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An Introduction To: Australian Alternative Singer-Songwriter Steve Kilbey's Solo & Side Projects

QA with Steve Kilbey“An Introduction To…” is a blog series, whose purpose is to introduce certain selected artists to a new and broader audience regardless of age groups. This second installment focuses on the solo and side projects of the extremely prolific singer-songwriter, bassist, and lyricist, Steve Kilbey, frontman/lead vocalist of the iconic Australian Alternative Rock band The Church, best known for their worldwide hit single Under The Milky Way (1988). Parallel to The Church, he’s released a wide range of acclaimed solo albums and collaborations (Isidore, Kilbey/Kennedy, Jack Frost, Refo:mation, Blank & Jones, GB3, "David Neil", etc.). This is Volt & Volume’s Q&A with renaissance man Steve Kilbey.
Photo: Anthony Collins
 
[Listen to the introductory playlist further down the page]

1.
V&V
: Hi Steve. Thank you for doing this Q&A. How old were you, when you knew that you wanted to become a musician/songwriter? And who or what was the instrumental factor -– your driving force?

SK: It occurred to me around about 15, although I always had it in the back of my mind that this was something I could do. As soon as I got my first bass guitar I was obsessed. That was at age 16.

2.
V&V
: How did you come to master your craft? Did you study the mechanisms of songwriting by listening intently and religiously to other songwriters?

SK: I mastered my craft accidentally, and that was simply by persevering in an almost blindly naive way. Let me say this: I could write songs immediately! As soon as I tried, I could write a song. But they were not good songs by any means. They left a lot to be desired. But being able to write bad songs is better than no song at all. So I just kept hammering away and thinking about the things I liked in other people’s songs that I could bring into my own. Listening to music over and over and noting how things were being achieved. It took a long, long time to start writing good songs!

3.
V&V
: To my knowledge, your songwriting heroes include John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, David Bowie, Marc Bolan, and Bob Dylan. What’s so special about these songwriters? And which other songwriters do you admire?

SK: Those guys are just the best. How can you get better songs than what those guys wrote? Plus it all happened at that impressionable age between 10 and 17, when things really stick in your psyche. I admire lots of different writers. Hugely diverse bunch. Neil Young. John Foxx (of Ultravox). Loads of them.

4.
V&V
: As a young teenager, who didn’t play any instruments myself, I considered the bass guitar a rather boring instrument. Now I agree with those who say that it is the heart and soul, the pulse, of a piece of music. Several of your songs were instrumental in convincing me of this. Why did you choose the bass guitar as your main instrument?

SK: This decision was made for me by the voice in my head that said to me: “The bass guitar is the way forward for you, my boy”, and it said it over and over till I convinced my dad to buy me one for my 16th birthday! 

Steve Kilbey Interview Solo Career7

Photo: Ben Rushton

5.
V&V
: How well-aversed do you consider yourself to be in other instruments; for instance keyboards/synthesizers and electric/acoustic guitars? Did you learn to play the piano from a young age, too?

SK: Yes, I had piano lessons, but they were for classical music reading type playing, and I quit, because I didn’t like classical music at all. I am good in a studio on any instrument. In the studio, with time and overdubbing and editing, I can sound good on keyboards and guitars. But live I am mediocre.

6.
V&V: The Church released the band’s debut album in 1981, Of Skins And Heart, but you didn’t release your first solo LP until 1987. As an aspiring musician, were you ever in doubt whether you wanted your own band or a solo career?

SK: I just wanted whatever music career I could get; I just wanted to write songs and perform live.

7.
V&V
: Unearthed, the first solo album recorded by a band member, was released within a year after the release of The Church’s much-revered 1986 LP Heyday. As always, you were a prolific songwriter. When did you write those songs –- while the band was on hiatus or on tour? And how did the other band members feel about you recording a solo album?

SK: They didn’t care one way or another what I did. And they immediately started doing it themselves. The songs were just from all over the place. Years apart.

8.
V&V
: Remindlessness is a fascinating record, quite dark and gloomy, almost nightmarish. The production is relentlessly raw, primitive, and uncompromising. Was it recorded in your home studio, and did you specifically set out to achieve this sound? Since Remindlessness was released in 1990, the same year as The Church’s Gold Afternoon Fix (Ed: an album Kilbey dislikes) -– a frustrating time for you -– I suspect you were in a bad place? Drugs? Depression?

