Steve Kilbey and Brett Leigh Dicks

Talk About Everything...

Brett's Picture of Steve Even though the major labels try to out do each other in generating hype for their forth coming new releases, it is still not very often that people start enquiring about where they can buy an album before it is even made. But this was the rather unusual impetus which gave rise to Steve Kilbey's latest release, Gilt Trip.

"About five years ago I was doing a series of interviews for other projects which were coming out at the time," explains Steve Kilbey. "During the course of the interviews I mentioned that I was making an ambient instrumental album. It was going to be a collaboration, but unfortunately it never got made. So over the years, I have had people contacting me asking where they could buy this instrumental album."

"A little while ago I made contact with these guys called Vicious Sloth," he continues, "a Melbourne collectable company who, amongst other bands, specialize in The Church. When I started talking to the guys I mentioned the instrumental album and they said if you want to make it, we will put it out."

So, five years after the Church's bassist and vocalist fielded the first enquiries about an extra-curricular instrumental project, Gilt Trip finally surfaced. The nine-track album, which is being released through Vicious Sloth Collectables, is a swirling and emotive mixture of texture and tone.

And as fate would have it, Gilt Trip did eventually surface as a instrumental collaboration but this time with brother Russell, a one time member of Crystal Set and more lately of Turkey Neck Lasso. The album reunites a working relationship which began with Steve's production of the first Crystal Set album and has since not proved as prolific as one might expect from two brothers.

"Its funny because Russell and I haven't really done a lot together musically," offers Steve. "We recently did the soundtrack to (the movie) Blackrock together and but have only really done bits and pieces over the years"

"Gilt Trip wasn't initially intended to be a collaboration, it just more or less turned out that way. As well as playing on the album, Russell was also helping with the writing so we thought it would be nice to simply share it."

While there may be no real precedent for a collaborative partnership between the two Kilbeys, Gilt Trip does seek out some common ground. In its tones can be found some purely magical moments and it is characterised by a seductive temperament which has been an ever-present element of so many past releases from both artists.

"The record is a real mixed bag," explains Steve. "Some of it is ambient and some of it is instrumental. It has moments which are more up-tempo and others which are very echoey - almost like a soundtrack. There are tracks where not a lot really happens and others which are very melodic and tuneful."

Gilt Trip will not be the only recording which we are to be treated to. Vicious Sloth will also be releasing Steve's much in-demand 1992 EP Narcosis. Packaged with four additional tracks which were recorded around the same time, the re-release will be titled Narcosis Plus.

Although in its original release the recording sold out relatively quickly, the critics were not too kind to it. None-the-less, the recording has seemingly transcended any connotations inflicted upon it by the media to become one of the most sought-after recordings by any Australian musician.

"When I made contact with Vicious Sloth, the other thing they were really interested in was Narcosis," explains Steve. "Narcosis was deleted after just 2000 copies - the original idea being to release something that was kind of special. Since its release a lot of people have been looking for it and it has become something of a collectable."

"So for the re-release we added four new tracks. One is called 'The Egyptian' which hasn't been released before. The second is 'Midnight in America' which we put on (Stephen) Cummings' last album. 'Linda Wong' is a real throw-away track which we did with an autoharp - you hold down the names of the chords and it automatically plays them. The last new song is called 'English Kiss' which I have had lying around for a long time and have never really done anything with it. It was good a chance just to tidy up a bit!"

Along with his new Vicious Sloth releases, Steve recently scored the soundtrack to local film Blackrock and next month will herald the release of an album by The Reformation - a collaboration with Tim Powles and Peter Koppes. A little further down the track also sees the afore mentioned three joining Marty Willson-Piper in England for the recording of a new Church album.

While Blackrock presented Steve the opportunity to compose an entire soundtrack for the first time, the dynamics of composing a soundtrack offer a very different approach to writing and recording his own music. It is an experience he seems to very much enjoy.

