Magician Among The Spirits

1996

Interviews | Lyrics | Reviews | Pictures | Chords and Tab | Full Discography | Press Release

Musicians

Steve Kilbey, Marty Willson-Piper, Peter Koppes (special guest star on guitar), Tim Powles (drums), Linda Neil (violin), Sandy Chick (backing vocals), Chris Abrahams (piano) and The Utungun Percussionists.

Discography Information

1996 Magician Among The Spirits
  1. Welcome
  2. Comedown
  3. Ritz
  4. Grandiose
  5. Ladyboy
  6. It Could Be Anyone
  7. The Further Adventures Of The Time Being
  8. Romany Caravan
  9. Magician Among The Spirits
  10. Afterimage
There's more impressions and thoughts on each track in the old information and early opinions pages I made when this album was still very new.

I've also prepared the Welcome list, which might help you find out about each of the people mentioned in that song.

Singles

Comedown
Label: White
D1445

This single was released in late August 1996 and has FOUR other songs on it. The track list is as follows:
(These are all RealAudio 3.0 format)

The lyrics for the Comedown E.P are available.


Sound Bytes

These samples are all encoded with Real Audio 3.0.

Welcome
Comedown
Ritz
Magician Among The Spirits


Key Interviews

X-Press magazine spoke to Steve about many things, including this album


Other Notes


MATS and Feedback - What happened ?
The following section has comments from several people about the legal tangle and financial ugliness that surrounded MATS's US release. They include Brian Dwyer, an ex-employee of Feedback, Richard Godwin, the ex-CEO of Feedback, and Christopher Prescott, a lawyer who examined the contracts involved.

July 1997
Brian Dwyer used to work for Feedback, the US distributor of this album. Here's the whole sad story.....

First off, the Church is my favorite band and being a musician myself they are a great inspiration. For a year I worked at Feedback (Sept. 95' - Sept. 96') and you could guess I was more than thrilled when I found out we were going to distribute the MATS CD. However, the whole situation was a joke. Most of our sales staff were the frat boy loser type who thought Pearl Jam was the best band on the planet and they didn't even know who the Church were except for maybe "Under The Milky Way".

There were a few big fans including myself that wanted to work as much as we could to get the record out sucessfully. That of course was another joke. Feedback started to become a failing company shortly after I started (not my fault!!!!) and was not interested in putting any money or promotion into MATS. There were no posters, stickers, radio play, etc. I volunteered my free time to put up posters (if they would make some) in record stores and go to radio stations to get some airplay but they were not interested. I have a lot of contacts in the music biz in Chicago that could have helped a little but it that would have been better than nothing. They simply didn't give a shit.

Feedback was trying to "buy" themselves a little credibility by being able to distribute the new Church album. It was like flogging a dead horse (Feedback). The company was being dropped by decent indie labels almost every week, threatened with legal action by Sony and could barely stay afloat. I got the impression that the band was paid in advance for the CD's but I was lied to of course. My career there ended when I quit in frustration (lack of a raise, not getting what I was promised) and took my selling skills to IBM. Feedback was also involved in many other shady activities that sickened me because I knew artists were getting ripped off.

The thing that sunk Feedback was its return policy with the major record chains who didn't know how to buy and then they would return large amounts of product that Feedback could not send back to Europe. They sent apx. 17,000 copies of MATS to stores (up to 9/96) which I'm sure a good portion of that was returned due to lack of promotion. Many stores are stuck with their copies because they can't return them since Feedback went bust at the end of last year and just closed all of its doors last month.

I'm telling you all of this because I hate Feedback, love the Church and don't like to see artists lose their money. I know it might be hard to trust me since I worked there but I do have the band's best interest at heart. I have corresponded with Steve Kilbey in the past (not for six years) and I visited Karmic Hit in Sydney in May 95' so you know I'm a big fan. If you could forward this message I would appreciate it. The website is fantastic. I'm e-mailing you using my uncle's computer but please reply and let me know your thoughts on all of this. If there is any other information you need please let me know. Thanks.

Sincerely,
Brian Dwyer

I got a message from Britton Robertson who supported Brian's comments...

... as I too had a tie with the whole Feedback fiasco. My last job was as an assistant manager at a retail record store. I ordered all the imports and one of the companies I dealt with was Feedback. We had absolutely no warning what was going on until it was too late. One day I went to place an order and no one answered the phone. I was then told by the main office that it had been like that for about a week and that they had heard that the company was going under! They made no attempt to make any kind of restitution on any of the cd's we wanted to return and just ended up closing their doors last month for good. What good business!