SK: Remindlessness was recorded in a a spare room. I didn’t know what it was going to be. I still don’t really know what it is. I need other people to tell me what that record is, because it’s a hell of a thing to listen to. I was not on drugs particularly, but my personal life was very mixed up.

9.
V&V
: In 1991, you released the Narcosis EP, which was later re-released (in 1997), with additional tracks from the same sessions, titled Narcosis + More. The EP was released approximately a year prior to The Church’s drug-addled masterpiece Priest=Aura. I believe you’ve referred to Narcosis + More as your “heroin album”? Songs such as Fall In Love, Sleep With Me, and Limbo do sound a lot like they were the creations of a foggy, spaced-out state of mind. What can you tell us about Narcosis/Narcosis + More?

SK: Yes, this is the sound of heroin and opium in the honeymoon stages. Trying to create the music that the opiates suggest. Something soft, slow, sweet, heavy. All these songs are mostly fixated on or written on these drugs. I have attempted musically to recreate the feeling.

10.
V&V
: Painkiller is my favourite solo album of yours. Which one is yours and why?

SK: Painkiller -- yes, I agree. Because of Tim's input (Tim Powles a.k.a. timEbandit), and the drive I was possessed with in that particular period. We did it fast!

11.
V&V
: Some of your solo songs have got a definite Church vibe (Crystalline Rush, Wolfe, Othertime, etc.). When you’ve written a song, do you always know, whether it’ll end up on a Church album or a solo release? And can you name some songs that were initially intended for a Church album?

SK: I rarely write a song on my own unless I’m doing a solo album. There’s usually no decision to make. So, there are none, really.

12.
V&V
: Your father was a huge Frank Sinatra fan. I recall that you wrote a blog post about the brilliance of the song Angel Eyes. Both Sinatra and you were/are not “traditional” singers in the conventional sense, but in my opinion your phrasing/pitching lends a certain authenticity, a life lived, to the song material. Do you feel that Sinatra may have been more of an influence on your singing style and artistry than you would ever have imagined as a young man?

SK: His influence on me cannot be underestimated. There are also lyrical references to "The Voice" in some of my songs. Dumb Waiter alludes to Fly Me To The Moon (Ed: “I blew up a balloon / And I blew up the bank / I flew up to the moon / Too soon to see Frank”), and Refo:mation’s Traitor references Sinatra’s You Make Me Feel So Young (Ed: “spring has sprung”).

13.
V&V: What about your mother? Is she a music fan? If so, what does she like to listen to?

SK: No, my mother is not a musical type. From her I got the love of the tricky English language. She made me think about words.

Steve Kilbey SXSW Concert9

Photo: William Geisler

14.
V&V: Your autobiography, Something Quite Peculiar, came out recently. Apart from the obvious fact that you know Steve Kilbey better than anyone, how would you say that it differs from Robert Dean Lurie’s biography No Certainty Attached? What can we expect from Something Quite Peculiar?

SK: Some of it is similar. Some of it isn’t. I think Rob did a good job. His book let me see the arc my life has followed. It made it easier to write my book since I could already see that story he had delineated.

15.
V&V
: American musician Greg Dulli (The Afghan Whigs, The Twilight Singers) travelled all the way to Australia to write some songs with you, but, from what I know, you “only” wrote a couple of songs together? You obviously love each other’s music, but do you feel like -– as a songwriting team -– the chemistry wasn’t quite there?

SK: We wrote a couple of good things, so the chemistry was definitely there. I believe one day Greg and I will complete something and get it out there.

16.
V&V
: As a recording artist you seem to be very focused on the present; you’re very productive and keep moving forward with various new solo and side projects. You’re obviously someone who’s very proud of your achievements as a songwriter –- as you should be -– so what’s it like for you to collaborate with musicians such as Jeffrey Cain (Isidore) and Martin Kennedy (Kilbey/Kennedy), who write all the music, while you “merely” write the lyrics and provide lead vocals? Does it take a certain humility for you to let another songwriter compose all of the songs?

SK: No, I love it. I love to collaborate no matter what. One new album on the boil is all my music, and others have mainly added vocals and other things. Another one is purely providing words ahead of the other person’s music. So I like to do it all ways. And I like to keep going and keep knocking stuff out, because it is keeping me alive.

