Steve Kilbey

Steve Kilbey

born on 13/9/1954 in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, England, United Kingdom

Steve Kilbey

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Steve Kilbey

Steven John Kilbey (born 13 September 1954) is the lead singer-songwriter and bass guitarist for The Church, an Australian rock band. He is also a music producer, poet and painter.[1]

Early music career: Saga, Precious Little, Baby Grande and Tactics

Following his birth in Welwyn Garden City, England, UK, Kilbey was brought to Australia by his parents at the age of five years, and grew up around Dapto, before living with his family in Canberra. He began his professional music career at 17 years of age, when he joined a five piece "cabaret band" called 'Saga' in Canberra.[2] Around 1973 he joined 'Precious Little', a rock band featuring future Church bandmate Peter Koppes on drums.[3]

This was followed by Kilbey forming 'Baby Grande' around 1978 while still living in the A.C.T.[4] Koppes was also in Baby Grande for a time but left to travel, then played in a band called Limazine which brought him in touch with future Church drummer Nick Ward. Baby Grande recorded some demos for EMI Australia in 1977 but were not signed to a permanent recording contract. Baby Grande's demos surfaced on the internet after about 30 years, and despite initial protests from Kilbey, he has now made four of the five tracks available on his solo compilation album of early work Addendaone (2012).

Kilbey was also (while working as a computer programmer) a member of the new wave band Tactics for about a month in 1977.[5] He played 'about four gigs' with Tactics before being asked to leave by the band's singer and songwriter Dave Studdert.

The Church

Kilbey formed The Church, together with Koppes, Nick Ward, and Marty Willson-Piper, in Sydney in the late 1970s. After some success in their native Australia in the early 1980s, Kilbey and The Church went on to international fame when "Under the Milky Way", from the 1988 album Starfish, achieved success (Kilbey had co-written the song with Karin Jansson of Pink Champagne and Curious Yellow[6]). "Under the Milky Way" appeared in the top-selling singles charts of both Australia and the United States (US). In late 2011 Kilbey revealed that, at the time of the interview, the song was still used for television programmes and advertisements.[7]

After recording the Gold Afternoon Fix album in the USA and touring to support it with the Church until mid-1990, Kilbey returned to Australia and made the Jack Frost album with Grant McLennan. He then went on a solo acoustic tour of the US, playing mostly clubs. After this tour, he and McLennan toured the USA together on the back of the Jack Frost project. The Jack Frost band name was derived from mutual friend of Kilbey and McLennan, Joel Eaves of Canberra, whose expression of "another Jack Frost day in Oceana", became a popular Sydney expression during the period.[8] In 1990 Kilbey began to use heroin around the time of his girlfriend Karin Jansson's pregnancy.[9] His use of this drug continued through the recording of The Church's album Gold Afternoon Fix and beyond.

Kilbey had recorded much of his solo work at his home studio in Rozelle, Sydney until around the release of his album "Narcosis", which was recorded at his new 'proper' 24 -track studio in Surry Hills, Sydney. He also worked as a produced with artists such as Melbourne singer Margot Smith and Canadian singer Mae Moore. He also produced the albums by Hex, Curious Yellow and Jack Frost.

In late 2012, as act of protest against the conduct of the Church's North American label Second Motion Records, Kilbey announced his resignation from the band.The announcement was made on Kilbey's Facebook fan page following the receipt of an insufficient royalty cheque from the record label.[10] Kilbey placed the incident in the broader context of the music industry:

it seems(tho its hard to tell) that the church might have brought in 30 or 40 grand ( i mean starfish alone brought in 6000 on itunes)but the members of the group got 100 bucks each. i mean he couldnt give us nothing to he came up with 100 bucks each. i am insulted. i have decided to leave the church. this is not a joke. i will complete the current tour and then im done. i implore you all not to buy any records from second motion records. as you see none of it will come to us. same as it ever was.[11]

However, the Church continued as an active band and, in November 2013, Kilbey published an official announcement on his Facebook fan page stating that Willson-Piper was replaced by former Powderfinger member Ian Haug. Kilbey explained that Haug would join the band for the recording of a new album, for which he had 16 songs written, as well as subsequent touring, and also defended the decision in the statement: "if you cant dig it I'm sorry. this is my f--ing band after all and it has existed at times without Peter and in the beginning without Marty. and for times in between while he went AWOL."[12]

Solo work

Kilbey has released 14 solo music albums, one EP and has collaborated on recordings with musical artists such as Martin Kennedy, Stephen Cummings and Ricky Maymi as a vocalist, musician, writer and/or producer.[13][14] Ian McFarlane writes that "Kilbey's solo recordings [are] challenging and evocative. They ran the gamut of sounds and emotions from electronic and avant-garde to acoustic and symphonic, joyous and dreamy to saturnine and sardonic".[15]

