In The Net

Q & A

Donnette awaits your questions with "magnificently excruciating anticipation" - ask her about the two Hex albums she did with Steve Kilbey, her time in the band Game Theory, or anything else you can think of. Send me an email if you'd like to ask a question.

Questions or email exchanges that were on a single topic have been farmed out to one of the following sections.

Topic Description Last Modified
Donnette Herself Questions about Donnette that aren't specifically about music - find out what she's like as a person ! 8th April
Steve and/or The Church Donnette spent a lot of time with The Church and with Steve Kilbey. Her stories about those times reveal a lot about how The Church works and how Steve works in the group and on his own. 5th May
Hex This is the name under which Steve and Donnette released two albums. You can find out about the songs they wrote, technical issues and more. 20th April
Game Theory Donnette was in a band called Game Theory, which has since split up. Its former members are in other bands and Donnette shares some of her memories about them. 11th December '98
Chaos And Wonder This is Donnette's latest album. Not surprisingly - it's great ! Find out more about the songs, the recording process and the cover art (?!) in this area. 31st December 1997
Science and Mathematics Donnette has a long-held interest in science and knows how to make mathematics work for her. 8th April
Miscellaneous Anything else not covered in the other categories ends up here. 8th April

The material below is arranged from the oldest at the top to the most recent at the end. I usually do these things the other way round, but this time we've got some running discussions going.

This is an extract from an email Donnette wrote to me, answering my first rush of questions.

B: I really enjoyed both the Hex albums you did with Steve and I play them quite often.

D: Iím glad you liked the Hex records, I really love them both too, and it was magical making them. It was Steveís first collaborative effort outside of The Church and the home projects, and Steve always tells me that they remain his absolute favorite musical endeavors outside of The Church (whether or not this is true is your guess).

B: I reckon Fire Island is a truly awesome song.

D: Fire Island is one of my favorites from the first Hex record, but Elizabeth Green is my top choice, perhaps a tie with Diviner. My band played Elizabeth Green live, it never failed me. Interesting story you told about that song [I told her about a pseudo-trippy experience I had while listening to the song], and indeed from the very start, that song was hallucinogenic. I too, had a strange experience with Elizabeth Green, when we were recording it. Steve had decided to do a record with me (it was my dream come true) and had completed writing most of the music (but not lyrics) before I arrived in New York. On one of the tracks of Elizabeth Green is Steve playing random percussion instruments improvisationally. At one point, he took the whole box of shakers, tambourines, etc., and just dropped them. I didnít know the songs when I went to sing them, we wrote a lot of lyrics on the spot, so I was winging it too; it was all very creative and breathtaking. Anyway, I was in the vocal booth singing and feeling quite tentative. I was supposed to be singing "return" through the outro, when suddenly this huge (not loud, just exhilarating) crash came over my headphones that jarred me all the way through, and I began to sing those melodies you hear at the end, the wordless ones. All at once it hit me - I was having a peak experience!

(I donít know if youíre familiar with whatís-his-name who cooked up the peak experience - Mazlo? Lazlo?- Anyway you only get a couple of them per lifetime, and usually they happen when youíre not paying attention.) I feel extraordinarily privileged that I have that moment on tape forever, a moment that thrills me to this day. Hmm. Perhaps that isnít as interesting a story as I thought. This may interest you though, and shows that your Church instincts are good: Elizabeth Green was written in the early Church days, with the title Elizabeth Green established and no further lyrics.

B: I wonder, are there any songs you and Steve recorded that didn't make it onto the albums ?

D: Everything Steve and I ever worked on together went on a record immediately. Some of the stuff we recorded was remixed and rereleased, and there was material released on compilation records; these are the records I didnít know about, the Dr. Death and such.

B: Are you still recording ?

D: Since you mention it, I have released a CD this year entitled 'Chaos and Wonder'. Reviewers are calling it "Better than Hex" which I think is more a catchy pun than it is true. Naturally itís similar to Hex, since the singer usually defines the music, and clearly itís impossible to work with Steve without being greatly influenced by his incredible talent. (Have you noticed that the spell checker tries to replace Kilbey with Killjoy?)

B: But I'd really be interested to know how the production/writing/arranging work was divided up between you and Steve on those two albums, and your impressions on working with him.

