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Steve and Marty talk to Sandra Garcia Print E-mail
Monday, 01 August 1994
 Publisher:  B-Side Magazine (New Jersey, USA)
     Issue:  Vol.?, No.?
      Date:  Aug/Sep, 1994

        By Sandra A. Garcia

  (Interview done May, 1994) 

Steve Kilbey and Marty Willson-Piper perform at this first in a line of
low-keyed acoustic gigs to prove that the Church still exists, a black
cloud of dread begins to swirl in time to their music..

The cloud intensifies as Steve becomes increasingly edgy about the set,
snapping with justified annoyance at clueless patrons who are talking
so loud he can hear their inane chatter while singing.

He snarls at the soundman when feedback keeps reappearing. Plus the
loud exhaust fan immediately above his head is causing tension. Steve
is turning into the living embodiment of utter unhappiness while Marty
Willson-Piper seems to be having the time of his life, even laughing at
Steve during one of his fits.

This could be another night of verbal trauma. That cloud of dread keeps
pace with my growing headache.

Maybe they'll cancel the interview. Maybe not: the royal summons comes
about twenty minutes after their set. Mounting the backstage steps is
akin to climbing the steps to a verbal gallows.

Once the angelic assassin has me in his sights he immediately asks if I
had really called him the second worst interview my seven years of
experience... not to mention I also called him a pompous ass. My
response: yes, I did say that. It's a Pavlovian reaction: just the
sound of that hypnotic voice makes my hands curl into a perfect neck
shape. Merry Marty's completely apart from this ancient ritual so he
feels free to start talking.

The things you go through when you love a band's music... this complex
band, after finally disintegrating into a duo, has recorded another
intelligently intriguing album, the latest in a long line of such
albums. That their last epic, Prieist=Aura, didn't convert more new
followers says a lot about the listening public and radio programmers.
Now this new creation, Sometime Anywhere, offers a few sonic black
holes while simultaneously reaching Everestian heights of sublime
musical perfection. Confusing? Absolutely. But you'll soon know that
those evil holes aren't truly the duo's fault.

Steve's opening ripostes combined with vague complaints about being
interviewed so late whisks away any intentions of being subtle about
deft guitarist's Peter Koppes departure from the band before this
album. Besides, it's fairly obvious why Peter left.

Marty rocks with laughter, squirming in his seat. "Did he leave?  Oh
shit, what a great start!"

Steve's already giving me that famous flinty stare. "Why did he leave?
Why is that obvious?"

When last I interviewed the Church, Peter was ready to rip Steve's
throat out, regardless of the fact they're vegetarians. The ugly tense
emotions dancing through the air added to the general festive dark aura
of that memorably morbid night.

Steve looks appalled at the thought that Peter actually hated him.
After an emphatic "no" he relates this anecdote.  "Once Peter and I
were sitting in a restaurant in Paris, and we had this huge, nasty
argument. I was having a go at his girlfriend, and he was having a go
at my girlfriend, and all the people sitting around us were going 'oh,
f-u-u-ck.! Peter was like 'it's all right, Steve and I have these
arguments all the time.' And we just forgot it immediately. And that's
true, and that's the sort of thing we had between us, where things got
really nasty but we would forget it straight away."

So violent personality clashes like that had no bearing on Peter's
losing his religion and fleeing the band.

"No, I don't think it did. He had just had enough. He was bored, he
wanted to sing, he wanted to play, he wanted to be more in the course
of directions of things... he couldn't see it going anywhere, could
he?" he queries of Marty, who shakes his head no. "And he couldn't see
himself implementing anything...  if I said I didn't want to tour, we
didn't tour. If Marty said he was going off to play with All About Eve,
then we couldn't do anything. Peter felt he couldn't affect any

Peter's leaving was intriguing since the Church was first formed by
Steve and Peter, with Marty being third man in. But as I said, I wasn't
at really shocked.

