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The Church: Steve Kilbey – interview

Steve Kilbey may be best known as frontman for legendary Australian post punk band The Church, but his prolific songwriting has spilled over into a substantial solo career too, with 22 solo studio albums under his belt, not to mention dozens of collaborations.  It’s possible that no artist has been as busy as he has […]

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The Church: Steve Kilbey – interview

Steve Kilbey may be best known as frontman for legendary Australian post punk band The Church, but his prolific songwriting has spilled over into a substantial solo career too, with 22 solo studio albums under his belt, not to mention dozens of collaborations.  It’s possible that no artist has been as busy as he has during the pandemic, with weekly Instagram live streams, epic live performances whenever possible, an album release and another in the mix.  Naomi Dryden-Smith caught up with Steve for a chat in the wake of the release of his latest very excellent album, Eleven Women (reviewed by LTW here)

Louder Than War: For those who might not know too much about you, take us back to where it all started. You were born in England, so how did you come to be in Australia and how did music develop for you?

SK: When I was three years old my parents, without consulting me, put me on a boat with them and took me to Australia without ever asking “how do you think this will affect your chances of one day being a big rock star?”. If they had listened to me I would have said “Leave me in England and then it’ll all work out, but if you take me to Australia I will forever be estranged from England.” And so it was – they took me anyway. We were quite poor but my dad did well in Australia. He fought in the Second World War and he was a real cockney geezer – he had this cockney thing and Australians were bowled over by that. If you were English or American back in the late 50s/early 60s from what I could see Australians were really wowed, like you were smarter than them, you were from a different world from them. Americans and English people seemed to always hit the ground running here, because of their expertise and their work ethic and whatever it is they have. My dad quickly rose to the top – he was a piano player, and he was at the top of his game which was fixing fridges and washing machines and whatever – he became the boss and had some guys under him doing that. My mother liked a bit of poetry and I got music from one side and poetry from the other, but it wasn’t very high brow stuff – it wasn’t Mozart and Percy Bysshe Shelley, it was Boogie Woogie/Knees Up Mother Brown singalongs with my dad, and my mother often recited some poetry. One thing she did was she bought this book by Robert Louis Stevenson which I believe a lot of kids had – it was called A Children’s Garden Of Verses, written by this boy who was quite a sickly boy who sat in bed and wrote poetry as a child because he couldn’t run around and play because of the TB. It’s quite a strange and melancholy read, especially when it hits you as a kid and you’re reading it and it’s the first thing you’ve ever had. And then my mother gave me Alice in Wonderland and used to read it to me when I was 4 and going to bed, so I was really off and running with all this weird melancholic stuff. I kind of had a desire for it after that. And then you know just the usual stuff – one night aged 9 the Beatles came on the TV and everyone thought they were amazing, and I guess as I grew up I was immediately interested and attracted to The Beatles. As I grew older and the Beatles grew alongside me I got more and more interested as each new development happened. I felt like I was there watching it all as it all happened, as a youth. I was one of those kids that The Who and The Stones and The Beatles were aiming the music at. So then I grew up and I formed my own band.

The Church: Steve Kilbey – interview

Was it mainly The Beatles, or were there other major influences for you?

I loved The Beatles and Bob Dylan and The Stones and all the stuff that came with them, all those countless other people – Simon & Garfunkel, all of that. And then in 1970 at the age of 16 I fell in love with Marc Bolan, and then a year later David Bowie, and that was a whole different level of adulation. It was like they were, a corny word is role models or something, they were sort of a way of doing things. They had an attitude, and that was a whole different level to loving The Beatles and The Stones, this was a whole new level of absolutely idolising somebody. After that I never really got over them and they remained the main thing for me. I liked other people who were derivative – I thought David Bowie was so good that even a lot of the people who were derivative of him were still good, like say Steve Harley, and Bill Nelson in Be-Bop Deluxe, and John Fox who was in Ultravox for a while. Bowie was so good that even the people who were copying him were good.

I liked everything that came along, but then when I formed The Church I stopped really liking other things that much because they became competition – so it became a sort of locked off little room of things that I liked that became influences. And then in about 1980 it all stopped. A few things snuck in there: Joy Division got in there, Sigur Ros, a few other things I just happened to think were incredible, but mostly I stopped and became a sort of classicist. I’m trying to create a world where David Bowie was in The Beatles, something like that, with a bit of Bob Dylan thrown in. I guess like a lot of people are. A lot of British bands and musicians have got that same mixture, they’re all looking for this perfect way of doing Bowie and The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and trying to get all of that into one band. Many have come and many have tried, many have failed, but it’s a worthy thing to do to achieve that perfect synthesis. And lately something else – I saw the Barry Gibb movie about the Bee Gees and I saw how David Bowie was influenced by the Bee Gees, believe it or not. If you make the connection it’s there – apparently when David Bowie played Space Oddity to Marc Bolan he said “wow that’s the Bee Gees’ song New York Mining Disaster”. So all those things I like.

