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Marty with B-Side magazine on Rhyme and G.A.F Print E-mail
Saturday, 01 September 1990

B-Side Magazine [USA]
Volume Four, #4
Aug/Sept 1990


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MARTY WILLSON-PIPER: THE LONE PIPER

by Brian Greenlee


The same clothes as before: black shirt, black shoes, faded cuffed jeans and two dangling earrings. The hair?s a bit shorter than usual. Marty Willson-Piper, guitarist for the Church, was attempting to relax in a cramped Philadelphia dressing room prior to donning his guise as solo performer and embarking on a tour to support his new LP on Rykodisc Rhyme.


For a guy who?s had no sleep for two days and is about to go it alone, sans even his loyal musical companion Andy, Willson-Piper is rather calm and happy. Or is he just punchy from lack of sleep?


As he grinned with arms outstretched, he commented: ?I just got in from Los Angeles, haven?t been to the hotel... I feel like shit!?


Remember, it?s not how you feel but how you look. And you look mahvalous, dahling.


This tour was a far cry from Willson-Piper?s solo debut in Philly at, in his words, ?that punk club,? where the thumpa-thumpa of the upstairs disco could be heard throughout his performance. That, coupled with the fact his first tour was a mini-excursion in the midst of The Church?s tour for Starfish, made for a less than thrilling encounter the first time around.


On this night, Willson-Piper was all smiles and eager to talk about things musically, intellectually and politically.


First off, Rhyme: a beautiful, textured album that is the most fulfilling of his solo works to date. He claimed, ?It?s a ?Marty? album! It?s got diversities. It?s melodic and, hopefully, it?s interesting. It?s also not afraid to be simple. It?s a ?me? type of record.?


A ?me? type of record as opposed to the ?we? of The Church. Willson-Piper?s records often display a variety of emotional hues missing from Church records, at times seeming downright bouncy compared to the somber Steve Kilbey material.


Rhyme represents something of a departure for Willson-Piper in that he was able to take the time to carefully develop and sculpt each song. His first effort, In Reflection, sprawled over several years of recording bits and pieces for later assemblages while Art Attack was completed with breakneck speed in two weeks.


On that basis alone, Rhyme could not help but sound different. ?I think with Rhyme was that I?ve got my own 16 track studio now and I had the opportunity to make a record and work on it and texture, overlay and I wanted to try and do that.?


Although he justifiably is pleased with Rhyme, Willson-Piper makes no excuses or apologies for past efforts. ?I think with Art Attack, as far as the songs are concerned, the time you spend isn?t going to necessarily improve them. But I think it?s relevant to rush through something as it is to spend time at it. Kate Bush spent years on her last album and it?s great. She spent a very short time on her first album and it?s great too.?


In other words, it often gets to the point that no matter how much work you put into something, it?s not going to get any better?


?Oh sure! Yeah! I think that?s real relevant. It?s like the problem of getting rich. If you?re getting rich or successful, your reasons for doing everything change and those original reasons that you had of what made you good... if you don?t have that situation then maybe you can?t do it anymore. I don?t think I?m that kind of guy. The next thing I do with The Church will be before 4,000 people but I really don?t mind at all performing before 100 people, acoustically. I really don?t mind at all. I mean, I would like to play before 4,000 people myself, but, hopefully, I?m humble enough to be able to deal with whatever performing brings.?


Humility aside, Willson-Piper displays enough confidence in himself whether it?s performing solo or discussing literature and philosophy, although he feigns fright at the prospect of going onstage without his musical partner in crime, Andy Mason.


He laughed, declaring, ?I did everything in my power to get Andy with me... threats even! The fact that I have to do a huge tour of America without him is quite frightening because he?s my right hand man. Andy?s becoming quite a successful engineer in England and, at the moment, he?s sitting in the studio with the Blow Monkeys engineering their latest album. That?s why he couldn?t make it and we couldn?t cancel this because of The Church project.?