Richard Godwin replied...

I could ask him if his store had actually paid for the CDs he said he had wanted to return. A lot of people don't pay as soon as they hear that a distributor is in distress, exacerbating the problem.

November 1997
Richard Godwin, ex-CEO of Feedback has supplied his version of events.

OK The MATS story. The deal was first investigated by my head buyer Gary Edwards who is a serious Church fan. He said that the Church didn't want to put out their next album in the States through a record label as they wanted to only make the product in Australia. That meant it needed importing, something that Feedback was particularly adept at. We were at that time the largest customer for all Australian CDs in the world. The contract stated that the CDs would be delivered for a particular price at a particular date. We agreed to take 25,000 units with NO returns allowed. We were to pay them over a 120 day period. Also we were allowed about 500 promo copies. Our side of the deal was that we would put on the street immediately about 16,000 copies (we actually put out 18,000) and we were to spend $8,000 0n co-op advertising with the big chains. We actually spent over $12,000.

The Church's management were to provide ALL of the promotional marketing through two promotion companies, one on the West Coast and one on the East coast. They were also to handle all of the print media marketing to all of the big magazines etc.

We agreed on a street date which we stuck to. The band were supposed to have all of the marketing assets in place by this date. After calling and faxing the band and management for a whole month (at Mushroom) we were finally told that the band was on the road and their management was incommunicado. SIX weeks after the CD was released in the States we were called by Scott Murphy at Mushroom and told that they did not have any marketing companies in place and did we know of anybody good that we could recommend. Total incompetence!!

ALSO part of the contract stated that they would perform in at least 4 cities to support the album.

We were totally pissed off by this time. No marketing, advertising, tour, radio play and we had almost 20,000 units out by this time on the street . I advised Mushroom that we would only be paying half of their bill (which we did do) but would not pay the rest until we were assured that there would not be a cascade of returns because nobody knew about the album.

By this time we were starting to receive requests for returns from Best Buy, Tower and Musicland because the sell thru wasn't happening...NO SHIT!!

It was at this time that Musicland decided that they were not paying anybody any money because they were almost bankrupt. Then Best Buy did the same to me..put me on a payment freeze because business was so bad. They both owed me about $5million . I had more pressing problems than a bunch of incompetents from Australia not honouring their contract with me. ie keeping my company afloat which eventually didn't happen because of the ridiculous way that the record industry is run in this country ie full sale or return. Nobody paid me, Strawberries, Camelot, Alliance, and for all intents and purposes Musicland all went bankrupt on me and didn't pay me. Obviously we went bankrupt and bang went 8 years of my life building what I thought was a great company. So did a lot of other people. However losers are not appreciated here so people like Brian can vent their spleens and cast all sorts of aspersions about shady dealings etc...idiots who know nothing!!

Pardon me for venting my spleen but it pisses me off to know end that the people who start rumours are always the people who know the least about the subject.

Truly yours

Richard Godwin

Christopher Prescott - December 1997

Richard Godwin,

First, let me say that your letter, or spleen-venting as you put it, was in less than the best of taste. Foremost is that you wrote it while addressing some of if not the most devout fans of The Church. This is a band whom, thanks to the favourable bankruptcy laws, you got away without paying AU$200,000. In fact, let's start there.

You state at one point in your letter that you paid "them" half of what Feedback owed. I assume that by "them" you meant Mushroom, rather than the Church. Either case is, I believe, incorrect. Feedback owed the band AU$250,000 under your agreement dated April 17, 1996 (Exhibit A to Feedback's Answer filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in the case: MUSHROOM EXPORTS PTY. LTD. v. FEEDBACK MUSIC DISTRIBUTION, INC.). That sum was scheduled to be paid in three installments. The first installment was one-fifth of the total owed. It was paid. The other two were two-fifths each. Neither of these were paid. Thus you paid one-fifth of the money owed to the band while you accepted all 25,000 units (copies of the album). And, though I don't know for sure, I highly doubt that you paid Mushroom what you owed them. According to Exhibit B of the aforementioned Answer, by September 30, 1996, Feedback owed $169,763.90 (I assume Australian dollars). This was for non-MATS units. On the same date you owed the AU$200,000 for MATS. The invoice for that shows it in the "3 Months & Over" due-column. Later, during Feedback's bankruptcy proceedings, Mushroom Exports was listed third in the category of unsecured creditors to the tune of $281,001.90 (this time I assume U.S. dollars since this was part of a U.S. Federal Court pleading). The band never received two-fifths of its money and neither Mushroom nor the band ever saw the units again. I wonder to whom Feedback sold the returned copies?