So in 1980 I formed The Church and that was the end of everything else, and that was the beginning of where everything just became The Church and I didn’t really have any other real life outside – everything was just obsessed with The Church.

The Church: Steve Kilbey – interview

The Church was of the biggest Australian bands of the post punk era, and still has a significant cult following. Tell us a bit about how The Church came about.

To set the record straight for once and for all for English people who’ve just caught up with The Church, I knew Peter Koppes because he’d been in one of my previous bands. I’d taken three years off from live music and bought myself a four-track tape recorder and was experimenting with overdubbing and creating songs using pointillistic methods rather than just strumming a guitar and singing, making songs out of little things like a little riff there and a riff here and another bit over there and putting it all together, and suddenly it created this whole picture – and it wasn’t the sort of music you would just write by strumming an acoustic guitar. So I took three years off and experimented with how to write songs, what was the best way, all the limited things but still the basic things that would come in handy when I finally got into a 24-track studio. Up until then whenever I got into a studio engineers had frustrated me – whatever I tried to do some stupid engineer would go “Oh no you can’t do that, you don’t want to do that”. You needed to have – it’s like going in when your car’s fucked up and the engine’s gone and the guy is saying “Ah your carburettor’s gone, oh and your big end mate, yeah that’s all over”. If you know what he’s saying and you have the jargon to say it back, it’s much easier. But if you’re baffled, and you’ve got a guy saying “Oh no you can’t do that, that’s not enough tracks for a bounce”, and you don’t know what that means… So in the early days I took all this time off, I learned to use a tape recorder and in 1980 I was ready to join a band again. The Church: Steve Kilbey – interviewPeter Koppes heard what I was doing and he brought with him a drummer who was an unpleasant guy who I’d known before, and who I thought might have grown up in the intervening 10 years, but he hadn’t and he was still a nasty guy and quite a mediocre drummer too. He joined with Peter, and we did a few gigs, and then one night a guy called Marty Willson-Piper turned up and I just loved his look, and much to the horror of the other two guys in the band I invited Marty to join just on his looks. And luckily, I did ask “Can you play guitar?” and he said yeah, so I said “alright you’re in then”. So there I was in Australia in 1980, putting a rock band together – Peter Koppes wasn’t a bad looking guy, his father was half Greek and half Dutch and his mother was half German, so in his young days he was quite a good looking guy, he was very tall, about 6.3 with a big mop of dark hair, and he didn’t look like your average Aussie rocker. I was quite angular and skinny and I thought I looked pretty good. The drummer was hopeless – he was an Aussie guy with a tattoo on his arm of an executioner with an axe with blood dripping from it and the executioner saying “Next”, and that’s what the audience got. So we’re on stage trying to come over like Lord Byron or something and we’ve got this guy on drums with this. So when I saw Marty Wilson Piper standing there with long crimped hair, a tiger skin jacket, skin tight black jeans and beatle boots, I just went “Man you’ve got to join our band” and it worked, it worked. We slobbed around for a while, we got a record deal, we had a single that flopped and then we were on a TV show called Countdown which was the only music tv show in Australia, and we did this song called Unguarded Moment. We were instant hits, we were in the charts, the girls were screaming, the drugs were flowing, the cars were driving, the guitars were going in and out of cases, we were travelling, motel doors opened and closed, meals wolfed down, zooming up and down in planes and at airports and waving goodbye and saying hello and packing cases, it was like that.

