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Peter talks about Greg Hickman and When Reason Forbids Print E-mail
Monday, 01 June 1987

Peter talks about Greg Hickman, making solo records and bits of Church history. Did you know that "Hoofs and horns and teeth and bones" was Richard listing the ingredients of chewing gum? This is from On The Street, June 1987

Standing Up Solo

when reasons permit

Steve Kilbey has released an album. Marty Willson-Piper has been playing acoustic solo spots around town. Now Peter Koppes puts out a three track single. They're all in a band called The Church, and they've all got things say outside of that framework. Peter's solo effort came about as the result of something that happened in February this year - 

“He was a comet.”

That’s how Peter Koppes, Church guitarist, describes Greg Hickman, the band’s lighting engineer. Greg died early this year from a cerebral haemorrhage. He grew up in New Zealand, and first came into contact with The Church when he was working with one of their support bands. He went on a national tour with The Church, then to the States, where the band played with Echo and the Bunnymen for three weeks, then headlined  themselves for a while. A big experience for the band, and a whole new world to a young lighting guy who was on the way up.

PETER: “The funny thing is that he wasn’t big headed about it. He would outwardly stated that he couldn’t believe the opportunitiest that were revealed to him. Greg had offers from people to work. Everywhere he went, he just had this artistic vibe about him. The horrors of some of those shows. We’d going into these” places and they’d have their own P.A. and lights, a lot of them pretty shoddy. Greg would be sticking his hand in the back of a light to focus it and you know, there’d be just bare wires. I’ve seen him screaming at times, and I was shocked he’d have the guts to go near another one after that...He was the sort of person who never got angry. Sometimes people with that particular mood get more than their fair share of harrassment because people can’t believe they’re so independent.

Greg had a pre-warning of his condition when a blood vessel bursting his shoulder and he collapsed. In hospital his condition was regarded seriously, and doctors I predicted a very lengthy process of medical care and hospitalisation. Peter puts it the way Greg probably felt about it - “that’s not rock and roll”. . .

PETER: “Like I said, he was a comet. He was I caught up in something that was like a dream come true -- the opportunities, he was growing, he was experiencing, he was creative. “He took his chances, and a couple of weeks later - they took him.”

“I could drum up some great sort of image, of what Greg was, but all I can say is that he was a really nice human being, and I had a mixture of anger...in the knowledge that he’d been removed from this earth. It affected me in a really strange way.”

Peter channelled his feelings into “When Reason Forbids”, which started out as a poem, then developed into a song - a requiem and tribute to Greg. All three songs are based around keyboards, which may be surprising when you consider Peter’s reputation as a guitarist. I found out that it was a round about trip until he finally settled on guitar as his instrument.

PETER: “The first instrument I ever played was a Hammond organ. I came from a musical home where there were all numbers of guitars, ukeleles, and different instruments, but I never took any interest in them until the Hammond organ. We didn’t have it there for very long because it was only on loan, so I ended up being a drummer for a couple of years.”

OTS: With everyone in The Church pursuing solo projects recently, has it strengthened the band at all?

PETER: I’m glad you’ve seen it from that point of view rather than the view that it dissipates the energies, because it doesn’t at all..We're all individuals and we recognise the fact that we‘ve been together as a band for this long for some reason. We have individual ideas that are of interest to one another,but we have an ability to collaborate that’s conducive to creating something that’s more than each of us. The total is more than the parts.”

“We like what we do and we enjoy each other's company. I don`t know why people go solo and just drop what they’ve done before. The Church is stimulating for us individually, and we can go out-and do our independent things”

OTS: It sounds like an ideal situation.

PETER I know. Why isn’t anyone doing it?

That sparks off discussion on the ` workings of record companies and the work of the artist, views on music past and present, and a fair bit of “Church history” along the way. Here are a few snippets of what, Peter had to say about life, the universe, and everything.

IN THE BEGINNING

“...then the drummer left, but we talked him into staying. The next gig Chris Gilbey was going to come along, and that would be our audition. But we couldn’t afford to lose any money. The only expense was the P.A., but we couldn’t afford to lose that money because we were starving; We were literally. eating chips - not fish and chips- just chips.

THE UNGUARDED MOMENT  
“In the States they got Paul McCartney’s editor to chop it up so it would be down to three minutes. It sounded like the rhythms of a bicycle going underneath a car.”

“We don’t like the reaction that it’s such a total reason for our success. When we play out in thesticks Steve says ‘This is an Irish folk song for calling in the sheep’.

LYRICS
“It’s mainly Steve, but he draws on events during our touring, expressions,etc. plus his own stuff. Certainly we’ve got a combination of whats become a legacy of our style, and a group mentality that’s displayed in our opinions things that we’ve picked up or coined. For instance, ‘Youth Worshipper’ ‘Hoofs and horns and teeth and bone’ - that little catchphrase was Richard stating the ingredients of chewing gum.”

THE RETURN OF GUITAR-BASED BANDS
“There's the old argument that it’s the ‘60’s recycled, but compare it to the ‘60’s records and the production is a lot better, and the playing is different. When it comes down to it, I find the ‘60’s influenced bands more listenable than the pop junk that’s being fed anyway, so I can’t resent them. Yet I resent that we get called a ‘60’s resurgence type band - the psychedelic things and the jingle jangle guitar. We’ve taken it out of that - sometimes it’s pop, sometimes it’s more sinister. There might have been slight similarities early in our career which made it obvious for them to make comparisons, but now it’s a shame that we have to wear the same comparisons."
 

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