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The Well: Peter talks about his side band Print E-mail
Monday, 01 January 1990
Drum Media interviews Peter about his experiences running his own band, The Well.

The Drum Media (Australia)


Peter Koppes

By Michael Smith

“I’m so happy with this band I want it to go on for ever! And I can’t see any reason why I can’t keep coming back to it, if they’re available. The Church was originally going to do something in December, but that’s been put back what with everybody happily doing their own projects, so we’re planning on something in April, which gives me a chance to take this out but not over expose it and I’m really happy to be taking it into the small pubs. I think it’s going to become much more of a thing of the future. I mean, being stuck in one band and the role imposed on you within that band can be eventually stifling anyway, which is why I think so many bands break up.”

Not that Peter Koppes is thinking of giving away The Church in favour of The Well, the band he is currently gigging around town with. He’s very happy with The Church, and why not -- they’re the third biggest Australian act currently working in the States. But more importantly than that. The politics within The Church allows for all the artistic freedom a songwriter could hope to attain, and still within a formal band structure.

“The thing is The Church started out as a very creative unit with a great potential to create music together. Steve had a lot of songs at the start, with the facility to record good quality demos, so we basically started working with Steve’s material and it was only a matter of time before we ended up creating together. The thing now is that The Church write such great stuff together that we all look forward to getting together to create what we couldn’t create alone and it’s exciting to write songs knowing that you can release them on your own platform rather than thinking it has to be something representative of the taste of the band, and it seems a much more natural thing than the music that the band creates together is intrinsically music that the band play together.”

And so each member of The Church has been steadily building up healthy solo (or in Steve Kilbey’s case now, duo) product catalogues without a hint of possible rupture within the band, an enviable situation. The latest solo release from Peter Koppes is the album From The Well, distributed here by MDS, a diverse collection of material that runs from lilting lyrical pop through ballads to nursery rhymes to rock, almost.

“You wanna hear it live! It’s full-on rock! Especially with the keyboards in it, it’s almost hitting those ‘70s instrumental peaks -- I don’t know -- I daren’t say it, but you know, when those big ‘70s bands hit instrumental peaks -- Roxy Music is the safest one to say, but even the big boys, it has feelings like that. The songs have been expanded by the band. You can’t get a bunch of guys together without them putting their print on the music.

“In fact, I’ve done demos for another album already, about an hour’s worth of material which we’re playing a lot of live actually. That’s one of the drawbacks I’ve found with drum machines and sequencers. You can never really hit the peaks that you do with a drummer, and working with a band in the studio, I think, is much better. You know, as far as time goes, when I did the last album (From The Well), I took so long running stuff off the sequencer onto tape before I mixed it that I might as well have had a band in there doing takes anyway, so I really want to use this band for the next album.”

Although From The Well is the latest album we have from Peter, it was actually released in the US at the end of last year (on the TVT label), mixed at the beginning of that year, and actually written the year before that, with one song written eight years before, which sort of puts talk of a new album so close to the local release of this one in some perspective. As to the kinds of themes explored on From The Well...

“Probably From The Well had a lot more of the relationships theme through it than what I’m working on now, which is more environmental, more narrative and things like that. You reflect on what comes to mind. What you create is a mirror for you and an entertainment as much for you as you hope it will be for the public. Reflecting on what I’ve done now and knowing the inside of what I was doing, I didn’t want to get too bogged down in relationships but I didn’t want to be afraid of them either. I wanted to create something personal without it being maudlin, which I feel I’ve been successful in doing because it’s pretty hard to stand by a fairly personal statement and cop flack. That’s another reason for not being so personal that it’s not so specific either.”

Then there is a piece like Lullaby, a nursery rhyme in the middle of a ‘pop’ album, which might seem to some quite incongruous, but fits into the philosophy Peter brings to all his work.

Lullaby was a daring thing that I knew possibly wouldn’t be thought of as hip or might be thought of as a parody, and yet I really liked the melody. I thought there’s a greater immortality of music in Christmas carols and children’s nursery rhymes anyway. Also, after having had kids myself, I became aware of how threatening some can be to kids, like the idea of cradles falling out of trees, so the idea of something soft and non-threatening appealed to me. And in the test of time, I thought it would survive any criticism it might receive now anyway. With time, you transcend fashion anyway, which I think is one of the amazing things about art -- it might be held up with the fashion of the time in which it’s created, but in time it just becomes art, with its own strengths. Live by fashion, die by fashion -- so I don’t have any concerns with it.”

Presenting the songs from the current and future albums, Peter has pulled together friends past and present, with keyboards player Anthony Smith (Flowers/Matt Finish), bass player Jim Leone (Celibate Rifles) and drummer Richard Ploog, his old offsider from The Church and The Wigmen, but the gathering of the lineup proved a little complicated, with Richard not necessarily the obvious first choice.

“Actually my first choice was an amazing drummer I’d seen up in Byron Bay, Mark Woods, who was playing in this African Ju Ju music band, but reminded me of Mitch Mitchell (Hendrix’s drummer), which I found really hard to equate, but he’s an absolute natural rhythmatist. Anyway, I got introduced and he’d been playing with Floyd Vincent & The Child Brides, with whom Richard was now playing. We struck up a friendship and he really liked what I was doing so I thought about working with him. There is this new device that allows sequencers to chase a live drummer rather than the other was round, so originally I was going to use my sequencers, but I decided it would be better to have a band.

“Now, Mark suggested Anthony, with whom he was also playing, in a John Lennon tribute band of all things, and though he isn’t credited for contributing to the Starfish album, Anthony used to come in and jam with us when we were writing the songs for that album -- a strange lot of connections with this band you know. Anthony was interested so then it was thinking about bass players, but I was having trouble getting anyone who was free at the time I wanted to take the band out, and someone offered Mark a lot of money to do something else and without a bass player it looked like the whole thing wasn’t going to happen and then I remembered, the day before I had to confirm all these dates, a bass player that I’d been suggested, and I also wanted to play with Richard because in The Wigmen he’d done a really good job on my songs and funnily enough the same day someone rang me for his number to offer him a gig so I was in a really strange position.

“So I asked Richard if he could do this for a couple of weeks before he took the other gig and I’d get Mark in to take over, and he said sure, no problem, and he liked it so much he decided not to take the other thing. The bass player had been recommended by Damien Lovelock, who had been in The Wigmen with us, and it was his bass player, Jim Leone, from the Celibate Rifles. And it’s such a great band!”

Which is why Peter Koppes, guitarist/singer/songwriter with The Church, is a very happy band member of The Well!


Transcribed by Mike Fulmer

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