And then guess what, we come to England, the first show we play in 1982 at The Venue in Victoria, there’s 2000 people there and they give us a standing ovation as soon as we walk on. It was like we were huge – we came out on stage and the audience were roaring with approval. Something inside me, some pessimist buried deep said “this isn’t for you, something else is happening to make them act like this” and I seriously was asking “What’s happened to cause this?” but it was us and they loved us. However, things took a nasty turn. No-one had foreseen how big we would instantly be. We were booked to do thirty dates with Duran Duran and on the seventh date I quit. Our record company had paid £30,000 to get us on that tour and I said I just cannot play before this band, I cannot play their audiences, I’m not putting myself through it. I have something in me that will just close down and say “you’re not doing this” – you know, if something becomes too ridiculous the thing that enables me to do what I’m doing says “No”. So I just couldn’t play with Duran Duran any more, and their audiences were, I’m not exaggerating, age 9 to 10 year old girls who only wanted Duran Duran. It wouldn’t have mattered if Louis Armstrong or Jesus Christ or Buddha or Elvis Presley or even The Beatles had walked out there, they only wanted Duran Duran and everything else made them angry – and you were almost like something they dangled before these girls that they would hate and spend all their hatred on because your horrible 10 songs stood between them and the objects of their adulation. So I pulled out of that tour, and we hung around and had one more gig at The Venue where we had another 2000 people who went nuts again, and then we played around the Continent to mixed results, but mainly we were instantly on a high level in Europe as well, playing to 1000s of people. And then in 1984 we hit America and we released a few albums and we became a big cult band.

Then in 1988 we had this song Under The Milky Way, which wasn’t such a huge hit but somehow it has this influence and clout that is out of all proportion to anything else that ever happened to me. For example, there’s a new film, yet another Australian film that has used this song, and the guy wanted me to go down – so last night I was standing there playing it in front of the Opera House and the fucking Harbour Bridge in the rain, and as soon as the song starts up everyone’s shouting – it’s like it’s the National Anthem.

Steve Kilbey
You’ve rerecorded Under The Milky Way again for a new advertising campaign for workers to come to the Antarctic.  It’s a brilliant recording. Do you ever get sick of playing it?

Okay, so it’s like I’ve been growing and selling pears since 1988, people always like my pears, they come back and ask for my pears, I give them my pears in all the different ways they want them, and I’m just in a sort of quiet relationship with the pears – that’s how I am with Under The Milky Way, it’s like, if that’s what they want that’s what they can have. It’s churlish not to give it to them if that’s what they want. I’m lucky – I always say this – I’m lucky. If you’re going to be stuck with one song I’m glad it’s that. I’m glad it’s not some horrible novelty song that I’m forever going round the world singing “What’s the matter you, ah shaddup-a you face”.

For his Meltdown concerts in 2018, Robert Smith added you to his plinth of favourite artists. What happened there?

We came off stage and there was a bottle of champagne saying “sorry lads, family thing happened, had to leave, cheers, Robert”. I’d like to say we drove around London in his Jaguar, I can’t even say we rode around London on the tube having fish and chips, or whatever he does, probably having a pint at the pub isn’t it?

He’s another one who’s heavily influenced by Bowie and probably Bolan – all these bands, The Church, Psychedelic Furs, The Cure, you’ve all got this common heritage.

Definitely – we all grew from the same soil but each of us grew a different flower.  There’s a quote for you!

When did the solo stuff start, how many albums have you made now?

I’ve got about 60 albums altogether with The Church and solo and collaborations, 60 CDs’ worth of music. I’m sitting here right now waiting for four new things that are all finished, just figuring out their way of coming down the line. I have a new double solo album with The Winged Heels, an album with Martin Kennedy, an album with a great Australian guitarist called Glen Bennie who’s got a band called Underground Lovers, and then The Church themselves have a new album in a state of almost being finished. Strangely enough I don’t drive The Church, it’s kind of Tim Powles, our drummer, who’s in the driving seat and has been for a while, getting our albums finished and doing it all the way he wants to do it. I’m not sure exactly but I think it should come out mid 2021. Another Church album, just what the world needs!

The Church: Steve Kilbey – interview

How has the pandemic period affected you, obviously you’ve been non-stop producing material?

Well, it wasn’t as severe in Australia as anywhere else so we haven’t suffered the way you guys have, we’ve been very, very lucky indeed. I started playing the guitar a lot more and suddenly I started writing songs where you just sit down with a guitar – I started writing a lot more of those songs, I started playing the guitar a lot more. I’ve never been that good at playing the acoustic guitar and singing, I haven’t really ever properly got it together. But I’ve finally got it together at the age of 66, I can now properly play acoustic and sing songs, and since Covid restrictions eased in venues, I’ve been doing shows where I do the first four Church albums on acoustic guitar in one show.

