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Poetry in Motion: Marty talks about briefly leaving the band, poetry Print E-mail
Monday, 01 June 1987

Interesting interview with Marty, mainly about poetry.

Unknown Source (Australia)
Mid-1987

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POETRY IN MOTION

by Scott Howlett

Who says poetry is dull and boring? Not Church guitarist MARTY WILLSON-PIPER who waxes poetic about stimulation, blurred crusades and ... oh, yes ... road exhaustion

Is music an art or is it just music? Marty Willson-Piper, guitarist with the Sydney-based four piece band The Church, says he thinks it’s both.

Like Church counterpart Steve Kilbey, the band’s lead singer, bass guitarist and principal songwriter (arguably the finest musical pen in Australia), Willson-Piper is a man of philosophy and poetry as well as music. Scattered about his house are hundreds of books, none of them flippant I would discern and two and a half thousand records, the majority of which would lean more towards the ethereal and adventurous than the hard place and the safe. When I arrived for the interview, the sounds of minimalist Harold Budd were oozing.

And then we talked.

How were The Church?

“No problems with The Church whatsoever,” Willson-Piper responded. “It’s all great there. We have The Church which is the high profile thing in our lives, but we also have our other avenues in which we can express ourselves.

“Because we got dropped by EMI (earlier this year), which is the best thing that could have happened, we can each branch out and do things that we wish to do as individuals.”

Last year in the US you left The Church. What happened there?

Willson-Piper: “You know, I just was on the road a lot, frustrated with the whole affair, and wanted to release things on my own. I was constantly working with The Church, constantly, and touring and touring and touring, didn’t have a place to live, had spent two years on the road, and it just got to the stage where I asked myself ‘why am I doing this’? Why am I running around the world and playing guitar when there are so many other things I want to do. It just didn’t seem to make any sense whatsoever.

“So I quit.

“After I did, all the frustrations I had with being in the band came out and at a latter stage both Steve (Kilbey) and I were in Stockholm together (both Kilbey’s and Willson-Piper’s girlfriends are Swedish) and worked it out and I came back to the band and The Church started off with a new lease of life.

“Things just had to be changed around a bit. I had to feel that I could go off and be more of myself instead of just being the guitarist in The Church and because of that it was the catalyst to the solo stuff I have been doing recently (Willson-Piper has been hitting the Sydney stages as a solo acoustic act and will release an album through Red Eye Records in the near future).

“My leaving was a mixture of different things all at the same time. I just wanted to do my own thing. Even though I had a high profile in The Church, I just didn’t feel I was doing the things that I can also do well within the framework of The Church. And I just had to come to some conclusion where I changed that. So it ended up with me quitting, because I couldn’t see any way of changing that . . . because Steve is the singer and Steve does write the lyrics, and I couldn’t see any way out of it.

“Now, months later, and hopefully years wiser, I can see how I can have an album out, I can tour as a solo artist, I can be a guitarist in The Church, I can do so many things at the same time.”

What are some of your other interests? Poetry?

Willson-Piper: “Yes. For some reason, people see poetry as really boring and dull. They think you have a desk which you’re chained to and a man in a big black robe whips you to make you appreciate the verses of people that wrote 250 years ago.

“But that is not what it is all about. It’s beautiful stimulating words. It’s just like you listen to beautiful stimulating music. It’s really quite accessible if you can get yourself into it. It’s wonderful stuff. Wonderful stories, evocative images and beautiful words. I just don’t know why it’s (poetry) shrouded with all these dark, horrible boarding school ideas.”

Who are your favourite poets?

Willson-Piper: “Oscar Wilde -- his flamboyance is really vivid -- a Russian called Vladimir Mayakovsky -- a stirring poet who shot himself.”

John Donne?

“He’s one of those chained to desk poets. I really like Dylan Thomas. That guy was just amazing. He’s such an inspiration to me. His use of words: Brilliant. Stirring images, evocative adjectives to describe these amazing situations. I’ve got a double album of Dylan Thomas reading some of his favourite poems. It’s absolutely fantastic.

“Others I like include T.S. Elliot. He is another poet who people think is really heavy but he’s actually not at all. He’s just great.

“There is also a Finnish poet called Edith Södergran, with dots above the o -- probably have to get a Scandinavian typewriter to do that.”

Shakespeare, Keats?

“Yeah, sure, great.”

Such as his fascination with poetry, Willson-Piper’s past is romantic, idealistic and ideologically sound. He was a starving musician, a busker, a tortured artist wandering the streets of Europe.

“I busked in Geneva, London, East Berlin, Paris -- all over the place -- that is how I made a living. I was just busking, hitchhiking with my guitar. Sounds really bohemian and hippyish and everything else but that is my roots as a guitarist -- playing in European streets three or four hours at a time.”

Willson-Piper was born and raised in Manchester, England, and lived there until he was 18-years-old. At that time, wanderlust on board, he travelled and worked around Britain selling books door-to-door. He lived in such places as London, Manchester and Liverpool before taking off overseas and residing in Madrid, France and West Berlin. It was in West Berlin that Willson-Piper landed the very prestigious job of hanging up dresses in a dress factory!

Willson-Piper came to Australia in 1980 and has lived here ever since. He travels to Sweden often and lives there with his Swedish girlfriend.

He’s a nice chap and a great musician. Where to next in Marty Willson-Piper’s personal blurred crusade?

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Transcribed by Mike Fulmer

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