"I wasn't either," confesses Steve. "We were doing the tour, and the
promoter rang me up and said, 'Peter just quit! He doesn't feel like he
can go through with it.' I said 'you tell him, he fucking has to go
through with it. We lured him with the promise of money, but in the

Marty leans close to offer the punch line with an evil grin. "There
wasn't any money!"

Steve describes, "We went into the accountants, and they said you made
twenty thousand, and you lost twenty thousand. You made nothing.'
Peter said 'see you, Steve, and you wonder why I am leaving the band,'
He walked off, and I haven't seen him since."

A long time integral player's leaving would hamper many a band's
creativity, but Sometime Anytime doesn't suffer from it.  There are
certain songs where an expected guitar echo is replaced by another
tone, but it still works. Devotees may be worried, but once they hear

"I don't think they'll have trouble with it. They might think they're
going to, but it's like Arista. Arista was like 'Peter left the band?'"
Steve instantly feigns frozen shock. "That's because nobody knows what
anybody does in a band. So no one knew how important Peter was. If he
had played on this album, it would have been really good, too. The main
reason that it is good is not because Peter is gone, but because Marty
and I had total freedom for the first time ever, as the Church, to do
whatever we wanted to do."

Marty's on the edge of his seat again. He playfully ponders, "I wonder
what would have happened if I had left and Peter had stayed. I wonder
what kind of an album that would have been."

"It wouldn't have been like this, it would have been something
different again. What about if I had left, and it had been you and
Peter?" laughs Steve in reply.

Marty positively gasps with laughter, rasping, "Heaven forbid!"

Now we're doing band diagrams in the air. Marty's into this silliness.
"What about if we had all left and still released an album?"

We would have the Church's epic 76 minutes of silence. Then the record
mavens would love you even more. But seriously, did the creation of
this album lead to a new respect between you both?

Marty immediately grabs Steve into a big hug. "Absolutely. My mate
Steve," he laughs.

Once released Steve gives an eloquent gesture towards Marty.  "Do you
know how often he's called me in the last three months?" "Never," Marty
proudly replies before asking, "Do you know how often he's called me in
the last three months? Never."

Steve looks mildly put off, exclaiming, "Actually, I did."

"I wasn't there, was I?" laughs Marty. "No, we don't call each other
because we have nothing to say to each other. We've known each other
for too long for all that shit."

Hello, you two, let's try this again: what about on a creative level?

"Oh, that was great," exclaims Steve expansively. "The thing is, we had
a session before this that had gone really badly. It was me, Marty and
J.D., and nothing we did was any good at all."

"It was really bad news," agrees Marty with a frown.

"Then we got back and did this one, and it was just great," ends Steve
with positive enthusiasm.

"Another factor, which I think helped the situation, was that my best
friend (Dare Mason), whom Steve also knows, coproduced the record,"
describes Marty. "He's a real cool guy. That was an important key to
it. He's a real intelligent engineer. I've known him for 34 years,"
stresses Marty with a smile. "This is a serious friend that I've known
all my life. I mean our parents were friends. And Steve respects what
he did."

"My original idea was I thought I am going to do this in my studio, so
Marty's going to have to have something to balance it out so it all
isn't just my stuff," explains Steve. "Marty's last solo album had a
really good sound, so I thought this guy has come of age to do the

Then the two of you co-producing with someone who didn't have the ego
to plant an imprint on the sound makes this album new on yet another
level. It's almost ridiculous to add that Arista was probably going
'who is this guy?'

"Oh, yeah. But I could stress how competent he was," Marty describes.

Steve looks amused, declaring, "At that stage we were saying there's
just two of us left, we're not going to rehearse, we're writing in my
studio; you can have King Kong as an engineer if you like!  The whole
thing seemed so unlikely to Arista... they were scared."

Of course they were. Whatever would you unstable musicians pull next?

"I think they thought we were going to do a Metal Machine Music.  I
really do. Our equivalent of Metal Machine Music, like we were going to
do this really noisy, mixed-up, obscure record with no melody, no
nothing. That's what they thought we were going to do... if they had
enough imagination to imagine that," Steve scoffs.  "They just imagined
an uncommercial racket. I would have liked that album... a tot of
people would. But I don't think now is the time to do that."