Kilbey issued his debut solo single, 'This Asphalt Eden'/'Never Come Back', 'Shell', in July 1985. Originally issued by EMI/Parlophone, the single was rereleased by the Red Eye label in November 1987. The same year red Eye issued Kilbey's first two solo albums. Unearthed (January) and Earthed (June), the mini-album The Slow Crack (December and his second single 'Fireman'/Forgetfulness', 'Nonapalogy' (November). Issued simultaneously with Earthed was a book of the same name containing Kilbey's prose and poetry (published in 1986); the album consists of instrumental electronic music and features another composition that was co-written by Jansson, "The Empire Mourns Her Sun Without Tears". The Earthed album was conceived as a possible soundtrack to the reading of the book, which had come first in terms of conception.[16]

Following the worldwide success of The Church's Starfish album and 'Under the Milky Way' single, Kilbey returned to his solo career with the singel 'transaction'/'Nu Such Thing' (June 1989) and the 12-inch version of 'Transaction' with two extra tracks (July 1989). 'Transaction' was from The Slow Crack and 'No Such Thing' was lifted from Kilbey's third solo album, the CD/double album Remindlessness (December 1989).The double album version contained two tracks ('Random Pan' and 'Pain in My temples') not included on the later CD version. Also, in 1989, Kilbey collaborated with singer Donette Thayer on the album Hex - the first of two albums they would release together with their duo also being known as Hex.[16]

In 1990, Kilbey collaborated with one-time Go-Betweens songwriter Grant McLennan as the duo Jack frost, which resulted in the album Jack frost (December) and the single 'Every Hour God Sends' (November) on red Eye. Jack Frost issued a second album, Snow Job, in 1996. In dec 1991, Kilbey issued the scarce CD EP Narcosis, his last solo release for the red Eye label.[16]

Kilbey then set up his Karmic Hit studio and label and continued to be involved in a wide range of projects. These included Margot Smith's Sleeping with the Lions album (as player and producer), Fake's self-titled album (as producer), CURIOUS (yellow) (as writer and producer), the Brett Whiteley tribute album Strange Brew (as contributor of the poem 'Season in Hell'), Stephen Cummings' Falling Swinger and Escapist albums (as producer, co-writer and player), Kev Carmody's Images and Illusions album (as producer and player) and as writer and producer of the soundtrack for the 1977 feature film Blackrock.[16]

In May 1997, the Vicious Sloth label issued the Kilbey Cd Narcosis Plus (a reissue of the Narcosis CD EP plus three unissued tracks from th same sessions). Kilbey also collaborated with brothr Russell on the ambient instrumental/electornic album Gilt Trip. (1997) [16]

Kilbey's solo albums have been released on various record labels, such as his own 'The Time Being' label, Karmic Hit, North America's Second Motion Records and Melbourne, Australia's Rubber Records.[14]

Alongside Australian artists such as Dan Kelly, The Herd and Archie Roach, Kilbey was one of the contributors to the 2007 Kev Carmody album Cannot Buy My Soul: The Songs Of Kev Carmody. Kilbey recorded a rendition of the song "Images of London" and also performed at the Sydney and Brisbane, Australia concerts for the album.[1]

Other projects

Kilbey has founded numerous musical projects in addition to The Church, such as Jack Frost, with the late Grant McLennan of Brisbane, Australia band The Go-BetweensJack Frost released its debut self-titled album in 1991 and released another full-length album, Snow Job prior to McLennan's death.[17] Hex (with Donnette Thayer), Gilt Trip (with his brother Russell Kilbey) and Isidore are other examples of Kilbey's musical ventures beyond his primary band.[18]

Between 2009 and 2013, Kilbey has released three collaborative albums with Martin Kennedy of All India Radio.[19] Kennedy explained the inception of the working relationship in a 2013 interview: "I was working with Steve long before I actually met him. Steve had heard All India Radio, and he asked my brother John if I had any spare instrumental songs lying around that he could contribute lyrics to." Kennedy subsequently sent Kilbey thrown-away tracks from All India Radio recording sessions.[20]


In addition to Earthed, Kilbey published a book of poetry in 1998 entitled Nineveh/The Ephemeron; Kilbey later republished a hard copy version that contained both books and a limited number of 50 copies was released.[21] In 2013 he released the ironically titled Uncollected which collects all his previously published writings.