Other parts of your letter were even less charming. For instance, nowhere in the four corners of the contract does it "state that [the band] would perform in at least 4 cities to support the album." Meanwhile, Feedback was granted "the exclusive right to...distribute, market, sell, advertise and promote the Album within the [U.S.A.]." [contract] And yet you state in your letter: "No marketing, advertising, tour, radio play,..." ?

It is true that Mushroom and Deep Karma (The Church's then-label) didn't "have any marketing companies in place" and that the contract provides that they should have done so with one based in New York and another in Los Angeles. But the contract also provides that the marketing was to be arranged by Feedback "in consultation with Label and Mushroom." Is it any wonder that an Australian exporting company called Feedback for help in recommending a marketing company? You did say that this was "SIX" weeks late (though the contract doesn't set any time deadlines for promotional activities), but what about your payments?

Other issues I take with your letter:

Lastly (though there are many things that I could add) I must say that I am sure that there are two sides to every story and that I can't imagine what it must have been like to lose a company and, as you put it, eight years of your life. But some consideration and respect should go to this band, whose members have been severely, financially affected, and the fans, who have read your post. Let's also bear in mind that, as I'm told, you already have a new company.

Sincerely,
Christopher B. Prescott, Esq.

Richard replied...

To Christopher Prescott esq,
Well I presume that you actually have access to an original copy of the contract regarding MATS?

I would reiterate that the key clause which I put into the contract was that all of the press media and radio play was to be handled by the bands management. THIS DID NOT HAPPEN!!!

We were to provide market placement of the product i.e. Co-op advertising which we exceeded contract demands. If you entered any Best Buy or Musicland or Tower store in the US you would have seen end caps of MATS everywhere. We upheld our end of the bargain. The band did not uphold their DUTY to provide market awareness through the means agreed in the contract.

Why was the band and their management not available on the phone or fax for over six weeks whilst this was all going on? This can be substantiated by Gary Edwards who handled all correspondence with Australia, ie the band ,management and Mushroom. They let themselves down and then tried to say it was all because Feedback didn't pay Mushroom that it all went south. I say it's quite easy to kick a man when he is down.

There was nobody more perturbed or upset than myself that I could not pay all of the vendors who put their trust in me, as I consider myself to be a moral and principled person. I was also very grieved that Feedback was the final "nail in the coffin" for Mushroom Exports who I now know were having problems long before they dealt with Feedback. An unfortunate casualty as were we of the downturn in the greed fuelled music industry. Perhaps the band would have fared better with Alliance Entertainment Corp? I don't think so.

As far as shady dealings I challenge anybody to a public debate on this page as to what they were. I would like to know what these pertain to.

Finally perhaps you could tell me what my new company is named as it is news to me.

Sincerely Richard Godwin

PS the remaining returns of MATS were purchased from the bank out of the bankruptcy by Floyd Crow of Crows Nest, Cresthill IL I believe that he still has about 6000 copies. The other unsold items are probably still in the hands of the retailers who never paid us for them.


Dr Paul Hullah points out....
Another bit of trivia but I don't know if Church fans are aware: 'Magician Among the Spirits' was the title of a book of psychic exposes published in 1924 by Harry Houdini (actually, it was called 'A Magician Among the Spirits'). Not a lot of people know that.

My original MATS page has more information about the first impressions the album made on Matthew and Monica Green and myself when we first heard it. My opinion of many of the songs has changed (for the better :-) ) so ignore any disparaging remarks about them.

Ritz was originally written by Steve Harley of Cockney rebel.

The "Twillies" listed in the albums credits are probably Steve's twin daughters. It's a contraction of the Swedish words for twins. Their names are Elektra and Miranda and you can hear these names in the title track. They have appeared in a Swedish film called Flickor, kvinnor och en och annan drake, which means Girls, Women - and Once in a While a Dragon.

Bruce Butler told me that the piano on Afterimage is played by Steve. The whole piece was recorded live in the studio.

There's a small but noticeable "buzzing fret" in the quiet section of Comedown in the fourth bar.


Return to album list