The Church, as Steve has said previously, has its own entity, its own
place in the scheme of music. For them to come out with an overly
irritating album wouldn't sit well with their admirers.

"We don't need to do that," expresses Marty. "We could do that!"

"It's more of a challenge to make good music," asserts Steve.  "There
is a place for ugly music, but I have to say in my opinion, it's much
harder to make beautiful music than to make ugly music.  It really is.
Anyone can get a guitar and make a racket, yeah. But to make a
beautiful racket, which is what we try to do... there's a lot of
discordant stuff that all fits in musically."

Marty offers, "That was the difference between Peter and I, I think, as
guitarists. I think I was able to play as beautifully as him but he
wasn't able to play as ugly as I can, you know?" he grins.

"He didn't like playing like that," agrees Steve. "He had a thing of
his own, that sort of big echo-y, reverb-y thing."

"He had a great thing going," nods Marty.

Want to hear some of Marty's self-professed "ugly playing?" Then listen
to the amazing tracks on the "bonus" CD that accompanies Sometime
Anywhere. The rough rawness and brutal energy that permeates songs like
'Cut in Two' or 'Freeze to Burn' isn't common to the traditional Church
hymn. And these aren't leftovers:  originally, Sometime... was to be a
double album. Sometime Anywhere al- ready clocks in at a hefty 76
minutes. With the bonus CD, the total comes to 106 minutes of musical

So what happened? Steve frowns, shifting on his stool before murmuring,
"Arista said 'you can't have an album that long."'

Marty emphasizes, "It's a triple vinyl album."

"We came to a compromise. And they said 'we'll have a bonus CD with all
the leftover tracks.' But Arista took two of the songs that were
supposed to be on the album and put them on the free album, and took
two songs off the free album and put them on the album. They did it in
a really sneaky way," Steve describes, his annoyance giving that
handsome face a distinctly unpleasant tension.

Pardon me while I choke. Marty nods in total agitation, relating, "They
were 'Authority' and 'Business Woman.' 'The Time Being' and 'Cut In
Two' were supposed to be on the album."

Hold on here, let me get over this cruel joke. Steve gives me an arch
grin. "You liked those two?"

Sirs, 'Cut in Two' struck me the minute I heard it. And my reaction was
why isn't this superbly wild song on the actual album?

Steve describes how friends of theirs in the business were horrified
that this mockery ever took place. Many agreed that 'Cut In Two' would
have made a potent single. "It's like the most amazing song on the
album! That CD is too good to be a bonus. I asked our manager why
couldn't it go on being a free CD, and he said that record shops would
rip kids off and charge them like 20 bucks for the album. So when you
buy the album, you send in two dollars, and they send you the free CD.
>From now until forever. The first 20,000 actually get the free CD."

Marty is leaning forward again, his normally animation stilled.  "The
terrible thing is people just don't do that!"

Steve instantly disputes, "Oh, they will. People who enjoyed the
record... I mean for just two bucks..."

"A lot of people just don't do it," doggedly repeats Marty.

Steve edgily retorts, "It's not much trouble to go to."

"What, to walk into a post office, buy a stamp... you know what people
are like... they just won't do it!" complains Marty.

"But it's such a good deal, Marty! Two dollars for a CD!" stresses
Steve as he twists to stare at Marty. I think I'll just wait this out.

"Look, I love Julian Cope, OK, and that Rite record, which you had to
write away for... I have every record he ever made, every fucking
single, and that Rite record... the address was in the fucking music
press for months, and I never wrote away for it! Why not?  Why?" Marty
exclaims in total distress.

"Because you have a fair bit of money," volleys Steve. "So getting
albums isn't a big deal for you. But for a kid who hasn't got much, a

Marty interrupts Steve with a frown, asking, "The cheapness is the
incentive, along with the music?"

"I think so! Two dollars for a CD of more bonus tracks..." Steve senses
he's won the argument in theory.

Stop, stop, we've got that issue sussed. Everyone: get the free CD.  Or
you will make Marty very unhappy.

