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Steve talks with B-Side magazine about Gold Afternoon Fix Print E-mail
Monday, 01 October 1990
 Publisher:  B-Side Magazine (New Jersey, USA)
     Issue:  Vol.4, No.5
      Date:  Oct, 1990

    By Sandra A. Garcia

Sparkling mind addictions.

    By Marci Cohen

"I was just randomly flipping through channels," recalls
Steve Kilbey about how he came to be watching the financial
news on television. "I never follow the stock market. But I
like to sometimes just randomly flip through channels and
pick things out of the air." On this occasion, he selected
"Gold Afternoon Fix," a term for the price of gold that is
set in the afternoon and fixed overnight. Despite any drug-
related connotations, it was Wall Street that provided the
title for the latest record by the prolific collective
known as the Church.

Gold Afternoon Fix is a walk across a velvet blanket spread
over a bed of rounded stones.  The surface is lush and
inviting, but conceals a convoluted terrain underneath,
unexpected but never too jagged. Dense and slightly
impenetrable, the Church's music stands up to or requires
repeated listening. No "I'm in love with her and I feel
fine" simplicities here. Like mental New Year's Eve
confetti, it soars immediately and ultimately finds its way
into unlikely nooks in the mind; months later, those bits
of pastel paper caught in one's shoe or pocket recall that
blurry, forgotten celebration.

The work is more of a collaboration of the full band than
in the past. Bass player Steve Kilbey, guitarists Marty
Willson-Piper and Peter Koppes and drummer Richard Ploog
all share in the music credits. Like their last album,
1988's Starfish, Gold Afternoon Fix was produced by Waddy
Wachtel. "It was a kind of a compromise to get this album
underway to use him again," says Kilbey, who spoke from
Cincinnati as they were winding down their U.S. tour.

Wachtel seems an unlikely choice for the Church because of
his association with the Southern California scene of the
mid '70's.  Kilbey explains why he supported Wachtel's
involvement with the band. "It was just suggested. And I
like bizarre suggestions. I like juxtaposing elements in
music. I like juxtaposing elements in words and in art
generally. And I think if you do it in your life- I thought
that was a strange juxtaposition to put Waddy Wachtel with
the Church and I was interested to see what would come from

While Wachtel is expanding beyond his original roots by
working with artists like the Church and Iggy Pop, the
Church have defied their own geographic associations.
Their homeland of Australia and its pub scene have a
history of producing direct, in-your-face music, more
hard-edged than the Church's. The band was able to develop
in spite of the scene's apparent obstacles because, as
Kilbey indicates, those constraints don't really exist. "We
played on the Australian pubs. That's pretty overrated, the
whole thing. It's no different to the bars people play at
here. It's just a little legend that someone's having a bit
of fun propagating. The Australian pub scene's no worse
than the English pub scene or any other country that has
rock and roll bands. And people go to pubs to see bands
like the Church as much as they go and see Midnight Oil."
Appreciating their music might seem to require more thought
than was possible over clatter of drinks, though.  "I would
say that when we played some of those pubs, there wasn't a
real lot of thinking going on in the audience." More
attentive audiences would have been preferable, "but we did
alright.  We never got things thrown at us often."

Another myth cleared up: the value of touring. Starfish
produced the band's first Top 40 hit in America, 'Under the
Milky Way.' The single made the album their most
successful, but they also supported it with nine months on
the road. They scheduled a much briefer outing for this
round. "I'm not a great believer in touring as a thing that
really achieves much at all other than it's nice to play
and people hopefully enjoy it.  But I don't think it sells
records. It's now like we've done two months and that's
about all that's needed, and that's about all that's
appropriate, so that's the end of it," says Kilbey.

Kilbey considered scrapping the tour plans entirely because
of hearing damage. He consulted a doctor about a constant
ringing in his ears, but a complete work stoppage was
unnecessary. Even the concessions he made were of little
help. "I bought myself a very expensive pair of earphones.
However, I lose the vibe incredibly when I'm wearing them.
I just can't play with them in, so I'm just putting up with
it. Sacrifice for rock and roll."