Can you come and do some of those over here please…

I’d love to. We’re all stuck where we are now. I tell you, if you have to be stuck somewhere, Coogee Beach in New South Wales isn’t a bad place to be stuck. I was sitting there having dinner tonight – I’m looking down the main street, there’s pines and palms, they’ve widened the café bit so it’s outdoor cafes all the way up the road with fake grass and little umbrellas and there’s coloured lights hanging, all the shops are absolutely bouncing, and at the end of the road there’s the sea with guys on surfboards riding waves. There are seagulls calling, the weather’s warm and balmy with light zephyrs carrying hints of the moisture of the ocean, it’s just wow. As an Englishman I never quite get used to this, something in me’s always going “Wow!”. It’s a proper tropical balmy evening, but I’m not just out there going “oh yeah”. I’m always in wonder of these tropical balmy evenings, it’s early summer and the days are getting longer, it’s really lovely and Covid seems to have disappeared.

Of all your songs, which do you like playing live the most?

Usually my newest thing. I like whatever I’ve just done, and the older it gets probably the less I like it. With The Church there are classic songs I like to play with them, a sort of revolving bunch of songs like Myrrh and Hotel Womb and Destination, and now Miami has become a real staple that I really love to play. You can tell – because you really enjoy it, it’s a pleasure to listen to.  It’s become my favourite Church song – I’ve heard it live both at Shepherds Bush Empire and at the Royal Festival Hall, it’s a total showstopper. Yeah, it’s really turned into something that I like.

How did the new album Eleven Women come about, what’s the context and who are the women?

One day a long time ago I was probably hanging out with my brother and smoked a joint and said, hey wouldn’t it be good to have an album where every song on the album has a woman’s name and is about a woman, and it would be like a gallery of women. And the person I was with probably went yeah or no, and I forgot about it. Years later the idea floated back up to my consciousness and I said on Instagram “next week I’m going to write an album called Ten Women” (because I wrote the 11th one late, so it was originally 10 women). So because I said I was going to do it I had to actually do it, and then as usual I The Church: Steve Kilbey – interviewjust smoke a joint and the songs kind of fall out of the sky in 2 minutes. With all of the songs I would say “Alright, now I’m going to write a song called Poppy Byron”, and then I’d pick up the guitar, nothing would happen and then I’d start singing a tune – the songs sort of write themselves, or my intelligent mind or whatever it is gets out of the way and something else in me can catch the cosmic wave of a song coming down and it happens really easily and painlessly, and it’s kind of all there and it’s all over in three minutes. So I had my songs and I told the audience I was going to play them and throw them away, to show a gesture, an idea, that I’m so prolific that I can write 10 great songs and I can just throw them away because I can easily just write 10 more. But once I’d written them I became attached to them and I couldn’t throw them away. So with a bit of money that some very generous viewers had willingly donated – because I wasn’t demanding payment I just said if you want to give some money you can chuck me some money – some very generous people chucked me some money and I thought it was my karmic debt to use that money to record the album. So I went to this studio where I’ve been working, and some characters were attracted along, and in three days we cooked it all up.

I’m discovering a new way of making records, a way of encouraging accident and randomness and letting people improvise within a structure but not giving them many takes to do it – saying look, here’s the song, quite frankly you’re going to have one or two stabs at this so fucking make it count. They hardly know it, and then with a whole bunch of people playing, including myself, on something you hardly know comes this wonderful feeling that everybody’s holding on. There’s something to be said when music is played perfectly and quantised and locked down and everything, like the Fields of the Nephilim do, but this album’s the opposite of that – it’s like a meandering river and all the musicians aren’t sure what’s going to happen but they’re all really good players, so they’re all kind of stumbling along and I’m not allowing them to go back and correct stuff, it’s all staying there, warts and all, and little odds and ends. I encouraged that and then I sang it myself in two takes: I would go in and put one vocal on and then I’d sing another one along with it, and then we’d keep it at that. Somehow doing this, it’s like a bit like snap frozen vegetables: because we never rehearsed it and we never tried to perfect it and everything was done quickly. I was totally in control and I said “No you’re not doing it again and there’s no time for listening to what you’ve done because we’re getting onto the next one”, so I was rushing them all through it and they were all grumbling along -but then suddenly at the end of it all we sat back and listened and realised we had preserved all the good stuff that music can have that normally, in the course of making albums, sort of gradually gets knocked out in the name of making it more sophisticated and smooth and professional, all those wonderful little things all go.

