posted on September 1, 2009 at 7:15 am

i decided sometime in 1969
that i wanted to play the bass guitar
something just gave me a great big hunch
that thats what i was supposed to do
its like a feeling
its like a calling
its like discovering something that makes you very excited
a bunch of kids fantasized about getting a band together
we planned our record covers n everything
in 1970 i nagged my dad into buying me a bass guitar
it cost 80 dollars and it was a violin shaped
my dad made an amp for me out of an old p.a. system he’d come across
playing a bass was nothing like i thought
it was hard yakka
i tried to figure out bass parts in other peoples songs
little green bag by the george baker selection
yeah thats my first riff right there
i played it in A
which meant i only had to use one finger
this lesson of the easy one finger lick was not lost on me
after that i figured out 25 or 6 to 4 by chicago
over and over n over until the “oldies” begged me to stop
some rellies came over and requested a performance
on stevens new electric guitar
i got my bass out n played them my grab bag of licks
by now i’d added yellow river by christie
and some led zepp stuff
my rellies were completely underwhelmed
my uncle bought me a jose feliciano record
and said
thats how a guitar should sound!
i pressed on regardless
i jammed with other novice guitarists n drummers
and we kinda figured it out together
we played rock round the clock for hours
i hated it!
but i wanted to learn
one afternoon
a very cool guy called ben
with red hair came over
and in 1 hour flat
he showed me scales, slides, slurs and bends
and the inside scoop on how paul mccartney played
applying this knowledge
i found myself improved by leaps and bounds
i began to sing and play bass
because no other fool would sing my silly words
playing n singing at the same time is hard at first
how do you do it?
now it seems as easy as rolling off a log
i listened hard to the bass guitarists i liked
chris squire from yes blew my tiny mind
he had a new sound
a trebly tremeloey thing
that elevated bass guitar right outta the accepted ballpark
and implied so many possibilities
of what could indeed be done
strangely enough
soon i discovered i had my own style
it was a lazy easy style
it wasnt all uptight and pushy
it wasnt very technically brilliant
but it was my way of doing it
and i liked it
after about a year or 2
i became very comfortable playing the bass
i could never achieve that degree of comfort with a guitar
the bass and i feel joined
i feel at home
i feel like ive kicked my shoes off and i’m safe
its a lovely instrument
and my current bass is a real rolls royce
even and true
a real luxury to play
rich and deep and resonant
it says things that other basses cant say
it throws up music other basses could not hear
it has become charged with much mojo over the years
and it sometimes discharges blasts of its reserved power
right up my arm and into my brain
this only happens when the church is rocking hard
of course
but i go into an anaesthetized state
cant feel the weight of it
cant feel gravity at all
my fingers still nimble luckily
they pluck n pluck like fat little hummingbirds
faster than the I can see
and after a long time
you achieve symbiosis with your axe, man
you got a thing going with it
an understanding
it wants to resonate
it wants to deliver
its thirsty for music
it wants to seek the heat n fury of rock
so you strap it on
and you go out there
into the beckoning limelight
you blink under the lights
the crowd check you out
you gotta prove yourself
but you got the rollsroyce bass on your side
like the rifleman had his rifle
you got your fender jazz
and you wait to hear the click of the drumsticks
that counts in the first song
click click click click
youre off and running
you stand back and it all happens
the fingers fly to their positions
they automatically run around the bass
the words come rushing out your mouth
in a solid stream
and me
whoever i am
i just stand back
and i gently guide the
fingers and voice
adding n subtracting bits
trying new innovations
sometimes fucking up n having to correct it
reacting to the others
none of them see it like me
none of them see it like each other
music has a million ins
and all of us got our own in
if you got no in you might as well give up
i cant explain my in to you
i stumbled on it and its non transferrable
i believe if you stumble around long enough
youll find your in
i believe musical ability in the family is a big plus
music seems to run in families
peters dad is a musician
my dad n his mum played the piano
martys brother plays the guitar in cabaret bands
tims son plays guitar in a street light song
craigie our keyboard players mum was a piano teacher
it seems to be in the genes
but its also in the fact
that if you see someone you know doing it
you realize it cant be that damn hard
anyway i was born n destined
to play the bass guitar
the only instrument i am truly proficient on
i try to make my bass parts

