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On The Street: Rhyme interview with MWP Print E-mail
Wednesday, 29 August 1990

On The Street talks to Marty about Rhyme; lots to read about the songs.

 

On The Street (Australia)
August 29, 1990

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Of Rhyme And Reason
Marty Willson-Piper

by Susan Ryan

About the time The Church released Gold Afternoon Fix, guitarist Marty released a solo album. If you were an average band who had recently lost your drummer, other members putting out solo albums might cast doubt on the band’s long-tern future. But that’s never been a problem within The Church. Steve, Peter and Marty have all released work independently before, and with the band album presenting material as strong as ever, these excursions do nothing to undermine The Church’s foundations, and merely strengthen the hallowed combination.

Rhyme is, as its title suggests, a lyrical album, presenting Marty’s skill as a writer of words, capturer of thoughts, images, insights and visions, and also his sensibility as a lyrical musician, in the arrangements surrounding the expected guitar finesse. The songs on Rhyme were written over eight years, though the dates suggest Marty’s most productive time has been since he settled in Sweden.

“I don’t know what it is... you have a pile of songs which build up over the period in which you’re not recording... you get to the stage where you want to record the song you wrote yesterday rather than the song you wrote five years ago because you’ve developed  in many different ways from that time,” says Marty.

And there were some songs he half recorded that didn’t make this album, “which doesn’t mean to say the songs aren’t any good; a lot of them just don’t reach the record and you have to wait till next time”.

The album is full of literary references and careful, often beautiful, word play, but Marty’s solo work is more an effort to get down his personal vision, than searching for a space he’s not allowed in The Church.

“I always felt The Church’s persona was to do with Pete and I playing guitar and Steve writing the words. I figured his style as a lyricist was important as a focal point and I never wanted to compete with that, because it was like Miro wanting to draw on Picasso’s canvas. And secondly, I don’t ever desire to take over from Steve as the singer in The Church. It’s not relevant -- then The Church wouldn’t be The Church. We’ve got such a strong image with the people in the band doing what they do, and I think it’s important to keep it like that. So when it comes to making my records I’m making my records with my images, and there is a lot of emphasis on rhyme and word play and poetry and things which have always been important to The Church too; the lyrics have always been strong, but it’s in a different way.”

The musicians Marty worked with on the album are friends. “I’ve lived here for a while now and know people, know the scene. I like working with other people; I’m not into the do-everything-yourself syndrome. I could do that, but if I’m in the position where I know somebody who is a great piano accordion player and I’ve got a song called St. Germain, I get the guy in there to play on it.”

Each of the songs on the album has its own strong atmosphere, produced by such care with arrangements. St. Germain was an obvious thing, lyrically it just fitted the accordion, but there’s a story behind the bagpipes on Forever.

“The song changes key three times, and when it came to one of those middle instrumental bits I was sitting with Andy (Andy Mason, co-producer with Marty, engineer and mixer), and it came to that bit and I went ‘Bagpipes!’... Andy looked at me and said ‘Yeah, right -- bagpipes in January in Stockholm’, and was making suggestions like ‘Why don’t you ring the Scottish Society’... Believe it or not, I walked out of the studio for a break about an hour later, and suddenly I heard bagpipes. There was a guy busking, in the middle of January in his kilt. I couldn’t believe it, so I sat and watched him for a while. It was freezing cold, and eventually I thought I’ve got to ask him. I went up to him and said ‘Excuse me, I’m making a record’, the old line. I’ve always wanted to do that, because I did a lot of busking myself before I went to Australia. I went around Europe by myself, playing guitar in Paris and Geneva and West Berlin and various places, so I had this affinity with buskers. I felt good about doing that, and it came out great. The guy was really good.”

Rhyme was recorded at Cammell Lairds Song Building Yards which is Marty’s own studio in Stockholm. With The Church taking up so much of his time he really wants to be home as much as he can. Aside from his Church commitments and solo work, Marty is involved in other projects. Work to watch for includes a track on a Nick Drake tribute album (Marty is a big fan of his work), as well as playing guitar on another track with the singer from All About Eve, and that band have also asked him to play guitar with them so he’s off to London to record soon.

He is also playing guitar on an album by one of the musicians on Rhyme, and his girlfriend Ann Carlberger (who co-wrote and sings on Idiots on Rhyme) is about to release an album, for which Marty has co-written six of the songs. The singer from Till Tuesday is also considering releasing a song Marty co-wrote.

