The Church FAQ
This is the Frequently Answered Questions file for The Church. Started by Brian Smith on 2nd February 1996 on a lovely Friday evening with twenty minutes to spare and last updated on March 8th 2000.
Some of the answers are just my humble opinion - any speculation is purely my fault but please don't be offended if I'm wrong about stuff. Let me know which bit is wrong and I'll correct it.
About The Church
The Church an Australian band formed in 1980 as a three piece and are still recording today. Their music can be characterized as intelligent pop/rock and more than that I won't say for fear of contradicting someone else ! The band consists of lyricist Steve Kilbey (bass, vocal), Marty Willson-Piper (guitars, vocals), Peter Koppes (guitars, vocals) and Tim Powles (drums). Long-time drummer Richard Ploog left the band after the 1990 album Gold Afternoon Fix. Two other drummers have also been in The Church : Nick Ward was the original drummer and was replaced after recording the first album. Jay Dee Daugherty was in The Church for one album (1992's Priest=Aura)and also toured with the band. Peter Koppes left the band in 1992 but has since returned.
A Quick Summary of The Facts
Beware : Broad statements and vague generalizations abound in this paragraph. Don't complain too loudly if you don't agree - I think it's roughly right.
The lyrics and the guitar work are what "define" The Church. Kilbey stresses that the lyrics don't have a predetermined meaning - you just interpret it however you want. But since the human mind is so good at find patterns where none exist, it won't take long for the listener to come up with their own interpretation of the poetic lyrics. Case in point : a friend of mine asked me how a cheery guy like myself could be into such as miserable band ! She hears misery, I hear something else !
The guitar work is based on the interplay between Peter Koppes and Marty Willson-Piper. Peter generally plays under Marty's lead but this is not a typical "rhythm" and "lead" guitar situation.
What albums have The Church released ?
In order of release they are Of Skins and Heart, The Blurred Crusade, Seance, Remote Luxury, Heyday, Hindsight, Starfish, Gold Afternoon Fix, A Quick Smoke At Spots, Priest=Aura, Sometime Anywhere, Magician Among The Spirits, Hologram of Baal and Box of Birds and After Everything Now This (2002).
Tim, Steve and Peter recorded an album called Pharmakoi/Distance Crunching Honchos With Echo Units under the name of "The Refo:mation". Buy it - 'nuff said.
Which album should I buy first ?
There are several "best-of" collections available, Almost Yesterday and Hindsight, both of which make excellent introductions to the band. I'd start with Almost Yesterday - it's a collection of singles, whereas Hindsight (a double CD set) also includes b-sides, which made it a great item for impoverished collectors when it was released around 1987/88.
If you would rather have a "real" album then I'd start with Starfish, though many would advise Heyday, The Blurred Crusade or Priest=Aura. Starfish is the sentimental favourite of many Church fans because it was the first one they heard. It contains their most successful single, Under The Milky Way, which made them world famous in 1988.
What about all the solo material ?
Steve Kilbey has released Unearthed, Earthed, The Slow Crack, Remindlessness, Narcosis (5 track EP), Narcosis Plus, and an instrumental album with his brother Russell, called Gilt Trip. In addition to this solo work he is half of Jack Frost, who's second album, Snow Job is a must-have. See the discography for a complete list of his work, 'cos there's too much to list here.
First Purchase : Narcosis Plus, Slow Crack (more gentle intro to his work :-) or Snowjob.
Marty has released In Reflection, Art Attack, Rhyme and Spirit Level and Hanging Out In Heaven. The first album, In Reflection, was only available on vinyl until late 1999. His most notable collaboration is with English band All About Eve, with whom he worked on Touched By Jesus and Ultraviolet. He also worked with two ex-Eves on Seeing Stars.
First Purchase : Spirit Level
Peter Koppes has released Manchild And Myth, From The Well and Water Rites. A single called Iridescence is also available from Phantom Records. He has a new album called "Love Era/Irony" (a double title) which is out now. As of March 1999 he is writing lyrics for another solo album.
First Purchase : Water Rites
There are various singles, b-sides, contributions to other albums etc. floating around too. See the discography for more details.
Who played rhythm and lead guitars ?
