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Steve talks to Smells Like Infinite Sadness Print E-mail
Friday, 08 March 2013

Smells Like Infinite Sadness conducted a fantastic two part interview with Steve in 2013 about The Idyllist and the other projects Steve was involved with at the time. I've included both parts here, but do take a trip to the site and look around - it's clearly a labor of love for the guy who runs it!

Steve Kilbey is one of the most prolific songwriters in rock. Through his work with seminal Aussie alternative band The Church, his solo projects and various collaborations, the man has been a flurry of activity.

 

He recently released “The Idyllist“, an excellent solo album that showcases his versatility and clever lyrical gifts (click here for my review). In addition he has an upcoming album with Martin Kennedy, and has recently begun writing songs with the Afghan Whig’s Greg Dulli.

 

It was a huge thrill to interview one of my musical heroes, and Kilbey couldn’t have been more gracious when I messaged him on Skype in Bondi, Australia.

 

He looked healthy and relaxed, and indulged my geeking out upon first chatting.

 

He was frank and enlightening when discussing his various projects, his creative process and the tentative future of his long-running band.

 

He has a wicked and lively sense of humor that might surprise those only familiar with his soothsayer croon.

 

In part 1 of our interview, we discuss “The Idyllist“, his upcoming projects with Kennedy and Dulli, and Kilbey’s songwriting process (click here to read Part 2).

 

SLIS: Well first off, I want to say how much I’ve been enjoying the “Idyllist“. It’s been a fun one to review. Have you been pleased with the overall response so far?

 

 

 

Kilbey: I don’t think anyone has said one bad thing about it yet, so that’s pretty good.

 

SLIS:  I know you were originally working on a project called “Apocrypha”, is that correct?

 

Kilbey:  I had this grandiose plan; I was gonna make this huge sort of pounding incessant, biblical sounding album. It was gonna sound like 500,000 slaves marching across the plains. But it didn’t end up sounding anything like that; it ended up sounding like The Idyllist–so I shelved the plans to make ‘Apocrypha’.

 

Everytime I’d write a song I was letting it go wherever it wanted to go and it never went into the Apocrypha direction that I was imagining. I was a bit disappointed  because I had this huge theme planned…that would have a lot of continuity. I don’t think the Idyllist has any continuity at all, which is a good thing for ‘The Idyllist’ but would’ve been a bad thing for ‘Apocrypha’.

 

SLIS: The album seems more catchy and immediate than some of your other work. Was that a happy accident or was it intentional?

 

Kilbey: I didn’t have any plans…my plan was Apocrypha, and when that plan fell through I  just let it be whatever it wanted to be. And if it turned out being poppy … that’s pretty much been an accident of not exerting any willpower over it and just going: I’m gonna turn on Logic (recording software) today and see where takes me. Rather than going, No! It’s gotta be (makes boisterous drum noises and chanting sounds).

 

(both laugh)

 

SLIS: I really like it. It has a nice off the cuff quality.

 

Kilbey: Oh yeah it’s as off the cuff as you can possibly get. That’s for sure.

 

SLIS: I was curious about a song called “Something Out There.” It has a line that stuck out to me: “Sooner or later everyone kills me, this is the story of Steven Kilbey.” Tell me what inspired that line?

 

Kilbey: I just seem to be in conflict with everybody in my world. I try my best and it always goes wrong no matter what I do. Sooner or later everybody turns on me in my life but I expect it now. I create confusion you know because I am a genius but I’m also an idiot.  That throws people because they don’t understand how one person can be both things. And I’m pretty naïve and I upset people in the end. Yeah, so in the end everybody kills me (laughing).

 

SLIS:  Oh no! Don’t say that! (laughter). Another song I wanted to ask about is  “Shot Through With Change.” It has a very insistent quality. Was that inspired by a real-life incident? Or more of a steam of consciousness thing?

 

Kilbey:  Well I’m halfway through writing a book with a clergyman…. and when we’re working on the book I’m thinking about God a lot. I’m thinking about the things we ask for. And I kinda touched on this in the song ‘Myrrh‘ (off the Church album ‘Heyday‘) as well. I’m thinking of some similarities in the lyrics:

 

“Oh god we need more favors

We need more wine and gold

We need slaves and roads and personal favors

We need microphones and manifolds.”

