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Peter talks about the state of play in 1988 Print E-mail
Friday, 01 January 1988

Peter was interviewed by Shake! magazine


Early 1988


HOLY ROLLERS:  The alternative pop of The Church

by Angela Jonasson

The strategy that the Church employ does not embrace a dollar-signs-for-eyes mentality or seek paparazzi treatment by the press. For eight years they’ve recorded six albums, toured regularly and built up a loyal following on the North American College circuit.

This low-profile band, fronted by the enigmatic Steve Kilbey, has now found an enthusiastic audience for their new album, Starfish, not only down-under but also in the USA. Shake! talked to guitarist Peter Koppes, a man whose stage appearance has been described as “immobile”, and his thoughts struck a note of unusual honesty.

Starfish is the sixth album by the Church. Do you think it’s the best?

“Always. We’re like General Motors Holden, the newest is always the best.”

Where do you think the progression is leading?

“It’s not progression, it’s expansion and evolvement. We’re basically carrying on our legacy and expanding on it.”

Are there definite goals for the band?

“It’s sort of like a lottery. You do what you do, and whatever comes of it, where your career leads you is the exciting thing.”

Do the public still associate the Church with ‘Unguarded Moment?’


Do you still perform the song on stage?

“Yeah, we used to resent it when we weren’t ‘huge’ y’know, and people would react to that only and we’d think, ‘shit, we want to get out of this horrible place’ because people weren’t appreciating the other side of the music. It gave us a bit of a bad feeling about the song, but now we play it.”

Peter has recorded on Damian Lovelock’s solo album which has a “much different feel than his usual Celibate Rifles stuff. It’s even got a song on it written by his father in 1957.”

The guitarist in Died Pretty also wrote a song, making it “a very diverse album. It’s much closer to a Church album than a Celibate Rifles one.” Peter has recently released a solo album of his own but his approach and the approach of the Church to independent projects is to broaden their profile for the public rather than any serious attempt at chart success. His song on the Starfish album, ‘A New Season’, is about “Utopia, unobtainable Utopia.”

The music the Church creates has been called many different things; ethereal, psychedelic.

“A load of crap! I’d like to scratch out wherever you read “Psychedelic” and insert “surrealistic” or “realistic” at least. Ethereal is a beautiful word. There is a word in Spanish that Salvador Dali and Picasso use, meaning an indescribable mood like surreal and ethereal to do with emotion; enerico. I’ve been told there is a word for it in other languages, but not English. So we’ll just have to be the substance without the description!”

Are you a fan of Dali?

“Yeah, did you see those French commercials? The only thing that disgusts me is that he signed all those blank canvasses, but he never admitted to it. But he shoved it up the art world by making them aware of the forgerers themselves. He’s great.”

When it comes to touring, it’s all or nothing. “When we travel we travel too much.” Breaks of up to five months a year usually entail songwriting and work on solo albums. The Church were completely worn out and on the verge of nervous breakdowns after months of promotional touring in Europe and the States last year. They returned to Australia for a needy break which resulted in two weeks of touring, doing four shows in each Australian main centre and a mere two-day break before embarking on a six week American tour.

“The first six days we had to sleep on the bus between cities. Hey, my record company here are telling me not to be so negative, can you come and save me?”

A complete change of topic was necessary here, so I asked Peter if he participated in the Bi-Centenary.

“Yes I did. I shoved it up ‘em and told them ‘leave those Aborigines alone!’ I reckon it’s disgusting but the Aborigines have the best occasion to stake their lot, while everyone’s celebrating ‘The Invasion.’ It’s like having a fund-raising party. This whole thing will inevitably bring a lot of attention to the Aboriginal cause. A good party, though.”

Do you identify with any Australian artists? Jimmy Barnes maybe?

“Jimmy Barnes? Sounds like a catch cry for a football game! Not really, he probably pays the bills for my record company. People like energy. I like Midnight Oil. I think Iva Davies writes some good songs and the Go-Betweens write some good songs and record rotten albums. I like listening to Hunters & Collectors -- anything that’s got a bit of soul without just trying to scream up a party.”

You live in Sydney; do you choose to have that as your base or would you happily live somewhere else?

“I like Australia. Last time I went to America I realised how much I missed Australia and I came back and felt very comfortable here. New Zealanders and Australians have that thing in common; a no-bullshit sense of humour. If I had a lot of money and security it might be different, but I’m quite happy. I don’t think anything is perfect for everybody all the time.”


Transcribed by Mike Fulmer

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