While in shut down Australia, Steve Kilbey of The Church talked with QRO. In the conversation, Kilbey discussed his new album with The Winged Heels, The Hall of Counterfeits (QRO review), touring it before his country shut down, why it’s so long, being in charge in the studio (at least of his bit), also making Jupiter 13 this year with Martin Kennedy, returning to Instagram livestreams, forgetting the vast majority of his songs, Semantic Hyperpriming, Lao Tzu, and much, much more…
QRO: How have you been holding up during all of this?
Steve Kilbey: Well, it’s different in Australia, because we thought we’d gotten away with it, and things were really easy, and bang! The Delta variant arrived about a month ago, and everything went down the drain. So, I was going well for a while. I had a load of shows, and they’ve all been postponed until some indefinite date. Now I’m feeling a bit miserable.
Also, we have the added outrage in Australia about, it’d be really bad for the community if Steve Kilbey played a gig to 300 people, but if you want to go to the football where there’s fifty thousand people, that’d be perfectly alright… They’re having great big football matches everywhere, but no musician can play their fuckin’ trade.
It’s not just the money, either. It’s like, this is what you do, you know? When you’re seventeen, and someone says, “The show must go on,” you take those sayings into yourself. I feel really sorry that I had like ten, fifteen shows all been cancelled or postponed. I feel kind of demoralized; I know the audience feels demoralized.
I was saying to my kids the other day, “It doesn’t matter who you are. If you’re rich or poor, young or old, sexy or ugly – no one is having a good time right now.” At least in Australia. It’s really fucking bad.
It’s not like it’s a problem like when we had the bush fires – even then, there were arguments about what caused them – but there’s this constant friction between people going, ‘There is no plague. Masks are bad. Vaccines are bad.’ No matter what you do, no matter where you stand on this, someone can sort of go, ‘You’ve got it wrong. You’ve swallowed the disinformation.’
Having said all that, I’m constantly writing new music. I’m working with new people. I’m thinking of new things to do, and old things to do, and I’m working on things all the time. And I’m painting. I’m exercising and swimming, trying to lead my life, and not let this all weigh me down.
It’d be really bad for the community if Steve Kilbey played a gig to 300 people, but if you want to go to the football where there’s fifty thousand people, that’d be perfectly alright…
I’ve got five daughters, and one of them’s only 15. And sometimes I just feel like, I turn up, and she’s doing homeschooling, and she can’t see her friends, and she’s stuck at home. You know, there’s the climate’s falling apart, there’s plagues that are probably invented by humans. Everything’s awful, and I feel like, ‘Wow, what a world to have handed on to my children…’
It’s just everything we said: greed, and war, and abusing the earth, and abusing animals. Everything we knew. Everything the Native Americans were saying.
I’m reading the Tao [Te Ching]. It’s only a very short read, so I read it, and I reread it. Lao Tzu is constantly talking about bad government. Even whenever he was, 4,000 B.C. or whatever it was, he’s going, “When the government spends more on weapons than they do on cures, you will have a bad society and unhappy people.” So, even in those days, they were going, ‘Let’s buy up big on spears and arrows, not help out the people.’ It’s just basic stuff.
It’s all basic stuff. The way we treat the world, the way we treat each other, the way we treat animals…
Hey, have you heard my new album?… [laughs]
So, that’s my rant.
Everything’s awful, and I feel like, ‘Wow, what a world to have handed on to my children…’
QRO: Has there been any specific government help for musicians or music venues in Australia?
SK: Last year, they had this thing called “Hot Summer Night” or something, a little innovation thing. If you put on a gig, the government chucked fifteen hundred dollars towards it. I was very lucky. I did a few of those gigs, and did indeed get the fifteen hundred dollars.
But I saw a few memes, where it was going that very shady businessmen were pocketing the fifteen hundred dollars, and giving the musicians, you know, a free drink and a packet of crisps. Like they normally do…
No one’s sorry for musicians. It’s very hard, even if I would walk around going, ‘Woe is me, the record company ripped me off,’ people are still like, ‘Yeah, but you do what you want.’ And it’s always been like that. And I think it always will be. No one is really that sorry for whoever the musician is, when you go and cry to the public, and go, ‘Oh, my life’s hard,’ They go, ‘Yes, but you do what you want, and that’s the difference.’