 

<img src="steve-kilbey-interview.gif" alt="steve kilbey-interview"/>

 

And this guy’s asking for all this stuff. He wants the big picture, but he’s sorta… like I’ve heard people in AA meetings like this too: I want world peace, and I want harmony and brotherhood, but y’know, if you’re listening, my car needs a tune up…and while you’re there could I get a bit more money and could you cure the warts on my toe or whatever…so we ask for the big things from God but we ask for the small things too.

 

But remember; songs are songs. I know you know that….they’re not kinda statements, they’re not articles, they’re not a journalistic thing— so when someone says this song is about something …I think about is a good word…they’re approximations… they’re not specific…like it isn’t just about a guy asking God for things..that’s kinda one of the superficial things…but as each person listens to the song, hopefully  they can get different things out of it, y’know what I mean?

 

And a caveat I always put in place; I always warn people just because I think my song is about this…that it in no way nullifies your interpretation. In the end when I listen to my songs, when I can clear my mind of all the stuff that came with it; Say if I listen to the Idyllist now, and I haven’t listened to it for about a month now. But if I listened to it now, the interpretations that I would make of the album…I wouldn’t count them as any more valid than what you said or anyone else said. Say, if someone said: “I don’t think that song is about that…I think it’s about my Auntie Maude“…Then I’d go, then it is…for you that’s the way I write.. So people can take my songs and make them  about any thing they like..

 

I like to put lots of ambiguity in there…my songs aren’t like Rage Against The Machine where its “what’s this song about?” “It’s about the destruction of the capitalist system!” My songs aren’t like that, they’re more like a little thing you might find on somebody’s table; you’re not sure what it does and you have a look at it and it seems to do loads of things. Or  like a deck of cards…its like I give you a deck of cards and you can go play any game you like. You make up the rules…you can bet… you can play strip poker…you can just take one out. Whatever. That’s how I want my songs to be.

 

I do not like to comment on them as a definitive: this is what my song’s about…and anybody who thinks anything else is wrong… It’s just like a take that I have..I don’t really understand them myself that’s why I just let them happen. Most of the words just come to me…I don’t even really know why I’ve written them…and then sometimes, a lot later I understand what I’ve written and sometimes I never do.

 

And sometimes people point out to me…you know what you wrote there? That’s really good and that’s meaningful…and then I go oh, okay. I look upon myself as a sort of conduit for all those millions of songs out there.

 

SLIS: Is that one reason why you don’t often put lyric sheets in your albums?

 

Kilbey: Okay, 2 reasons I don’t often put lyric sheets:

 

One is because one day I’m gonna print a book with all my songs and  fucking clean up…I waited for so long to put my lyrics out so when it happens, everyone’s going to have to buy the book to find out what the lyrics are.

 

(both laugh)

 

Secondly, and the most important reason, is because the lyrics—especially, “Shot Trough With Change”, if I saw that song on paper with the lyrics that said “God don’t give me this, or God don’t give me that“, those lyrics on paper without the music, without the voice singing them and without the atmosphere…its kinda just half of what it is.

 

I don’t think its good for people to read my lyrics…I want them to only exist with the music. I’m not writing them as poetry…and  although people say “yeah but I want to read them“, it’s a bit like going and seeing a magician; “I wanna know how he pulled the rabbit out of the hat” …but I think it’s better not to know…and I think it’s better not to see them all written down…I think the songs might have more mystery and longevity and more interpretability in them if I refrain from doing that.

 

SLIS: It’s interesting you should say that because I was talking to a friend when I was preparing for this interview and we were discussing that one of many things that makes your music so special is that your lyrics do stand up as poetry. So many rock lyrics can fall apart without the music, but your’s holds up well even without the music supporting it..

 

Kilbey: Well thank you and thank your friend for saying that…and I think the fact they’re not written down kinda multiplies that. Say you buy an album and the lyrics are like “hey baby let’s go for a drive..I love you girl/don’t ever leave me“, that’s alright if you got lyrics like that, but when they actually write them down, and if the chorus is “girl don’t ever leave me ” five times and they write it out for five times, y’know what I mean? If it’s all written down it has this kind of mundanity…I feel it’s a strike against, and it’s a sting the other away to have some lyrics that would look good written down but refrain from writing them down and just let them be more subtle.