D: And Iíd love to oblige. Iím new at this Internet stuff, Iíve never even chatted! Iíve always been an unabashed fan of The Church and of Steve, and I tend to remember things in great detail, something to which Steve can attest. I could give you a sketch here, the kind of oh, Steve did this specific thing and I did that, but that kind of listing of the rote mechanicals of the creative process we engaged in is not only dull, it is not even representative of the way the entity Hex was born, lived, thrived and finally died. I would far prefer to make it more personal, which would involve getting Steveís OK, and that would be up to you; itís been years since I have spoken to him. Of course, Steveís permission is not required, but this seems like a suitable step to take in this instance. Heíll probably get upset and say no. He was always very private, unlike me. If he says no, I will probably write the same stuff anyway eventually, or something even more revealing; just not associated with his website.

B: If you'd like to write a few words about each Hex album, or about certain songs, or whatever else you'd like to say, I'd be happy to put those comments on the Hex album pages.

D: I would feel funny writing what would really amount to advertising copy for Hex. However, if I happen to ever write anything in my correspondences that you find amusing, you have my full authorization to use it in any way you see fit [Thanks Donnette ! I've used most of the first email :) ]

B: Perhaps I could also take questions from Church/Kilbey fans and forward them to you and get a wider discussion going? I fully understand if you'd rather not get into that, of course.

D: I would love that! Steve is always ever so gruff, but itís just a front. Heís very much the out of his element if he feels like he is not being recognized as Steve-Kilbey-of-the-Church, in my opinion. When we were in Thailand, I overheard a very interesting conversation between him and his masseuse regarding his fame. We had been there two weeks, just as tourists, and apparently he needed a recognition fix. It was quite charming, actually.

B: Ah ! Just remembered one last question that only you can answer : what are you saying in the spoken part of Hollywood In Winter ?

D: Ha! That youíll never know!

Here's her response to my followup email. If my questions seem a little "jumpy" its because this posting has been edited out of an email, which itself was a jumble of quoted sections etc...

B:I sent most of the lastemail on to the Seance mailing list (365 people at last count) so hopefully a steady stream of questions will be forthcoming.

D: I await them with magnificently excruciating anticipation.

B: Steve told me a story of how someone spotted him (onstage ?) ...

D: No a Game Theory gig with you at the height of the "Starfish" thing and said "Look ! Someone from The Church !" and the crowd showed more interest in him than in your band :) Apparently it caused some strife with (remembering a name...) Scott ?

D: Yes, true, but not the whole story. He was asleep at the bar. Go get something to drink, this is long. Game Theory was on tour and I think we were in Washington DC. Bear in mind that this was at the climax of Steve's career, and he was quite flush. Steve had remained in New York to work on the record that we woould be doing as Hex. I couldn't join him immediately because I wanted to finish the Game Theory tour. Steve followed us all over the East coast and after a few shows got pretty bored with the band. Also, Steve (and I as his companion) liked to stay at nice hotels. The rest of Game Theory would troop off to some one's floor to sleep, and Steve and I would cab over to some posh hotel. This really galled the band. I'll never forget the one night they dropped us off, still trying to be groovy, and there was this long corridor of perfectly white globe lights for what seemed like a mile along the entrance. Someone said, do you think they'll have showers at the house where we're going to stay? Someone answered, no, there's a tub that doubles for a kitchen table, that's all. I felt tremendously guilty, but not after I found my amp later with all the tubes mysteriously smashed.

Another time, Steve decided that we would drive to the next show in a rented car. We got lost in Brooklyn and never made it; the band were non-plussed, they made a cardboard figure of me and put it onstage, probably used it as a dartboard later, too.

B: I love stories [about the details of the recording process] but Steve has been very reluctant to discuss the Church's recording process with me, but I find it fascinating.

D: Perhaps the recording process with the Church really IS taboo. I was living with Steve in Hollywood when they were recording Gold Afternoon Fix, and I was not really welcome to go hang out. I went down there a couple of times to play the Superman pinball game (it was from the '50's and Steve called it "zen pinball" because it was so slow), but all of this could have been due to the strife that Richard was causing; he didn't want to be in LA, and he made quite a stink about it. He blamed the LA location for the GAF recording session on me.