Almost any other gig in the world, people wouldn’t do it unless they got paid. But musicians do it, whether they get paid or not. It’s a funny old job. But there’s no sympathy. If I sort of squeal myself on the front page of the newspaper, ‘Oh, all my gigs are gone! I wanna play!’ People will go, ‘Yeah, but you fuckin’ had a good time, brother. You’ve been running around the world, strumming your guitar and making a living, while we’ve been working on a construction site.’ So, it’s a funny thing.
Being a musician is a funny thing. That’s why we call it ‘playing’ and not ‘working’.
QRO: At least you don’t have to worry about losing your health care…
SK: No! Because it’s already here, right?… No get me talking – look, I’m just a singer.
I’m a socialist. I really am a socialist. I believe what Jesus Christ said, when he said, ‘Let’s look after the old, let’s look after the poor, let’s look after the sick, let’s look after the children, let’s share everything we have.’ I really believe in that.
But it’s very simplistic. I mean, obviously, I love America, I love touring there. America’s been very kind to me. Obviously, I think the thing with the guns, and the thing with the health care, it’s just fucking unbelievable! It’s like Neolithic, that people can run around shooting each other.
I was having a very pleasant plane ride one day, sitting next to a sort of Southern gentleman, until I started talking about health care, and he said, [southern accent] ‘In America, we like to look after ourselves!’ And I go, ‘Yeah, but what about the people who can’t?’ [southern accent] ‘Well, there’s a reason they can’t look after themselves!’ I don’t know, it’s very harsh.
But I’m just saying the same ol’ shit everybody’s! All that money they spend on weapons – I heard that there’s enough empty buildings in America to house every homeless person. There’s buildings that are just sitting there with nobody in them.
But I’m not a politician – what do I know? If you made me President of the U.S.A., I’d go, ‘Oh, okay, now I see why you can’t do this and you can’t do that.’ I’d probably crumble. It’s easy to be a guitar strummer, or a bass plucker, and go, ‘Oh, I can fix all the problems of society.’ But I don’t fucking know…
I’m just singer, what do you want me to say? I’ve said plenty for a guy who hasn’t got much to say, I know… [laughs]
QRO: And how are The Winged Heels doing?
SK: We did a little tour, and they played amazingly. We were playing Hall of Counterfeits, and Eleven Women, and Songs From Another Life. We didn’t have many people in the crowd, but the people who came thought it was pretty damn good, and I was really happy.
I wish we could run around the world playing loads of gig. I think, eventually, the band would be really, really top-notch. A couple of really good players who aren’t the sort of players I normally play with, in that band. I love playing with those guys. They’re just really great to bringing stuff to the songs I write.
Almost any other gig in the world, people wouldn’t do it unless they got paid. But musicians do it, whether they get paid or not.
QRO: And how is the rest of The Church doing?
SK: Well, who is the rest of The Church anymore?… There’s only me. I’m the only vaguely original member.
Tim [Powles], our drummer, has been there since 1993. Ian Haug is the next oldest member there, who joined in 2013. And then there’s Jeffrey Cain, who’s in Alabama. He joined in 2017. And then there’s Ash Naylor, who joined in 2019, and so far, has played the grand total of one gig with us…
QRO: [laughs] But they’re all okay?
Well, Ian’s not okay. This is probably beyond the purview of this interview, but he’s got an American fiancé, and they haven’t seen each other for almost two years! Despite so many applications to get her out here, he can’t…
Even some Australians can’t get back into Australia. All these Australians are stranded overseas. You’ve gotta have some really big-shot reason to get into Australia. Somebody sponsoring you, I guess.
One of my daughters is an actress, and she got in really easily. However, she’s an Australian. She’s been living in America, and she came over here. She had to do quarantining. But Ian can’t get Yanna in. I really feel his sadness for him.
We tried to get together to do a gig at the Bluesfest, this big Australian thing, and that got canceled. We did manage one gig in Melbourne. And considering it was Ashley’s first-ever gig, and Jeffrey wasn’t there (so we had another guy playing with us), we were pretty good. The crowd seemed to like us. One would think, if we could play regularly, and do shows, this could be a good thing.
QRO: How was making The Hall of Counterfeits?
SK: A lot of fun, fast. The way I like to make records.