 

SLIS: I also wanted to ask about your upcoming album “You Are Everything” with Martin Kennedy. I just read a post on your blog about it and it sounds pretty epic. How long have you been working on that one for?

 

Kilbey: A long time actually and its gone through many stages… a long time ago I sat down with Martin..and he said it’s time to make our next album…and I told him pretty truthfully I was a little bit disappointed that our 2nd album… although it was a good album it didn’t feel like it was a great leap forward. And he thought about that and came back with these songs …at that stage they were just sketches. And then I did my vocals…and then he took it away and he really worked on it…so he had really good songs to start with. And as soon as I heard them I wrote 11 songs in 2 days; in one day I did 6 of the songs and the next I did 5, just one after another. And one of them I even sang on the spot. When he played the music I turned the microphone on and said I’m gonna make up the lyrics on the spot which I did…and it still sounds pretty good. Most people won’t know which one it is.

 

And then he took it away and he’s developed it. He has orchestras, pianos, percussion and backing vocals and then he sent it back to me…and it was great…and then he put even more stuff on, as on the first album and the 2nd album, he mixed himself, and though Martin did a very good mix too, it wasn’t as good as what Simon Polinski could have done. Because Polinski, he’s a mixer, that’s what he does…he’s in his mid -50s, so if he was a brain surgeon at 55, you’d say he’s at the top of his game…but he’s been doing this for like 40 years…and its just the most beautiful mix. It’s just really luxurious…luxurious is the word I like to say. It just sounds like it cost a million dollars.

 

SLIS: And that comes out in May correct?

 

Kilbey: Yes. I wish it was coming out sooner.

 

Y’know when I was writing that article and I went “it was the best record I ever made“..I thought fuck it…I reckon its one of the best record ever made of its type…..if you like a record like The Blue Nile’s ‘Walk Across The Rooftops‘ or if you like Talk Talk; y’know in America at the moment this idea would be represented by the Decemberists or Grizzly Bear. This sort of very adult, very intelligent music… for discerning adults…not for people who’ve got their hair dyed green with a grown out mohawk going “oi oi oi oi!!”…more sort of someone who drives a BMW and lives in Cologne, Germany and has a job…people who when they get home, want to have kind of a challenging rewarding music made by people who aren’t just  rewriting “Wild Thing.”

 

Who’re exploring what can be done with a 4 minute song bearing in mind that their audience are a kind of tertiary educated people…who like references to literary things and history, and spiritual things…and I think this album and The Idyllist…y’know some of  the themes I sing about and reference…it’s for intelligent people…well it’s for the head and the heart and the feet I hope.

 

SLIS: I think that’s true and I was reading where you said it has a Bowie “Low” kind of sound and I can see that working nicely with your vocals.

 

Kilbey: There’s a lot of  “Low” in some of the songs…this kind of old-fashioned technology kicks in that sounded modern once, like the future that never came…some of it has a real germanic sort of feeling.

 

SLIS: So how does the creative process with you and Martin differ from your work with other musicians?

 

Kilbey: Well Martin just turns up with the music and has the finished track so that makes it really easy…because there’s no sitting around wondering what are we gonna do since he’s already done it. So he just turns up and says here’s the songs. And I sit there and listen to them a couple of minutes and then 99% of the time the words just start coming, and the melodies just start coming so it’s pretty easy. Which is really just an extension of my own process, which is to create a piece of music and then sit down and create backing tracks that needs vocals…and I wait for the vocals and lyrics and words and melodies to kinda percolate. The hardest thing isn’t writing the words..it’s coming up with the melodies…that’s the challenge. Anyone can write words but to be given a piece of music and say “oh ahhh“.

 

Grant McLennan (of the Go-Betweens) showed me how easy that was when we did Jack Frost. And Margo Smith, to whose memory The Idyllist is dedicated. I always felt I had an anchor around my voice, anchoring me to what I did and then when I heard Margo and when I heard Grant, they just seemed like they could come in anywhere in the music and just sing anything…and they really just opened up my eyes to that spontaneous singing…cause I always used to sit there with a notebook. I mean it was working out for me…I was writing “Heyday” and “Starfish” and “Under The Milky Way“, but these people helped show me how I could be freed up. So now when I work with Martin, I feel like when I hear this music…I’m not stuck in this Steve Kilbey rut. I feel more sort of opened up to come in anywhere.