thank you for listening

39 Responses to “keep on rockin’ in the three worlds”

  1. avatar
    Mary | 1 September 2009 at 8:46 am #

    thats pretty cool, i have always wanted to learn the bass, they say that bass is easier to learn then the regular six string, im not sure if that is correct or not, i tried to get guitar lessons when i was young but i never went all the way, i wish i did, and also is it hard to sing and play bass at the same time? does it get confusing more than if u were to play the regular six string and sing like a lead guitarist? i think u are amazing, u play the bass beautifully i wish i had learned at a young age, now its hard to try cause of the ms, my fingers are so numb and my wrists hurt so bad i couldnt do it if i tried.


  2. avatar
    cazziem | 1 September 2009 at 8:51 am #

    Thank you for this insight into the perfect love affair!

    Playing an instrument and singing at the same time is a bit like learning to drive. When you first look at the things you need to do all at the same time you think, I’ll never be able to do that, but you keep at it and soon you’re doing all these things without consciously thinking about them.

    Just so you know; there’s no such thing as fuck ups when it comes to music, only variations! Your description of going on stage brought back long lost memories for me, I felt I was right there, heart instantly pounding very fast on that very first tap of the drumsticks. Wow!

  3. avatar
    Anonymous | 1 September 2009 at 9:57 am #

    yeah but the truth: did Grant introduce you to the gear?

  4. avatar
    todd roadkill | 1 September 2009 at 10:11 am #

    Steve, its a joy to hear you play bass, your recordings and live performances are true, precise, fun, inspiring, wizard a true star.

  5. avatar
    Celticat | 1 September 2009 at 11:02 am #

    Thank you Steve,

    I really enjoyed that.

    Love to you and your treasured ones!

    PS have got crunch tickets for Perth, can't wait!!

    May the BASS be with YOU.

  6. avatar
    Hellbound Heart | 1 September 2009 at 11:02 am #

    oh, to be transformed and transported like that….it's enough to listen to your music as i trip quite willingly to it…..
    my daughter's going to learn a musical instrument and join the school band very soon…..i'm so proud….

    love always….

  7. avatar
    Anonymous | 1 September 2009 at 11:08 am #

    Any similarity between this and your own 'utilitarian hovel'?

  8. avatar
    veleska1970 | 1 September 2009 at 11:25 am #

    such a lovely story. once upon a time i had thought of picking up the bass, thanks to being influenced by you, but never did.

    you're the best player, ever, period. i am so very happy you discovered the bass. where would we be without that?? i cannot imagine a world without your bass and the church.

    thank you for sharing. and you're welcome for listening.

    lotza love…..

  9. avatar
    Thomas Thomsen, Denmark | 1 September 2009 at 11:44 am #

    Jose Feliciano?
    When you threw it into the trash I'll bet it didn't have a scratch on it!

  10. avatar
    Freddie | 1 September 2009 at 12:48 pm #

    Ah, the listening is a pleasure.
    Thank you for putting it out there 🙂

  11. avatar
    Anonymous | 1 September 2009 at 1:26 pm #

    interesting bassplayers:

    jah wobble
    jean jacques burnel
    paul gray
    mick karn
    andy fraser
    trevor bolder
    john paul jones

    not you.
    i did like that little bit at the start of the middle 8 in Columbus though.

  12. avatar
    John Garratt | 1 September 2009 at 1:29 pm #

    "it cost 80 dollars and it was a violin shaped"

    Like a Hoffner?

    I've always wondered how you could sing and play your parts simultaneously. As I listened to the Church, I tried to map it out myself. Just you alone. Seeing Marty sing and play "Chromium" and "See Your Lights" was also wonky.

  13. avatar
    fantasticandy | 1 September 2009 at 1:34 pm #

    how i can relate to this!
    i feel the same way about my olde danelectro U3…….
    and your'e right steve….it does come easy for some because it's pre-ordained….the ability is within you from the start.
    i can't honestly think of anyone i would sooner listen to on bass than your good self.
    measured, economical, yet perfectly able to wig-out when needs be.
    the throbbing pulsebeat of the church.