Missing from the current tour was long-time Church drummer
Ploog who took what was officially termed a "year-long
leave of absence." By this point, though, Kilbey
characterizes Ploog's returning as "highly unlikely." For
his replacement, the band put at the top of its list Jay
Dee Daugherty, who came aboard for this tour.  "We're
hoping Jay Dee can fit the Church in around his other
commitments," comments Kilbey.  "He's Patti Smith's drummer
first.  She's going to be doing another album. So that's
his first love, I suppose."

Koppes and Willson-Piper contribute lead vocals on the
songs on Fix for which they penned the lyrics, 'Transient'
and 'Russian Autumn Heart,' respectively. Kilbey carried
the remainder of the lyric writing and singing, with all
working on the music. In light of the large contributions
that those three make to the group, being the fourth member
might seem an intimidating position for anyone. Kilbey
discounts this possible difficulty. "No, Jay Dee fitted in
two minutes after we had our first jam. Absolutely no
problem with that."

The Church's live cover of Patti Smith's 'Dancing Barefoot'
preceded Daugherty's arrival. "There was a friend of ours
in Australia who had a single of it out," details Kilbey.
"A guy called Damien Lovelock from the Celibate Rifles. And
he wanted to do the song with us. So we learned it and we
did it with him one night and then that was it. And so we
thought, 'Well, now seeing we've learned the bloody song,
we might as well keep playing it after all.' And it is kind
of a nice song." It's unlikely that the tune will crop up
on vinyl, though. "Since we've started doing it, I found
out that everybody and their roadie has got a version of it
out there. U2 have got a version." And, no doubt, their

Their recent Philadelphia appearance at the Chestnut
Cabaret, a large club, put them in closer contact with the
audience than they were in 1988 when they headlined at the
reserved-seated Tower Theater. Kilbey used the opportunity
to interact with the audience at the Chestnut. During the
show, he deadpanned, "Marty, somebody's calling you,"
addressing the band's lead guitarist with the high
cheekbones and perfect teeth. "She loves you," he droned.
"She really loves you." He got more laughs with familiar
bass lines from dinosaur rock classics like 'Smoke on the
Water,' but also took a shot at the post-modern set by
striking an exaggerated Peter Murphy pose.

Steve explains his approach towards working off an
audience. "It's just a night-by-night thing. It's sort of
like you go out to a restaurant with a bunch of people.
Sometimes you can be the life of the party and other times
you sit in the corner and don't say a word. I think that's
pretty much what was happening.  If you get an interesting
audience and there's people yelling out one-liners that are
setting you up for a joke, you start getting involved.
Other times, you go on stage and you realize the moment you
step up there that this isn't the situation for jokes.
People just want you to play your stuff and they don't want
to hear any kind of patter." I praise his sarcasm from that
evening in Philly, and he uses my comment to expand on his
point.  "See, that's the problem there. The sarcasm's
entertaining, but does it enhance the songs that follow
it?  Not necessarily, so you have to judge that one."

The band also got involved with one of their support acts.
During the Starfish tour, former Television guitarist Tom
Verlaine joined the Church for their encore after his doing
his own opening set. However, they haven't always felt such
a strong affinity with other bands with whom they have
toured. "It's been a strange thing, opening acts.  All
kinds of politics are involved. Tom Verlaine is someone
that we all loved and were really happy to have on the
tour. Most of the other people have been sort of- the
agents wanted them or some record company. Or it's a favor
to somebody," says Kilbey.

He suggests a different arrangement. "If I had my way, if I
was going to see my favorite band, I wouldn't want to see
another rock band on before them. Or perhaps I'd just like
to see them and no opening act. But I'd rather probably see
a string quartet or a juggler or a magician or something. I
don't want my ears blasted away before I hear my favorite.
I'm not big on having other bands."

The Church often draws comparisons to late '60's
psychedelia, but their associations with Television and the
Patti Smith Group suggest stronger ties to the New York
scene of the mid-70's. Steve confirms and expands on this
observation. "I'd be more inclined to lean towards that
stuff than towards '60's psychedelia. Anything that's good,
I feel free to dabble in. Any elements that I think that I
can use, I'll take, whether it's from rap in 1990 or
whether it's from Erik Satie in 1920.  I'll take anything
at all that I think I can use."

