Moves on Someplace Else
By Tom Cornell
The Church has never wanted to be part of the musical superhighway. The band has always seemed content to crawl along at their own pace, looking carefully at every detail along the side of the road as they slowly rolled by. Marty Willsom-Piper, Steve Kilbey and Peter Koppes, the band's core for most of its 14-year history, have created music throughout their career which works with precision and atmospheres. They have always concentrated on the details of their music, taking time to analyze each moment, investigating where each riff could take them, and never throwing something on tape without much thought.
In its early years, the band was heavily influenced aby the Fab Four, releasing precise pop songs like "The Unguarded Moment." As time wore on, though, the band became more interested in psychedelic, cosmic music, eventually building to 1986's _Heyday_.
In 1988, The Church swerved slightly from its course, releasing a highly polished album of surprisingly straight-forward songs titled _Starfish_. The single "Under the Milky Way" became a massive hit, and new fans were anxiously checking into the band's previous material. 1990's _Gold Afternoon Fix_ churned along in the same vein with Willson-Piper's guitar leading the way for Steve Kilbey's vague, mumbling vocals.
By 1992's _Priest=Aura_ the formula had worn thin. That album failed to transfix many fans and flat-out bored much of the world with its predictability.
And now, with the departure of long-time member Peter Koppes, the Church has pared down to a duo and recorded a new studio creation titled _Sometime, Anywhere_. Marty Willson-Piper and Steve Kilbey carry on as the Church with the band's most "out there" album to date. There are no obvious singles to be found on this one. In fact, three of of the tuned run over eight minutes long.
Occaisonally an uneven album, some critics argue that the band should have dropped at least a couple of the songs to make the album more digestible. (The album clocks in at 76:55 and includes an extra EP titled _Somewhere Else_.) And as usual, many people are scratching their heads, wondering how the band has avoided being pinned the cosmic Spinal Tap. However, longtime fans of the band could not be happier. The band is experimenting more freely than ever, and to many of them, this new disc is the best thing they have heard from the band in years. I think that's the way the Church prefers it.
SLAK recently spoke with a cheery Marty Willson-Piper from Arista's
offices in New York.
SLAK: WHEN YOU WENT DOWN TO AUSTRALIA TO MAKE THIS RECORD, DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU AND STEVE WOULD END UP CREATING ANOTHER CHURCH ALBUM OR WAS IT KIND OF TENTATIVE AT THAT POINT?
MWP: Well, it kind of was that, but I don't think there was much doubt we were going to be able to make a record. I mean, I suppose, although that was how it was, if you ask me if we had any doubt that we could do it, I couldn't realy admit that. I mean, I've been in a band with Steve for 14 years. I can always sit in a room with him and play guitar and come up with a song.
NOW YOU DON'T HAVE PETER OF COURSE. WHY DID HE DECIDE TO LEAVE?
MWP: Well, I think it was about three things. One, he had just had enough. 12 years. He never felt like we were making it big enough or something.
SO HE KIND OF HAD A DREAM TO BE A MEGA-ROCK STAR OR SOMETHING?
MWP: Yeah. I think so. I think he thought that it was too frustating, and he thought that we had been fucked over too many times and he had just had enough of the whole fucking game. Also, I think he wanted to sing more, which we didn't want him to. He wanted to get more if his ideas across on the records and maybe they weren't compatible. And also, Steve and I were off doing lots of other projects and I think that frustated him a bit too.
YOU TWO CAME UP WITH AN AWFUL LOT OF MATERIAL FOR THE NEW ALBUM.
Yeah, we did.
SLAK: IS THAT A RESULT OF FEELING A LOT MORE FREE WITH THIS NEW SITUATION WITH JUST THE TWO OF YOU?
MWP: Definitely. All the role playing sort of went away, you know?! All of the creative freedom! No preconceived ideas! Steve would say, "Ahh, you play the bass on this one, will ya?" And I went, "Ah, OK." And I had never played bass on a Church record before, and I played bass on half of this one.
AND BY TAKING ON DIFFERENT INSTRUMENTS, LIKE STEVE ON BANJO AND YOU
ON MANDOLIN, DID YOU WANT TO PUSH THE BOUNDARIES OF WHAT THE CHURCH
MWP: Well, the idea was, "Here we've got our own studio; we've got each other and about three months of time. Somebody press record, eh?"
And we went in there with this very open attitude. We didn't want to have a regular format group. We thought we'd bring people in as we needed them. We fucked about with samples, turning them round and drum loops. Suddenly the whole thing opened up. Instead of it being this regimented rock group, we suddenly had the ability that, well, if somebody wanted to whistle onto the tape they could. There was nobody there to tell us we couldn't do it.