There are two types of different songs on there. There are songs that me & The Winged Heels wrote together, and then there’s songs that I wrote on my own, I would play them on acoustic guitar, and Barton [Price] drummed along, and we would put all the overdubs on. I interweaved them pretty evenly, you can see by the credits, which are which. Those songs were usually started off by all just jamming on percussion, getting a percussion bed together, just putting things over the top. And a lot of fun.
It was all done pretty quick, in about three-or-four sessions of like three-or-four days at a time. I self-financed the whole thing.
When you pay for something yourself, you can get what you want. When you’re working for a record company, or you’re in a democracy, or there’s somebody, somewhere is pulling the strings, they can always go, ‘Oh, I want this or that.’ However, when it’s just you, you just go, ‘I want this’ and that’s it. Nobody argues. The engineer doesn’t argue, the band don’t argue, you go, ‘This is the way it’s going to be.’
Of course, you take in suggestions. Often, with The Church, there have been times, with all the different incarnations of The Church, where I’ve wanted to do something, and someone gone, ‘I don’t want to do that,’ and then everything can go down the drain. You descend into arguments and stuff.
I sort of work in a very typical way. I get stoned, and I have these visions that are fresh, that, ‘I want to do it this way…’
I’ve said plenty for a guy who hasn’t got much to say, I know… [laughs]
I remember, there was one guy in The Church, and I’d go, ‘Okay, we’re gonna write a song. It’s gonna be like Pink Floyd! Okay?’ And they go, ‘Great, let’s write Pink Floyd!’ And then we start writing a song, and I go, ‘Wow, I love this song!’ And one guy would go – it was always the same guy – [annoying voice] ‘This doesn’t sound like Pink Floyd…’ And I go, ‘No, don’t worry about that.’ [annoying voice] ‘But you said Pink Floyd…’ ‘Don’t worry about Pink Floyd!’ [annoying voice] ‘Yeah, but you said Pink Floyd, and this isn’t Pink Floyd…’ ‘Well, don’t worry about it now, because I like this!’ [annoying voice] ‘Well, why should we follow you – you don’t even know what you want…’ You’d be in an argument…
One guy would say, ‘When we get to the bridge,’ and one guy would go, ‘There’s no bridge.’ And he’d go, ‘Well, it’s this bit there,’ and he’d go, ‘That’s the middle eight.’ ‘No, it’s the bridge!’ ‘No, it’s the middle eight!’ ‘No, it’s the bridge!’…
When you have these democracies, things can quickly descend into sort of ‘standoffs’, where nothing happens. Making Hall of Counterfeits, that doesn’t happen, because I know what I want, and these guys are doing what I want them to do.
Always open for suggestions. So, when a brilliant musician says to be, ‘Steve, I think we should do this,’ I always listen. I don’t just go, ‘No! Do what I say!’ But when I need to make a decision, or if someone’s taking too long, with this band, I can go, ‘This is the way it’s going to be. You’re not going to play it anymore. You’ve got one more take, do it, or I’m gonna chose an old take.’ And then they know how it is.
Because I’m paying for it myself. I don’t have an endless… like back in the days at Arista [Records], where, you know, you could go get on the pinball machine all day. ‘Fuck it, I don’t want to do anything. I’m just gonna play pinball.’ And you knew someone was – well, ultimately, we’re paying for it. All the records Starfish sold, and we don’t see any… They’re having the last laugh.
So, it was a lot of fun. I love playing with these guys. I see it like this: Gareth Koch & Roger Mason play all kinds of things, and I sit in the control room and give them some direction, sometimes, to try and get what I want. And they’re very open to trying to do what I want.
The better the musician, the more amenable he is to trying things. Very experienced, and very uptight, and very mature musicians, if you say, ‘Can you do something different?’ They’re like, ‘Oh my god! You don’t like what I’ve done?!?’ Whereas, these guys, they’re like, ‘Yeah, what do you want?’ So, I like to work with players who want to chase the ideas I can hear in my head.
Because I’m really an ideas man, more than a musician. I can play guitar, and play a bit of bass, but really, I’m an ideas man. I dream up context for really good musicians to play in, that’s kind of what I do.
I sort of work in a very typical way. I get stoned, and I have these visions that are fresh, that, ‘I want to do it this way…’
QRO: Did you write & make it during the pandemic?
SK: Yeah. I think I’ve made four records during the pandemic. It was all done last year and this year.
