posted on September 10, 2011 at 9:21 pm

a filigree diamond filched from a ring

around age 16 music assumed a new significance for me

some new urgency possessed me and i could procrastinate no longer

something told me to play the bass guitar

what was that something i wonder

that something that sometimes guided me like a oracle….?

my father agreed he would buy me a bass for my birthday and he did

in sept 1970 i started my long journey with the bass guitar

you all know by now it was a violin bass a cheap copy of pauls

my father rigged me up an amplifier made from an old school p.a.

it was tinny and crackly but it worked

the bass on its own without an amp was a kinda uninspiring sound

a bit of a metallic rattle without much note in it to be heard

i had absolutely no idea how to play it whatsoever

i strapped it on and pretended to play to records

i gazed upon it in awe and wonder

i held it and ran my fingers over it

i was not a natural musician but i plugged away

i had a book about tuning it and what all the notes were

i began to pick out simple riffs and then slightly harder riffs

friends who played guitar came over and we began to understand

around the same time i bought a $10 acoustic guitar and learnt some chords

i knew i wanted to write songs but i didnt have much of a clue

my earliest attempts are maudlin whiney tripe

muse : that stuff goes down well today with boy bands…..

embarrassing 4th form poetry (i was in 4th form after all)

kids came over with drumkits to my dads garage

my dad was incredibly kind generous and tolerant

he lent me the dough to buy a maton amplifier

and i plugged in and so did 2 or 3 other kids on guitar

we played rock around the clock over and over

there was a constant rotation of kids all with bits n pieces of knowledge

one day my fingers started doing little runs between notes by themselves

i’m sure the passing notes were all wrong but it was the principle of it

i was starting to improvise…..

then theres the legendary ben a ginger headed guy a few years older than me

he popped over one day and in one hour taught me enough to be going on with

scales and slurs and slaps etc

that was my first and only lesson and i figured it all out from thereon in

the secrets of music revealed themselves bit by bit

i was not a musical prodigy by any means

i guess i plugged away and that was it

i encountered new things and took them onboard

i drifted thru a few half rate bands

i was writing and singing and playing bass

a thousand rehearsals a thousand jams

a thousand times loading all my stuff in my van on a cold night

a thousand cigarettes a thousand arguments

i kept losing my voice

i was a shouter more than a singer

everything that came along influenced me

i absorbed music like a sponge and squeezed out my own version

i wrote a thousand mediocre forgettable songs that were all forced

i was glam rock i was prog rock  i was gutter rock i was space rock

i lugged in and i lugged out

no one clapped that much it was bloody woeful i guess

yeah hard to believe isnt it….ha ha ha…

eventually i wound up in a room with a tape recorder

i percolated therein until i had finally written some decent things

i spent 3 years experimenting with songs

figuring out how to overdub my voice

all that kind of thing

just kept on writing and writing

immersed in music and reading the music papers

trying to figure out the zeitgeist….its impossible

i had long songs and short ones

weird ones and conventional ones

instrumentals poems raps sci-fi blips and blasts

sped up n slowed down i tried everything

somewhere in there i found myself

one day putting down a guitar track i thought hang on

this is starting to sound like me

just think of that

my very own me…!

 

 

 

 

31 Responses to “how i did it #2”

  1. Jmb066
    Jmb066 | 10 September 2011 at 9:49 pm #

    Steve,

    It’s so nice to hear about your fathers support, I am sure he is looking down on you with pride. From reading No Certaintity and your post it is clear you were very determined and still are. I am amazed at how many people start with the desire to become musicians and then a few years later they are on one hit shows and are working in a lovely day job. Makes you wonder was it a fling for them? Did they lose interest? For as much as I like music I wish I had your sense of urgency, I guess life got in the way of my dream. I play guitar with my daughters, my son was into the drums for a little while. So I have yours to take its place and it has been an amazing journey. I hope you never stop and continnue on and on…

    PS: I think I have mentioned this before, but maybe if you hear it a few more times you will consider writing your own story/book. If you were to write in the same style as your blog it would make a fantastic read.

    Jason

    • avatar
      BROKEN TOYS AND HEROS | 11 September 2011 at 9:27 am #

      I think you are so 100% right in saying that ‘life got in the way’. From the age of 10 until early 20’s , I truly thought that I was going to be a ‘ guitar god’, than challenges and obstacles filled my path and my direction went way off course. I question some of the decisions I made, but I don’t question becoming a father over a ‘rock star’ .I guess we just play out the hand we are dealt because if we fold, we may never be part of the game again.

