"The Sum Of The Parts"

Individual interviews with all the band taken from a

 PROMO LP Circa. AMERICAN "STARFISH" TOUR

Steve Kilbey

Peter Koppes

Marty Willson-Piper

Richard Ploog


Steve Kilbey

Q. Are you guys all from from Australia...theres an Englishman in the ranks right?

A. Well, two of the guys where born in Australia, I was born in England but moved to Australia at an early age and Marty is an Englishman through and through, he moved to Australia about two weeks before he joined 'The Church'....so its sort of like a half and half band.

Q. You guys consider yourselves Australians?

A. Well I consider myself an Australians citizen but I don't sort of see us as an archetypal, you know...kangaroo eating, boomerang throwing sort of Aussie band.

Q. So your saying that 'The Church' is an exception to the rule as what most people would perceive as Australian music then?

A. No I think it's like American,you get Bruce the Boss who's your archetypal kind of American and then you get some other guy who isn't. The fact that he's an American is neither here nor there compared to the music. That's the way it is with 'The Church'....we are Australians but it doesn't have any bearing on the music we're making. I'd always been interested in English and American music as much as if I'd been in the northern hemisphere.

Q. A lot of the people we talk to...musicians, they're usually either avid listeners or not at all and don't listen to any other type of music.

A. I was an avid listener, I'm not so much any more, I just can't be you know. I don't have that fanatical kind of thing where I used to go and spend my pay packet at the end of the week as soon as I got it on buying fifteen new albums. I just don't feel like that any more. I think as the more and more you get caught up in your own trip you sort of get this...I don't know...I get this funny thing were I regard all the other people as the competition. I get a record and its either 'this stuff isn't as good as us' or 'wait a minute, this is worrying....this is a lot better than we are' Whereas once upon a time that didn't come into it at all.

Q. It seems that all the Australian acts, at least that we see are really extraordinary live. Do you think there is a reason for that?

A. No, everyone says it's the grueling Australian Pub Circuit, but there's a grueling pub circuit here. I've done a grueling pub circuit in America that's just playing in a bar in Tucson that was just as grueling as anything I'd ever done in Australia. Perhaps its because we don't grow up in public so much, like Midnight Oil after playing for ten years in Australia suddenly appear in America and everyone says 'what a great live band'. They haven't seen them going through their gestation, you've just suddenly seen them as a mature band with all that experience behind them. I think that's probably what it is. Whereas your own performers, you see them growing up in public. You see them from being a garage band to the likes of Bruce Springsteen.

Q. Recording the record, you left when the mixing was done. Is that usually how you record and collaborate. Where you more involved with the mixing in the past?

A. No, we've never been really terribly involved in the mixing. What we normally do when the songs are finished, we do a rough dummy mix just to say we want the voice to be here, the guitars here and stuff and usually leave to who evers mixing to get it and refine that and make it right. We always give vague instructions on how we kind of basically want things....we don't want the voice sounding like a telephone five miles away or anything like that. I think the mixes were pretty much how we heard them when we were making the album. Lladani was always saying he makes records all the way through like they're going to sound, unlike some guys who just do it and a week later you get this tape and you say 'Who' this band?....I don't remember doing this'

Q. As a lyricist what feelings are you trying to evoke on 'Under The MilkyWay'?

A. I think its the same feeling I'm Always trying to evoke, the sadness and loneliness of being a human being and that there's this something that will make your life complete and you can just never find out what it is. I think that's what all the songs I've ever written have been about, looking for that perfect fix that's going to make you feel good.

Q. These acoustic songs you recorded(for the promo lp)....why acoustic?

A. As far as I'm concerned I spent three months of hell making this album as best as we could and I don't want to go in and have some guy mike us up in ten minutes and recreate it.....to recreate 'Starfish' in a TV studio or a radio studio or anywhere its like... if they want to hear us live we play acoustic because it's just crazy trying to compete with yourself all the time.

Q. Speaking of live, we once saw you on the 'Heyday Tour' in a club and you guys built your set in a really extraordinary way. It was almost like it started slow and droney and by the end of the set which was about an hour and a half it accelerated is that kind of typical?