"Basically you have a cut of the film in front of you and you write as you watch it - I think that is really the only honest way of doing it," explains Steve. "Tim and I were watching a scene where two protagonists were having a fight along a cliff . . . Tim was playing drums and I was playing guitar and when they were pushing we were trying to go with it. We would surge it and then come back down with it. That was the way the whole thing was written."

"I have always wanted to do soundtracks. I did a little bit on Reckless Kelly, I contributed a song and couple of pieces of music. I have done bits and pieces, but never a whole film. This was a great opportunity to do it."

"The Church also contributed a song to Tequila Sunrise and if you really listen very, very carefully you can hear a tiny little bit of it. God I was disappointed when I went to see that film. I was invited to the premier of it in New York and Kurt Russell and everybody was there. And I was like 'Yeah I I've got a song in the film' and then bang that was it - it was over. Some people who were with me didn't hear it but I managed to pick it up. I had just enough time to say 'here it is' and then it was over."

While Steve was more than happy with his contribution to Blackrock., he feels that his efforts and the result he was trying to achieve was obscured through the addition of a selection of comtempory rock songs.

"Due to the success of Romeo & Juliet I think everyone who makes a film now wants to have a successful CD. So with BR they indiscriminately chucked on all these songs, trying to get a hit album going. It ended up being a weird cross-section of music and I think it really interfered with the flow of what I tried to do."

"I personally would have preferred it to be just incidental music all the way through, but every three minutes a bloody rock tune suddenly blasts on for about ten seconds, simply so they could feature it upon the CD."

"I would like Vicious Sloth to release the music I did for the film as a limited edition thing because I feel that there is some really good music in it. There are also a few pieces of music and two other songs which I wrote especially for the soundtrack which they didn't use. I think it could be quite a valid album in itself. So I would like to see that come out at some stage."

Although Steve Kilbey's most recent undertakings have both been instrumentally-orientated, this is not necessarily an accurate reflection of what we can expect from his further releases. Next month sees the Phantom Records release of the much anticipated Reformation, project while plans for a new Church album are also well underway.

Along with Steve, The Reformation features fellow Church members Peter Koppes and Tim Powles. The album was written and recorded just after the recording of the last Church album Magician Amongst The Spirits and is perhaps the closest to the music of the four-piece than any of his previous outside undertakings.

"I am quite excited about The Reformation. People who have already heard it say that it is really a Church album - so if you like the Church you will like The Reformation. It is quite a fresh recording. Some parts are experimental, but on the whole it is very melodic and tuneful."

"When Peter left The Church after the Priest=Aura tour, Marty and I decided to carry on without him. So in Sometime Anywhere I made an album solely with Marty. The Reformation was a chance to record with just Peter."

With Peter Koppes' involvement in the Magician Amongst the Spirits recording and its subsequent tour carrying through into The Reformation album, one suspects that a full-time commitment to the band he co-founded with Steve is again inevitable. And as Steve and Tim prepare to join Marty Willson-Piper in England to record a new Church album, Peter will once again be in the fold.

"The Church has just signed a deal with Demon records in England and we are going to go to England this summer to record an album and play some shows," enthuses Steve. "The lineup will be Marty, Peter, Tim and myself."

"We did the last couple of albums in my studio, I think doing another one there would have been a real mistake, so I am really looking forward to this. The new album will be recorded in Sussex - out in the country - where Demon have a studio."

"We plan to stay in cottages near the studio, so a couple of months together recording in the English countryside could be really interesting. But then again, it could drive us all mad."

It seems that fate and Steve Kilbey have long been old friends and it is an aquaintance which has been recently renewed. After leaving EMI and moving on to Arista in the 1980s, The Church was rewarded with its finest commercial hour. Now, with Arista having given way to Demon, it seems that they will once again be presented with a fresh canvas.

And while the four-piece's new project may only be in its infancy, one suspects that the same response which gave rise to Gilt Trip will once again be greeting The Church.

STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY BRETT LEIGH DICKS


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