B: Steve said it should all be a mystery...well, it's his baby, I guess,but I find more to admire when I'm given more details rather than less.

D: I think Steve must have been traumatized somehow, at some point. He obviously really believes in the mysterioso bit. He even coached me in "How to Mysterioso", but it's just not my style. I recently read an interview I did, my first one after my lesson in subterfuge, and to me I just sounded stupid.

B: As a classically trained musician (I've played trumpet for 14 years and self-taught guitar for about 7 years) I take an interest in the rehearsal process that others follow.

D: The Church seems to be a band that appeals to accomplished musicians.

B: There's a very good book about how The Beatles spent their studio time - can't remember the title, but it was fascinating. John Lennon was always looking for ways to make his voice sound different : singing while lying on the floor etc... With today's ! He'd have had a field day :)

D: Scott from Game Theory (now Loud Family) is an expert in Beatles lore. I have a lot of respect for the Beatles, they changed the history of mankind. Steve loves the Beatles, whether or not he would admit it, and he and Marty seem to have lived lives that oddly parallel John and Paul's (except that they both seem to be John). But there's the rivalry, and the love between them, and the strange magic that they have when they write together that they can't seem to achieve apart (Hex included).

B: Most Church fans already have both Hex albums - *if* they can find them - do you still have any for sale ? I know a few people who still want to buy them.

D: No, ever so ephemeral (incidently, Ephemeron was a proposed name for the famous Starfish album. I have another story about the title Starfish which I can tell you, but I'd rather save it for when I need a really big finish).

B: Re: The spoken part of "Hollywood In Winter" I think I've worked out most of it, but a few bits are just below audible levels. One more question on that - did Steve perhaps record it without you being aware that it was being taped ? I've pictured that many times as you just casually telling a story during a "break" in recording and finding out afterwards that it was being taped ! A long shot, I know :)

D: Steve said to me while I was singing the vamp that he wanted to have a long rambling diatribe in there. So I just yakked. Turned out better than I thought it would. I'm not very extemporaneous. Your story was better, and that's the kind of precious life that a piece of artwork can generate that Steve is rightfully reluctant to destroy. Sorry!

Here's something: When we were doing Antelope, Steve sent me into the control room to play some feedback on my guitar. My guitar was so loud that the headphones were feeding back too, and nothing would fix it. Steve decided that since it was really ambient noise, that it wasn't necessary to have me hear the tracks at all, but as I played, I saw how animated the guys in the control room were starting to look. I began to play to Steve's body language, and it came out great! That was a fantastic moment!

From Richard and Dena : We thought you had disappeared. and now this and an album release. well, thank you for the Hex memories. believe me, they are special.

Thank you! One can only create the entity that goes off and makes its life and family in this strange world, hoping that it will generate some happiness. Glad to know that in that respect Hex has been successful.

One question though....we were good friends with Ronnie Estees who lived with you and his girlfriend in L.A. for some time. we have lost touch with him. any word? we fear the worst.

I did hear from them about a year ago, they were looking for a place to live and considering moving back home. I had hoped they would go, L.A. hasnít served them very well. I hooked Ronnie up with Inger from the Nymphs as her personal manager, a difficult job that he did admirably. Rule #1 - no shooting up in a moving vehicle. Ronnie and Angie are sweet and wonderful people. They were Steveís favorite friends here in L.A. outside of business acquaintances. More likely that he would know their whereabouts than I. Let me know if you track them down, Iíve been worried about them too.

Another two questions. we heard long ago that steve gave away a lot of money on that trip to Thailand, true or no?

Steve is an extremely generous person if he believes that the recipient lacks a certain sense of entitlement; if you never asked for anything from him, he would give you everything, if you asked him outright for something, he would do anything rather than give you the item in question. Hence, lepers and maybe monks would get money, perhaps a quiet beggar or two. Steve spends quite freely too, or did. He despises haggling. He finds financial concerns to be quite plebeian and distasteful. It is this squeamishness, though, that has caused many of his darkest hours, notably in his icky deal with Lembo. He knows this, and has a very ambiguous relationship with money and those people in his life who can use it to hurt him.

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