 

Like before it’s like someone gives you a great big piece of land…but I was always building a house in the same corner.And now I feel when someone gives me a piece of land that I can go anywhere in it and build any kind of building that takes my fancy…so when I listen to “You are Everything“, I think Grant and Margo would be proud of how I’ve kind of just coming in anywhere in the song…all limitations have been shucked off…and now I’m more free to be melodic.

 

SLIS: And speaking of collaborations, I hear you’re working with Greg Dulli now. How’s that going?

 

Kilbey: Greg went home today..he’s gone back to America…we’ve written a couple of really good songs …we haven’t made a record…I guess it was naïve of me to think Greg Dulli was gonna turn up and we would make a record in 2 weeks.

 

I was hoping for that, and when he turned up it took us a little while to kind of adjust our expectations, cause the moment he got here, I put on the tape machine and I was like let’s go!  But Greg didn’t want to do it like that. He was more laid back. But we wrote a load of pieces…we had no shortage of creative frission between us, and we properly recorded 2 songs…which I’m not sure what we’re going to do with them. We’ve got lots of other pieces we could go back to.

 

Greg’s saying to me “ah you gotta come to America and we can do some more recording“, so we became really good friends. So I would say it became sort of an ongoing project. But I was really naïve to think it could be kind of like Martin Kennedy…cause first of all Martin just shows up and all the hard works been done. But with Greg and I, we were starting from scratch, and  it took us a while to figure out what our modus operandi was going to be. But I’m still very happy, very pleased. We wrote one song…Greg sat down one night and said : “I’m gonna write you a piece of piano music Kilbey”, and he wrote me this lovely piece…and then he went out and had dinner and while he was gone I wrote some lyrics…and when he came back he really loved what I’d written. So sooner of later it’ll come out somehow. I’ll use them even if he doesn’t.

 

SLIS: You both have such strong but different lyrical styles. I was wondering, would you write the lyrics to one song and him another or would you write them together?

 

Kilbey: We never worked on lyrics together. That’s the one thing where I’d find it very hard to collaborate. Y’know Grant McLennan and I, we actually wrote lyrics together…we’d actually backwards and forwards the lyrics…and he’s the only guy who I’ve ever felt comfortable doing that with…I’ve never done it with anybody before or since…and with Greg what I hope for is to have a record of dialogues. Which is what “Providence” (Jack Frost) is…Grant has his dialogue..I appear in the middle and have my dialogue…and then Grant appears at the end and has his dialogue…over the same piece of music.

 

 

So that’s what I was kind of hoping for with Greg…that our voices could sort of have dialogues with each other but with each writing their own lyrics…And I think with our lyrics we might do that, but I couldn’t imagine he and I could sit down and come up with the lyrics together. And I don’t think that I could do that with anybody ever again…there has to be an incredible amount of trust and a feeling that your both coming from totally the same place. So that’s what I hope, that we’d write the music together and then we would both sing on it.

 

Part Two

SLIS: You always have so many projects that you’re working on. Do you ever get writer’s block?

 

Kilbey: No, I never get writer’s block. It doesn’t exist for me. Not when it comes to music…I never stagger away defeated, I always come up with something. I’ve had painters block ( laughing), where I felt like I couldn’t do any painting, but writing songs is so easy for me…If someone said y’know “you gotta write 5 songs today and they better be good or we know where your family lives“, I’d go ‘I reckon I can do that‘.

 

(both laugh).

 

It’s like a load of processes, I can always get it started and going. And Logic makes that so much easier. It’s like an endless source of things you can do to jumpstart a song; a little sound or a little effect or a little something you can do.

 

But even without Logic, if you just gave me a guitar, I would reckon I could sit down and just keep writing songs.

 

SLIS: So when you’re working with Logic and recording by yourself vs working with another artist, what do you like best about working by yourself? Do you find you’re missing input from another musician, or how does that work for you?

