During The Church’s 30th anniversary tour stop in Portland, Oregon, Steve Kilbey, the charismatic and enigmatic lead singer/bassist of the Australian quartet, was kind enough to take time for an interview with QRO before taking the stage for a memorable two and a half hour set.
QRO: You’re playing one song from each of your album. How did you decide which songs to play and does it change throughout the tour?
Steve Kilbey: It doesn’t change throughout the tour. It’s probably going to be same bunch of songs – unless one of them really goes horribly wrong. We decided kind of, quite randomly, people had suggestions, we looked at things – and some things were just convenient. Old ones we’ve always – kind of – always done. Mixed them up a bit and – yeah, just typical Church fashion. So just quite randomly.
QRO: The ticket price includes your new EP, Deadman’s Hand. What is the idea behind this, and did you create the EP specifically for the tour?
SK: We did create the EP specifically for the tour. Umm… there’s no real idea behind it. Umm… just to give people a souvenir of the tour. And there’s also a really nice program booklet, with reviews, and a bit of discussion and artwork and background information on each of the albums, we play a song from.
And then we thought, you know there’s a lot of nostalgia there so we giving ‘em a brand new EP. Umm… and the songs on there represent… kind of what… we’re doing today. What we’re doing at the moment.
QRO: As a band that’s been creating music and touring for three decades, what motivates you to keep at it?
SK: Well – trying to earn money, and trying to make – the best possible music that we can. Those two things. Trying to reconcile those two things. Sort of umm – yeah – they’re not easy to reconcile always but – I think trying to make a perfect record one day is what were – or have a perfect concert. I think that’s what we’re trying to do.
QRO: And do you think that’s achievable? Perfection?
SK: Uh – No!
You can never find it. So you just keep going and going and going.
QRO: Aside from creating music, do you do other supplementary work?
SK: Well, I paint a bit. Sell a few paintings. Um, I’ve done little bit of acting. And – I write my blog, and um – I go on TV shows in Australia, sometimes. Whatever, anything that’s kind of in that field – I’m going to be speaking at a library at the end of the year – about music and literature. Yeah – anything like that, I do. Anything kind of within artistic kind of canon… I was even a special guest at a guy’s wedding. He didn’t know I was going to be there and then – he was sitting there – and I walked out and sang "Under the Milky Way" and the guy was just like [raises his hands in fluttering motion] – so I do things like that.
QRO: In today’s music world, music video is a staple marketing tool. You guys are one of the few bands who have foregone the music video with time. What is the reason?
SK: It seems to me, there aren’t any more shows that play them anymore. So all you’ve got is YouTube. Is that right?
QRO: Well, you can have them featured on music magazine sites, MTV2 – maybe, I don’t know (I haven’t watched cable TV in ages) and then there are film festivals, which seems to be becoming very popular for music videos.
SK: We have forgotten about it a bit. It just seemed there was no outlet for us anymore. There was a big gap before technology caught up. So now – it’s easy to make a good video, a better video – these days than it was ten years ago. So now there are a lot of people coming out that could make videos for us. But umm… I don’t know – there’s just no need for it – I think. I think in the end, almost all videos limit a song. They have to, by necessity. I think The Church sort of remain – our music should remain unattached – too much visual stuff really. Unless it’s just performance, the band playing, you know.
QRO: Is there a video made for The Church that you feel somehow – conveyed the essence of a song?
SK: Ever? Yeah. Couple of people called Leslie and Larry – Williams, I think it was – did a video back in 1986, did video for a song called "Tantalized". And it was um – back in the days of film and it was all different kinds of camera, different kinds of films. They even had some videotape cameras. And they were just doing anything and kind of. A guy delivered a pizza and they gave the pizza guy the camera to go and film these guys. He was walking around and they were telling us to try to bump into the pizza guy. It sort of had a kind of very confrontational camera work with different kinds of camera and then they chopped it all up, so it was sort of – that was good. That got some idea of – I think of the song.
Most of the other videos are kind of a distraction. They might be good but – they – limit the ambiguity the song used to have.
QRO: How has technology affected the band’s music throughout your career?
SK: It has and it hasn’t. It hasn’t ever effected what we’re trying to get out in the end. Only affected the means by which you can make it. As it get easier to make music – on your own, with a laptop. You know – I guess – there’s a price you pay for that. But there always has been – each era of technology had this certain strings that came attached to it.
You know – there always comes problems with it.
And these days you can do almost anything. It’s a bit like – what you can do with video. You can just do whatever you can think of. And yet, why is no one making great music or great films with these things? I don’t know. Doesn’t sort of make you a genius just because you can do everything. It’s hard too – when you got unlimited options to – not want to use the unlimited options. Whereas back in the old days, the technology limited you and that was a limitation but it was also a good thing. ‘Cause it helped you keep focused; you weren’t just looking at endless possibilities. You had to keep planning in each step of the way.
QRO: Do you feel there is uncharted musical and/or artistic territory or do you feel all we can do now is to ameliorate what we already know?
SK: I – think – there is. I think it’s sort of – I think there is. The thing is, it’s hard to find that uncharted territory – that’s completely – doesn’t have any bearing in anything that came before. So – everything in rock, although in some ways could be uncharted in other ways – it has – been alluded to – but yeah – I think there’s still new music to be made. The world and The Church haven’t run out of ideas.
QRO: What bands have told you that your music has been an influence in theirs?
SK: What bands?
QRO: Any young bands that have sited you guys as direct influence, which you know of.
SK: Umm – I don’t really know. I can’t think any right now.
I saw The Killers (QRO album review) – The Killers were doing "Under The Milky Way" on YouTube. And I saw – the Smashing Pumpkins doing "Reptile" on YouTube.
QRO: And what do you think of those bands?
SK: I like both of those bands. I really like Smashing Pumpkins. That’s why we’re playing Smashing Pumpkins’ song in our set tonight.
QRO: What is the biggest myth about The Church?
SK: Umm – I don’t know. What do you think?
QRO: That – you guys are one-hit wonderers?
SK: That’s true.