A. Well, its like me sitting back stage sort of saying 'Well guys what are we doing after the second song....come on we need a song what are we going to do?' and someone says 'what about so and so' and I say 'Right that will do'. I think we go on stage and as we get more and more excited and the set draws to an end and the drummer starts pounding a bit harder and everything starts getting a bit faster. There's very little planning goes into anything 'The Church' does, we're very disorganized.

Q. Any non-musical influences on your writing as a lyricist?

A. Yeah, in the last couple of years I've really been getting into the French poets and l read Andre Breton who was the founder of the surrealism movement, he's more famous for his manifestos than what he actually did, his manifestos articulated why he was doing what he was doing and I found out as I read them I realized why I was trying to do what I was doing and it made me feel justified in pursuing the course that I have, even though it's in pop music which perhaps isn't such a noble cause as poetry. He was actually saying in words fifty years ago that to bridge the gap between the conscience and sub-conscience, which was for the surrealist was the most important thing, to have direct communication with your sub-conscience, to tap into the collective sub-conscience and communicate with dreams, memories or recollections. We either live in a world of cars, hamburgers, CHR charts or we dream or we go mad and no one ever made an attempt to reconcile those two worlds. Which is what the surrealists were trying to do.....to juxtapose those two worlds to make them make sense together. I always wanted "The Church" to be like the 'Twilight Zone' , I wanted it to be the every day world but with a sort of slightly bizzare twist to it to give people that sort of spooked feeling. To make them feel that there is more to life than going to the beach and backyard barb-b-ques, that there's this sort of other weird dimension out there somewhere and I've always wanted to give that feeling back to people.

Q. The name of the album is as far as I can see is based on the poem on the sleeve.

A. Actually I can't really remember if the name came first or the poem came first. I didn't think of the name, it was just one day Richard said 'Starfish' and I had this sort of intuitive flash of this gold album hanging on my wall with starfish written underneath it.


Peter Koppes

Q. How did you guys come to record in LA instead of where you're from?

A. The producers who were into doing it were here and also Arista was our new home label and it was a chance for them to understand and know us to.

Q. Tell me about your song 'New Season'.

A. I'm really happy how it turned up, its an unusual song and that's probably part of the attraction in that it doesn't run a normal format of verse, chorus, verse, chorus - its got an unusual structure, its a cross between a mini-epic and a pop song in the one thing.

Q. You do some solo work on your own(?) tell us about that.

A. It has got quite a lot of similarities to 'The Church'. Obviously as a guitarist I create the same things for myself as what I contribute to 'The Church'. Except in 'The Church' the form and chemistry of the collective is a different energy than what you have on your own. On my own I write a lot more on keyboards which I don't do at all in 'The Church', so at least fifty percent of my songs that come out on my solo albums are written on a keyboard and that features primarily in the songs. They're very melodic a lot of harmony in my songs generally compared to what the church has. You can be more personal on your solo work too, you don't feel like your a spokesman for a committee. Your writing from a personal platform which is much more relaxing and very satisfying. As an individual you don't feel the pressure, it's a different kind of pressure because your going to have to stand for it yourself, and in some ways its a lot more satisfying. When you work with a band you've got other energies and they contribute ideas that are stimulating, I don't nesecerily think it's richer its just different.

Q. A lot of people like to associate you guys as neo-psychedelic and put that label on you. How do you feel about that?

A. Well, for the sake of label I'd rather be thought of as surrealist just to give it a difference from the psychedelic thing. The whole psychedelic thing was a bit of a fad but it was important in that it was experimental and exploratory, and I think it didn't touch on a lot of the areas it could have gone. Basically in the artistic sense, especially lyrics and poetry its been around from the beginning of time. The best artists I think are people who don't paint reality but paint their feelings or impressions of it, and I think music gives plenty of room for that too, to sketch impressions rather than being too specific. Dance music to me is very specific and we try to touch on different areas and expand them because with an intention like that its not really psychadelia its surrealist.

