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Marty talks to the Courier-Mail about the Mood Maidens Print E-mail
Saturday, 28 January 2006
This was originally published at,5936,17954394%255E7642,00.html

Passion is the key to Marty Willson-Piper's career, writes Noel Mengel

MARTY Willson-Piper ? 12-string guitar in hand ? has been a member of The Church for the past 25 years.

But he's never one to stand still, whether it's with the band or his numerous extra-curricular activities including solo recordings, writing and producing for others, the Sparks Lane album with Noctorum or his contributions to English band All About Eve.

The contrast between his latest outings couldn't be more stark. Last year he joined Chris Bailey as guitarist in the latest line-up of The Saints for the Nothing is Straight in my House album and 60 shows through Europe, Australia and the US.

That's enough amp-rattling rock 'n' roll for now, so tomorrow he plays in Brisbane with his acoustic guitar and The Mood Maidens, featuring cellist Sophie Glasson, pianist Sophie Hutchings ? sister of Jamie from Bluebottle Kiss ? and Amanda Brown on violin.

"I met Sophie Hutchings . . . that was at a Neil Young tribute, and we got to talking and I thought it would be great to hear someone who is an accomplished piano player interpret some of my songs," Willson-Piper says.

Soon they were joined by Glasson, who has played cello with The Church, and Brown, formerly of The Go-Betweens and Cleopatra Wong, playing Willson-Piper material, some Church tunes and a bunch of as-yet-unrecorded Mood Maidens songs.

Willson-Piper, who was raised near Liverpool in England before joining The Church in Australia, seldom seems to stay in one place for long.

"I go wherever the wind takes me. Last year I was with The Saints in the US and Europe, before that I was in the US for nine months, at the moment it looks like I will be in Australia until April. I love having that flexibility. If something is working I concentrate on that."

One of Willson-Piper's long-standing collaborators is his childhood friend Dare Mason, who produced his solo albums as well as The Church album Sometime Anywhere.

Eventually, the lines between producer and performing artist blurred with the Sparks Lane album under the name Noctorum, featuring music from them both.

"We've been friends for 40 years, and our parents were friends," Willson-Piper says. "Sparks Lane is the road that connected his parents' house to our house in England.

"The result was something that was quite different to The Church, where we would have a folk-rock song next to an aggressive rock tune, then something pastoral, something experimental.

"My favourite records . . . well, I've got thousands of them, but I love the White Album by The Beatles, where you've got radically different songs like Revolution No 9 and Julia and Helter Skelter and Rocky Raccoon all together. I love that."

Collaboration has been an integral part of The Church surviving for a quarter of a century.

"I think Steve Kilbey would be proud to see me saying this in print, but I think one of the great things he did was to see the strengths of everyone in the band.

"He started as the singer and songwriter and then realised that if he wanted to keep the band together he had to keep the others involved. That's when Steve and I wrote Fields of Mars together. By the time we did the Heyday album there were a lot of band compositions, classic Church songs like Already Yesterday and Columbus."

Whatever music he has been making, a trusty 12-string guitar has never been far away. But unlike almost every other 12-string player, he didn't pick up the instrument because he was smitten with Roger McGuinn's guitar sound with The Byrds.

"When I was 17 I had this well-paid job working in a posh restaurant and I saw this beautiful Eko 12-string in a guitar shop that I had to have," Willson-Piper says.

"When The Church formed the guy who signed us said he thought we'd sound good with a 12-string and came back from the US with a Rickenbacker for me.

"It was a good move because it was one of those elements that set us apart from everyone else. The funny thing is The Byrds weren't an influence at the time although I became a big fan later."

All these years of gigs, flights and hotel rooms hasn't done anything to dampen Willson-Piper's appetite for making music.

"Success in itself seems to be a big deal now, where the money is more important than the art. But I never did anything that was for the money, it never occurred to me. I just woke up and was in a band that had a hit.

"Great music comes from experimenting. Sure you have to be discerning but having a manifesto restricts you. I'm happy to play lead guitar for The Saints and I'm happy to be the singer out front of the women in the Mood Maidens.

"What is it that makes music work? It's something beyond an intellectual process. You're bitten by the bug of being a musician, there's nothing you can do about it.

"You get these trendy bands who seem to be in it for the fashion statement, and the muso guys who are in it for the technical prowess. In the middle there are all these people in it for the love affair. That's what I've had. And I'm still madly in love."

Marty Willson-Piper and the Mood Maidens, The Troubadour, Brisbane, tomorrow. More info at and

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