selection of songs and pieces of music Steve has recorded over the past four years. Comprised of four- and eight-track recordings done at home, it is perforce a more personal record, a glimpse into the usually unseen world of nascent ideas and experimentation. The 14 tracks indicate an eclectic style that glides from the synthetic soundscapes of Swampdrone and Famine, Tyrant’s dreamlike ambience to the snappy cold funk of Design Error.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg, really -- there are a lot more songs. I just thought some people would like to hear them, I didn’t re-record any of them, they are as rough as they were. No one would have paid me to re-record them anyway, so I just thought I would put them out as they are because the spirit of the songs is still there.

“It would be basically very dishonest to put it out on EMI -- not that they would really want to put it out -- so I thought I would make it available to aficionados only. You won’t be able to buy it in the big chains, but it will be in the record shops where the kind of people who will want to buy it, all over the world, will be able to get it. I don’t think there’s going to be a big rush of people in Broken Hill going down to Woolworth’s looking for my album....”

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Transcribed by Mike Fulmer

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