Steve's optimism of people mailing in for the CD is balanced by his
deep disturbance about those two rearranged tracks, which is why he
prays people hear them. "'Business Woman' is such a terrible track...
everybody hates it. We hate it," he admits, suddenly declaring, "Do you
know why we wrote that song? We wrote that song for Arista to say you
think we are going to write noisy songs, we're going to write a real
polished pop song to prove we can do it if we want to."

"We can do whatever we like!" exclaims Marty. "It was just to show them
that the decisions we make are decisions we make because we really do
have an idea about what we want to do. We're not just blindly

"And that backfired because they went 'oh, yeah, that's going on the
album.' First of all, it wasn't going to be on the album, and right at
the end 'Authority' got on the album, and then they rang up and said
'Business Woman is on the album too, sorry, bye,'"" grimaces Steve.
"And that was it."

"Originally we had agreed not to put 'Cut in Two' and 'Time' on, but
'Business Woman' wasn't supposed to be on either album! But they just
sneaked it on! And they just don't know how painful that is! It's like
putting me into a pink-flared suit and sending me into a cool club in
London and saying now feel good about it." Marty's serious but that
analogy makes us all laugh.

"I'll tell you what it's like... it's like singing Othello, and in the
last eighth of the play a fucking jester comes on, juggles balls and
tells gags. And then he goes off and it's back to the play," sneers
Steve, letting his anger cool before he reasons, "But maybe every
perfect thing should have a flaw in it. That's the serious flaw."

"Let's look at it like this. Let's laugh at it together!" laughs

This story bothered me so much that I contacted Arista. And it's all
true: they did exactly what was described. So judging by that little
tale, the snide attitude occasionally expressed toward the record
industry on Sometime Anywhere is justified.

Steve instantly murmurs, "You reckon? Which songs?"

Marty answers for me. "'The Maven."'

"I hope it is about something else as well as that's such an easy
target to write a song about," frowns Steve.

But since we all have seen so much ugliness in the business that's the
fix I'll have on it. Your own story backs me up.

Marty steers clear, instead offering, "As Steve and I were saying
yesterday, I don't think we've come upon what the real theme of the
record is. It's just really hard to know what it is all about."

That was a delicate detour. That's fine. This album is so different
from Priest = Aura, which was relentlessly dense, tense and moody.
There's far more peaks and valleys here of both sound and emotion...
along with that small black hole.

Marty shows those perfect teeth as he declares, "Ah, but that black
hole won't destroy the earth!"

Nor will it destroy the Church... not by any means. That was a
compliment, my dear assassin.

Steve suddenly decides to play inquisitor, asking, "So which is your
favorite track on the album?"

I anticipated a question like that from these two. I do have an fast
answer: I love the instrumental track 'Eastern.'

"Oh really? That's cool!" declares Steve.

Marty gives a proud smile. "Yeah, that's a great track."

And 'Angelica' is a favorite since that song has desperately been
trying to appear on a Church album for years. It's been struggling to
the surface and now the two of you finally whipped it out of your
systems. What a gloriously screwed-up song! Especially that lively
Lyric about Marty's tongue being a wet velvet caress... whoa!

"We literally did whip that off," laughs Marty. "This is one of the
positive aspects of Peter not being in the group!"

"He wouldn't have let us just whip that song off," agrees Steve.

"This gave me the opportunity to go in there to the vocal booth and do
something which... I think when I went in the vocal booth and did that,
Steve was sitting in the control room shocked but digging it: like
'f-u-u-ck!"' Marty imitates an awed Steve then laughs, "I don't think
he ever expected me to do something like that. And one of the reasons
that I wouldn't have done something like that in the past was because
Peter wouldn't have liked that."

"Hey, he's going to read this," quietly cautions Steve.

"No, this isn't anything negative against Peter," retorts Marty.  "It's
just first of all, he wouldn't have liked that. Secondly, I always felt
that when Peter was in the group, if I wanted to do something, then
Peter felt that he had to do something too. And I don't think that was
necessarily a good reason for us to do something. I'd rather do
nothing, because I don't want that to be the criterion for something to
go on a record."