QRO: Did the pandemic affect your writing at all?
SK: No. Well, not that I’m writing about the pandemic.
It affected my writing in this sense: Normally, before the pandemic, I was on tour all the time. So, playing bass guitar every night, and the last thing I want to do in my off-hours was write songs & stuff.
However, with the absence of touring, I started playing my acoustic twelve-string guitar a real, real lot, for Instagram shows. And then I started writing a lot of songs in a way I haven’t written for a while. Of just, you know, the classic singer-songwriter, the guy sitting down with a guitar and going, ‘[strum] Oh baby, I love you…’ Rather than writing with a band where everybody sits down, and you go, ‘Hey, let’s jam along.’ And you’re jamming, all the instruments are playing, and then you go, ‘Okay, let’s work on this.’
So, in that sense, yes, because I’ve sort of rediscovered how important playing an acoustic guitar is to me. Because I started writing songs on bass. But just going back to the basic thing of just a person and a guitar, there’s a real strength in writing that way, I think.
Because I’m really an ideas man, more than a musician.
QRO: I gotta ask: 23 tracks, an hour & 23 minutes – you didn’t think about cutting down the record?…
SK: I tell you this: Once upon a time, records were like 40 minutes long, because that’s all you could get on vinyl. And, for some reason, that is a very good length. It seems that the human attention span for music is about 40 minutes. I admit that. 40 minutes was a good random spot, and then it worked out well.
When CDs first became available, we started putting a lot more tracks on them. And indeed, the feedback we were getting back was, ‘Oh, we don’t like so many tracks.’ I never thought that would have been possible.
However, when I bought Sandinista! by The Clash, I do remember going, ‘Oh, yeah, maybe…’
Having said all that, I had all these tracks. It’s probably quite a hard listen, to listen to the whole damn thing all the way through. But they’re all there, now. I don’t know if people even listen to albums all the way through anymore.
It’s crazy if you go and order a half a bowl of soup, and the guy comes back and there’s a full bowl of soup, you go, ‘I don’t want all this soup, I only asked for half of it!’ If you don’t want to listen to it all, don’t listen to it all.
I wanted to do something preposterous. I wanted to go, ‘Look at me! I’m making a sprawling double-album that’s twenty-three songs, it lasts for an hour-and-a-half, that’s how prolific I am.’ I’ve just got music flowing out of me, and that’s a statement, of doing that.
I refuse to be limited to people being, ‘The guy who wrote “Under the Milky Way”.’ I can write fucking twenty songs in a week, if I want to. I’m very creative. I’m writing lots of songs. Here it is, twenty-three songs, suck it up if you don’t like it.
And if you do, you can get stoned, put the headphones on, and for an hour-and-fifteen minutes or whatever, you can disappear into this world I’ve created.
So, yes, it is quite preposterous, I understand that. It’s probably more than people wanted.
QRO: Why did you decide to release it as “Steve Kilbey & The Winged Heels”?
SK: Well, what have you got? It could have been “The Winged Heels,” and then I don’t feel my part in it. It’s my record, with The Winged Heels. It’s like ‘Bob Dylan and The Band.’ It’s ‘Ian Dury and The Blockheads.’
They’re very important. After being in the wings on Eleven Women, the album before that that I did, they’re there, playing on it. This time, I thought their contribution is, they should be sharing the marquee space with me. But still, the people understand it’s my baby, but these are the guys that helped me do it, they’re really important.
QRO: And how was making also-this-year’s Jupiter 13 with Martin Kennedy?
SK: Completely different. Jupiter 13 is, Martin Kennedy goes, ‘Steve, do you want to make another album?’ ‘Yes, I do.’ ‘Okay, how about’ whatever month it was last year? I go, ‘Yeah.’ ‘I’ve got a great studio. Let’s convene there.’ He turns up. And we rent a car, we drive up to the studio an hour outside Sydney. We have two days booked, I think?
We sit down, and he goes, ‘Here’s the first track,’ and this complete track comes on. It’s strange; some people write pieces of music, and then they send it to me, and go, ‘Would you like to sing on this?’ And what they’ve given me is an instrumental track. It’s different, though – Martin doesn’t have instrumentals. He has these carefully carved-out tracks where you can see exactly where he knows the singing will be, knows where the chorus will be, knows where no singing will be. It’s not a random thing. He’s done all the spade work, and then you sing on it.
