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Marty talks to Arena magazine about his work circa 1987 Print E-mail
Thursday, 01 January 1987

From Arena magazine

Arena (Australia)
c. Jan. 1987

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MARTY WILLSON-PIPER
an audience with a man of The Church

by Jimm Coburn

The Church have been one of Australia’s most popular bands for several years now. However, they have recently been keeping a fairly low collective profile and involving themselves in solo projects. Most noticeable has been Steve Kilbey’s album Unearthed.

Lead guitarist, Marty Willson-Piper, has just started performing in his own right. He discusses his plans and the future of The Church with Arena editor Jimm Coburn.

What were you doing before you joined The Church?

Before I did that I was playing in a band in London called The True Hundreds. We got to the stage of rehearsing, doing a couple of gigs, making a demo tape and then splitting up.

The True Hundreds were very ‘80s, poppy -- very Elvis Costelloish. The band split up after a very short period of time. In London, being in a band is not a very easy world to exist in.

There must have been a lot of rivalry during that period amongst bands?

You don’t even get to the stage of competing with people, because it’s too hard to get the money together to rehearse.

So The True Hundreds in London broke up and you came to Australia?

Yes, I met a girl in London who was Australian, we got married and came out here (since separated).

How did you first get involved with The Church?

I was asked to go out and see some guy in a band -- that was Peter, and it turned out to be The Church. They were playing at the Metropole Tavern supporting Moving Parts. I went along and saw Steve, Peter and the old drummer playing this set and it was amazing.

How different was the sound at that stage to the way it developed around the first album?

Peter always felt really restricted by having to play lead and having to play all the rhythm parts as well. He was kind of like the only lead instrument in the band, and it was a lot rawer, but it sounded really good.

Were they at that stage playing Steve Kilbey originals?

They were doing “Is This Where You Live” and stuff like that.

What’s the current state of The Church?

The Church has just been dropped by EMI Records and we are in the process of shopping around and signing a new deal. Where and when we record the next album will depend on who we sign with.

I heard a Steve Kilbey interview about the time of Heyday coming out and it sounded like The Church were really enthusiastic, really optimistic and that was... what, twelve months ago?

The feeling was great around that time -- Heyday was a good album. Now we’re going to sign to a label which is going to be really interested in what we are about. We were signed to EMI for 6-7 years and I don’t think they really knew what we were about. So there’s a new kind of feeling of progression, a new lease of life.

I believe you’ve been doing some solo shows while The Church have been off the road.

We were on our way to rehearsals when we were dropped. So the last three months we’ve been off with nothing to do. I’ve always wanted to do some solo stuff, because I do write songs and I do sing, but nobody knows much about it. It’s been frustrating for me not to be able to get out my own stuff.

I’d done a couple of gigs with James Griffin and the Subterraneans. Two weeks before New Year’s, James rang up and said that the Subterraneans were going on tour, 3rd of January, and asked me to do an acoustic set, going on before the band.

It’s going really well. I’m doing a couple of Church songs which I either wrote, co-wrote or sing -- “Ten Thousand Miles”, “The View” and “Field of Mars”.

I can imagine them taking on an entire new lease of life.

“Field of Mars” for example was produced by Bob Clearmountain on The Blurred Crusade. It’s this huge, massive sounding song and I go on stage and do it with an acoustic guitar by myself.

I believe you’re going to release an album of demos?

Andy (who I was playing with in The True Hundreds) and I bought a four-track in 1983. What I want to release is the songs that I wrote from that period which he helped me with. On some of them I’m hitting newspapers with drumsticks -- they’re very very primitive -- but the essence of them is the feeling that I think they captured.

So how is the recorded material going to differ from the live material?

I’m intending to do two solo albums: one with all these demos from ’83-’85, the other an acoustic album. The point in this demo album being that it is an interesting artifact of feeling. The way in which the two albums will differ is that the acoustic stuff is now and the demo album was then. I want to put them out now and then start concentrating on now with my next project.

How does performing live solo differ with performing live with a band?

The first gig I did at the Kardomah Café was quite intimidating. However, I can sing in tune, believe in my lyrics and play guitar alright. So I wasn’t too worried about my ability. I was more intimidated by the situation.

The Church isn’t exactly a talkative group in as far as communicating to the audience and I probably am more than The Church is.

Do you feel closer to the audience?

Well I don’t feel like I’ve got as much to hide behind. I have to hope that people like what they see and hear. I don’t have much protection -- I can’t put my fuzzbox on and blast them out of the auditorium.

I think that the power of acoustic music might even be more powerful emotionally than drums, effects and noisy electric guitars. The audience can actually hear what I’m singing and I do write vivid lyrics and I think people like to hear them.

What’s the future for Marty Willson-Piper?

The Church is still the main thing really. I hope to get the demo and acoustic albums out. The demo album is already done really. I just need to mix it a bit. I’m going to have to do these albums between what The Church is doing, while The Church is still going to be a prominent thing in my life.

Do you hope to take on more projects like the Subterraneans?

I don’t want to spread myself too thin. I’m doing the demo album, an acoustic album, playing with the Subterraneans and in The Church. I look after The Church’s business in Australia -- the tours, the management and sort of keep myself fairly busy. I’d also like to get involved with groups that I’ve seen and work with them. I’ve seen Bell Jar, for example, and I think they’re a great band.

I’d get involved with things like that. There’s always projects on the horizon. I always hope that I have the capability and the position to do it.

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Transcribed by Mike Fulmer

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