27.4 C
Byron Shire
February 25, 2021

Interview with Steve Kilbey

Latest News

‘Hollywood’ drug squads over the top

I guess we have to thank Hollywood for the enduring myth that a black-clad squad of elite 'blokes', preferably with cool helicopters, from the capital are needed to crack down on really serious crime in hick parts of the country like Mullumbimby.

Other News

Suffolk pump track

Dr Ray Moynihan, Suffolk Park Thanks to The Echo for ongoing coverage of the debate about the proposed pump track...

Right to die

James Regan, Myocum Jeff Dawson’s article ‘Celebrating a life and dignified death’ (10 February) highlights the systemic bias that exists...

Did Liberal-Nationals rort ‘bushfire’ recovery funds?

Lismore MP Janelle Saffin (Labor) has joined the call to highlight the actions of the Berejiklian-Barilaro NSW government over the latest ‘Liberal-National government grant rorts scandal’.

Man rescued from Upper Wilsons Creek causeway

At about 10pm last Friday a man from Mullumbimby was driving his his car along Upper Wilsons Creek Road and was swept into the creek.

Editorial – A personal take on politics and media

Since its inception in 1986 by a bunch of ratbag hippy locals, The Echo has championed the voice of the afflicted, not the comfortable. That should be the aim of every media organisation.

Rainbow Region Dragon boat racers pick up third place in return to racing

The Lennox Head-based Rainbow Region Dragon boat team had a promising start to 2021, when they picked up a third place at the Broadwater Regatta.

Steve Kilbey, front man of the legendary post punk band, The Church

I’m late for Church. Not actual church, a conversation with Steve Kilbey, front man of the legendary post punk band that – when I was 20 – were the benchmark of cool. I apologise and Kilbey quips ‘You’re ten minutes late. In the old days, if someone calls anywhere around the eleventh minute it’s okay.’

I instantly like his sense of humour, his quick retort. I love interviewing people that are a bit off script. Kilbey is a creative powerhouse. He is a prolific songwriter, and along with his work with The Church, has an astounding 22 solo studio albums to his name. So how does a man with the quickening cope with the quietening of COVID-19?

‘It’s a terrible thing to say,’ says Steve, ‘but covid has been good to me. I got breathing space. The Church were booked, and would have been touring overseas through Europe, so I had a lot of time on my hands. I started playing gigs on Instagram – I didn’t realise I was starting something. It was 2–3 days into the lockdown, I switched it on and started playing. I spent a lot of time with my guitar writing songs and making albums.’

For a busy touring artist like Kilbey the long stretches of home time were precious and productive. While many were distracting themselves by going to Bunnings or making sourdough, Steve used lockdown to record his latest solo album Eleven Women.

‘When I am touring, the last thing I want to do is write a song’, says Steve. ‘I am so knackered!’

Eleven Women is an idea Kilbey had long ago but had forgotten.

‘I once said “Wouldn’t it be great to have an album and call it ten women? [Where] each one was a portrait, like in a gallery?”.’

He had forgotten, when a friend reminded him. And so began the process of writing this elegantly crafted exhibition of songs that find fragile resonance in the sensitive way he draws the women out. Oh, and he wrote eleven songs. So it’s Eleven Women.

And just to show his contrary nature, ‘Woman Number 9’ is the second song.

While Steve is a gun at writing new songs, he laughs that he’s not always across remembering his old songs. Which isn’t surprising – there are just so many!

‘I am not good at figuring out old songs. I have to go back and learn all these Church songs!’

It doesn’t help when you keep writing new stuff. Eleven Women wasn’t his only album in 2020, he released Songs from Another Life: Music of Antiquity in May of that year. He certainly doesn’t procrastinate.

‘I said on Instagram: “Next week I will have an album”. So then you have to do it. If I don’t make a deadline, I don’t get around to it. So I smoke a joint, pick up the guitar and the songs come.’

I suggest to Steve that my observation about marijuana is there are two types of people who smoke: those who go the couch, and those who become extremely creative. I, like Steve always found myself engaged in projects. Mainly painting. Oh, did I mention Steve is an impressive artist? Late to the tools, his work has a vibrancy that has been describe as ‘folk art on acid’.

‘Therein lies the problem with marijuana’, Steve reflects, ‘you have to resist eating a loaf and watching TV. You have to take up tools and start working. It has never failed me. Once, The Church were in a recording session in New York and they had everything under the sun – booze and cocaine and everything – except marijuana. We didn’t write one note. And then at three in the morning a guy came in with a tiny joint, and we wrote five songs!’

Kilbey is at one with his creative process. He isn’t prolific by accident. He knows how to ‘get out of the way’.

‘You have to get yourself out of the way and let your inner artist do the work’, says Kilbey. ‘I saw this interesting painting by Alex Gray – an American artist. He is in the painting, painting a picture, and in the background in shadowy forms are Picasso and Rembrandt and all the great painters coming through him. I think I have always been able to get in touch with that. I’ve worked out how to get out of the way and let the song come.’

Kilbey admits he does well in adversity. ‘My mum and dad didn’t think I was wonderful and talented, but somehow I fostered an incredible self-belief. I turned every knockback into something that made me stronger. I had a real feeling of manifest destiny. I knew I was going to do this; that I was going to write songs that people love.’

And that he has. ‘Under the Milky Way’ wasn’t a huge hit at the time, but it’s one of those songs that leaches its way under your skin so that when you hear it you start to wonder why it’s not the national anthem.

The Church are coming to play Bluesfest. With their European tour knocked out of the water, this will be their first gig in two years. Don’t miss seeing one of this country’s best and most enduring recording and touring acts.

The Church play Friday 2 April at Bluesfest. Don’t miss this incredible program of Australian artists, a true testament to the depth of talent in this country.

Tix and program info on bluesfest.com.au

Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Local fisherfolk caught in the parking fine net

FIsherfolk have been caught in the net of parking fines designed to stop travellers parking up for the night on the Tweed Coast Road and they are seeking help to access their beaches at night without fines.

Family Court scrapped

Despite overwhelming opposition from Australia’s family law specialists and advocates, the federal Liberal-Nationals government and cross benchers scrapped the Family Law Court and subsumed it into the circuit courts last week.

Cavanbah centre gets a taste of 3×3 basketball

The Byron Beez basketball team in collaboration with the U League hosted a 3x3 tournament at the Cavanbah centre at the end of January that attracted 30 teams.

Northern Rivers policeman accused of youth assault acquitted

Magistrate Michael Dakin has ordered a common assault charge against a former Byron-based policeman be dropped after an altercation involving a naked youth in Byron Bay three years ago.