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Marty on Art and Art Attack with B-Side Print E-mail
Wednesday, 01 February 1989
>From B-Side magazine, Feb/Mar 1989

Marty Willson-Piper: Art for Art's Sake
by Brian Greenlee

"Art lies in concealing art." -- Ovid

During a hiatus in the Church's lengthy touring promoting their most successful
album to date, Starfish, guitarist Marty Willson-Piper embarked on a short solo
stint to showcase his latest album Art Attack (Rykodisc).

Sitting huddled over in the cavern-like dressing room backstage at
Philadelphia's Revival, the alternately acerbic and affable Willson-Piper
expounded on a variety of subjects.

B-Side: Why a solo acoustic tour in the middle of The Church tour?
Marty Willson-Piper: I couldn't afford an air ticket home!

B-Side: Why couldn't you?
Marty: Cause it's fifteen hundred bucks!

B-Side: So where did you hook up with your sideman Andy Mason? 
Marty: Oh, I've known him for, like, 28 years.

B-Side: Were you ever in a band together?
Marty: (sly grin) Yeah, in nineteen-thirty ahhh . . . Yeah, we were in the
seventies. We just grew up together. He's actually a recording engineer that
works at the Townhouse studio in London but we work on my solo albums together.

B-Side: Some people will be surprised to hear that you're from Liverpool.
Marty: (affecting accent) Yeah, that's why I talk like that, ya know wot I mean?

B-Side: I think that many people assume that everyone in the Church is from
Australia.
Marty: No, it's the great, long-lost best kept secret: I am actually from
Liverpool!

B-Side: But now you live in Stockholm? It must make it kinda tough to get
around.
Marty: No, they've got this great new invention called the airplane!

B-Side: Oh yeah?
Marty: Like 24 hours and there you are in the recording studio!

B-Side: How. much time are you able to spend in Stockholm during the year?
Marty: Ah, well, this has been the most ridiculously hectic touring schedule one
could ever imagine. I get there on and off. I would normally go back now but it
just seemed appropriate, seeing how I have an album out and you know, I felt
like doing something like this. And it was going to cost me a couple of grand to
get back there and see my girlfriend for three minutes then I would have to
leave. And it didn't seem like a good idea.

B-Side: To switch gears, what were you trying to achieve on Art Attack that was
different from your first album In Reflection? A different focus?
Marty: Yeah, I mean they're sort of very different records, you know? In
Reflection was more of a kind of a catalogue of bedrooms. Art Attack's more of a
. . . it's more of an exercise in diversity for myself. I tried to make a record
that was kinda focused and diverse at the same time. Hence, the picture of Jean
Cocteau, the great literary giant; the invisibility, the paradox of art in
Modern America.

B-Side: Hmmm, that's a good quote! Why the references to Oscar Wilde on both
records?
Marty: Coincidence!

B-Side: Strictly coincidence?
Marty: You know, Oscar Wilde was an undiscovered man. An unaccepted talent. He
was more famous for his antics than he was for what he actually wrote. He grew
through his 20's and 30's, and he became more famous as a dandy-ish type, more
famous for his "dandies" than he was for his wonderful ideas.

B-Side: Do you think you're more well known for your antics than your work?
Marty: Antics!? What do you mean by antics?

B-Side: Notoriety? Do you think you have a sense of notoriety a la Wilde?
Marty: I dunno. It's hard to take any kind of art seriously in the eighties
because if you do you're pretentious and if you don't you're a fool, you know?

B-Side: Do you ever feel artistically confined in The Church, hence the solo
work? In other words, you're doing things solo that you couldn't or wouldn't
want to do within the confines of a band?
Marty: You know, I'd like to open up a fish and chips shop but I haven't got the
time (affects heavy accent again) Ya know, it's the Liverpool in me comin' out!

B-Side: What's the biggest difference, for yourself, in the studio between
recording solo as opposed to being with the band?
Marty: I write the songs. I'm the singer, the director, the lyricist, the
conceptual man, the, you know, the . . .

B-Side: Everything?
Marty: Yeah! I do everything, with Andy's help. Andy does the harmonies, plays a
bit of keyboards and stuff. But I sort of do it mostly myself.

B-Side: And with the Church is it four separate entities that come together?
Marty: Sort of, yeah! We all have quite different ideas about the world and
music. Which makes life interesting. Rather like the colors in this room!

B-Side: Have you ever worried about commercial success?
Marty: (sighs) Of course not! Of course not! It's actually more of a cliche to
be worried about commercial success than it is a cliche to have commercial
success!

B-Side: In what way?
Marty: In what way? Well, "credibility" is a word invented by the critics,
people who are sitting there writing their opinions about things without
actually contributing to art itself. And, if success isn't credible, then
critics aren't human.

B-Side: After eight years with the Church, what would you say is the secret to
staying together? Commercially, the Church, until Starfish, hadn't cracked the
U.S. Was there ever a point where you felt like packing it in?
Marty: Sure! The secret to staying together is, umm, writing good songs from the
day you start. I think (with) the Church, and everybody involved in the Church .
. . the musical pursuit has always been to write a good song and, if you're
surrounded by good material, it's hard to break up.

B-Side: Have you made the perfect Church album? Do you think you ever will?
Marty: Perfection doesn't exist.

B-Side: What is your favorite Church album?
Marty: Slippery When Wet!

B-Side: Why did you put the song "Fear" both forwards and backwards on Art
Attack?
Marty: I did it to annoy everybody! If it's one thing I hate it's albums that
conform!

B-Side: Conform? Musically?
Marty: Yeah! I mean, you'll never hear anything beautiful on a Sonic Youth
record (laughter) which . . . is actually what is wrong with them, you know? In
the things that I'm doing I'm prepared to be very, very beautiful and very ugly
in the same moment, 'cause that's what the world's like.

For example, there's a song on the first album called "Traveling Through the Sea
of Sun Machines," which is, first of all, I like it and that's good enough
reason for it to be there. I like to mess around with things like that. I like
things that I don't know where they're going to go. I like the idea of a lot of
German experimental groups in the early seventies who did amazingly interesting
bizarre things with 25 minute drum beats and chanting and screeching. One of my
favorite bands is Amon Duul, who were a really really interesting innovative
avant-garde German band. As much as they did stuff like that, they made these
really beautiful songs. They made an album called Psychedelic Underground which
is so bizarre. It's like a controlled racket or uncontrolled racket. It's like
Einsturzende Neubauten: What's the point in hitting this?

I think there's more of a relevancy to any band of artistic expression if it's
balanced with its extreme; within its own context.

That's what I really tried to do with Art Attack. Art Attack is actually a
subtle concept album, in the breadth of things I try to cover. It's got a pop
tune on it, an experimental nine-minute tune on it. It's got a soundscape, some
performance poetry, sung in a foreign language, short songs, a big love ballad,
a country song, a political song. It's got a drum-machine song that is kind of
other worldly. It covers all these places, which, I think, a lot of people who
call themselves artists are afraid to go. And an artist should never be afraid
to go anywhere.

I think the whole point of being an artist is being able to say "I can be
involved in classicism or expressionism." You can do anything, which is what is
wrong with surrealism, which is why I hate surrealism. Be cause it's totally
committed to destruction. It's committed to conforming to nonconformism. Which
is more conformist than anything! 'Cause not only is it conforming it's
contrived! And Dali's a fascist!

B-Side: So there is no one mood you try to evoke in an album?
Marty: I think I proved with Art Attack that you can make a focus within
diversity!
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