 

Steve-Kilbey-The-Idyllist-album-review

 

Kilbey: I think there are plusses and minuses. The thing I like about it most is that if I have an idea; because a lot of my ideas are non-verbal. And I wrote this on the Idyllist cover, that I get ideas that are non-verbal, even to myself. So not even to myself do I go; “I’m doing this“..it’s just working on a feeling …and I don’t even put it in words to myself what I’m doing. As soon as you’re working with someone else they say; “well, what’re you doing with this song?” Then you have to say “well I’m doing it and its going to be blah blah blah, and it’s going to be a bit like this and a bit like that” and then they might even choose to argue with you, and then you’re kind of in this verbal world, of talking about this song you haven’t even written and you might not even be doing it justice.

 

So that’s what I like about working when I’m completely on my own, even without an engineer, cause you don’t have to verbalize anything, you can just follow a feeling, you just hear a sound and like that sound, not even knowing why and just follow it. And I like playing all the instruments myself and doing it however I like.

 

I found out with Greg (Dulli), I was doing some engineering, and I made some mistakes, and he was sad y’know that I’d erased his vocals and some of his piano parts (both laugh). So there’s a bit of a responsibility when you’re the engineer and you’re kinda getting things wrong and not recording things.

 

 

On the other hand, you don’t have that excitement, you don’t have that bouncing back and you don’t have that telling you what’s good or what’s bad…sometimes you need it, y’know?  So its a thing that has its upsides and downsides…but it’s less hassle and I can get a lot more done when I don’t have to explain myself.

 

Often, when I have to explain myself, I become exasperated. I remember once the Church were doing something and I heard something and I went “stop the tape!”, and I said “play me this one minute of music” and they played it and I’m going  “this is it, we’ve got to all follow this” and they’re going “well what’s this going to be?” And I’m saying “just trust me.”.. And by the time I’d try to explain it to everyone and enlist them and get them on my side, to follow it, I was like, ah fuck it (both laugh)…just let it go. So that’s the problem of having to explain everything y’know?

 

And sometimes when you explain it, the clumsy terms you use, like “this should be like Pink Floyd” and then you start working on it and someone else goes “this isn’t like Pink Floyd” and you go “well yeah, don’t worry about it” and they say “no you said you wanted it to be like Pink Floyd and this isn’t Pink Floyd!” and I’m like “well forget fucking Pink Floyd”…you see what I mean? So that’s why I like working on my own.

 

But I like working with other people…because the people I work with are gifted people, and their input is good, so there’s plusses and minuses to both.

 

SLIS: I really enjoy your blog. Do you like being able to communicate with your fans so directly?

 

Kilbey: Yeah I really do. I love having a blog and I guess that’s why I’ve written one for the past 7 or 8 years…I like the community of the blog and the instant feedback. I mean, once upon a time you wrote a poem, and maybe it took you 2 years to put out a book and maybe it took 2 years for someone to read the book and maybe it took 2 years to find you and to tell you that they liked what you did…and nowadays I can sit here and write a poem and 5 minutes later, someone in Cairo goes “Wow! I love this poem“, and you’ve got to like something like that instant feedback on what you’re doing…I love that part of it.

 

SLIS: I notice when I read your posts, there’s a lot of strong statements like “this is really great” and then at other times you’re dismissive of your work, and I wondered if you have a fan that likes a song that you had a hard time working on or one you’re tired of hearing, when they give you positive feedback, does that make you reevaluate it and enjoy it again?

 

Kilbey: Oh, absolutely, I crave that. Sometimes I don’t know what I’ve done myself, I really don’t. Sometimes I know I’ve written something good, other times I think I’ve written something bad…and sometimes it’s helped me completely go back and reappraise things…I love to read people’s interpretations when it’s all done…I’m very interested in their interpretations, to see whether they think I’m on the right or the wrong track, so I’m very much in symbiosis with my fans.

 

I mean if everyone had gone, “look, the Idyllist is really bad mate, you shouldnt do this“. I  would really take that on and the next time I was sitting down and turning on Logic and my inner voice is saying “just go anywhere you like” …I’d be going “hang on, I have a lot of people who aren’t enjoying this, this kind of going wherever I like.”  But because it’s had such a great reaction I feel that’s a valid thing…not trying to control it…just trying to have a great variety in what I do.

