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Marty talks to Mixdown magazine Print E-mail
Monday, 01 September 2003
Interview with Marty Willson-Piper by Joe Matera: from September issue of 'Mixdown', a free street press paper with a circulation of 25,000 nationally.

?Song In Space? is the entr?e to the new Church album ?Forget Yourself?, which will be released October 27, 2003. Released in a strictly limited edition, ?Song In Space? conjures up the enormity of a new album that has the band returning to some of it?s rock roots, whilst not leaving behind the eclectic and diverse soundscapes with which they are associated. For the privileged few that have heard ?Forget Yourself?, it has already started a corridor of excitement for one of Australia?s internationally successful bands. Joe Matera recently spoke to Marty Willson-Piper about the new album, gear and Willson-Piper?s 12-string guitar collection.

Joe: The new album ?Forget Yourself? is a return to more of the classic ?Church? early ?90?s guitar based sound. What made you decide to go in that direction?

Marty : I think what happened was after the last record that we made, ?After Everything Now This?, it ended up for some reason being a very smooth and sophisticated record. But I think what you have to understand about the Church is everything that we do is very uncontrived and the reason the band is still together after so long is because there still seems to be a lot of chemistry in our creative process. Like we kind of tend to get into the studio and somebody plays a chord then somebody else plays another one and suddenly we?re writing songs. So ?After Everything Now This? I think we decided on this record to try and make a rawer one. Although having said that, it only turned out like it in the end, we didn?t just go in there thinking that. We have this unconscious thing happening where we start trying not to do what we did last time. That?s why the Church has always been an interesting band I think. We always, as soon as we hear the formula, try and move away from it.

How did you go about approaching your guitar parts during the recording process?

I think the idea was if I thought of a guitar part I?d done before, then I wouldn?t go there. There are some very interesting guitar parts on this record like for example on ?Nothing Seeker? as well as ?The Theatre and it?s Double? which has some spanish-y guitar. Like the songs have odd rhythms and everybody in the band is doing something different and it?s like a jigsaw puzzle really. Somebody starts doing something then the other person starts to do a counter rhythm, then somebody else starts playing an off beat, then somebody starts playing a little solo and so everybody is trying to slot into this piece of complicated machinery.

Was there a lot of experimenting with mic placement in the studio?

The mic-ing techniques in the studio are pretty much a matter of?you know there?s a certain way of doing things where we start there and maybe experiment on. On this record Tim Powles our drummer who produced this record tended to be very interested in the ambient room sound of the drums which actually changed the ambience of the guitars too when we set them against the backdrop of a room mic-ed kit. Everything kind of changed just there. The fundamentals and basis of the whole sound is not sort of hi-fi, it?s more room ambience.

The vibe of the record has a very free and experimental feel to it.

The interesting thing about this record is that as the egos have dissipated and the creative process has become a labour of love, we swap instruments all the time. So for example on the opening track (Sealine) I?m playing bass, Peter is playing 12-string, Tim is playing lead guitar and Steve is singing it. And when we play ?Sealine? live, everybody swaps again ? Tim plays drums, Steve plays bass, Peter plays guitar and I play the lead guitar. So everybody learns everybody else?s parts. On ?Maya? I?m playing drums! On ?See Your Lights? I sing that song as well as play baritone guitar and Peter plays bass and Steve plays guitar. But live, Peter plays baritone guitar, Steve plays bass and I play guitar! (laughs)

What is your gear set-up like these days?

I?m the kind of guy who?s always been using those Rickenbackers but recently I?ve been using more of a 1959 Fender Jazzmaster and I?ve been using that just because it?s a great guitar. The Rickenbackers I find, though I love them, they tend to sort of only cover one area whereas the Jazzmaster I feel that I can do more varied things on it. And it?s got a crackling tremolo bar on it which I love. And the guitar never goes out of tune and plays beautifully! Amp wise I?ve always traditionally used Vox AC30?s but we?ve discovered that they?re just too loud so on this last tour I used a Vox AC15. When it comes to effects, it?s basically a simple set-up whereas Peter uses a lot of digital equipment for all those soaring, serging landscapes that we have and in which people who don?t know the band, think are keyboards but they?re not. Because any keyboards in The Church is an occasional sort of piano. I use the old Ibanez effects units along with a Big Muff, and I use one of the very first Boss Stereo Chorus and Distortion pedals.

Can you tell us about your 12-string guitar collection?

On this record I mainly played a Burns 12-string solidbody. But in my collection I also have a Burns 12-string semi-acoustic, I?ve got a couple of Rickenbacker 12-strings ? one?s a Roger McGuinn model with a compressor in it and the other is a 1965 blonde Rickenbacker. I also have a couple of Takamine 12-string acoustics. When I do my own solo shows I only play just 12-strings exclusively.

Is it true that The Byrds heavily influenced you into first picking up a 12-string guitar?

No it wasn?t actually. It was actually the guy who signed us up who said to us that we would sound great with a 12-string so he went to America and brought one back and just gave it to me and said ?here try that?. And ever since that day, I?ve played 12-string, simple as that.

I?ve always loved the immense depth and ambiguity in Steve?s lyrics.

Well I guess it?s always a trip, Steve?s words. You know, they?re always some kind of mixture of truth in fantasy - that?s how I kind of see it. They have a kind of colourful backdrop with a kind of vein of truth and sensitivity within them. That?s why his lyrics are so good I think because they?re not just pictures so it makes them much more poignant.

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