The popular song "Under the Milky Way" won the "Best Single of the Year" award at the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) awards event in 1989. For his work with The Church, Kilbey then accepted, together with his bandmates, an induction into the ARIA "Hall of Fame" in 2010Kilbey delivered a lengthy speech as part of the induction that included stories from his musical career and a sung verse from the song "Old Man Emu" by Australian country music artist John Williamson.[22]

In 2011, the Australian Songwriters Association inducted Kilbey into the Australian Songwriters Hall Of Fame[23] and Kilbey performed a live rendition of the song with a backing band at the awards ceremony.[24]

Personal life

Kilbey has resided in Australia; Stockholm, Sweden; and Los Angeles, US. name="Reid">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref Kilbey has twin daughters (Elektra and Miranda) by his ex-girlfriend and recording partner (as (CURIOUS) Yellow) Karin Jansson; these older daughters have a popular dance-oriented duo called Say Lou Lou and record in their homeland of Sweden.

As documented in the authorised biography No Certainty Attached (written with Kilbey's involvement), Kilbey was dependent on the drug heroin during the 1990s, an aspect of the musician's personal life that was mostly hidden until Kilbey was arrested on a drug-related charge in 1999 in New York City, US. Kilbey eventually ceased using the drug after a period of detoxification in 2000.[25] In a 2012 interview, Kilbey reflected on his personal history: "I also have a lot of regret that I didn't do it better, that I wasn't a better person, that I wasn't nicer to people or make better records and that at times I would slack off and just do any old thing. I wish I hadn't made so many mistakes with the drugs."[26]


Early in Kilbey's career, many of his lyrics touched upon mysticism. Examples include the lyrics for "Tear It All Away", a 1981 composition that appeared on the Church's Australian single "Too Fast for You" and their first US album. His study of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, while he was immersed in occult exploration, is reflected in the 1982 instrumental "The Golden Dawn" (originally a b-side, but later included on the Church's Hindsight compilation and reissues/remasters of The Blurred Crusade). Kilbey's longstanding interest in the writings of Aleister Crowley appears in his songwriting up until 2003the line "They say that in the future, every man and woman will be a star" (from "Song in Space") is Kilbey paraphrasing verse I:3 of Crowley's The Book of the Law.[27]

Kilbey has revealed that he and Richard Ploog often visited Sydney's Adyar Bookshop (bookshop of the Theosophical Society) during the 1980s to read books by occultist and mystical authors such as Helena P. Blavatsky, George Gurdjieff and P.D. Ouspensky.[28] Likewise, spiritual mysticism is evident in the lyrics of songs such as "Invisible" from 2002 (first appeared on After Everything Now This), with its refrain: "All I ever wanted to see was just invisible to me." Kilbey's lyrics often quote historical and mythological events, and his interest in Eastern culture and religion frequently informs his musicthis also applies to his painting (he often paints Hindu gods and goddesses).

More recently, Kilbey's music features Christian references. In 2009, on stage at The Toff in Town venue in Melbourne, Australia for his performance with Martin Kennedy[disambiguation needed]released on DVDKilbey declares just prior to the encore: "Thank you, Lord! Thank you Jesus!" Furthermore, an indirect Jesus reference appears in the song "African Jesus" from Kilbey's 2013 album The Idyllist.



  • Unearthed (1986)
  • Earthed (1987). The original vinyl release featured 20 tracks intended as a " possible soundtrack" to kilbey's poetry book of the same title. The Second Motion Records 2009 CD release is expanded and features 26 tracks including some untitled poetry readings by Kilbey.
  • The Slow Crack (1989)
  • Remindlessness (1990)
  • Narcosis EP (1991)
  • Narcosis + (1997)
  • Acoustic & Intimate (2000) (Note: Kilbey's record label also released VHS and NTSC video versions of this performance - see Karmic Hit)
  • Dabble (2001)
  • Freaky Conclusions (2003)
  • Painkiller (2008)
  • Art, Man + Technology (2009)
  • Garage Sutra (2012)
  • Addenda One (2012)
  • Addenda Two (2012)
  • The Idyllist (2013)
  • Live At The Fly By Night Club (2013) A collaborative live album with The Hoffmen with Strings Attached.
  • Miscellanaea - Whispers In The Static (2014)



  • Vivid (2012)
  • Comeback Soundtrack (2012)
  • A Song For Jade (2012)


  • Artifacts (2006)
  • Monsters N Mirages box set (2010)[14] - released with a bonus mp3 collection The Bedroom Demos

Other projects

Hex (with Donnette Thayer from Game Theory)

  • Hex (1989)
  • Vast Halos (1990)

Curious (Yellow) (with Karin Jansson)

  • Taken By Surprise (1990)
  • Charms and Blues (1990)
  • Love Itself (1991) - Single.