Q. I'm interested in how you act with Marty as a guitar player?

A. We sort of have a sum total that's greater than the parts. An idea comes about through a sort of a harmonic interplay, it happens differently on different songs, but generally when it it happens the best is sounding like another instrument, you can't really hear the two guitars but an orchestra of instruments and you get pizzicato violins coming out of it, and you get droning cellos and things like that. It just comes about from us plucking different notes against one another and its a trick that just falls into place with experimentation.

Q. You say you tend to play the slow echoed parts, is it kind of in your personality?

A. No, I've just got a bigger echo unit.(lol)


Richard Ploog

Q. From talking to some of the others here, we sort of gathered every collaborates in the writing of the music.

A. Well it's very easy the way we collaborate, it's not a conscience thing but more of an unconscience effort. The four of us just get in a room and just start playing and then tune,feel, atmosphere after atmosphere just comes out. That's the way we write, we wrote three quarters of 'Starfish' and 'Heyday' like that. It's a process we have adopted since the writing of 'Heyday' were there's like eight co-writes. we thought that that worked well so we continued to do that on 'Starfish'. That's what we do do, the four of us just get in a room and jam and that's how we construct most of the songs.

Q. So before someone just came with their song?

A. Yeah we do that to, in the personal credits. Someone just comes along with their song and we try and play it the way its supposed to be played.

Q. Do you spend a lot of time rehearsing before you record the songs?

A. Very much so, like for 'Starfish' we just spent a month just rehearsing in the same room five days a week, it was just like going to work every day then we had the weekends off. We rehearsed a real long time for that, in fact its the most we've ever rehearsed for any of our album's.

Q. Are you a surrealist too?

A. Yeah, I tend to be fascinated with the dream world, the surreal world and the metaphysical world. To me that's the real world. Im a realist in my day to day activities, but those are the sort of films I like and books I like and always have done...the more surreal, unobvious subject matters but with a real direct point.

Q. Do you guys get along?

A. No, we don't hang out with each other. We all have our different interests, we don't meet every week in a certain bar and play pool and chew the cud sort of thing. We really do have different interests, Marty lives in Stockholm for a start, so geographically we're so separated and the other three of us live in Sydney and Peter's got his family and he's totally absorbed with that. As for Steve, Steve's Steve.

Q. How important is it to crack America?

A. It's necessary to be an international band, Australians aren't the most perceptive or appreciative audience anyway. In fact they'd definitely be the worst. Once you start they're all fence sitters but once your established they give you their all but they don't make things easy for try and establish you, they're very non-committal and miss the point. Whereas the Americans are the complete opposite, to play live to they're the best, they're really enthusiastic and appreciate every thing you do.

Q. So this album is doing extremely well.

A. It is yes, we didn't compromise one bit, we didn't wear platform shows or wear a certain type of t-shirt, we did it completely on our own terms.


MARTY WILLSON-PIPER

Q. We gather you guys collaborate on a lot of material.

A. Yeah, there's three song writers, three singers and Richard who plays the drums.....how can I start to say all this? I've got to start right at the beginning to go into all this........in 1980 I left England after my group split up and I went to Australia. I had been in the country for three weeks and I saw 'The Church' play because of a friend and two weeks later I was in the group. Basically they were looking for a guitarist and I thought they were so good, Steve was the main songwriter, but I just thought it was really good so I didn't care who the main songwriter was, it was like hey this is a great band and I'd like to be involved in it. Then it came to the situation were it was great to be in a great band but frustrating because I wasn't the main songwriter. I used to contribute songs. I co-wrote 'Don't Open The Door To Strangers' way back on the first album and I sang 'Field Of Mars' on 'The Blurred Crusade' and co-wrote three. On 'Seance' Steve wrote most of the songs apart from one, 'Remote Luxury' I had two songs on and a couple of co-writes as well. 'Heyday' was mainly a band written album as 'Starfish' is. I think it's a mixture of things that has made that happen, we evolved into a band that learn't about songwriting and working together, the band writes a kind of song which is really missing in rock music today, like the 'N.S.E.W.' side of 'The Church'. Peter's been putting it pretty well recently saying ' I just realized something, ther's no rock 'n' roll around any more, there isn't any kind of Rock groups...theres pop goups, dance groups, funk groups and weird groups...and there isn't any kind of Rock group thats in between that isn't stupid, the world needs a Rock group that isn't stupid, perhaps 'The Church' can be a rock band that isn't stupid'

Q. Where do you see the evolution going?

A. There's this huge arena of places to put ideas that we create, and its inportant for us to make sure the things are going in the right hole. I think there's room for diversity sake to have Pete,me and Steve writing individually for 'The Church' as well as together and also ther is room for us to write individually and release our own records.