One of the main themes on the album is time, and getting older or maturing, especially on the dramatic Time Is Imaginary. “It’s something I can’t avoid happening, in front of my own mirror. I don’t dwell on it and I don’t suffer from age fear. I just think it’s interesting, something that goes through one’s mind at some stage. Some people might take age as a positive thing, some as a negative thing. I was just dealing with it because it existed.”

Time for his own solo work has become important as he matures as a songwriter: “The Church is always taking up time, that’s what I do. I’m in The Church, which is fantastic. I love that. But one day I decided to start making solo records, and then I came to the conclusion that if I was to be a songwriter I had to think about progressing in it, like The Church does as a whole.”

Rhyme captures a diversity many critics would not have expected from a member of The Church, including as it does the tipsy sounding Cascade as the final track, after heavier, more “intellectual” songs such as Time Is Imaginary. Did Marty intend to confound and shake up established notions a bit?

“I put it there because I wanted to try and make a record that was diverse, to try and make a record that had Say and Time Is Imaginary and Melancholy Girl and Cascade on it -- the fact that there would be a brooding intellectual who considered Time Is Imaginary a great piece of lyrical work and atmospheric and think that was great, and then to come to Cascade and go ‘Oh my God how could he?!’ I wanted to do that because I think the people who think that Time Is Imaginary is great need the extreme, and the people who think Cascade is great need the Time Is Imaginary. Why should I have to put up with other people’s narrow minds when it’s me that’s making the record? If I’d made a record with 10 Says and Time Is Imaginarys I would have been ‘incredible, artistic, visionary’, and if I’d made an album with 10 Cascades I would have been a fool. What do people want? This way I’m alienating half the people half of the time, but I’m completely making myself happy, and that’s far more important. It doesn’t say anything about me except that I am prepared to work in extremes, and I’m happy to be able to work in extremes. And I don’t think there’s any reason to ‘keep it serious.’”

On a serious note, the single Questions Without Answers addresses the social and political abuse of people, and in the liner notes Marty suggests people join Amnesty International to help the fight against these oppressions. In the song he says: “So I sing, it doesn’t seem to make a difference, should I give in? That’s not a point of reference,” and explains, “I’m a member. I’ve always thought of Amnesty as one of the most valiant causes that has ever been.”

Releasing Questions was fired by this belief: “I think there’s never enough of that being said and I always feel when I’m in the position where I can make records or talk to people about it and people listen to what I say. it’s important for me to take the opportunity. Here we are again, we’ve got one side of the room saying politics has nothing to do with music, and another side saying yeah, but it’s great to be able to use music as the medium. I don’t really care about what people think about the reasons I do things. I’m doing it because I think it’s a good reason, and I liked the song and I am a member of Amnesty International and I considered it in that month of the year important for me to put the address of Amnesty on there and discuss it. It’s the same as with Cascade, whether people think it’s relevant or irrelevant, I don’t really care -- I’m doing it for me, not for success, nor money, or for any other reason than because I’m a songwriter and a guitarist and I have a record deal and studio, and that’s what I do, and I know that for everybody who comes along and doesn’t dig it, there’s somebody who does. I like to concentrate on people who do.”

Marty did a solo acoustic tour of clubs in America with Rhyme, playing three or four hundred seat places and getting good reactions all over the country. He enjoyed the experience very much; “Suddenly I’m up there writing, singing, performing the songs, suddenly it’s a pretty different thing to standing on stage with a Rickenbacker, and I figure that a lot of that acoustic thing is to do with your personality. Suddenly you’ve got an audience in front of you, and I find myself telling stories and cracking jokes, being serious -- I tend to drift from one side of the scale to the other. I want to be like that.”

Marty thinks he’ll make the next album acoustic, not simply because of this touring experience, but because he has a backlog of other commitments. And most of his songs are written on acoustic guitar.

“Of course I’m telling you this because that’s what I’m going to do because the wind’s blowing due North at the moment. I could be doing a reggae album for all I know!”

Marty won’t be touring Rhyme here. “I’m sorry, but I think it’s out of the question,” he says. He’s only had a few weeks at home in Stockholm since the end of January, and after his other projects The Church are talking about getting together there in November to write songs for another album. “For me, I’m a real record person. It’s great when somebody makes a record. I really love Kate Bush and I look forward to when she puts a record out, and as soon as she does I go and buy it and listen to it a lot -- I don’t run around going ‘Oh God where’s she going to appear in the ___ . I’m more concerned with the album. That’s what I’m doing, working a lot on records and songs. So unless the record did well -- to come to play the Harold Park Hotel from Stockholm is kind of out of the question.”

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Transcribed by Mike Fulmer

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