"The other thing is with the Church now is we're a duo. We're a duo,"
Steve stresses. "Where once upon a time it felt like it was me and
these other fellows. Now I feel like it's a duo, and he's gotta sing
and he's gotta make decisions, like being part of a duo. There's one
bloke and then there's another bloke!" as Steve points at himself then
at Marty.

"And it's not an easy task because Steve's such a charismatic singer
and lyric writer!" smiles Marty.

"And now I am playing guitar, which is something I wanted to do. We're
getting to do things we never got to do before. I never would have
gotten to play guitar with Peter around. Not because he would have said
don't do it, but..." shrugs Steve.

There were so many invisible lines drawn around the band members that
they must have gotten as tangled as an old spider web.

"Yeah, it's good to be able to get in there and go into the vocal booth
and improvise," Marty excitedly exclaims. "I even played a lot of bass
on this record! I never would have done that before!"

It's fascinating when a band can come up with such genuinely intriguing
songs while rearranging their sound structure. This album is still the
Church, but with a whole new set of parameters to be ready broken. As
Steve sings on 'Angelica:' the walls are "crashing down in a shower of
sparks" in a huge way.

Steve suddenly grins, "So 'Eastern's your favorite? I play banjo on
that and Marty played mandolin."

Can you see Steve grooving away on a banjo? Where was the camera? Since
Steve's so into individual tracks, which is a wonderful rarity, what
about the album's strong opener 'Day of the Dead?' There's a classic
Church song, moody and moving yet with bizarre twists due to our
angelic assassin's dangerously delirious lyrics.

Marty enthuses, "I love 'Day of the Dead.' I am not trying to sound
like aren't we great, because I know some people just hate it, but I
think what Steve does on that lyrically is really great. And I think my
guitar is really cool too."

"Even if it sounds like 'You're Still Beautiful,'" begins Steve as all
halt to stare at him. He quickly adds, "But that's all right."

Marty mumbles about it being all right to steal from yourself them
continues with his happy description. "It just has that mood and all
that stuff about the picador and the Texaco, that's fantastic!  And I
have all this really expressive guitar going on, and it's just like
'yes!' It's really great!" he exclaims.

Steve finally allows himself to follow suit, describing, "All the
noises in the background... all the screaming and screeching.  That's
one thing I like about this whole thing...  in the background are lots
and lots of tracks. There's all this squealing and scraping... on 'I'll
Fly Home' there's all these sort of ghostly horses neighing off in the
distance... winds blowing down from on high."

"There's all this stuff but it's never obnoxious," stresses Marty

That was Peter's term but it fits so well: the Church should be about
non-offensive noise.

"We like noises, but don't want them to jab you. I mean I am not a
treble freak myself," Marty grins. "Although I was often accused of it
in the early 80s. I'm not a treble freak, I'm a bass freak. I like
round things. I want them to be round and bassy."

If the Church (is) any shape, it's definitely a circle. And that
circular progression is partially what killed Priest = Aura, as people
couldn't handle the twisting turning whirlpool of inward-looking
density that was created. "It was too introspective for record
companies to think that they could push it on the public," agrees

"Priest = Aura was an album," defines Steve. "It's hard for an album to
be successful as an album these days. You got to have a few lead songs.
After that, people can get into the fact that the whole album is really
good. But it takes a while."

"It's a doorway. Here's analogy man coming out again," laughs Marty.
"It was like a secret doorway into the last record, there was a little
switch somewhere, behind the bookshelf, but you just had to really
search to find it. Whereas with this record there's the door, there's
the handle and all you have to do is open it."

"This album is accessible, but not in a bad way," agrees Steve.

It's definitely accessible without being...

"Pathetic," instantly supplies Marty with a poke to my knee.

No, Marty, the dreaded "c" word: commercial!

