posted on June 20, 2017 at 3:49 pm

Conversations With Kilbey Part Two: Lying For Love


When did you first take heroin?


What was happening in your life that led you to heroin?

Nothing really. A friend of mine offered it to me one night, took me unawares, and I had a snort, liked it, and became addicted. For ten years.

Were you trying to quit during that period, or only towards the end?

I was always plotting to get off, but not trying. You always heard that at the dealer’s house – I’m stopping next Tuesday! I’m stopping tomorrow! This is the last time! We all had plans for going cold turkey and being locked in our room. But you would never hear a sick junkie saying he was going to stop. The only junkies who promised they were stopping were those who had just scored or were about to score. Very occasionally you’d meet someone who’d say, I’m never stopping. I know someone like that. Thirty years later, they’re still on it. But that’s rare. Most of them are planning to stop, because life becomes a misery.

At what point did you become aware that it was more of a misery than a joy?

It’s a bit like meeting someone for the first time and being knocked out by them. This is the best person I ever met in my life! I love everything about them! Then you start noticing things. They’re a bit of a bully. Or a bit of a thief. And eventually one day you realise you hate everything about them. I remember the first time I decided to stop to see what would happen. It was terrible, agony, miserable. And I began to fear withdrawals more than anything else. More than being arrested. Withdrawal from heroin is so awful, so unbearable, you do anything to avoid it. It’s like nothing else you could imagine. Nothing alleviates it except for very strong sedatives.

How did you quit, finally?

I was living in Sweden at the time. A woman I knew in the US said come over. I knew it meant going cold turkey. So I went. I had a small bottle of methadone, and after that was gone I went through about six weeks of hell, but I did eventually stop thinking about it. When I went back to Sweden, I tried it again, but something had changed. It did the very opposite of everything I ever wanted it to do. It was awful. It was like it had quit me, not like I’d finished with it. There are many addicts out there who would do anything for a fix but know they mustn’t, but I’m not one of them. I don’t have to go somewhere every day and talk about it. It’s a clean break, history. I haven’t used heroin for seventeen years. These days I drink a little [raises Margherita], smoke a little. Moderation.

What about your creativity during those years? Did heroin help or hinder it?

In the beginning, the honeymoon period, it’s inspiring. I imagine if I wasn’t such a pig and did a little occasionally it would have been different, but I had to do it all the time. I got a lot out of it, a lot of inspiration, ideas, feelings. That incredible feeling it gave me, of warm, soft, sexy, caressing, slippery, nebulous, elusive … whatever that feeling was, I tried to capture it in music and lyrics. I made two records which I love, two of my favourite records. Priest = Aura, and my solo record Narcosis. On that album the drugs had set in a little more and I was starting to come undone. It’s a little bit harrowing in places maybe.

Was anyone else in the band doing heroin?

No. It was just me. The others would smoke pot, take a little LSD, mushrooms. When we got to America, it was cocaine. But the Church was never a huge drugs band by any means. Pot was our main vice. When we’re on the road I have a good stiff drink and a good stiff smoke before I go on stage, gives it a fresh perspective, helps to reinterpret the songs. Bit of bravado, bit of energy. Alcohol and weed are great if you use them with respect, ritualistically, not out of habit. At home it’s different. There’ll be alcohol in the kitchen but I won’t touch it.

You don’t hang out with the band, do you?

Not at all, and they don’t hang out with each other.

What’s happening?

We just made an album, and we’re touring the new single in America at the end of this month. I don’t know what the rest of the set will be. We’ve got like thirty albums to choose from. It’s like an election process for what songs get played, such a joke! We can’t do that song, it’s too popular! We can’t do that song, no-one’s ever heard of it! We can’t do that song it’s too fast! Too slow! In the wrong key! Everyone’s got a veto. You can suggest a song, and if one of the band says no, that’s the end of it. The idea that I’m like this mastermind, this Svengali controlling the group, telling them what to do … it’s so wrong! I go along with it, I want a quiet life.

Does Further/Deeper seem like a long time ago already?

Oh yeah, it does. It really really does. I thought it was the best thing we could have done at the time. I didn’t think it was a masterpiece but it had some pretty good moments.

It’s a deep and complex album – was there a lot of preparation before you went into the studio?

No – we just switched on the tape recorder and knocked out the songs. But then people would add overdubs, spend two or three days or whatever adding ornamentation, levels, tightening it up. Like if you’re writing, you go back and polish and edit, that would be an analogy.

Are you writing?

I’m working on a complete collection of my lyrics. It’s going to be a huge book, about a thousand pages. The last great project of my life.

I like the vagueness of your writing. I enjoy not understanding it literally.

Yes! I agree! I’m with you. A lot of records you hear on the radio – you don’t know what the fucking lyrics are. Doesn’t matter. Sometimes the words you think they’re singing are better than the true words.

Is the truth important to you? Do you ever lie?

If it’s to do with matters of the heart, I can tell some terrible lies. But anything else, I usually tell the truth.

You seem very unpretentious. You undersell yourself and underestimate your own achievements.

No. Sometimes I’m absolutely full of myself. I’m a genius! Who else could do this? Mine is a high and lonely destiny! If only they could understand! I do get carried away with myself. But I’m always self-aware, even when I’m being my most egotistical, insufferable self.



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