So I’m in an opposite place now where I’m trying to get all of that back in and encouraging The Church: Steve Kilbey – interviewthe guys, trying to make them not cross their t’s and dot their i’s in a musical sense, but just to allow strange things to happen. If it wanders just let it wander, if someone keeps going when he was supposed to stop, let him keep going. The next album is even more like that, because I find it really exciting, this sort of ramshackle stop and start, ebb and flow, it’s more like nature. It’s not trying to be perfect or angular or have straight lines and 90 degree angles, everything is more like a wild blooming forest with bees flying around and birds singing where things begin and stop and start. I’m trying to get that sort of organic thing into music as much as I possibly can. And the only other people I can really think of who were doing this in a way, but in a dark way, were the Bad Seeds – they would play and it would be this sort of stumbling along and things would come out, but they were doing it in more of an anarchic, slightly dissonant way. With mine I’m really trying to create beautiful music that just puts a smile on your face – there’s no agenda and nothing behind it you have to understand, it is what it is and there it is for you and we hope you like it. There’s no veil of irony or production or anything at all, it’s just like boom, I dreamed this up, I’ve got these great players, there it is – trying to eliminate intelligent thought and let intuition and heart rule.

Is the order of the songs deliberate, is there a conscious flow?

I always come up against this. I’ve made 60 albums, so 60 times I’ve broached this question, because it’s very unusual. Usually when I’m making an album I will earmark the first and last song – during the making of it I go “Wow, this has to be the first song people hear” and then I go “This one has to be the last one”. I usually decide the rest by getting one and then finding another song that’s in a different key with a different tempo, I try not to put samey songs after each other. But other than that it was more like imagine I had painted 11 paintings of 11 women, and here are the paintings – I put the first one on the wall, and then I went, oh this one will look good next to that, and bang bang bang, there they are in no real relationship to each other except they’re in the same gallery. So only the last song is a true last song, and when I wrote it I thought “That has to be the last song”.

Think Of You is a fantastic song – it actually made me emotional the first time I heard it, it’s wonderful.

That’s what I’m trying to do, that’s the thing I’m going for. It’s a real specific thing and I don’t think a lot of people go for it, but I’m always going for it. With this now under my control, not like The Church because The Church is more of a democracy of people and it’s hard, but with this album and having the guys doing what I want them to do, but willingly being guided and putting their expertise in my hands, I’m trying to make music that makes people happy and sad and emotional and feel connected. It’s not to amuse you or make you feel happy or jolly or angry or politically motivated, it’s not to make you feel sad or anything, it’s just a delicious thing, it’s supposed to be delicious. It’s like a short story, a bizarre painting – 11 paintings of strange or beautiful or weird women that you would stand and look at and just go wow, that’s weird and strange and beautiful.That’s all this music is, it exists to do that and absolutely nothing else.

You’ve been collaborating with the very talented Amanda Kramer recently?

Yes, we played with the Psychedelic Furs and she’s a friend of mine. We did some tours where she played piano and I played guitar, and we were doing some of our other favourite songs and things that we like and some of my songs as well. They were intimate shows and it was great – she’s a great piano player and we had a lot of fun.

Who else would you love to collaborate with that you haven’t – if you could collaborate with anybody, who would you line up?

Barry Gibb it would be right now. I’d love to, yeah. It’s funny. And Neil Diamond – I met him and I didn’t know who he was until it was all over. People could see me talking to him on this tv show where we were locked out of the studio and we were just sitting there talking, and I didn’t know who he was until we got in and everyone said “How did you go with Neil?”, and I said “Who’s Neil?”, and then I went “Oh my god!” and the penny dropped – that was fucking Neil Diamond. And he was really great, he was just sitting there smoking a Marlboro and asking how’s the weather down in Australia this time of year man? He was the most regular sort of guy and I reckon Barry Gibb would be too. It would be interesting to try this approach that I’m dreaming up, this warm and organic and encouraging meandering and mistakes approach, it would be interesting trying that out with whoever would like to go through that filter. If anybody at all came to me and said can we try doing some like that with you, I’d be up for it. Obviously all the obvious ones, you know, but – I don’t think I’d say no to anybody at this stage, even if it was really bizarre I’d say let’s give it a shot.

Do you go and see other bands?

I don’t really, I never have. After about 1980 when I started The Church I got really weird about it. And when I got over the weird thing about seeing other bands, my ears are fucked up now so I don’t see a real lot. Occasionally I do see something but you’d be shocked at how few bands I’ve seen in my life. Normally I see bands when I play at festivals and I walk out and listen to other bands, but I haven’t been spending a lot of my life at gigs – I’ve been playing so much, almost all my life I’ve been playing at least four nights a week, so going to a club or a theatre on my night off and seeing someone else just seems like too much.

The Church: Steve Kilbey – interview

Are you aware of the younger Australian scene at the moment? There are some good bands coming up now like Bad Dreems and The Chats.

