Drum Media : 14th October 1997


STORY by Michael Smith

Steve Kilbey is surrounded by boxes, boxes with stuff getting packed, boxes with stuff getting sorted before packing - he's just found a box of press clippings five minutes before I call. He's finally relocating to Sweden to spent more time with his family, but before that happens, the Church are cutting an album in Sydney and so MWP is flying in from the UK [he's in the process of moving house himself, moving to London]. And since the four members of the Church are all in the same town at the same time, they're taking advantage and playing a few dates.

Those of you paying attention though may have noticed another album recently released by 3 of those 4 members - Kilbey, PK and TP - Pharmakoi/DCHWEU [Phantom] released not by the Church but the Refo:mation.

''Thats something we did last year. We just knocked it out over a couple of weeks. We had some studio time and just went in and id it. It was just a bit of fun. That's all music is really, to me. Thats all its ever been, except when people try to apply artificial pressure. But I've always looked at it all as just a bit of fun''.

And while there are plenty of downbeat sweeping soundscapes on the record, there are some surprising fun moments, especially lyrically. Youd be hard pressed to find another lyricist who would rhyme Ibsen [the playwright] with Gibson [the guitar].

'''No! I dont know if most people know who Ibsen is any more. I dont think Heda Gabler is a really popular play! Or The Doll's House! Maybe Peer Gynt?"

Kilbey was always a far more literary songwriter than most people either recognised or gave credit for, despite the occasional excursions into actual writing - his collection of prose. Earthed - and Spoken-Word forays, on disc and in person. But then MWP is also a writer on the quiet having published a detective novel under a pseudonym. [Note from Brian : We can't get confirmation of this ! Marty recently said he had no idea what this was talking about.]That's all by the by I suppose. The music on the Refo:mation CD reminded me of a tape I was played more than 15 yrs ago now by a young, enthusiastic guitar player friend who was thinking about managing this young songwriter from Canberra whose tape it was, songs that were really soundscapes created by all manner of means, from banging ashtrays to the sounds of airport lounges. The guitar player, Peter Koppes, eventually formed a band with the guy on the tape, Steve Kilbey.

''Yeah I remember that tape - that was a good tape actually. Full circle. I think we all really hate structured music, stuff that sounds like everything else. I think in our heart of hearts we always want to make more exploratory or experiemental music or whatever, within the realms of still being melodic. I think thats the hard path to walk, to do something different but still be melodic. I think anyone can go out there and make just a complete racket, but to actually do something that is melodic and yet pushes the boundaries is the hardest thing to do".

And don't expect to see or hear the Refo:mation live anywhere at any time, because that wasn't the point. The album was completely improvised so the participants don't even know the chords! Which makes listening to it now as much of a refreshing surprise as it should be to you or I. As for the forthcoming Church dates, what you'll get is the best of the catalogue to date, and maybe the odd tune they've come up with between our chat and the time they hit the stage. Nothing is hard and fast any more, and that suits the Church just fine.

''Our philosophy is we either all write together or not at all, so I think we'll start writing the next album when we get together".

Considering the various members are often so far apart, I wondered if it's been difficult to keep the Church as a band together.

"Yeah, it has fallen apart to a certain extent because we got really disenchanted with the managers and the agencies and all that, so we haven't had a manager or an agent or an accountant or a lawyer and all that sort of stuff that we used to have and its all sort of gradually falling apart. Its theoretically possible to work without those sorts of people, but no one's put n the work to cover what they were supposed to be doing so it has fallen apart without all those people. We just got tired of having all that infrastructure, all those people relying on us, and I guess over the years one by one they've gone and so there's just the Church left. Consequently all our business affairs have run down to chaos."

But none of that has stopped the band making music, either collectively or individually or, as with the Refo:mation, various combinations of the above. And that, at the end of the day, is all that really matters, has ever mattered, even if its just been a bit of fun - the music.

The Church play the Metro 2 times, Friday 17 & now Friday 31, due to popular demand. Expect a new Church album early in the New Year & The Refo:mation CD is out thru Phantom.

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