 

So I’m very much interested in reading reviews and opinions of what people think about what I do. Especially people who are long-term serious fans…I was really delighted to find your review one day (click here to read). I googled “the Idyllist Steve Kilbey” and I came across your review and I was really happy. I was like “Hey! Someone in Texas has reviewed my album!” And it’s a great review and it really made my day.

 

SLIS: Oh thanks! [sidenote: and he just made mine!]

 

Kilbey: Y’know I don’t exist in a vacuum going “I don’t care what the world thinks of what I do!” To read that people are enjoying it really does make my day.

 

SLIS: I’m so glad! I’ve been a fan of your’s ever since “Heyday” came out when I was in high school. I was into the whole 120 minutes era and have been into your stuff ever since.

 

Kilbey: So you as a long-term fan, what you have to say means a lot to me, much more than some critic who doesn’t really know who I am. Someone who’s been listening all along and knows the things I do ….if they still like what I do, then that’s really important to me, because it’s hard to keep people interested for that long..so I’m still working on it y’know.

 

[amazon_image id=”B0013AUUVA” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Sometime Anywhere[/amazon_image]

 

SLIS: I remember reading a magazine interview with you guys back in the 90’s for the Church album “Sometime Anywhere“, and you and Marty Willson-Piper were talking about the songs “Authority” and “Business Woman.” And it said you both wrote those songs to keep your record company happy but that you hated those songs , and I was like “Hey, I like those songs! What’s wrong with those songs?”

 

(laughing)

 

Kilbey: Yeah, I think “Authority” was a good song, and I think we were being a bit harsh, but I think “Business Woman,” y’know it was a bit cheesy.

 

SLIS: But it has such a good hook though! I think as a fan you start questioning your own tastes, like if they hate it, do I have bad taste for liking it? (laughing)

 

Kilbey: Yeah that’s not fair, making people feel like that. But you know, we are our own harshest critics. I think we feel like, nothing we do is really bad, it’s just some of it is average in comparison to the really good things that we’ve done. I think “Business Woman” is very average compared to some of the peaks we have scaled.

 

SLIS: Speaking of The Church, I know back in October, you were saying you might be leaving the band due to some business issues, and then I saw on your blog that you wrote “cue strains of the last time” regarding an upcoming show with them in March…But then I read in the Sydney Herald that things are improving, so I wanted to see where you’re at with them today?

 

<img src="steve-kilbey-leaving-the-church.gif" alt="steve kilbey leaving the church"/>

 

Kilbey: (sticks a finger in air) Hmm, what direction is the wind blowing?

 

(both laugh)

 

(turns to his girlfriend)

 

Hey Sam, what’s happening with the Church?

 

She says she doesn’t know darling.

 

I don’t know either darling.

 

(both laugh)

 

I don’t know what’s gonna happen. It’s like we’re such a democracy…that often it foils us all..so it’s like nothing happens, something doesn’t happen or someone doesn’t like something that’s happened …and we don’t really know what to do because no one’s kind of steering the boat anymore.

 

It looked to me like this gig in Canberra was going to be absolute curtains for us, because of a break down in the personnel, and I think that’s been averted…I think we’re all friends again. Relatively.

 

(laughing)

 

But even though we’re still friends I don’t know if we can get over this kind of inertia that we’ve been in. We’ve made an album that not all of us have really heard properly, and it doesn’t seem like that’s going to be our next album, so nobody knows when we are going to do our next album  and how we’re going to do it.

 

So it isn’t as bleak as it looked, but it’s not as hopeful as I would like. I wish I was sitting here going “in April or May we’re making an album and then we’re going to tour America in December“, but it’s not like that at all. Nobody knows what’s going to happen and nobody in the band seems to have the clout to make anybody else do anything. I certainly don’t. This is what I wrote the other day as well, I said I don’t cause everything, and I’m also not the cause of things that don’t happen. People would imagine that I ring the Church up and say : look, we’re going to make a new album, look we’re going to do a tour… they would think that I’m the prime mover, and that I can make this happen, but…I can’t. I can’t make them make it. And nor can they make me.