I don’t keep up with bands, I’m just too busy. It’s strange, I grew up taking it all in and suddenly when I’d taken it all in as much as I could I just stopped taking it in and thought now I’ll just put it out, I’ve got no room to take anything else in. But I do feel like an old fogey because of that, because I don’t know who anybody is.

What about your other creative endeavours? You’ve been in films, you’re an artist and you have a strong spiritualism that runs through many of your songs.

I like to have a crack at everything. When I was a kid I thought to myself I should be good at music, I should be good at art, I should be able to act if necessary and write. Anything of that nature I thought I should be able to do. I was pretty good at doing caricatures and nasty things with art, and it wasn’t until about 2000 at the ripe old age of 50 that my brother suggested to me that I do a painting for my next album cover and then he would raffle off the painting and make me some money. So I did that, and then people wanted that painting because it was the album cover. There was a gang of people who hung around asking for more paintings. The Church: Steve Kilbey – interview I’d been doing some faking on that painting, the original one, because it was actually a silkscreen that I’d done, it wasn’t even a painting, it was a silkscreen of this woman’s face – it wasn’t anything special either. Anyway, then I started painting and I became a pastelist – and I’ve been painting now for 20 years using pastels and I do commissions. I’ve had a few limited exhibitions in USA and a couple in Aus. Because I started so late, I can never do what I want to do, my ambitions wildly exceed my capabilities. I think that if I could sit down and envisage a grandiose song or a symphony, I think if I really put my mind to it I could write a fucking symphony or I could write a musical. However, I don’t think with painting that I could envisage some incredible triptych of Christ or whatever – I could envisage it but I don’t have the technique or the experience or the painting chops to do the wonderful thing I would want to do. I know I’ve started too late and I could never really catch up. But some people like it. I don’t know what to say about it, I can’t judge it. One thing about it is that I’m not influenced by anybody, which you can’t say about my music, which we’ve just been saying is Bowie and Bolan and Bob Dylan all mixed up. But the painting, because I just jumped into it and didn’t know what I was doing at all, it’s all just me and everything that I do and paint, and everything to do with that side of me, is completely coming out of me. I’m not even clever enough to look at another painting and know how to emulate it. I could look at Matisse and say wow I love Matisse, but I wouldn’t know how to do that. So in lieu of that I just plod on with my own thing.

Are your paintings influenced by your spiritualism and beliefs?

I think in a way everything is. It’s all mixed up in some huge big thing that I don’t understand. I’m on a sort of mission to try and create uplifting things for people and make them happy and I feel like it’s all mixed up – that’s what I’m supposed to be doing and that’s what I’ve always wanted to do, that’s what I’ve always been impressed by – people who create beautiful, wonderful marvellous things. In my own small way I do that and in this incarnation I feel that is my mission. And I think everything I do is all mixed up with that idea, that’s a perfect explanation for what’s really happening. It’s only words and none of it can be perfect, but when I think about my experience on this planet, when I look around and see what’s happening I think, having read what I’ve read – I’ve read a lot of Christian texts, I’ve read the Bible, I read the Koran, I’ve read a lot of Buddhist stuff and I’ve read a lot of Hindu stuff – at the end of the day the Hindu take is the one that resonates with me and the one that’s the most lovely and fun. You wish, wow I wish it could really be like that, I wish the earth really worked like this and there was this beautiful incarnation of god called Krishna who on his own planet is somewhere playing the flute surrounded by swans and cattle, and his 100,000 beautiful milkmaids that he can have sex with in 100,000 nights of pleasure, and the petals are raining down and the birds are singing. That appeals to me more than banging people up on crosses and Sodom and Gomorrah and whipping and conquering and all that sort of thing. It seems to me that Hinduism’s the best one. Obviously you can’t be a Hindu if you’re an Anglo-Saxon, you can follow it and read about it and try and take it in a bit, and I guess I have – I’m sort of saturated in this kind of thought. Plus as a kid Greek mythology and Norse mythology particularly really blew my mind, and then Lord of the Rings and CS Lewis , and then Gormenghast. These great English epics and imagination – all of that, that’s really where it’s at, where I’m coming from and where I want to be. It’s just like Robert Smith.

If you could pick five people dead or alive to sit down and have dinner with, who would they be?

I’d definitely bring Bolan and Bowie back, probably Billy Shakespeare, and if you could round it all off with Krishna and Jesus Christ I think you’d have enough there to keep you going, you wouldn’t get bored of any of that!

The Church: Steve Kilbey – interview

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