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SF Examiner talks to Steve about mistakes he's made in the past Print E-mail
Wednesday, 02 February 2011

Originally published at San Francisco Examiner:

I don't think his characterisation of Steve ARIA speech as a "rant" is fair, though. Steve's speech was full of stories, warm rememberances and genuine appreciation for Australian music. It was covered in the press the next day as the best ARIA acceptance speech ever, an accolade that wouldn't be accorded to something mean-spirited or nasty.

One of the biggest worldwide hits for Australian outfit The Church was the jangling early ’80s confection “The Unguarded Moment.”

But for rapier-witted bandleader Steve Kilbey, there’s no such thing — even when his group was recently inducted into its homeland’s ARIA Hall of Fame, he was ready with an impromptu acceptance speech, a rambling 10-minute snark-a-thon wherein he wryly noted how he had been kicked off all the best labels and dropped by all the finest ­publishers in the land.

He ended the rant by thanking God for blessing him with so much talent, spurring the affair’s hostess to say, “Give that man a show!”

Kilbey came off good-natured and self-deprecating. And at 56, the Bondi Beach-based singer — who brings The Church to The City on Friday to perform three classic albums, back to back, “Untitled #23,” “Priest = Aura” and the 1988 breakthrough “Starfish” — also looked tan and trim, thanks to his daily workout regimen of yoga and swimming.

“It was a good night, and I was lucky that I thought of that speech on the spur of the moment,” he says of the prestigious ceremony. “And yeah, there was a bit of bitterness in there, but that’s only par for the course — if you hang around long enough, you’re going to see a lot of ups and downs.”  

The honoree wasn’t always so Zen-like. Career regrets?

“I’ve got a million,” Kilbey says. “I was cruel, I was nasty, I was horrible, I was selfish, I didn’t listen. I was weak, I used people, I let people use me — I mean, everything you can imagine. I made all the mistakes.”

For example, he recalls an incident wherein he argued with a Melody Maker magazine journalist throughout a daylong interview. Eagerly, he awaited the cover story’s printing, which would vindicate him. ­Surprise!

“They didn’t put us on their cover — or in the magazine — at all,” Kilbey says. “I’d blown a front-page story, blew it into nothing.”

These days, Kilbey is more grounded. “We’re just a little obscure band, and it’s only about the music now for us,” he says. “All that other stuff has disappeared.”

To that end, The Church is celebrating its 30th anniversary with the current Future Past Perfect tour, featuring a grand finale in April at the Sydney Opera House; a new two-disc singles anthology, “Deep In the Shallows”; and remastered reissues of its early catalog.  

In concert, Kilbey says, “I don’t mind doing the old stuff — I kind of enjoy it.”

Everything, that is, except “The Unguarded Moment.” “I don’t know why, but I never really liked that song. I didn’t even like it when I wrote it!”


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