 

And everybody’s got other things on the boil. Marty’s like an itinerant minstrel wandering the world with no fixed address, Peter’s lecturing in music on the Sunshine Coast in Australia. Tim’s got his own recording studio and is a very in-demand producer and session drummer …and I’m me doing all the things that I do…and it’s getting harder and harder for us all to agree on what we should do and how it’s all going to be paid for. I really wouldn’t be surprised if nothing ever happens again, even though it could happen, and all the gates are open for it to happen …on the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised if something does happen, but I haven’t got the energy to make it happen by myself. It’s been such a long time since our last record..and I’m kinda embarrassed and a bit angry. I wish we had made another one since Untitled #23…It’s just as much my fault I guess, as anybody else’s that we haven’t.

 

[amazon_image id=”B001UXJQHY” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Untitled #23[/amazon_image]

 

But that’s why I’m saying, don’t wait for the next Untitled #23, as far as I’m concerned, here it is with the new Kilbey Kennedy (which you can pre-order by clicking here). If you liked that tradition of what that album is about, here’s more of it. It’s not  The Church, but this is what I’d be doing with them if we were still making records…’The Idyllist‘ is like a hobby album, but my next big shot as far as my next statement of where I’m at as a musician and a singer, it’s Kilbey Kennedy. That’s it. Don’t wait for the Church cause it ain’t coming, but if you liked Untitled 23…here’s this one.

 

Click here for my review of “You Are Everything.”

 

<img src="steve-kilbey-martin-kennedt-interview.gif" alt="steve kilbey martin kennedy interview"/>

Martin Kennedy with Steve Kilbey

SLIS: Do you think with the Church, it’s really just the business issues that makes it such a grind? I’ve read over the years that you have these continual hiccups where you get disenfranchised with the band.

 

Kilbey: I get sick of the business issues. And I get sick of the other guys in the band and they definitely get sick of me. It’s not like them versus me, it’s like four of us all versus each other really. There’s no power block in the band or gang of people who are always aligned.

 

But the one thing we don’t have a problem with is music. Playing together is really alive, healthy and vibrant. We did that tour in December…we were better than ever. We were more powerful and wild and I felt like I was doing some of the best playing and singing of my career. And we were in an adverse position because we were opening for Devo and Simple Minds, so it wasn’t like our own people we were playing to…but we still went on and really acquitted ourselves…getting encores and big responses from people who weren’t  really there to see us. Which made me proud, because The Church has never been traditionally good at supporting other bands. We were always a bit half-hearted when opening for another band. It’s just not the same as when people are coming only to see you.

 

So…the musical side of things is very healthy, the personal side of things is mediocre, and to me the business side of things sucks. That’s my take on it.

 

Which is better than the other way around; Yeah the business is great, we’re all good friends, we just can’t write a song anymore!

 

SLIS: A line in that interview stood out to me. You said “if we do keep playing, it won’t be in the nostalgia circuit” and I thought that might be a comment about being on that Simple Minds/Devo tour. Is that what you meant?

 

Kilbey: No, I wasn’t talking about that, but that is a nostalgia circuit. There’s 2 band that are kind of not moving forward at all.

 

I mean Devo is different cause they sprang to life like that and they’re still kind of doing “We are Devo.” I guess one doesn’t really want them to go anywhere else. It’s a bit like Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck. You don’t want them to be more than what they are.

 

Simple Minds are definitely a band that’s on the nostalgia circuit, doing kind of pale, bombastic reworkings of their old material…there’s no real feeling you’re still seeing a band that is firing on all cylinders. It’s just like…they’re just kind of posing around on stage…pretty empty and sad really.

 

(both laugh)

 

I don’t feel like The Church are like that. I feel like we’re kind of like Neil Young or something. We’ve still got an edge.

 

SLIS: I was talking to my wife the other day and I was saying, I have many bands that I love, but The Church is the most consistent. I can’t think of an album that you put out that I didn’t like. I like some more than other’s but they’re all good. And I think that’s a testament to how good you guys play together. You always make something memorable.

 

And you’re one of the few bands I can listen to any day of the week. Some bands you have to kind of be in a certain mood for. But with the Church, it can be in the car, winding down to go to sleep, or wherever. It always fits.

 

You’ve had a huge impact in my life.

 

Kilbey: Well, thank you Michael.