  14. avatar
    Brien Comerford | 1 September 2009 at 2:31 pm #

    You are a very refined and creative bass player. Nonetheless, it's your otherworldly lyrics and eclectic vocals that make you luminous.

  15. avatar
    esne snoner | 1 September 2009 at 2:31 pm #

    excellent start to music month sk – as a non-musician music-lover i rate the bass as my favourite instrument – so many fine examples of the importance of the bass in the vast church catalogue – but probably my favourite is the driving, singing, lyrical feel of it throughout aura – particularly during the big ending

    love that tune – thanks for all 'em

  16. avatar
    bjmcwilliams | 1 September 2009 at 2:34 pm #

    "i try to make my bass parts interesting sexy warm
    pulsating snaky throbbing simple melodic different"

    Yes indeed… some 15 years ago I played bass in an art-rock, alternative, college band and we did a handful of covers. We did UTMW, You're Still Beautiful, and Metropolis. Those were the tunes most people were familiar with back then but I was impressed and drawn to your approach and took from it that it was better to add feeling than flash when playing the bass.

    Anyways… wanted to say that there are some absolute killer bass lines on the last Church album – especially Pangea. Fantastic bass lines over the years!



  17. avatar
    Ellen | 1 September 2009 at 2:52 pm #

    Thank you for this awesome blog! I gobbled up every word.

    I agree that, to a large degree, musicical ability is determined by genes. I came from a musical family. My father was a concert violinst, my grandfather and all his siblings were professional classical musicians, and my oldest sister is a singer, conductor and now teaches piano to kids. It's in the blood.

    Anyway, I love reading about how you got started in the world of music. Indeed, it IS a calling and something that just can't be explained. You either have "it" or you don't. And you have "it" in spades!

    Keep on rockin'…

  18. avatar
    Anonymous | 1 September 2009 at 3:15 pm #

    I really like this explanation of your craft Steve! Funnily enough I've been checking out and playing a couple of Hofner violin basses at Macaris on Charing Cross Rd in London today – not that I'm a bass player. The shape of them has always somehow intrigued me… anyway Hofner has just released a reissue '62 Cavern version, so I got them to plug it into a Vox amp for my clumsy version of All My Loving:-)

    Anyway, I'm disappointed I'm going to miss you and Martin play in Melbs.. I hope it goes well!

    Cheers, Matt H

  19. avatar
    Craig Miller | 1 September 2009 at 3:54 pm #

    It's great when you have an instrument that almost becomes a part of you. I've had and loved many guitars over the years, but none will ever feel as comfy as my old '88 Tele.

    Still doing yoga, really enjoying it. Glad you turned me on to that Steve. Thank you.

  20. avatar
    Anonymous | 1 September 2009 at 4:01 pm #

    spark up
    half-assed home movies
    spark up
    look at when i managed to hitch a ride on grant's talent til he wised up n shitcanned my ass
    fail to pay backtaxes
    live off wife's wages/US professor's salary/TTB donations/$38 per year Church royalties
    spark up

  21. avatar
    Melquiades | 1 September 2009 at 4:33 pm #

    I need the drive – I only flirt with music. I always want to get back to it and then my other life happens. I guess it's a matter of disclipine, like you say. I come from music. my father played guitar in bands and was front man. he sang a lot of the old country artists (Cash, eddy arnold etc)along with elvis and the like. I remember many summer evening parties growing up where my Dad would play and ham it up with my parents friends keeping them laughing and entertained. good memories.

  22. avatar
    glynnisjohns | 1 September 2009 at 4:58 pm #

    Thanks, that was great.


  23. avatar
    david duchow | 1 September 2009 at 6:43 pm #

    a great bass curry

  24. avatar
    EDD | 1 September 2009 at 7:19 pm #

    Of course, the bass is underrated. Without it, though, where would we be?

