Ashley O'Halloran Speaks With Steve Kilbey

Steve Kilbey, talking on Melbourne radio station 3PBS, as part of a Church special broadcast on April 20, 1996. "Um..."s, "er..."s and "y'know"s have been deleted.

S.K.; [Canberra was] a very, very bad environment, non-environment, it was almost like no environment whatsoever, which was probably good for me 'cause I could just go right into my shell, and I didn't know anybody that was of any influence whatsoever; I lived in my own head and had a four track tape recorder and I just spent all my time working on that and I didn't go out, I didn't see anybody, I just wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote.

And headed to Sydney at the first opportunity.

S.K.; Yeah, I went to England for a holiday and when I came back I just couldn't stay in Canberra any longer and I had to go up to Sydney and when I got back up to Sydney I met Peter again, who I'd played with in Canberra and said, "it's time to start doing these songs", so that's what happened. We hated everything else that was happening and we were a reaction against everything, especially a lot of bands in Sydney had skinny ties and plastic pants and had sythesizers...we wanted to be the antithesis of that; we wanted to have long hair and loud guitars and go back to the more classic days of what we thought rock bands should look like and what they should be...that was our original thing, to be a reaction against all that New Romantic and...bands like Baregarden where the bass player was jumping up and down in his tight pants and that kind of stuff; we wanted to be more like a real band.

S.K.; (about the recording of Gold Afternoon Fix); I was just, like, everything went wrong; Ploog was losing his many things were happening at that stage...Marty was having a baby - which was very painful - and, you know, I was having a girlfriend problem and...the last thing we were concentrating on was the music; it was all kind of hashed together and we did it with a producer we didn't really want to work with again and it was in place we didn't want to be and everything just fell apart, and it was just a lousy album.

You've always been a bit of a critic of the music industry and the pressures involved in the Australian music industry and have been determined to maintain you're own path and do what you want to do; are there any other bands or musicians that you particularly respect at the moment?

S.K. Well, I think Grant and Rob from the Go-Betweens; Silverchair..for a band who isn't playing the game, they've done it to the nth've got to respect their approach. Nick Cave...there's a whole bunch of people who don't kind of namby pamby around with the imbeciles and the A and R men and all those, you know, going and having a drink with the boys and all that stuff; in the long run that stuff destroys you, and its the rude bastards that get anywhere. You look at anybody who's got anywhere in Australia. they've all been the people who haven't done get too familiar with those guys and then its all over.

Have you become more determined not to follow that path over the years?

S.K.; Well, I'm so antisocial that I don't get invited to follow that path; I can't follow that path any more; I've burnt the bridge and I'm now on the outside looking in.

What is the motivation behind the formation of your new label, Karmic Hit?

S.K.; It's just a non profit label that puts out records made in my studio because there are a lot of people making records and not getting them out, so I thought it would be a good idea if we had this little label to release things, and Jack Frost is the first thing.

What other releases are planned?

S.K.; Bhagavad Guitars' long lost album,[and also] Narcosis Plus, which is Narcosis E.P. with six new tracks, ambient albums by ambient artists like Polly Dog Doodle and people of that stature and Turkey Neck Lasoo, maybe, which is another one of my brother's bands...

So its basically a forum for the Kilbey family, is it?

S.K.; Friends, family, neighbours, you know...

Back in the eighties you used to release your side projects on Red Eye records; what is the future for small, independent labels in Australia, what sort of potential is there for small independent labels like that today?

S.K.; I think what happens with independent labels is either one of two things; they eventually realise that it isn't worth it and go out of business or they get swallowed up by big corporations where they discover one big band and they have a brief honeymoon period with the big label and then eventually they just get swallowed up and find that they're not doing what they wanted to do and that the labels are foisting acts on them and telling them to drop all their old catalogue and...they find themselves no longer independent. So that's what happens; they start off with all the best intentions and then that happens.

I guess you don't intend that to happen to Karmic Hit.

S.K.; Sure, if some silly company wants to come and swallow me up then I'll be swallowed up and then I'll be regurgitated and start another one.

What expectations have you got for the Jack Frost album?

S.K.; None, you know, just put it out and see what happens...I've got no expectations at all.

What have you learned from Grant in this project?

S.K.; I think this was the first record we started with the idea of going back to recording drums and guitar and everything live and getting a liveish feel and I think that was the main thing, that that's now a good approach for me that works, instead of doing things with sequencers and loops and stuff, to go back to recording drums and amps and all that kind of thing.

Which is a bit of a different approach from the first Jack Frost album, which was a bit of a technology album.

S.K.; Yeah...there were no real drums and it was written in kind of a bit by bit manner, whereas this is more of a rock 'n' roll album.

So these projects, such as Jack Frost and Fake, do you see them as side projects from The Church, or do you see them as all of equal importance these days?

S.K.; Well, the Church makes more money than the others, so in that sense I guess its more important in that way, but I put just as much musically into anything, I don't just work at half speed if I'm doing Jack Frost. I think Jack Frost is probably a better record than the new Church record, I really do, its more of a consistent album, but the Church will sell a lot more and be more acclamied and stuff because its the Church and there's that's a good record, I don't think its a bad record, I just think Jack Frost as an album sits together more...if you had thirty dollars that would be the one I'd recommend you buy, I think the Church its...its a very strange record, its a weird record, its got lots of very long, strange tracks on it and, its probably a more interesting record than Jack Frost but as a consistent rock 'n' roll album, I think Jack Frost is that.

Does the new Church record have a title as yet?

S.K.; Yes, its called Magician Among The Spirits.

What expectations would you have for a Church record these days, do you still aim to have a big hit like "Starfish" or "Under The Milky Way" when you record a Church album?

S.K.; Well, we never aimed for that to be a big hit; all we have ever done is go in and record a bunch of songs and put it out and its in the lap of the gods and it would be nice if it was a massive, monstrous megaseller, but if it isn't then, so be it.

You seem to have travelled a journey where you've gone from being regarded in some ways as being a retro, 60's jangly guitar band, whereas now with albums like "Priest=Aura" and "Sometime Anywhere" you're now into studio-based experimentation, how do you see yourself in that respect, do you see yourself as a forward looking band?

S.K.; Yeah, I think we are now, but I never know what we're going to do next because we're just disorganised; it's a healthy disorganisation because we don't know what we're going to do until we do it and we're sort of album could be really retro or it could be really futuristic and nobody knows what its going to be until we start doing it. I think that's interesting; there is no real manifesto about what we're gonna do.

So the name 'The Church' you don't see as a label for a particular style of music?

S.K.; Its a label for a feeling, It's a label for an attitude, but what the music is that produces that feeling or that attitude is going to vary all the time.

My thanks to Ashley O'Halloran for sending this interview to me. It took place on the night of a Jack Frost concert