      Darrin K.

  2. avatar
    Scott | 10 September 2011 at 10:00 pm #

    Great stuff as per usual Steve. Love your creative honesty Mr Kilbey.

  3. avatar
    matthew | 10 September 2011 at 10:07 pm #

    A wonderful read! My first amp was a Hiwatt (see Pete Townshend), together with a Wasp 4x12inch Cabinet purchased from ‘Pro Audio’ in Dickson. Those were the days when I’d catch the bus home from work in the Public Service every day, my head nursing my newest song idea until I could commit it to cassette for safe keeping. Joyous days!

  4. avatar
    Cath | 10 September 2011 at 10:45 pm #

    It was starting to sound,
    I was starting to sound
    Pretty sweet,….. to the many ears who have heard your journey through time………
    The magic of those early years for any writer, awesome to tell the tales and hear of others journeys, especially your musical heroes aka Mr Kilbey 🙂
    All the time I spent in my bedroom listening to The Church on vinyl, mucking around with your bass lines lol and trying to figure out Marty or Peters guitar.The Church came with me everywhere i went as my ears blissfully absorbed Rickenbacker sounds and bass melodies , merging with the rhythms of the trains on the tracks, through little headphones and old sony’s sets, …….just as moving…
    Thanks god for the perseverence of youth, the fierce tenacity and stubborn resolve. Eventually it bears magical fruits…..Music the most sublime mystery never ever lets you down…… xx

  5. avatar
    Sharon | 10 September 2011 at 11:08 pm #

    Basic beginnings and sheer determination, the musical journey is a long but worthwhile one. Forever developing, never ending. Great read!

  6. avatar
    andy | 10 September 2011 at 11:17 pm #

    being self-styled was the key to your musical freedom….
    what a great read!

  7. avatar
    Ryan | 11 September 2011 at 1:36 am #

    >”that was my first and only lesson and i figured it all out from thereon in”

    Do you have any opinions on whether it’s better to be self taught or study under a teacher? Does a teacher short cut the learning curve – as they’re supposed to – or do they stick a frame of the conventional around you that you later have to overcome? Does being self taught mean you’ve got less preconceptions, and a greater ability to create something new?

    I wonder about those sorts of questions with writing. I’ve always maintained that you can learn to write, but you can’t be taught to write.

  8. avatar
    monksphere | 11 September 2011 at 3:56 am #

    This and the last blog have been absolutely fascinating. Never did it cross my mind you put this much work into learning the songwriting/composing process. All along I figured it came as natural as scratching an itch. Suppose it was just a matter of time, finding the right key, meeting the right people, etc. Big up to ginger head Ben and your dad!

    Yours, Ant.

  9. avatar
    Brien Comerford | 11 September 2011 at 6:19 am #

    I love some of the early material. Freaky Conclusions and Unearthed are awesome.

  10. avatar
    BROKEN TOYS AND HEROS | 11 September 2011 at 7:05 am #

    “My very own me”… and for that SK we are forever grateful. Your father was a kind and generous, and tolerant man. He reminds me of my father- helped me with my first guitar, tolerated the in/outs of his home and of course…the noise. Man, thinking back on that – we were so noisy. I surrounded myself with guys who wanted to ‘create’ music, not copy it. I always stuck to my principals on that. My father taught me that. “Why play someone else’s song when you should be creating your own”. And till this day, I never play anyone else’s music. Only my own creations. I never took a lesson, self taught on all the instruments that I play.

    Over the past couple days you have shared with so many of us the magic that was your inspiration and where it all began. Though most of this is in NCA, It was a joy to read it all again. Thanks for being you. I know that sounds odd, but many people are not who they seem. You have always been genuine, in good times and bad, you have mentored so many and inspired the rest of us, for all of that…

    THANK YOU SO MUCH !!!

    AsAlways,
    Darrin K.

  11. avatar
    Cocoamo | 11 September 2011 at 10:15 am #

    Oh, such a good story–how you became an overnight success (ha ha).

    We have always felt that a true artist must possess the soul of a poet and the hands of a craftsman.

    We think this is also true of writing. Graceful prose can be learned, but a good writer must have something profound to say, and the musician something profound to play.

    Thanks again for allowing us to peek through the window to your life’s memories.