He turned up with all these tracks, I would smoke a joint, the first track would come on, and I’d go in and sing it, and do some backing vocals, and bang! The second track, smoke another joint, listen to it.
I don’t know what it is. I recorded eleven songs in two days. The engineer’s going, ‘I don’t know how you do this?’ I’ve been doing it for a long time. How does a great archer hit the bullseye? How does a jeweler look at a diamond and know exactly the way to do the chiseling? It’s sort of after a long, long time of doing this…
I’ve always been fascinated with words. I have kind of a syndrome called ‘Semantic Hyperpriming’, SHP. It’s one of the indices of madness, is people who connect unconnected words together.
When I start writing a lyric, it all comes to me very quickly. I’ve become really good as a melodist, too. But often, the track will come on, and something in me will sort of supply the melody on the spot. It’s just finding the right words & syllables.
I wanted to do something preposterous.
And because the music Martin provided had a sort of ‘sci-fi feeling,’ I sort of fell into that thing of these lyrics could tell some sort of ambiguous science fiction story about this event, or this place, Jupiter 13. You don’t spell it out too much; it’s not really necessary. You just give them little hints. Each song becomes a little hint in this sort of puzzle of Jupiter 13.
It all fell together. By the next afternoon, it was all done. Martin took away, and did his stuff. I don’t play any instruments at all. It’s a very good division of labor. A long time ago, Martin said, “Would you like to play something” on one of the records we were making. I went, “No. I think it’s really perfect that you do all the music, and I do all the singing.” Sometimes, he takes it back, and does a little bit of singing over the top. Or gets a girl in. He always gets this same girl in, who’s got this wonderful sad, sort of naïve voice who sings along with me. I really enjoyed that. It was all done really quick. People really loved that record.
I have to work quickly. I have spent so much time… if you added up all the time I’ve spent in studios, seriously, it’d probably be like five years! Some of those Church albums took three months to make.
I don’t like hanging round the studios. I really like being in charge. I like doing things my way. Martin’s got his way of working, too – I like that. I hate it when you go into a studio, and nobody’s in charge, there’s no modus operandi. It’s very frustrating.
I have kind of a syndrome called ‘Semantic Hyperpriming’, SHP. It’s one of the indices of madness, is people who connect unconnected words together.
QRO: You say you like being in charge, yet you have done a ton of collaborations. How have you been able to do that?
SK: I’m in charge of my bit. Most of the collaborations I do, like with Jeffrey Cain, when Isidore, Martin Kennedy, and GB3, there’s a new one of those, there’s a guy in Australia called Glenn Bennie, has a fantastic band called undergroundLOVERS, our second collaboration is finished & ready – when I work with those guys, I’m strictly a singer, lyricist, melodist, and those guys provide for all the music.
When I’m trying to share music and writing with someone, that’s when it gets a little tricky. I tried that with Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs), who came out to Australia to do some recording with me, and the lack of knowing who was going to do what… Eventually, the best and only track we really wrote was one where he wrote this piano piece and said, “There, you sing on that.” And then I sang on it. He didn’t have anything to do with the words, and I didn’t have anything to do music. So, once again, I’m falling back on that thing that I really like.
I love it when people have got pieces of music, and I can sing on it. To just walk into a studio with a couple of guitars and another guy, I think it might be hard going.
QRO: And you just have so many published songs – are you always writing?
There’s a very quite famous & popular dance guy, who I’m not gonna say right now because I don’t know the status of what we’re doing – two weeks ago, he contacted me and said, “I’ve got some tracks, if you wanna sing on them.” I went, “Yeah.” He sent me the tracks, and I went in the studio and did these seven tracks. I didn’t write all the songs, cause he’d written the backing tracks, but I’m always working like that.
I’ll get my guitar out and write little things. I’ll think of ideas and put them down in my phone or something. No matter what it seems I’m doing, I’m always in somewhere, some part of me, is collecting things to put into a song, or to use for lyrics. When I have a conversation – even if the police pull me over and go, [mock authority voice] “Good evening sir, what’s your hurry tonight?” I’m sort of going, ‘Wow – “What’s your hurry tonight,” could that be used?…’
I remember when I was a very small kid, and my mother was speaking to me, and I thought, everything she says, everything anybody says, I see it on this reel. I see the words…
If you added up all the time I’ve spent in studios, seriously, it’d probably be like five years!
