Under The Hollywood Stars with Steve Kilbey of The Church
Another magical night under the grand and tumultuous stars of Tinseltown, where a meet and greet with The Church was taking place before the main concert event. This would occur on the rooftop of the iconic Fonda Theater on Hollywood Blvd, at that mystical hour when the sun descends and the stars emerge to enrapture and enlighten. Now 24 albums in with a vibrant 25th on the horizon, the expansively titled Man Woman Life Death Infinity presents a band at their most ambitious and inspired. You could tell by the meet and greet that each and every member of The Church were genuinely excited about the upcoming manifesto, as well as the adoration the news songs such as Another Century were receiving when performed live. After the fan and friends meet and greet, Highwire Daze Online sat down with Steve Kilbey, The Church’s charismatic front man, to discuss their upcoming Man Woman Life Death Infinity magnum opus, the “grind” of being a member of a long running touring band, solo endeavors, and other things of a profound and yet mildly abstract nature. Read on…
How has this tour been going so far in the states?
Pretty good. We’ve had some really good nights. We’ve had some really transcendent nights. Not every night and not all of every night has been transcendent, which is disappointing, but gonna try and get it as transcendent as we can. Keep on going for it.
Ian has been with The Church now for two albums. How much has Ian contributed to this new album?
Huge. This album is Ian’s album. Ian has been a big part of this album. He really stepped up to the plate and became a really total equal functioning member. He offered up a lot of – he was the prime mover in a lot of songs, definitely.
Your upcoming album has a pretty deep title. These days how much do you think about subjects like life, death and infinity?
I do all the time. I try and get it all in perspective. It’s an all encompassing title. Maybe the title is too much. Maybe we’ve gone too far with this title. I do think about all these things and I do think all the songs on the album were about these sort of things. Sort of looking at, you know, the relationship between men and women and then zooming right out of that and seeing the big picture of life and death and beyond even that – whatever is beyond that. I think that’s always what my songs have been about.
When recording a new album, this one being the 25th, I believe, do you ever think that this could be the last Church album?
Always. I always think that. Yeah, you never know when it’s gonna be the end. Someone’s gonna drop off their perch or no one’s gonna wanna fund it. We’re lucky that we have a patron who funds our albums, because there are no record companies anymore paying for it. So yeah, you never know when the end could be. You don’t, unfortunately. That’s what keeps it exciting. It’s like being in Game of Thrones, you never know when you’re going to get killed off. [laughs]
Are you happy to not be on a label anymore?
No, I wish I was on the biggest label on the world selling millions of records and getting flown around business class and staying in good hotels. Who doesn’t want that? I wish that was happening but it isn’t so, you have to make do with what you’ve got.
But do you find that you’ve got more creative control now that you don’t have a label?
They didn’t used to have much affect on us. We always did what we wanted to do, more or less. Maybe the only time they really got to us was on Gold Afternoon Fix, but I’d say before that and after that, we pretty much did whatever we wanted to do anyway. So they didn’t really compromise us.
One of my favorite The Church songs is Grind off that album. Do you still feel like you’ve got to grind it out, even today?
Yeah we do have to grind it out. We’re grinding it out tonight and we’re grinding it out for another 25 gigs after this all in a row. Going all around America grinding it out, that’s exactly what we’re doing.
But it’s a good grind, isn’t it?
It’s a good grind and it’s a bad grind. There’s the wonderful side of touring, playing to people who love your music. People saying, oh – I’ve been listening to you guys for 30 years and you’ve helped me through all the rough patches and all of that. That’s wonderful. Then there’s all the hanging around and sound checking, did you see our soundcheck tonight? It was like fucking – was like purgatory, just going on and on. No one knew what to do. So yeah a lot of waiting around. A lot of other stuff.
You have a new single, “Another Century.” Is there overall story or concept behind that?
There wasn’t really it just came accidentally like all the other songs but it was, I think it’s really romantic. I think it’s got a real romantic feeling. I think it’s real, feels sort of like a song that could be in a French movie or something. I’m very happy with that song. I think that’s one of the best songs The Church have ever, ever done. Definitely one of my favorite songs.
Have you heard from Marty Willson-Piper?
No, haven’t heard from him at all.
Would you like to hear from him?
Not particularly. No.
What has been the best and maybe not so best about collaborating with Peter Koppes after all these years?
Well Peter and I always get on wonderfully musically. Sometimes we clash on a personal level but when we’re playing together, musically we see eye to eye and we’re both trying to make the same kind of music. I think there’s a lot of water gone under the bridge between us, but we still get in there and make music together. He’s an amazing musician, he’s probably the best musician in The Church. It’s a real honor to work with him. He and I do lock horns on other things.
Do you have any solo material on the horizon?
I do, actually. Waiting in the wings right now I have a solo album called Sydney Rococo. That’s been waiting in the wings to come out after The Church comes out. So I’ve got that.
How do you think that will compare to the other Steve Kilbey solo work?
It’s got a lot of orchestra on it, it’s my orchestral album. A lot of strings. It’s like a big proper album done in a real studio. I think it sounds good.
When you listen to the solo material from other Church members, do you ever give kind words or constructive criticism?
When I listen to what the other guys do? No. I don’t really want to hear what they do, I’m not really interested in what they do and they’re not really interested in what I do. I think we intersect at The Church and outside that we don’t really keep up with what the other ones do. So, I don’t listen.
Any chance of seeing a Steve Kilbey acoustic tour here in the states?
I would really like to do that. I would like to do it with Jeffrey Cain, who’s filling in tonight with us. From Remy Zero, he’s playing guitar and keys. We did a show in 2015 in Hollywood and we had acoustic guitars and a piano and a little drum kit and it was really great. So I would really like to do that. It’s just so hard to organize because you don’t know who’s gonna come. Nobody fucking comes and then you got three guys driving around, you know. You can’t just be pie in the sky stuff, it has to be booked out, planned and you have to know you’re gonna get 100 people here and 100 people here. Otherwise you can’t do it. It’s not just like, being 20 and jumping in a van, ah yeah, whatever happens. It’s gotta be more organized than that. Otherwise I can’t do it.
If you could hang out and smoke a joint with anybody either now or from the past, who would it be and why?
Mmm. Wow, I don’t know. I wouldn’t mind smoking a joint with George Harrison, I think. If they were going to listen to what I said, I wouldn’t mind meeting Bob Dylan if he was going to sit here and smoke a joint – wow and talk to me. Anyone who’s actually going to talk to me. Can you arrange this? [laughs] If David Bowie does want to come back and smoke a joint with me, make sure he’s gonna listen to what I say and not just going to blow me off.
Do you have any David Bowie stories you could share?
I don’t, I’ve never met him. I never met David Bowie at all.
If you could over a David Bowie song, what would it be?
Oh, I think at the moment I’d do [SINGS] “In This Age Of Grand Illusions.” Word on a Wing.
That would be cool.
I did that with a ukulele orchestra at a gig, even with ukuleles playing it’s a beautiful song.
Do you have any super obscure messages for your fans who are reading this right now?
But if say it, it’s not going to be obscure if I go, if I said, “guess what I’m having a sex change operation,” it’s not gonna be super obscure anymore. Or if I said our new album is all about Satan if you play it backwards. It’s not super obscure. So, as soon as I say it I’m giving it away.
Any non-obscure messages then?
Just that I really appreciate all the people who come to our shows, buy our records and don’t get our records for nothing. People who are actually paying for them, helping us survive because it’s really tough out there. The Church really appreciate our fans. Fans are the one’s keeping this whole thing alive.
(Interview and Steve Kilbey Photos by Ken Morton)
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