 

SLIS: Going back to the business stuff; if you could go back to a pre-internet business model would you? Or do you like having more contact with the fans and having more control via your website? What are your feelings about that as far as now versus when you were on a major label.

 

Kilbey: I think there’s really good things to be said for both.

 

I liked being on big labels and having things paid for and having them underwrite tours and give you big advances. I liked all that, but I didn’t like their interference, and I like the internet age with having lots of contact with fans and all that, but I miss making expensive videos and having clout when going to radio stations and getting my singles played, and all that.

 

*Speaking of music videos, click here to read my review of the work of John Morrison, who directed Kilbey’s ‘African Jesus’ video as well as some Kilbey/Kennedy material.

 

I guess I miss those sorts of things. So yeah, there’s mixed blessings. There were some good things about the old days. But there were some bad things. Just like now. It’s not all one way or the other I don’t think.

 

SLIS: Now on your March show with the Church, you’ll be performing with an orchestra, is that correct?

 

Kilbey: Yes, I’m gonna appear with an orchestra a few hours before the Church do our set…George Ellis who conducts the orchestra at the Sydney Opera House…he’s doing a set in Canberra and he’s asking me to sing some of my songs just with the orchestra. So I’m doing that, and the Church unfortunately aren’t playing with the orchestra.

 

SLIS: I just had visions of “Heyday” when I heard that..imagining hearing “Happy Hunting Ground“.

 

Kilbey: If only, but no we won’t be doing that unfortunately.

 

SLIS: As far as new artists, what new music do you like these days?

 

Kibey: I like Sigur Ros. I like Greg Dulli, I know he’s not that new, but I really like him… I’m too busy making music and listening to my music to really listen to much new stuff.

 

I had my period in my teenage years when I was seeking stuff out and took everything in. I was constantly seeking new music and had to be abreast of it all. But I’ve relinquished that and pretty much just listening to all the old stuff I was ever listening to.

 

SLIS: I feel that way. It seems like when you’re in high school and college, that’s when music has an all time importance in your lifestyle and after you get older you kind of stick to that stuff you always liked. You may find some new stuff here and there but it’s the stuff from those years that seem to stick.

 

Kilbey: Yeah. You have your period where you take it all in. and as you get older it gets harder to take anything new in. I have a sort of resistance to new stuff…I don’t know why that is, but its harder for something to make an impression on me these days.

 

SLIS: A lot of stuff I hear today is kind of pale imitation of what’s come before. You hear a lot of  bands that have the 80’s sound. And I hear a lot of artists that sound like they were inspired by you guys. I hear your sound seeping into other artists. And you may never get quoted a lot, but I think that you were certainly influential.

 

Kilbey: Yeah I wish one of those bands would put one of our songs on their next trillion selling album.

 

(both laugh).

 

But a lot of people go “this song reminds me of the Church and that reminds me of you” and y’know the Killers did ‘Under The Milky Way’ as a cover, and Smashing Pumpkins were doing “Reptile.” And Matchbox 20 of all things were doing ‘Milky Way’. So I guess we’ve had our influence. But I would just like to actually make something out of it.

 

But good luck to them y’know? That’s what it’s all about. take your influences and run with them.

 

SLIS: So any chance you’ll come to the States anytime soon for one of your various projects?

 

Kilbey: Greg was profusely inviting me to work with him in America. So I guess its in the cards. I’ve got 3 children who are still going to school, so it’s sort of hard for me to go off for months like I used to. I have to temper those invitations with the duties of a Dad.

 

The Church might come to America this year or they might not. At the moment there are no plans.

 

SLIS: Yeah I was kicking myself that I couldn’t make it to your last tour when you were doing Starfish, Priest=Aura and Untitled 23 in their entirety. I just wasn’t close to any of those cities.

 

Kilbey: Yeah, that was a really good tour. We were hitting a stride there.

 

SLIS: I bet. I was so upset that I couldn’t make it. I was like come to Texas please! But I know we aren’t always a convenient stop you can get to.

 

Well Steve, I’d like to thank you for the interview. It’s been such a pleasure talking to you. And I look forward to hearing/reviewing the Kilbey/Kennedy album upon it’s release!

 

Kilbey: Alright Michael, Thank you.

 

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