QRO: Like subtitles?
SK: Yeah, subtitles! As you’re saying that, I’m seeing subtitles going past.
I’ve always had this sort of thing with words. Always collecting, looking for phrases, rolling over things in my head. So, when I am ready to write a song, sometimes it can seem like, ‘Bang! How did he get that?’ But it’s actually, things have been percolating for a while in my head.
I mean, songwriting is my vocation. I always say this, I always wanted to be a songwriter, right from the word go. I was getting ready to be a songwriter. Unlike other people, when I listen to all records I like, I wasn’t wondering, ‘Oh man, the guitar…’ I’m wondering how was the song written.
Mere instrumental prowess, especially on a fucking electric guitar, doesn’t particularly impress me. Someone going [air guitar sounds] is like, that is so much easier to do than having a C, F and G and write “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall”.
I’m a songwriter by vocation. I didn’t know anything about songwriting. I didn’t know songwriters made more money than the rest of the band, or anything. I just wanted to write songs, and that’s what I am: I’m a songwriter. First & foremost, I’m a songwriter.
I reckon I write fucking good lyrics. Even my worst lyrics are better than most of the garbage that other people write. My lyrics, they’re always considered. There’s always a twist, and there’s always wordplay, and literary references. You can go on listening to my lyrics forever, and you’ll never completely work them out. There’s always little things happening in there.
It’s never, [mock high singer voice] “My baby likes to rock / And I got a big cock!” My songs aren’t about that. They’re impressionistic; they’re fleeting, ambiguous, you know, sort of strange, dream-like things. The very best songwriters, I imitate them.
QRO: Have you been able to play some solo shows this month?
SK: I was doing solo, completely on my own, solo shows until the Delta variant, and now it’s all gone.
I am a reasonably accomplished solo artist now. I didn’t used to be that good, because I jumped straight in playing in bands. I would say 90% of musicians, songwriters start off strumming an acoustic guitar and playing on their own, and then they join a band. But I was straight in a band, playing bass and writing songs. I wasn’t that great at playing acoustic guitar and accompanying myself. I was sort of a bit unreliable.
Especially because the bass timing is so ingrained in me. Playing an acoustic guitar is kind of the opposite of that, for me, anyway. I have to still retrain myself. It’s like a slightly different language than the bass, which I’m so locked into. It’s so easy for me to play the bass and sing; playing acoustic guitar, I have to step back and concentrate more.
I was doing solo shows. I was doing some shows where I played the first two, or first four, Church [albums], with annotations. Just the acoustic guitar, and my memories, my recollections, my reminiscences of the days, and the technologies, and the times. And how it was to be in 1981, forty years ago, making a record with Bob Clearmountain, who was, and still is, one of the most famous producers in the world. I do all the songs, and people can hear them in a sort of ‘stripped back, intimate’ way.
I reckon I write fucking good lyrics. Even my worst lyrics are better than most of the garbage that other people write.
QRO: What is it like playing Church albums in full, but solo? You say you tell stories?…
SK: I do. I tell stories about the songs, and the people. You know, ‘When this song was a single, all the things that happened, fame, and pre-fame’ – I sort of try to get them all in there. I don’t just play the songs, but I try and talk about them, and joke around. I’m a bit of a comedian as well. So, I like to make people laugh.
Take them on a whole gamut. Bit of a laugh, bit of a tear of nostalgia. I blow my own horn a bit, and say, ‘I’m the important one in the band! Those other guys, they didn’t do anything! It was all me!…’ It was a good chance to do that…
QRO: [laughs] But you were also able to some shows with The Winged Heels?
SK: The Winged Heels did some shows, and I did some shows on my own.
I’m also a gun-for-hire as a singer, believe it or not. I sing David Bowie songs with an orchestra – there’s an endless demand for David Bowie, oh my god! And I’ve signed up for some Beatles ones, too. So, I’ll be singing David Bowie, The Beatles, whoever you like… Leonard Cohen – whoever you need me for, I’m there. If I can do it, I’ll be doing it.
So, gun-for-hire, singing other people’s songs, playing all on my own with a twelve-string, doing shows with The Winged Heels. And also, if The Church can do a gig, then we’ll be doing a gig, too. So, I’ve got many irons in the fire.