SLAK: YEAH, AND I ALSO NOTICED THERE ARE TWO OR THREE SOUNGS ON THE ALBUM THAT ARE RIGHT AROUND EIGHT MINUTES IN LENGTH WHICH YOU GUYS HAVEN'T DONE SINCE THE EARLY DAYS.
MWP: Yeah. Steve and I have always liked long songs. We like songs that go on and on and on. It is just more freedom to be atmospheric and get into it more deeply. The two minute pop song thing is great for some people, but we just don't want to be that. That's why we don't like "Business Woman" being on the record. That was a mistake. Fuck! What a mistake that was. So you can fast forward that one.
SLAK: IS SOUNDS LIKE YOU ARE NOT UNDER ANY PRESSURE TO MAKE ANOTHER HIT SINGLE LIKE, SAY "UNDER THE MILKY WAY."
MWP: It wasn't ever there. We've never been under pressure to write singles. People don't sign us to write singles, they sign us because we're an interesting group. And if they say, "Well, you might be interesting, guys, but you ain't selling enough records." OK "BYE!" You know, "See you later."
A group like us can not work on a commercial level. We have to hope the that world comes round to us.
SLAK: WELL, THERE IS CERTAINLY A VERY LOYAL FOLLOWING WHICH GIVES YOU THE FREEDOM TO TAKE THEN FOR A RIDE MAYBE.
MWP: That's right. If a band like us compromises the music, then it just defeats the whole object of the band.
SLAK: NOW, YOU'VE DONE A NUMBER OF SOLO RECORDS. ANY PLANS TO DO ANOTHER PROJECT LIKE ART ATTACK IN THE NEAR FUTURE?
MWP: I should make more like that. I'd love to make another record like that, in as much as. . .you see, I've got this whole thing as a solo artist where--you know those wordy melodic acoustic songs that I write--I love doing that! And people that love it, love it too. But it is not a big selling thing. And at the moment, to be quite honest with you, I don't exactly know where I stand with my record company Rykodisc. I haven't spoken to them for about two years. So it is a little awkward.
And I am also busy with the Church, I am busy working with Never Swallow Stars, I am working with Mary Cassidy from Lulabox. She's really great. And she and I have met up and written a couple of really great songs together. So I've got loads of things I am working on at the moment. A couple of people have asked me to play guitar on their record, so I've got loads of things to do. But as soon as I get 10 seconds in the same day, I am going to get my acoustic guitar and I am going to write a beautiful, wordy, poetic, acoustic song just for you, man! (laughin')
SLAK: GOSH. . .THANKS. ARE THERE ANY PLANS FOR THE CHURCH TO GO ON THE ROAD?
MWP: Well, we've just done this promo tour where did acoustic shows around the country. We didn't do the Midwest. The closest we got was Cleveland, New York. . .well, we didn't even play New York. Cleveland, New Brunswick and Seattle. . .so the whole Midwest, Chicago, Michigan area just missed out. And we did that thing where we went with a couple of acoustic guitars, played on radio stations, did some pop festivals as a duo, did some clubs for radio stations. And it went pretty well actually. We only alienated two radio stations on the whole tour, which isn't bad for us.
SLAK: WELL, THERE ARE SOME REALLY WEIRD PLACES WHERE PEOPLE REALLY DIG YOU GUYS, THOUGH, I'D IMAGINE.
MWP: Right. Well, on this tour we played Salt Lake City. We played at a cinema in Salt Lake City after a Ginsberg film. We went on stage with a Marlon Brando film being played, with incense burning and a captive audience with no beer, just juices and cookies. We had 200 or 300 people. I can't even remember, it was however many a movie theater holds. It was an old sort of alternative cinema. Two acoustic guitars. And they just screamed the whole way through. They loved us! Because that is just the way it should be done. I mean, going to bars and radio stations and playing on a patio in Portland for a radio station where the guy is an asshole, who cares? Who wants to do that? Not me. So there are some towns where you get the atmosphere right and everything going right, and it just turns into a really cool thing. In Seattle we played in a laundromat.
REALLY? THAT MUST HAVE BEEN KIND OF ODD.
MWP: It was. But is was great. Two shows and they really dug us. That is the grunge place, and we brought two acoustic guitars and it just went down great!
SLAK: MAYBE YOU GUYS SHOULD DO AN ALTERNATIVE FORM OF TOURING AND DROP BY LAUNDROMATS, CINEMAS, WHATEVER.
MWP: Yeah. Yeah, that's right. If you see any good cinemas or laundromats that the Church can play at, you let us know. We'll be there.