Q. One of my favourite songs is 'Spark', what does that song tell us about you?

A. What does it tell you about me?.....surely you should be telling me that(lol). Just before 'The Church' was dropped by it's sixty eighth record company I was doing some acoustic gigs and that song was written during that period. I suddenly camr to the conclusion that I could write a song at seven on a friday and at six the following night I could play it live on stage to an audience, I was sort of getting into the thing were I was writing a lot of acoustic songs and my new solo record 'Art Attack' has got a lot of acoustic songs on it which I performed and wrote during that period. To answer your question about 'Spark' it shows a side of 'The Church' which might not nesecerilly be there in some ways, that song points to the fact that I do have a sort of more rockier and popier sensibility but I don't think thats what I'm about either, it's just a part that I have. I've got many delicate, lyrical, beautiful, melodic cascading songs as I have up tempo pop songs.

Q. How do the solo projects co-exist with the band projects you work on?

A. They make the band breathe beautifully because it means 'The Church' albums don't become a thing were every ones fighting to get a song on it

Q. I think what makes 'The Church' different from a standard four piece band with two guitarists is the interplay between you and Peter.

A. .....It just happens you know, theres really not a lot of rehearsing going into each others parts, we just work independantly of each other and it just fits. I play something then Pete plays something, of course we all know what evryone is doning. There's not this thing were theres a lot of stopping and walking up to peter and saying 'Wait a minute Pete if you do this on that note and I do this on this note', there's a lot of analysing it, it's more like play,bang, then I play bang and if it doesn't fit lets do it like this. Although we are very much aware of what every one is doing we work very much independantly as far as writing parts, and when it comes to recording them, I always say to Peter, 'Well what do you think of that?' because his opinion is very important to me.

Q. We saw you play on the 'Heyday' tour and I noticed that you guys live built a set in a real perculiar way, sarting droney and slow, and if you were to graph it it would crescendo into a frenzy at the end.

A. 'The Church' I would like to believe is a band who can go stage and play you a delicate acoustic melancholy tune thats going to make you drift away and then can bang your head against a wall and to achieve those two extremes within the form of a two hour concert. I think that its a wonderful thing, sure some people are going to come along and say 'Oh God, you should have heard that 'Travel By Thought' thing they did such a racket with all those sceaming guitars' and they're going to hate it and then your going to get the guy who says 'God I love the noise, its all that acoustic stuff I can't stand'. hopefully what we manage to do is to cover all those bases, and I think we do and I'm proud of that.

Q. Is this record, in a way a do or die situation?

A. If this record hadn't of done anything, I don't know what would have happened, because all of us have solo deals anyway. I don't know if anyone would of said 'Well theres no point in caring on is there, we tried and we've failed'. 'The Church' has been through so many ups and downs that not getting anywhere or being dropped or not having a hit hasn't seemed to have bothered us in the past, so if this album had done nothinhg this time then maybe we would have gone 'Ah well, lets write some songs'.

Q. You live in Sweeden, it seems the band is sort of physically split apart. Whats the common thread that brings you guys all together? The one word that kept on coming up was surrealism but is this where it stops, with you?

A. Yeah, it probably does actually, I'm not the dream monger in the band. I have been and do like that kind of thing in small doses, but I'm probably more English (lol). I'm not from Australia you know and it makes a difference to the band that I'm not. Although we all get on and have lots of things in common theres a certain kind of vibe in Australia which isn't me, that's a dream time type thing. I used to like surealistic things, I used to like Salvador Dali when I was a teenager and now I hate him with a vengence, especialy because he was a fascist pig. The other guys wouldn't be interested in that , they'd be more interested in wether th picture worked or not. Where as I'm concerned as to why he painted it.

 

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Transcribed by Aiden.
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