  25. avatar
    Anonymous | 1 September 2009 at 7:44 pm #

    nice I like the bit about the feliciano record… : )


  26. avatar
    davem | 1 September 2009 at 8:40 pm #

    I really enjoyed that. I 've played bass since I was a kid too. The first riff I taught myself was "There At The Top" off Squeeze's Argy Bargy.
    I was listening to the chrunchies first album on saturday and the bass on Memories In Future Tense brought a smile to my face. It's rare you do anything that flash…to me you resonate more…but even then you could do it if you wanted to.

  27. avatar
    princey | 1 September 2009 at 10:48 pm #

    There's no doubt about it, musical ability is definitely in the Kilbey bloodline, you and your brothers are all great musicians and singers and songwriters. Onya Les and Joyce:)

    Look forward to the next one,
    love Amanda

  28. avatar
    Forbes | 1 September 2009 at 11:18 pm #

    I am not a good bass player for me the guitar was easier. I have an old Fender Music Master nicotine stained yellow guitar scale bass. Great for recording very clean and small.

    If I had the dough I'd love to have the Kilbey play bass on some original recordings…..perhaps someday.

  29. avatar
    restaurant mark | 1 September 2009 at 11:25 pm #


    well that pretty much covers it for me…
    i love your bass lines now and i loved them when i first got into the church…for all of the reasons above. one of my bass influences definately. thank you steve.

    take care

  30. avatar
    Melquiades | 2 September 2009 at 12:26 am #

    btw, after I saw you in 95 on the SA acoustic tour I went home that day and really picked up the guitar. UTMW was the first thing I taught myself – by ear, of course :-)))

  31. avatar
    Anonymous | 2 September 2009 at 12:41 am #

    Hey Steve. Great Blog. I just bought the re-issue of Fish Out of Water by Chris Squire. It's pretty cool, I think it has a bit more heart than most of the Yes stuff. I like your single word descriptions of your bass style, 'snaky' is the best. Forked tongue with two meanings, Slithery and Cranky! OK Thanks again for the Blog. Gra Gra

  32. avatar
    Anonymous | 2 September 2009 at 3:08 am #

    Very interesting. The bass is one of my fave instruments. Glad you and the bass found the connection. It sure does make a difference to a song, whichever way it's played. Love it! You're a master of the bass.
    Had guitar lessons years ago, but never mastered it unfortunately. Was really enjoying my lessons till the school closed down and didn't bother finding a new teacher. Wish I had of now.

    Peace & love

  33. avatar
    A Bucket Full of Starfish | 2 September 2009 at 4:07 am #

    "Good, now and forever, music reaches and awakens…"

    Would you read this poem for us? The work is so alive, so hauntingly ethereal. Maybe as part of a postmodern film?

  34. avatar
    Anonymous | 2 September 2009 at 5:58 am #

    Your bass parts are all that and more.

    Lady Di

  35. avatar
    Anonymous | 2 September 2009 at 6:45 am #

    I played bass for years as a teenager, in several bands. Your line from Constant in Opal actually convinced me to switch from six string.

  36. avatar
    Jasperina | 2 September 2009 at 8:13 am #

    I loved that.You and your bass… A love affair, a sweet courtship and of course destiny. Trembling and undone that's what your music does to me.

  37. avatar
    Jason | 2 September 2009 at 11:28 pm #


    I have mentioned this before but you should do your next solo album all on the bass, some drums and some mellow keys. I have heard some of the freebass album. I think you could do much better. Peter hook is good and original, however Mani and rourke add little to no value. Either way I have always thought you were the best bassist I have heard.


  38. avatar
    ross b | 3 September 2009 at 1:42 pm #

    You are the world's greatest bass player – meaning you've got a better feel for low end than anyone else I've ever heard. That includes double bass. You are so 'deep' with the bass, you move volcanos. You dive deep into your psyche, our psyche, the Earth. I love watching you play live and watching you play bass. I love your style of playing too which is quite unique, ie the fast movement of your right hand where the fingers serve as a pick as it were. You really are incredible – I just LOVE your bass playing!!! 🙂

    And my favourite bass album is the 1st Church album – that propulsive fat p-bass sound with all the slides etc – ooh i love it!!

    Sorry to gush but I'm just so passionate about this.

  39. avatar
    Ardor | 3 September 2009 at 7:39 pm #


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