17.
V&V
: You’ve recorded two albums with American musician Jeffrey Cain (formerly of Remy Zero) as Isidore. Both Isidore and Life Somewhere Else are quite special. What’s the story behind Isidore, the duo as well as the first album? As I recall, you received an instrumental track from Jeffrey -– Transmigration, I believe –- who said that, if you wouldn’t sing on it, nobody was going to?

SK: That’s right. I got to know Jeffrey; he had more amazing music for me to sing to. We became good friends; we have gone through sad stuff together. I love the man. His music is textured, rich, intricate, lush, expansive and atmospheric -– fucking impeccable.

18.
V&V
: You’ve also collaborated with Australian musician Martin Kennedy (of All India Radio) on three albums. Your latest release, 2013’s You Are Everything, was your most accomplished yet. Kilbey/Kennedy have a new album coming out in summer 2015, Inside We Are The Same. What can we expect compared to your three previous collaborations? And what is it about Martin Kennedy’s music that you appreciate?

SK: Same as Jeffrey. The man is a gentleman. He is my friend. And I love the music he writes, and the way it makes me sing. He and Jeffrey are up there together. Our new album very much continues, where the last one left off. It definitely rocks. But my favourites are the beautiful ballads. Oh yes, we have definitely got some new vocal surprises, too. And Martin’s guitar playing is coming more to the fore.

19.
V&V
: Do you have any other projects coming up in 2015? A solo album? Other collaborations?

SK: An album with an American duo called HuDost, and an album with Irish guitarist Frank Kearns -– in the near future.

V&V: Thank you for taking the time to answer Volt & Volume's questions, Steve.

SK: You're welcome, Thom.

Steve Kilbey An Introduction

Photo: James Brickwood

INTRODUCTORY PLAYLIST

1.
Celestial
[Album: Painkiller]

[Video by David Duchow]

[Purchase from Amazon]

2.
Selfish Portrait
[Album: Dabble]

[Video by David Duchow]

[Purchase from Amazon]

3.
Mechanism
[Album: Freaky Conclusions]

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

4.
Transmigration
[Album: Isidore by Isidore]

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

5.
Limbo
[Album: Narcosis + More]

[Video by David Duchow]

[Purchase from Amazon]

6.
Lorelei
[Album: You Are Everything by Kilbey/Kennedy]

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

7.
No Time At All
[Album: Dabble]

[Video by David Duchow]

[Purchase from Amazon]

8.
Sanskrit
[Album: Isidore by Isidore]

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

9.
Crystalline Rush
[Album: Painkiller]

[Video by David Duchow]

[Purchase from Amazon]

10.
Othertime
[Album: Unearthed]

[Purchase from Amazon]

11.
I Wouldn’t Know
[Album: You Are Everything by Kilbey/Kennedy]

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

12.                                                               
Refused On Temple St.
[Album: Isidore by Isidore]

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

13.
Surrealist Woman Blues
[Album: The Slow Crack]

[Video by David Duchow]

[Purchase from Amazon]

14.
Revealed
[Album: The Singles by Blank & Jones feat. Steve Kilbey]

[Unavailable]

15.
Nothing Inside
[Album: Unearthed]

[Video by David Duchow]

[Purchase from Amazon]

16.
Little Baby
(Album: The Wilderness Years by "David Neil" a.k.a. Steve Kilbey/Ricky Maymi)

[Video by David Duchow]

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes)

17.
All Is One
[Album: Unseen Words Unheard Music by Kilbey/Kennedy]

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

18.
She Counts Up The Days
[Album: Remindlessness]

[Purchase from Amazon]

19.
Outbound
[Album: Painkiller]

[Video by David Duchow]

[Purchase from Amazon]

20.
Never Come Back
[Album: The Slow Crack]

[Video by David Duchow]

[Purchase from Amazon]

21.
Providence
[Album: Jack Frost by Jack Frost]

[Purchase from Bandcamp]

22.
Recoil
[Album: Life Somewhere Else by Isidore]

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]     

23.
Fall In Love
[Album: Narcosis + More]

[Video by David Duchow]

[Purchase from Amazon]

24.
Mystic Western Profile
[Album: Addendatwo]

[Video by David Duchow]

[Purchase from Bandcamp]