"Haunting," "dreaming" and "ethereal" are frequently used
in connection with the band. Kilbey feels that they come
across as more grounded in concert. "I don't think you'd
see the Church live and say we were dreamy or haunting. I
think we're kind of nasty rock and roll. It's good to have
the thing on record where we're more that way and live
we're more the other way. The difference between a play and
a film."
 The Church members are flooding the market with their
creative output. In addition to Gold Afternoon Fix, their
seventh album, they have also released a compilation video,
Goldfish (Jokes, Magic Souvenirs). Arista, their third and
current U.S. label, has reissued their back catalogue. (The
re-release of their debut, Of Skins and Heart, now includes
all the tracks that were part of the Australian, British
and American self-titled versions.) Kilbey, Koppes and
Willson-Piper each have recent solo albums out.  Kilbey is
also half of Hex, a project with Game Theory vocalist
Donnette Thayer.  In a decade, they have churned out
sixteen albums through their joint and single efforts.

Goldfish is similar to self-titled video that was available
only in Australia a few years back. "It's all of that with
the stuff from Starfish and the new album, plus between
each video, it's some home footage of backstage little
vignettes, little things," describes Kilbey. They didn't
tape those bits with the home video in mind. "It was just
someone with a camera was hanging around filming us being

More intentional was the band's own censoring of their
video for 'You're Still Beautiful,' in which "fucking" is
obtrusively bleeped. "I just thought it was funny to do it
ourselves. Keep someone else from doing it," says Kilbey.
"I like the idea that it draws your attention to it more
than if it hadn't been there." As for the star of the
video, "He's an out- of- work actor who was just selected
for his outrageous portrayal of a washed- up transvestite."

Remindlessness, From the Well, and Rhyme are, respectively,
Kilbey, Koppes and Willson-Piper's latest solo endeavors.
Kilbey explains the reason for their individual efforts.
"We all write songs and stuff and we just want to get it
out. It's fun to do a record on your own and it's
profitable, as well." One advantage of the solo process is
its speed. "It's much faster. You don't have to ask
opinions. You just do what you like. Play all the stuff,
produce it, record it and do whatever you want. That's the
beauty of it, that's the drawback of it, is that you have
no one to say, 'No, you shouldn't do that. That's not very
good.' The Church is a more considered thing."

Solo work also allows for a more consistent sound, keeping
all the irregularity outside the group. Kilbey highlights
other benefits as well as the band's creative environment.
"Well, many hands make light work, don't they? It's just
three or four people thinking together, working together,
is going to be better than one guy saying, 'I think you
should all do this,' and three reluctant donkeys."

Kilbey quickly insists that the Church won't become merely
a source of financing for their smaller solo outings, but
he takes a long, thoughtful pause before explaining what
would prevent that situation. "The idea of the Church still
fills us all with a certain amount of pride in what we have
and what we've done and what we've achieved.  I think we
have too much respect for the thing to want to milk it like
that." I suggest that even though it doesn't have his name
on it the way a solo record would, it's still a part of him
and he wouldn't want to degrade it.  He jumps in much
faster for this response.  "Very much. The Church, in a
way, means more to me than the solo stuff."

I had unwittingly set myself up by complimenting his
sarcasm. As we wrap up the interview, I ask if there's
anything he wanted to add.

"I would like to add 1 and 2," he responds.  I give him the
go-ahead, expecting tremendous revelations on points we
hadn't yet covered. "1 and 2 equals 3."

He then inquires as to the content of our magazine, jesting
"I thought it was a magazine about having honey and stuff."
No, it's not Bee-Side!

Underneath those dreamy, ethereal layers lays a surprising
sense of humor.

Hello all -
I've attached an Oct/90 interview from B-Side Magazine. I also have another
from Apr/92 that I'll send out later. Thats all I've seen from that mag.
Are there any other interesting ones from B-Side? 

        -Dick (
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