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Steve on Earthed and Unearthed Print E-mail
Thursday, 01 January 1987

Steve talks to Smash Hits magazine about Earth and Unearthed.


Smash Hits
Early 1987


“I Am An Individual!”
by Karen Booth

What has Steve Kilbey, splendiferous singer and songwriter with The Church, in common with Dylan Thomas, Arthur Rimbaud and Sylvia Plath? (Hint: they’re all poets!) Karen Booth penetrated the psychedelic haze to find out more…

“We’re not a four-headed monster as I so often have to point out to people. I am an individual.”

The “I” is Steve Kilbey, the “we” The Church and the “people” er, me! You see, I’ve just very politely asked the patiently listening Mr. Kilbey how “people” have reacted to his debut solo album “Unearthed” and the prospect of a second solo album plus a book of poetry.

“A lot of people have a four musketeers attitude towards bands—you know, all for one and one for all. Some see a solo project as some sort of betrayal,” he explains.

Not surprisingly, that kind of attitude doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in the way Steve figures things. In fact, he’s had a “pretty good reaction” to “Unearthed” and it has made for him “quite a nice profit. I’m not choosing the colour of my next Porsche out of it, but it’s definitely not a loser.

“I think some people were surprised at some of the electronic ‘things’ on the album. I think they were surprised it was done at home… A lot of people were surprised that I actually did a solo album!” he chuckles softly.

And if “people” were surprised by “Unearthed”, they’re going to be doubly surprised by Earthed, Steve’s debut book of poetry and its companion solo album. And, perhaps, not a little confused at the closeness of the two titles.

“They’re opposites really… I don’t know, there is some sort of nebulous connection. It’s a book of poetry, not a record, so it’s like calling a dog an un-cat…”

Er, yes, but the album will also be called “Earthed”.


Right! Back to the poetry, then. Although he admits “it’s hard to tell where some poems start and others end”, Steve reckons there’ll be between 70 and 100 poems in Earthed. “I’ve written most of them within the last six months. I just hit this creative streak and I kept writing and writing.

“It’s surrealistic, loosely speaking. Some of it’s quite psychedelic. It’s not really like The Church at all in form, though a lot of the ideas I try and get through The Church re-occur in the book.

“I think it will be a pleasant surprise to read. It might be a pleasant place to start to get into poetry.”

Steve is pretty set in his ideas about what poetry and writing should be all about. According to the way he figures it, there are two kinds of writers. There’s the kind who likes to exorcise his or her personal traumas in public and there’s his kind.

“I write about far more abstract, non-personal things. The things I write have no embarrassment for me because none of it is about me personally.

“My poems won’t reveal much more about what makes me tick. If I wanted to do that I’d write an autobiography--which I’d never do. I think if you get a profoundly interesting person, someone who is 60 or 70 then… but the stuff by people like Shirley MacLaine and Joan Collins… I tend not to like it. I’m more interested in consciousness. The other stuff is just voyeuristic as far as I’m concerned.”

And if we the “people” are a trifle concerned about a poetry and album package, so too is Steve. He describes the process of translating the essence of his poetry to sound as a “sense-crossing” and happily admits: “I’m really doubtful of the whole thing--it’s really an experiment.” But he’s going to have plenty of time to concentrate on making his solo efforts a success.

The Church’s record company EMI have dropped the group.

“They’re having some problems and they’re getting rid of their unwanted baggage,” he says. But he doesn’t sound at all peeved which could have a lot to do with the fact that The Church have been deluged with loads of other offers. Curiously, they’ve all come from overseas.

“We’re just sitting back seeing who’s coming up with the best deal, more artistically than money-wise. The money’s not important to me.”

Even if the band does sign an overseas deal, they’ll still consider themselves an Aussie band, even though Steve is British by birth.

“Seeing I live in Australia and I am, to a certain extent, an Australian, I like to have success at home. I always regard success overseas as a bonus. Australia’s the world I understand.”

But the bottom line for Church fans is that there’ll be no new records for quite some time and no more touring until the guys come up with some fresh material. “It’s time we played a bit of new stuff. I don’t want to play old songs anymore. Anyway, scarcity equals demand,” he adds.

But when we do hear from The Church again, you can bet your paisley shirt that the songwriting will be a fully collaborative effort, just like it was on the band’s last album “Heyday”. The album peaked at No. 19 in the national charts and was the first Church LP not written by Steve.

“It was my decision for “Heyday” to be an album everybody would contribute to. The songwriting was pretty much four ways. The others are big boys now—we can all contribute.”

But having said all that, he feels it wise to add: “I think it was good that I gave The Church it’s original impetus and direction.”

Well, we know how Steve is whiling away his spare time, but what about the other “big boys”? Marty Willson-Piper is giving acoustic performances around Sydney and may even release his own album, Peter Koppes is song-writing and Richard Ploog is, well, “not really doing anything, just enjoying himself.”

Sounds jolly sensible to moi!


Transcribed by Mike Fulmer

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