    Your Friend in Pennsylvania

  12. avatar
    . | 11 September 2011 at 12:07 pm #

    a self taught musician is what i sometimes claim to be
    i dabble on the piano, articulate on the drums, but i don’t sing
    at all, so i leave that magic to a professional like steve
    who takes his musical work ethic to the unknown and extreme
    he never seems to be at a loss for new ideas or brave creativity
    i remember hearing UnEArthed for the first time once upon a spring
    and reading the liner notes and credits, the awe it did bring to me
    a one man band orchestrating clever sounds i’ve never heard or seen
    played, produced, written, the whole nine yards, the record dreamed
    me away to another time and another place, oh the sweet memories…

  13. avatar
    Anonymous | 11 September 2011 at 7:32 pm #

    I just remembered there was a dvd out there about your bass playing. It came out a couple of years ago at a time when I was skint. I’ve forgotton to go back and buy a copy. Will sort that.

  14. avatar
    davem | 11 September 2011 at 7:34 pm #

    I just remembered there was a dvd out there about your bass playing. It came out a couple of years ago at a time when I was skint. I’ve forgotten to go back and buy a copy. Will sort that.
    Great blog again.

  15. avatar
    celticat | 11 September 2011 at 9:25 pm #

    Lovely blog tonightSteve. A dad that bought his son a bass guitar that looked like Paul’s 🙂 Was thinking I wished my folks had bought me a guitar and let me have the garage to play in 🙁

    But they did buy me Revolver for my 13th birthday and that LP got played and played and played.

    Take care Steve. Love to you and yours.

  16. avatar
    hellbound heart | 11 September 2011 at 9:28 pm #

    your dad’s support…..that was nice to read about….
    my Gracie loves music and I’m trying to support her endeavors as much as I can…..
    love always….

  17. avatar
    Jonny Hollywood | 12 September 2011 at 4:59 am #

    so what year did ‘Baby Grande’ come to be??? and what made you change the name to ‘The Church’, this inquiring minds wants to know…

    • avatar
      thetimebeing | 12 September 2011 at 11:51 am #

      baby grande was never the church

      • avatar
        BROKEN TOYS AND HEROS | 12 September 2011 at 12:55 pm #

        My question to you SK is : have you ever come across any bootleg video or audio from the time you spent in ‘Baby Grande’ ? The reason I ask this is when I was 19 (yikes…over 25 years ago) and played in a band that played out a dozen times, an old friend audio taped it and sent it to me just recently, it was a poor copy of a copy but it gave me chills and was great to reunite with friend from so long ago. And it was such a weird feeling hearing myself play so long ago, it was eerie and haunting.

        AsAlways,
        Darrin K.

        • avatar
          thetimebeing | 12 September 2011 at 6:56 pm #

          there are recordings of baby grande
          its pretty bloody awful
          im sure someone here can point you to where you can listen to such things

          • avatar
            BROKEN TOYS AND HEROS | 13 September 2011 at 1:24 am #

            Hell No !!! That was not awful, that was RETRO !!!!

            One of your closest sent it to me. I loved it !!!!

            Darrin K.

      • avatar
        Jonny Hollywood | 12 September 2011 at 4:05 pm #

        oops, my bad sk…

  18. avatar
    Mallory Weiss | 12 September 2011 at 5:41 am #

    sk… reading your blogs is a strangely masochistic experience sometimes… Not always but more often so than not–there’s a sentence there, a line or fragment that just makes me gasp because it’s like a sharp stab in the chest — not seen it coming or just didn’t care to block… this time it was “somewhere in there i found myself”
    i recoil but always come back — his place is like nothing else
    thank you
    for creating this universe and leaving it open for us
    it’s precious

  19. avatar
    retro | 12 September 2011 at 12:33 pm #

    hey steve, I always look forward to your new material, have great respect for the past, like dad telling war stories, when I was a lad.

  20. avatar
    Kristina | 12 September 2011 at 1:01 pm #

    Have really enjoyed your last couple of posts, Steve.
    One of my all time fave early Church song/clips is It’s No Reason.
    Love the lyrics to this one and the clip is very atmospheric/otherwordly…fire-gazing Steve is an especially nice touch.
    Just wondering where it was filmed.

    • avatar
      thetimebeing | 12 September 2011 at 6:55 pm #

      in melbourne in a soon to be demolished old block of flats

      • avatar
        Kristina | 13 September 2011 at 10:57 am #

        Really?
        Always imagined it to be set in some ruins out in the bush or some old warehouse.

  21. avatar
    Adam | 12 September 2011 at 4:16 pm #

    Force of will leading to musical “magic” – another topic for discussion with my students!!


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