QRO: You also were doing a series of Instagram livestreams – how were those?
SK: They started off with a bang, and sort of ended up with a whimper… [laughs]
At first, people were really generous. They were very generous. And then I guess the novelty wore off, and now they’re not so generous. But, believe me, they really sustained me through some difficult times. So, I’m very grateful.
And as I said, it sort of reawakened my love for acoustic guitar, and singing, being a sort of ‘singer/songwriter’ kind of thing. Nothing’s gonna last forever, but I’m certainly grateful, last year, that those shows got me through some really rough times.
I know it’s silly, after this incredible blast of egotism that this interview has been, but people were saying to me that the shows were really helping. It’s always a thing sometimes you can forget about. ‘Me, me, me, me,’ but then, there are people out there, actually every Monday night when I would play, people in America getting up at 4:00 AM, people in Europe staying up ‘til midnight or whatever to catch the shows. And people writing to me, going, ‘This has really has been something I look forward to. Please don’t stop.’ It was, I figure, a good thing. I’m really glad it was there.
I’m still going, Monday nights, Australian Eastern Standard Time of seven o’clock, I’m still doing shows. But it’s sort of petering out a bit.
I know it’s silly, after this incredible blast of egotism that this interview has been, but people were saying to me that the [Instagram livestreams] were really helping.
QRO: Knowing how to end those things, I know that’s tough for a lot of musicians.
SK: Well, I did end, and then the lockdown came back, so I started up again. I think every time there’s gonna be anything like this lockdown, I think you’ll find me playing once a week on Instagram. For a little bit of money, and a whole lot of solidarity with the people who say to me that I make a difference, hearing my songs, having a bit of a giggle. I have a bit of a laugh when I do Instagram. They have a bit of fun, and I enjoy myself, and we all feel a bit of connection. So, yeah, I’ll keep it going.
QRO: With so many published songs, are there many that you’ve never played live in concert?
SK: Oh, millions! It surprises people.
Say it’s like a thousand – it’s probably a lot more than that, now, but say there’s a thousand songs I’ve had that are actually extant on records. I mean, there’s another thousand that never got anywhere.
Say there are a thousand songs. It would really shock people to find out that, at any one time, I can probably only play about thirty or forty of them, all the way through. I don’t know them all. I don’t remember all the words, or if I were to remember the words, I wouldn’t remember the chords, or how they go, or the tempos & stuff.
I pretty much write ‘em & forget ‘em. If I need some of them, obviously, I relearn and they come back into the repertoire.
QRO: As other ones are forgotten…
SK: Martin Kennedy, for example, just put out a new record of bits & pieces, and there were two complete songs on there that I had sung, and written words, and harmonies, and the whole bit – that I had completely forgotten about. He’s put on this new record, and hearing them the other day, out of the blue, I didn’t remember anything about them…
People do ask for songs, and I go, ‘Look, I don’t know it anymore.’ And sometimes they don’t believe me.
QRO: Do you have fans who shout requests for songs of yours that you don’t even know how to play anymore?
SK: Yeah. People do ask for songs, and I go, ‘Look, I don’t know it anymore.’ And sometimes they don’t believe me.
I couldn’t see how it could be possible for someone to know a thousand songs at one point in time. It seems kind of unlikely. My memory can’t contain them all.
QRO: Fans, they don’t want to shout for the obvious songs – they want to shout for something obscure…
SK: Oh yeah, like a really rare… That’s always been a ploy, to yell out for those sort of things.
And then there’s the ones who yell out for the obvious ones, go, “‘Under the Milky Way’!” all night long…
I saw Todd Rundgren play some gig in Hollywood where I played myself later on. There was a guy down front going, “‘Hello It’s Me’! ‘Hello It’s Me’!” And then Todd goes, “Oh, is that you?…”
You gotta love audiences. Where would you be without ‘em?…
QRO: [laughs] Well, we’ve seen in the last year…
SK: I’m mercifully deaf. A lot of stuff people yell out, I can’t hear anymore. It’s like, ‘Yell out whatever you fucking like – I can’t hear it…’
You know, you pay your money. Maybe you’re annoying the people around you who don’t want to hear you, but I don’t care. If you can get over the top of The Church, with all the racket that we make, good luck to ya…
I’d rather have people bellowing out stupid requests than have no people there, that’s for sure…