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Marty talks about recording Sometime Anywhere, Peter's departure and S.A's song order - not happy! Print E-mail
Friday, 01 July 1994

...for a long time I only had the last few paragraphs of this interview, but it turns out I had the entire thing in a zip file, among several other interviews, transcribed and sent in by Mike Fulmer. So kudos to you, Mike!


Boston Rock #142




The Church

by Rey Roldan

Marty Willson-Piper is a cynical man. Nearly every phrase is sprinkled with negations, some slight and witty, others nasty and brutal. But he?s not a mean guy--just cynical.

One half of a duo that once was a quartet, Willson-Piper and Steve Kilbey are the last remainders of Australia?s intelligent rock band the Church. Like the Christian establishment that is its namesake, the decade-plus-old Church began to crumble in recent years and lost some of its fervent followers, releasing a few unremarkable albums trying to duplicate the Top 40 success of their platinum-selling Starfish. Struggling to hold onto their devotees with two albums of sometimes brilliant/other times bland pop rock (1990?s Gold Afternoon Fix and 1992?s Priest=Aura), they?ve managed to keep their heads above water and go with the flow.

With the recent departures of long-time member Peter Koppes and Jay Dee [Daugherty] (who joined in 1992 and left in 1993), Willson-Piper and Kilbey were left to reconstruct the crumbling Church and resurrect it from mediocrity and imbalance. What they?ve created, Sometime Anywhere (Arista), is strong enough to restore faith in the Church for themselves and their devotees.

?We had complete freedom for the first time in relation to ourselves,? Kilbey says, sounding like a newly released prisoner. ?When we say ?complete freedom,? we mean just Steve and I, in our own studios, doing whatever we wanted, taking as much time as we wanted. I think a lot of people [in bands] have a lot less freedom than the Church has had right from the start. But when we started this as a duo, we really could do whatever we wanted.?

Sometime Anywhere proudly displays this newly acquired emancipation and liberation from the ties that bind. While the Church?s style of Aussie pop has always been about textures and atmosphere, this album drenches their normal corduroy surface with splashes of synths and loops. Occupying every conceivable niche in its layered strata with various instruments and keyboard tinkerings, the music from this album is chock full of interesting paths and noises to follow and explore. Instead of pulling the listener in with a melodic hook or obvious refrain, the songs shoot off in tangents, leading into bottomless chord progressions and seemingly endless drum loops. The melody is there--where you find it is up to your interpretation. Sort of like reading Revelations.

?When Steve and I recorded Sometime Anywhere, there wasn?t a blueprint at all,? Willson-Piper explains. ?We just got together and played whatever came up. For example, when we recorded the first single ?2 Places at Once,? we wrote the music and we went our own ways to write the lyrics. When we [got back together], we had two very different lyrical interpretations of the music that didn?t sound like it would work together. But when we put them together, they fit together very obliquely.

?I guess that?s why we?re in a band together--we share the same wavelength. And that?s why the album worked out so well. It was very loose and free. We traded instruments. We traded vocals. There are parts in the new record where I don?t even know who played what. But it doesn?t matter. What does matter is that the music is there, it?s written and done. I think this is our best record yet, but that?s just because we had that freedom without the others.?

With the ?others like Koppes and Dee [Daugherty], Willson-Piper and Kilbey were stuck playing roles, specifically the roles of guitarist and vocalist, respectively. ?There were limitations in the past of four distinct personalities of four different people who thought that their role is to be whatever it was scripted to be,? Willson-Piper states almost bitterly. ?We had to record in a major studio where the idea is to get there at 12, finish at 12, and make sure everything is working in between. That?s the way the music industry tells you how music should be made. Frankly, that?s no fucking way to make music.?

When Koppes bailed, it should?ve affected Willson-Piper and Kilbey a little more than it actually did. ?Peter?s departure caught us by surprise, but we didn?t care,? he admits, not cold-heartedly but with a blunt honesty. ?We had had enough of him and he had had enough of us and that was it. End of story. We didn?t argue about it. We didn?t discuss it. We did the last tour [for Priest=Aura], he left and we haven?t spoken to him since.

?We thought about splitting the band up or naming it something else, but Steve and I realized that the Church was always the two of us with other people around. And we knew that we could still write great songs. Our side projects are still just that. My side project All About Eve is split up, but I?m still working with the other two Eves, Andy and Mark, in a band called Never Swallow Stars. We haven?t gotten a deal yet; Arista passed on it. Steve?s got a solo thing called Fake that he?s been working on. Plus, we have our own studios that we?re hoping to turn into businesses. But the Church isn?t over yet. We still know how to write great songs together.?

The great songs the duo wrote together-alone were so plentiful that they wanted to release Sometime Anywhere as a double disc, but Arista felt the jacked-up price of a double set would hurt sales. Arista limited the songs to 13 and included, as a special offer to the first 25,000 buyers, a second disc with another seven songs. Unfortunately for the Church, the songs that made it onto the actual album aren?t the ones the band wanted.

?The songs on disc two are extra songs we recorded for the album and should not, I repeat, should not be considered songs that didn?t make the album,? he snarls sharply. ?They?re as good as the songs that did make the album. It?s a damn shame that those songs are going to be [classified] as ?not as serious? just because they?re on another CD. ?Cut in Two? and ?The Time Being? were our first choices for the album. Arista, who usually doesn?t get creatively involved with us, wanted ?Business Woman? and ?Authority? on the record, which we resent and did not want on the record. ?Authority? and ?Business Woman? should not be on the record. Underlined. Italicized. ?Cut in Two? and ?The Time Being? should be on the record. [So much for complete freedom.--ed.]

?I don?t think that it?s the record company?s business, to tell you the truth, especially if the songs are not singles. They have this theory of ?oh, we wanted the record out more in a pop way? and then we get intellectual journalists calling us up and saying, ?What the fuck is ?Business Woman? doing on your album?!? So who?s fucking making the right decision there? Arista supports us, tries hard, spends money on us and they?re working to make our record successful, but that?s a gripe.? Understandably, those two songs don?t mesh well with the general feel of the album. ?Business Woman? has a rather ?70s prog-rock feel to it, somewhat Allman Brothers-like and completely un-hip. But the Church have never been really hip or trendy. When their music hit it big with ?Under the Milky Way? and ?Reptile,? it hit in a radical, weird pop way, rather like Radiohead?s ?Creep? or Timbuk 3?s ?The Future?s So Bright.? It was way too buff and opaque for the polished pop world, but somehow it worked.

Whether Sometime Anywhere makes it in a similar fashion is anyone?s guess (predictions run high for another breakthrough), but the Church know how square they are. Willson-Piper is even first to offer his view: ?We?re unfashionably layered. Very anti-pop and anti-rock. And I?m much too damn cynical.?

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