STILL POPULAR AFTER 30 YEARS, THE DISTINCTIVE MUSIC OF THE CHURCH WILL BE HEARD AT THE SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE ON SUNDAY – by Noel Mengel April 07, 2011
“RIGHT from the start The Church had their own sound. Hear them play a few bars of a song and you know who it is straight away.
“That’s the hardest thing to get,” says Steve Kilbey, the band’s singer and bass player.
“There are a zillion guys out there playing guitar, but only 100 might have that original take. And luckily we stumbled on it. I had been in bands before, writing the songs and singing, and that didn’t sound original at all.
“Suddenly, The Church came along and we sounded like The Church.”
Which is why, 30 years on, people are still listening . . . to their concert this Sunday at the Sydney Opera House, where they are playing with an orchestra for a DVD recording, or to their excellent 2009 album Untitled #23. Or to the reissues of the band’s ’80s albums. The latest of these is Starfish, the 1988 album that was biggest for them overseas and contained the classicUnder the Milky Way. It was only by a stroke of fate that the song even made the album.
“The producers didn’t even think the band should waste their time rehearsing it,” Kilbey says. Instead, he went to a studio up the hall and recorded it.
“There was a guy there with an instrument called the synclavier. We recorded the song there and it had artificial drums, recorded to a sequencer and a click track. Because no one wanted to spend the time recording it, it came out sounding the way it did and it was a big hit.”
Kilbey is a big believer in the random element and instinct.
“Yes, we worked with American producers on Starfish and it kind of worked. But we tried it again with (next album) Gold Afternoon Fix and it didn’t work. A lot of the best things I’ve ever done have been me trying to be like something else but not having the chops, to use a muso word, to pull that off and out of that failure to, say, write an Aerosmith song, I’ve written something else. There are a lot of failures that turn into successes.”
Church fans are lapping up the reissues, which feature detailed liner notes from guitarist Marty Willson-Piper.
One of the insightful comments from him: “A band has to be able to not listen to what people say.”
Kilbey concurs: “Critics lavish praise on stuff that’s rubbish or destroy something that’s valid; everyone’s in your ear telling you how great or woeful you are. That’s been one of The Church’s greatest virtues and one of our failings. We never listen to anybody and plough on regardless.”
HEAR Starfish (EMI) out now.
READ Find the full Steve Kilbey interview on The Courier-Mail iPad.