25.
Every Hour God Sends
[Album: Jack Frost by Jack Frost]

[Video by David Duchow]

[Purchase from Bandcamp]

26.
Keeper
[Album: Dabble]

[Video by David Duchow]

[Purchase from Amazon]

27.
The Collector
[Album: Artifacts]

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

28.
Wolfe
[Album: Painkiller]

[Video by David Duchow]

[Purchase from Amazon]

29.
Saltwater
[Album: Isidore by Isidore]

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

30.
Intense
by Kilbey/Kennedy
[Album: White Magic]

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

31.
Catharge
[Album: Earthed]

[Video by David Duchow]

[Purchase from Amazon]

32.
Life Somewhere Else
[Album: Life Somewhere Else by Isidore]

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

33.
Falling For You, Falling Apart
[Album: Addendatwo]

[Purchase from Bandcamp]

34.
Sleep With Me
[Album: Narcosis + More]

[Video by David Duchow]

[Purchase from Amazon]

35.
Life’s Little Luxuries
[Album: Remindlessness]

[Video by David Duchow]

[Purchase from Amazon]

36.
Everyone
[Album: You Are Everything]

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

37.
Famished
[Album: Emptiness Is Our Business by GB3 feat. Steve Kilbey]

[Video by David Duchow]

[Purchase from Amazon]

38.
Belle In Mid Air
[Album: Life Somewhere Else by Isidore]

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes)

39.
Again
[Album: Freaky Conclusions]

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

40.
The Demo
[Album: White Magic by Kilbey/Kennedy)

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

41.
Blessed One
[Album: Dabble]

[Video by David Duchow]

[Purchase from Amazon]

42.
Uncertainty
[Album: Damaged/Controlled by GB3 feat. Steve Kilbey]

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

43.
Oenone
[Album: Painkiller]

[Video by David Duchow]

[Purchase from Amazon]

44.
Tragic Mandarin Love Story
[Album: Gilt Trip by Steve Kilbey & Russell Kilbey]

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

45.
Musidora
[Album: Isidore by Isidore]

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

46.
Naomi And Maya
[Album: Songs From The Real World: Commissioned Songs by Kilbey/Kennedy]

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

47.
Something That Means Something
[Album: The Slow Crack]

[Video by David Duchow]

[Purchase from Amazon]

48.
Reappearance
[Album: Life Somewhere Else by Isidore]

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

49.
The Temptation Of St. Anthony
[Album: Dabble]

[Video by David Duchow]

[Purchase from Amazon]

50.
Eyes Ahead
[Album: Unseen Music Unheard Words by Kilbey/Kennedy)

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

51.
Fingers In My Skull
[Album: Freaky Conclusions]

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

52.
Weightless And Wild
[Album: Snow Job by Jack Frost]

[Purchase from Amazon]

53.
She Comes In Singing
[Album: Pharmakoi/Distance Crunching Honchos With Echo Units by Refo:mation]

[Video by David Duchow]

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

54.
Double Exposure
[Album: Narcosis + More)

[Video by David Duchow]

[Purchase from Amazon]

55.                            
Silencer
[Album: Dabble]

[Purchase from Amazon]

56.
Favourite Pack Of Lies
[Album: The Slow Crack]

[Video by David Duchow]

[Purchase from Amazon]

57.
Forever Lasts For Nothing
[Album: Painkiller]

[Video by David Duchow]

[Purchase from Amazon]

58.
Only Your Love
[Album: Relax: Edition Six by Blank & Jones feat. Steve Kilbey]

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

59.
Stone Gods
[Album: Freaky Conclusions]

[Purchase from Amazon or iTunes]

60.
Seasick
[Album: Dabble]

[Video by David Duchow]

[Purchase from Amazon]

61.
Heliotropic
[Album: Speed Of The Stars by Kilbey/Kearns]

 

[Purchase from iTunes]

Steve Kilbey Frank Kearns4

Photo: Natalie Kilbey 

62.
Back Wherever
[Album: Speed Of The Stars by Kilbey/Kearns]

 

[Purchase from iTunes]

 



Purchase Steve Kilbey’s new autobiography Something Quite Peculiar here.

Purchase the new Church album Further/Deeper (Amazon, iTunes)

Also read: An Introduction To: Australian Alternative Rock Band The Church

Posted by Thomas Thomsen on Saturday, November 15, 2014
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