Jack Frost (with Grant McLennan of The Go-Betweens):

  • Jack Frost (1991)
  • Snow Job (1996)

Fake (with Sandy Chick):

  • Fake (1994)

Isidore (with Remy Zero's Jeffrey Cain)

  • Isidore (2004)
  • Life Somewhere Else (2012)

Gilt Trip (with his brother Russell Kilbey)

  • Gilt Trip (1997)
  • Egyptian Register (2005)

Mimesis (with Simon Polinski, Colin Berwick and David Abiuso)

  • Art Imitating Life (2007)[31]

Steve Kilbey & Martin Kennedy

  • Unseen Music, Unheard Words (2009)
  • White Magic (2011)
  • Instrumental & Ambient Mixes (2009)
  • Live at the Toff in Town (2010) - mp3 only release.
  • You Are Everything (2013)
  • Songs From The Real World (Commissioned Songs) (2013)

GB3/Steve Kilbey: GB3 is (Underground Lovers guitarist) Glenn Bennie's collaborative musical project with Kilbey and Ricky Maymi.

  • Damage/Controlled (2010)
  • The Wilderness Years (2011)


Stephen Cummings

  • Falling Swinger - producer and writer[13]

Into The Sun (with Penny Flanagan and produced by Tim Powles of The Church)

  • Light Sleeper (1998) guest vocalist


  • "Hear In Noiseville" (2009)


  • Semaphore(2012) producer, vocalist, bass and keyboards[32]

Polaroid Kiss

  • Weakness of the Beautiful Souls (2012) - guest vocalist[33]


  • Earthed (1986)- Steve Kilbey. originally printed as a book by Kilbey and Phil Tripp. The soundtrack album to the book is Kilbey's album of the same title. An American company packaged the two together for some time and the book became a booklet sold with the album.
  • Nineveh & The Ephemeron (1999) - Steve Kilbey/Erskine Music and Word. Published by Trevor Boyd. "Nineveh" is described by Kilbey as " 'automatic' recollections of this city that has long fascinated me." "The Ephemeron" is "the adventures of Erskine the Magician".
  • Earthed, Nineveh, and The Ephemeron, 2004, Impressed Publishing, ISBN 978-0-9751618-9-0. Published by Graham Nunn.
  • Fruit Machine (2007) - Steve Kilbey (assisted by Graham Nunn).
  • Collected (2013). The Time Being. Edited by Steve Kilbey, Graham Nunn and Samantha Mayfair. This volume collects Earthed, Nineveh & The Ephemeron, and Fruit Machine together with many previously uncollected Kilbey poems, and is the most comprehensive collection of his written work to date.
  • Kate Morgan (ed) Songs from the Road: Touring Tales from Our Best Singer-Songwriters. Sydney: Pier 9/Murdoch Books, 2013. Kilbey contributes a chapter on his life on the road.


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  3. Robert Dean Lurie. No Certainty Attached: Steve Kilbey and The Church. Portland, OR: Verse Chorus Press, 2009, p. 50
  4. Robert Dean Lurie. No Certainty Attached: Steve Kilbey and The Church. Portland, OR: Verse Chorus Press, 2009, p. 51-60
  5. Robert Dean Lurie. No Certainty Attached: Steve Kilbey and The Church. Portland, OR: Verse Chorus Press, 2009, pp. 60-6250
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  9. Robert Dean Lurie. No Certainty Attached: Steve Kilbey and The Church. Portland, OR: Verse Chorus press, 2009, p. 211
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  12. Lauren Ziegler, The Church's Steve Kilbey replaces Marty Willson-Piper with Powderfinger's Ian Haug, 26 November 2013. URL accessed on 27 December 2013.
  13. 13.0 13.1 {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}
  15. Ian MacFarlane. The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. St Leonards NSW: Allen and Unwin, 1999, p. 346
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 Ian MacFarlane. The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. St Leonards NSW: Allen and Unwin, 1999, p. 346
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  27. Robert Dean Lurie. No Certainty Attached: Steve Kilbey and the Church. Portland OR: Verse Chorus Press, 2009, Ch 14 'The Golden Dawn' pp 146-49
  28. Interview with Leigh Blackmore 2013, for Spirits Undergoing Transformation: Steve Kilbey in Conversation with Chris Beal (forthcoming)
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External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Steve Kilbey

  • Official website
  • Kilbey's biography on The Church's official website
  • IMDB entry
  • Solo acoustic performance, 1986
  • Official website for Isidore
This page was last modified 14.05.2014 14:58:47

This article uses material from the article Steve Kilbey from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia and it is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.