Neither ! Marty and Peter's interaction was more an interweaving of styles. To paraphrase a Seance list member (whose e-mail I have lost) Peter did the underlying intricate parts and Marty soared and screamed above it, though this is not always what happened. In the early recordings all the solos were played by Peter but in a musical evolution of sorts this soon turned around. In his Water Rites album, Peter "pulled a Marty" with his soaring screaming (or "echoey-achey" ;) ) work on the instrumental track Spirit March
Why do the albums up to Heyday all have songs totally written by Steve ?
With a few exceptions, all the songs on the albums up to Heyday were written by Steve - he did the music and lyrics. For Heyday Steve made the decision that the band should work together, so the music was written by jamming out the songs (ie Peter and Marty wrote the music for Tantalized, with Peter on drums) Then Steve wrote lyrics for the completed music. This is the technique they used for all subsequent albums, which caused a bit of strife during Starfish, where the nervous American record company execs said "Whaddaya mean you ain't got lyrics yet !?"
Peter recently said that he did a lot of the arrangements in the early days.
Why did Richard Ploog leave the band ?
He was becoming too unreliable and patchy in his performance, either due to his drug habit or just a lessening interest in being part of the band. He was replaced by "hired gun" Jay Dee Daugherty, who played on Priest=Aura, and was in turn replaced by Tim Powles. The drumming on Gold Afternoon Fix was mostly a drum machine, but based on tracks Richard recorded in the studio.
Donnette Thayer, who was present during these events, has given her description of these events.
Why did Peter Koppes leave the band for a while ?
There was no crisis in this case. Peter simply grew tired of the lifestyle that goes with being part of a touring band. He had other musical projects to follow and did so. However he continued to work with Steve on other projects (Margot Smith's and Mae Moore's albums were produced by Kilbey and featured Koppes' guitar). Sometime Anywhere was recorded without Koppes - just Steve, Marty and Tim Powles on drums. Peter recorded five songs on the MATS album, and returned for the MATS tour.
What kind of live concerts are they giving now ?
In 1998 they completed a world tour in support of the Hologram of Baal album. They are still putting on full electric shows wherever they are needed :-) !
What about bootlegs ?
These are worth tracking down, because their live performances were often a total blast ! Slower songs, such as Month Of Sundays, would be "rocked up" and the rest of the songs would be cranked up a notch or six, and extended instrumental breaks would lengthen even further (Mmmm...15 minute You Took...10 minute Tantalized...). I believe that the band's position on these items is a tacit approval, as long as its not done to make excessive amount of money from other fans. There are bootlegs of acoustic shows too and these will give you another different perspective on the material.
A live album was recorded during the Magician Among The Spirits tour of Australia (October '97), but will not be released. A live film was also shot, but is also not going to be released. An appearance by the band on Studio22 (eight days away at the time of writing) will be the first (and only ?) live, television studio recording of the band playing in full electric mode. Sadly it's only a half-hour show :(
Marty: 7 May 1958
Peter 21 Nov 1955
Steve 13 Sep 1954
Richard 22 Mar 1962
Tell Me Stuff About Steve That I Didn't Know
- Born in England
- Once worked as a "computer programmer's assistant" and was asked to resign after writing a program that printed out poetry instead of agricultural data.
- Birthday is September 13th, 1954
- As a child Steve lived a Victorian country town called Shepparton, which provided the inspiration for the song Violet Town
Tell Me Stuff About Peter That I Didn't Know
- His father is Dutch, his mother is German
- Started musical life as a drummer
- Birthday 21st of November (same as Richard Ploog).
Tell Me Stuff About Marty That I Didn't Know
- Marty is an Englishman, born in Liverpool
- Born May 7th 1958
- Has recently learned how to drive !
- Came to Australia as a busker, joined The Church after seeing them play
Tell Me Some Other Uncategorizable Facts Please.
Well, if you insist....
- Steve and Marty's former partners, Karin Jansson and Ann Carlberger were in a band together called Pink Champagne
- Steve and Marty both speak Swedish, and Marty also speaks Spanish
- If Marty hadn't been a musician he would have become a language teacher
- Steve, Marty and Peter all have daughters, no sons. Must be something to do with being around electric guitars too long !
I'm Convinced ! So Where Do I Buy Church Gear From ?!
Good question :-) I've put together a list of places to start looking. Good hunting !
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