Speaking of absent personnel, Church drummer Richard Ploog was rumored to have taken a ?sabbatical? from the band after a completion of the new album. Willson-Piper was reticent about the circumstances, going only as far as acknowledging Ploog?s departure. ?We?ve given Richard a year off to give him time to get his proverbial shit together; he needs a break.?


While dismayed with the Ploog situation, Willson-Piper was more than enthusiastic about his temporary replacement, J. D. Daugherty. According to Willson-Piper, the new drummer came with the highest recommendations. ?We never heard him play but if he?s good enough for Patti Smith and Tom Verlaine, he?s good enough for The Church because those are two people important to us in our own tastes. Also, I?ve actually played with J.D., without meeting him because I play on Tom Verlaine?s latest album. J.D. was playing drums on one of the tracks, or three of the tracks. So here I was jamming with Fred Smith and J.D. and I hadn?t even met them! So, when I met J.D. I said ?I never met you but I?ve played with you.? It was kind of funny...?


Since we?re on the subject of Church chat, pray tell us about the newest LP, Gold Afternoon Fix: for instance, that title.


?Steve casually said it on a Sunday afternoon in L.A. and I went, ?That is the title!? A week went by and new names were coming up and I said ?Look, that is the title!? and then Peter, our manager, was saying ?Ehhhh...? I sat down at our dinner table one night in the studio and said ?This is why it?s the title.? I have six or seven good reasons why this is a good title, none of which I?ll tell you.


?I convinced them, the band. It was Steve?s idea but I wanted to make him feel I thought it was great... I was the one who was so strongly for it, everyone looked at each other and went ?Arista?s not going to go for this? and I went ?OK, give me Clive (Arista Record?s head man), I?ll go and talk to him.? I had all these reasons, had it all worked out why this was a great title.


?We called up Arista and said ?We?ve got a title for the album.? They said ?What is it?? ?Gold Afternoon Fix.? A day later they called back and said,? as he imitated a shrill voice, ??Everybody at Arista loves it!? And I went ?Ahhhh shit.? I wanted to sit down with Clive and explain why it was great. I thought they would think it was drug-related, too complicated, obscure, long-winded and I don?t think it?s any of those things.?


Willson-Piper made it quite clear what Gold Afternoon Fix doesn?t mean, but he would shed little light on what it does mean. ?It does mean something in its ambiguity, which is something very, very under the table so I won?t spoil it for you. You?ll have to spend the rest of your time trying to figure it out,? he laughed.


Shouldn?t tease unless you?re going to please, Marty!


On the whole, Gold Afternoon Fix has a more textured, quiet sound that borders on, dare I say, lush. It does not have the punch of some past Church efforts, not that they would ever be mistaken for Big Black.


?Someone said to me that it kind of reminded them of Heyday. Heyday?s lush; it?s very guitary. It?s a question I can?t really answer because I?m too close to it...?


No doubt Willson-Piper and company are hoping that the new LP will further the march to widespread appeal that has proved elusive in years past. The previous album, Starfish, brought them a modicum of acceptability and exposure not strictly confined to college or ?alternative? radio stations. However, commercial success is something that has not really played a part in shaping the work of either Marty Willson-Piper or The Church. It?s more or less been the Ricky Nelson approach of ?You can?t please everyone, you?ve got to please yourself.?


?A band like The Church, we owe ourselves to make a record which is beyond the last one that we made. The Church, actually, have always managed to do that. That?s one thing I?m really quite proud of with The Church ? we?ve always managed to make something which is beyond what the last thing was.


?We?ve been doing that for seven albums in a row. I think that?s an achievement in itself.?


And, as for Marty Willson-Piper, who plays Jean Cocteau to Steve Kilbey?s Andre Breton, he?s probably best summed up with lines from ?To Where I Am Now?:

?Explode through the door/
My skill more and more/
Then rich direct this full shell/
Is brimming, burning, brimming, burning/
To where I am now.?

Transcribed by Mike Fulmer

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