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Early interview with Steve and Richard, between first two albums Print E-mail
Thursday, 01 January 1981

This is an odd interview, mainly in the strangely business-like tone of Steve's answers.  He sounds like success is the most important thing on his mind and he's watching very closely how popular, or not, the band is. This is in stark contrast to how he was just a few years later, when the band are content to follow their own muse.  Still, it's rare to find early interviews, so I'm pleased to add this to the archive.

The Church - Take A Pew

...And talk frankly about how they have gone from being a band with a one-person audience to the increasingly successful group they are today. And it has all happened in little more than a year.

A lot of bands firmly believe that you have to "pay your dues" before you can hope to be any kind of success in the music business. They think that you must first establish yourself through touring and plyaing pubs before you can hope for a recording contract.

Well, The Church is one band who didn't have time for all of that... They couldn't get themselves booked in to play anywhere and, even if they could, they didn't have the money to hire a PA system. So, in a bid for survival, they sent a demo-tape to Chris Gilbey of ATV Northern Songs and luckily for them - and us - Chris Gilbey liked them and signed them to a recording deal.

After playing only five live gigs together,Stve Kilbey (vcoals/bass/keyboards), Peter Koppes (lead and acoustic guitar), Marty Willson-Piper (electric guitars) and Nick Ward (drums/vocals) found themselves recording their first album.

"If everyone had rejected us, I suppose the band would have given up. We couldn't have stayed together because we couldn't get gigs - it was so incredibly hard," said Steve Kilbey, when I spoke to him and The Church new drummer, Richard Ploog.

The first single the band released was called "She Never Said" and Steve firmly believes it should have been a hit. Unfortunately, the radio stations didn't think it would do much for their ratings so they didn't play it. With their next release "An Unguarded Moment" [sic], it was a different story. The single has been a resounding success and their first album, Of Skins And Heart, followed suit.

"Some people may have thought we tried to do too much, too soon," Steve said "but I don't think so. The proof is in the pudding. A reasonable amount of people buy our records and that's the proof. I thought 'An Unguarded Moment' should and would do well, and it did, and I will be really disappointed if if 'Tear it All Away' isn't a hit, too."

"Tear it All Away" is the "A" side of one of the singles The Church has released in a double single package. the other 'A' side is "Too Fast For You" and both are excellent.

"We released a five-track package - the other tracks are 'Sisters', 'Fraulein' and 'You've Got To Go' because we wanted to try and get two singles in the charts at the same time, just for the sake of it!" Steve told me.

"Also, it's too soon to release another album but this way can let our fans have five songs and only for $2.25."

Fans of The Church are growing steadily in numbers and that is a relief for them. " I remember two weeks after 'An Ungarded Moment' was released," Steve said, "we played a gig at The Governor's Pleasure, in Sydney and there was only one guy there!"

Did he like them? I wondered.

"Yes, he did and I still see him at all our gigs!" Steve said. "We seem to get all sorts of people in our audience, including lots of girls -- that's great! The more people that like us the better. I want everyone to like us."

The band was pleased with the success of their album but Steve is the first to admit that he thinks it could have been better.

"It was the first album any of us had ever made. We didn't really know what we were doing and I think it takes one album to sort yourself out before you put out a really good album. Also, we had a drummer that didn't get along with the rest of us. That caused a lot of friction and I think it shows."

With new drummer, Richard Ploog, though, the band is getting on better. At 18, Richard is the youngest member of the band, the others are in their 20s. But the age difference is no problem. "I fitted in easily with the band," Richard told me, happily. "I like their usic and they like my drum work! Over in Adelaide, where I'm from, I was playing in two-bit garage bands and not really getting anywhere. I've been playing msic from an early age but the rest of my family never took seriously...Their attitude just made me try all the harder to get somewhere in this business. It's something I've alays wanted to do. Now, my parents are glad I'm doing better than a garage band -- at least I'm not unemployed!"

"I was working with computers to earn the money to pay off my equipment before I got together with Peter to form a band," Steve told me.

Steve and Marty are British-born. Steve has been here since he was four and Marty has been here almost two years, now.

"I spent three months in England three years ago," Steve said. "The music scene there is totally different from here. It's more advanced, more competitive. It's slower here - you can make mistakes and still keep going. I probably would have tried my luck over there if The Church hadn't worked out. I've always wanted to get a band together and make records."

Recording is what Steve likes to do best. "When you're playing live, you've got more pressure on you to be enteraining. I'm more of a musician than an entertainer, that's my problem."

"I'm more of an entertainer than a musician" Richard told me. "Peter's like Steve, he doesn't like going on the road much but marty is a happy-go-lucky character. Put a guitar in his hands and he's happy, doesn't matter where he is. He likes it all."

Growing up, Steve liked the Beatles, The Byrds, The Rollings Stones and David Bowie. Richard was different, though.

"I didn't listen to much pop music when I was younger," Richard told me. "I grew up in a different era and, if you want the truth, the music that influenced my playing was actually pipes and drums music - Scottish bagpipes. I wanted to play the bagpipes when I was six. I went to  a lesson but my fingers were too short. So I thought 'Gee, the drums sound good' and that was it. I was brought out of my shell by the 1976 Punk thing. That's when I really became enthusiastic about music and started collecting lots of records. That's really how I broke the surface."

When I spoke to Steve and Richard, they were in the middle of recording their second album, which is sdue for release early next year.

"The recording is going unbelieavably well," Steve said, enthusiastically. "I'm ecstatic about it. Bob Clearmountain is producing it and we have  great relationship with him. Working with Bob has given us more direction and confidence."

Steve writes all of the lyrics and most of The Church's music but the song he considers to be the band's best -- "Sisters" -- was written by all of them.

"I was playing a tune on my guitar and rest of the band picked it up," Steve explained. "I wrote the words but the music came from all of us. I hope this will happen a lot in the future. We've got two tracks on our next album which more or less happened the same way. I think the best songs are ones where everyone has contributed. I can't really foresee anyone in the band writing lyrics except for me, though. I don't think anyone else wants to."

"I don't think anything could do would be as good as what Steve does," Richard said. "I think Steve's lyrics are an important part of The Church.

Steve has other ideas, though

"I think the truth of the matter is that the rest of them don't know the lyrics until the record comes out. with "Fraulein", Marty had been playing the song for a year and never known the words!" Steve said.

"But I don't think the yrics are the most important part, anyway," he continued, "so I wasn't upset. The music is more important to me. My songs don't have any messages. I write the lyrics imply because songs have got to have words ... I've got to sing something!"

But why not just be instrumental? I asked.

"Well, it's funny you should say that," Steve answered. "On our second album there are no instrumentals as such but there are songs with extended instrumental passages."

So what about the future? What are their plans?

"We want to be the biggest and the best - the same as any other band. We just want to ride the roller coaster as far as we can, " said Steve.

Let's hope everyone - the the band and their fans - enjoys the ride.

Alison Gardner.

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