Marty settles back, musing, "I don't know how we managed it. It was a
happy realization when we first realized it. Imagine how I felt, on the
plane going to Australia, to work at Steve's house without the group,
any songs or any interest! We didn't have a manager, we didn't have an
A&R guy at the company, just big chiefs who thought we were going to
ruin everything. It was a really strange feeling. And to walk into
Steve's house: I was going 'oh GOD!' Bloody hell!" as Marty pretends to
cower in fear.

Steve picks up Marty's thread. "The other thing was when we got in
there, Dare thought that the equipment wasn't good enough to make an
album. And we were waiting for things and I was saying 'let's just
fucking start!' And when he started he went 'it is good enough to make
an album.' That was it, we were off. We wrote 'Lost My Touch' and
everyone was like 'fuck,' this is a new direction, this is it!"

Sounds like you both made many musical discoveries about yourselves.
It's obvious from the solo projects that you two love experimentation,
but it's never bled so freely into the Church before.

"We're both competent songwriters," declares Steve. "By the time you
get to our age, when you've been doing this for as long as us, in any
other job, you'd expect to be doing the job pretty well."

"Yeah, you'd at least expect to be office manager," laughs Marty.

Or an A&R VP! Now there's a thought. But after this successful first
step as a duo there has to be the urge to keep on creating. You must be
ready to tackle the next album by now...

"I am! Marty's always like..." Steve hysterically pantomimes a majorly
sullen "I don't want to" attitude.

"I've got a couple of projects at the moment, and I don't think it's
imminently important for the Church to make a new record right now,"
defends Marty. "But at the end of this year..."

"I want to put a Church album out every year. I don't want to wait for
two years every time!" complains Steve as he throws Marty his frigid
stare.  "This record could have come out last year! This was finished
last May (93)! We could have a new album out now!"

"I think there's something fatalistic about it," begins Marty.

Steve's having no part of this, arguing, "Imagine how much more modern
this would have been if it came out last year! It's like a year old. A
whole year... a year is a long time in rock music!"

Marty murmurs, "I don't know if we were ready a year ago..."

Steve's back on him like a pit bull. "But the record was ready!"

Whoa, whoa... were you not ready mentally?

"That, yeah, it was too soon, and also I don't think the record company
was ready. And them not being ready was the crucial factor!" declares
Marty, returning Steve's pointed stare with one of his own. "They
wouldn't have been getting behind it then. They liked it straight away,
but they remixed five of the songs, completely remixed, just for their
own sakes."

This causes Steve's annoyance to seek another target, he muttering,
"They charged us for it! Can you believe that? They then decided the
guys who made the music would have the best mixes!"

"It's funny how people think they know better about us then we do. They
signed you, so they should trust you." Sad words of innocence from the
dark-haired gypsy.

"You know what I've found is a funny thing? If you're successful,
they'll get involved in the next album to make sure it's more
successful then the last one. If you're not successful, then we've got
to get involved to make it more successful too! So we thought after
'Under the Milky Way' was a hit that we'd have freedom. But they just
kept getting involved," murmurs Steve in resignation.

This leads in perfectly to the character that keeps occurring in
Steve's lyrics: she slithered on 'Reptile,' switched gender and got
everyone lost on 'Pharaoh,' enthralled and disgusted as 'The
Disillusionist,' and now he's swallowing you whole on 'The Maven...'"

"You keep meeting them in life so I keep writing about them, I guess.
They keep coming back in a different form." Steve looks thoughtful,
murmuring, "On every album there's this nasty bloke. I never thought
about it much. I never perceived it that way."

That surprises me. It's such strong negative imagery that with each
album we can play the game of finding which song this evil despoiler
appears on.

Steve decides to make it easy next time. "On the next album," Steve
laughs, "there will be a song called 'The Rather Nasty Bloke."'

Judging from this night's talk, some people won't hear it as an
autobiographical song. Not this time.

Rhonda & I have used every resource available to bring you the attached
article. Please let me know if you see any typos.  Remember, since you
have already purchased the magazine, this is only to be used for
archive purposes, and not to be redistributed. (Does that cover our
butts?).  My comments appear in (). Warning: This is about 10 pages long!

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