Tim Powles

8:30 a.m. (L.A. time) Sept 18 1998

This interview was done by Kyle Munson (munsonk@news.dmreg.com), music critic at the Des Moines Register. My thanks to him for sending it in.

timfaces.jpg - 1300 Bytes [Q: So you've been rehearsing this week?]
When we can, we have. It's not too bad. We're always in a constant state of being under-rehearsed, and it's kind of cool. There's always room for, you know, things to sort of happen on stage. We have 11 albums to choose from, so you can imagine the lists that are lying around the floor at the moment. As far as which one gets selected ...

[Q: How did you get the "Spaceman" nickname?]
I'm a producer. I spend probably ... The band hasn't really been taking up that much of our time in the last couple years. We've been making records but haven't toured much. My company I work under, my company is called "Spacejunk." I have my own album out, but it's not released here yet. "tyg's In Space."

[Q: Aren't there musicians familiar to the Church circle involved in that?]
Chris Campbell is the only one familiar to the Church circle. He was an assistant in engineering on the Refomation album. It's an incestuous discography.

Marty's got another one (solo album) coming out. Tyg's In Space, it's kind of more like a whole other band, doesn't sound anything like the Church, doesn't sound like anybody in the Church has. I guess there's some sonic similarities on what's on that and what's on the new album, some things I've tried to bring to the band as far as the production goes. We all write together, the band. It's very rare that the Church set foot in the studio with a song written. We tend to write on the spot, and that's why you get that sort of, part of the reason why the band still sounds unique, and it's also something that I can't take any credit for, something that the guys have developed over the last 18 years, really. When we jam they are masters of jamming. I fit into that role really well. Just not only like a drummer, but thinking within musically, and that's kind of how the bonus CD ended up being kind of seamless.

There are not many bands in the world that could jam unintentionally for, you know ... I'm trying to think of the running length of that DAT before we tried to fit in on CD. The original was longer by 20 minutes. Marty was playing drums at the beginning, I was upstairs pushing faders up and down. We made a practice of always having a two-hour DAT in the machine on record, in case. If we like a two-second snippet, we can go, hey we can work that into a song. There were four of us in the entire studio building, just the four of us there, late at night. We had played maybe our first show on the Australian tour last year the night before. We were really sort of just very loose. We weren't talking much. Marty was playing drums so I could sort of set the levels in the control room. We started playing and then the other guys were doing something around him. When I started playing drums, he went back upstairs ... It was about literally close to an hour and a half. It just sort of stopped and I came upstairs and said, "How was that?" [Note: The band considered keeping Tim's question on the CD, he said, but finally decided it sounded too out of place. But his footsteps should still be audible.] You can hear me at the end (of the jam session) walking up the stairs. The next few days we listened to it, we thought, "That is really cool!" ... Someone's got to contact the "Guinness Book of World Records" and find out about the longest impromptu recording continuous to tape. [Tim briefly discussed how new DAT technology, as opposed to 60-minute cassettes, for instance, has made two-hour continuous recording possible.] The fact that the band can play for that long - there's not a mistake. There are near-errors that are kind of magic, and they work, but no one actually goes, "Glonk!" That's just really interesting.

[Q: How did your role in the Church evolve?]
I was helping them out of a spot. (On "Sometime Anywhere") they started with a friend of a friend (as drummer). [Tim said that, while he didn't want to speak for former Church (and Patti Smith) drummer Jay Dee Daugherty, the basic situation seemed to be that the Church wanted a firm commitment from Daugherty but that he wasn't sure about being in the band at that time. And Peter's departure had left the band in flux, too.] When I got the call on that record, the record was almost finished. I had to come in, and that was not a very sort of Church way for me to be involved in that record. I sort of had a bit of a legacy from more electronic bands in the '80s, the click track ... I'm the "king of the click track" in the sense that I've done all that stuff, even before the MIDI explosion. It was something I could do. It was a bit rushed. I don't know if I like a lot of what I did on that record. I don't regard myself as having arrived creatively with this band until now. I'm very pleased with what I did with Steve on the second Jack Frost album. [Tim said that there probably won't be another Jack Frost album.] I don't think the desire exists between the members. I feel that that record ("SnowJob") is a bit of a gem that hasn't achieved the status it deserves. [We chatted generally about the excellence of "Snow Job" and how Church-like records don't receive as large an audience as they deserve, if you want to put it in those terms.] I've been basically wielding my influence more and more to stop that happening. I'm a little bit more than the drummer to the band. I'm the being that enables those three guys to be together again. I fill this hole that means the original lineup of the band is back together.

Just before or just after I did "Sometime Anywhere" I ended up doing the Steve Cummings records. Karmic Hit, in Sydney - I started using that as my studio. I helped put the Margot Smith record, Taste, together, which (Steve) just initially asked me to play drums on. "I'm going to Sweden. Do you want to mix the album?" (Steve asked.) It was just Margot and I. ... I started to develop something that I never would've developed as a producer, unless he'd probably given me the room. He was trusting me to do things that I maybe might not make commercial sense, but make musical sense. [This applies to the Church, Tim said.] There's very little that's aimed or being contrived other than that's what is the right thing to do for that piece of music. The band is majectic, band is at times very classic and can verge on being overbearing, but you can never accuse the Church of being contrived. There's no commercial planning in this band, probably to the detriment to the bands' career in some ways. The only heavily, heavily produced Church album (before "Baal") - I didn't want it to be another "Magician" or "Sometime Anywhere" where there were any voids where you lost the listener too much. "Starfish" - there are sort of levels of fans of this band. If you look at a lot of people beyond the very hardcore fans, the next level back, "Starfish" is the most popular album. And you don't know if it's due to the exposure or the content of the record. But that is the one that's actually opened more doors for them.

What I really hope for the Church is that we can make another album in another environment. Another battle in the studio. I think it's really healthy. That's where it all comes from anyway. This is the most intense group of four people I've ever been involved in, and I've worked with some really great people and people with huge egos. (Divinyls, etc.) I can't put my finger on the intensity that exits inside the Church, personally, and it's in everything. You would not want to be in a rehearsal the last three days; it's so draining. We're all absolutely drained.

[Q: Was it imposing to join a band with as long a history as the Church?]
It could've been really, really imposing. I never recorded with the band first, and then they rang me. Because I've slid into the band more by osmosis than anything else, and because I guess my contribution has been allowed to be so equal and welcomed, and because I know Steve in particular outside. ... I haven't done anything with Marty outside of the Church. Steve, Pete and I played together many times in the studio. I can tell you what the hard things are, as a recorder and engineer or co-producer of "Hologram." Yes, I am very aware of the fact, I mean I'm lucky to have kind of felt, I wasn't really expecting to be a performer in an active band much. I'd kind of given that away, and now to end up in a band that can be so potentially active live. To be part of that to be helping that happen. It's a little bit, a little scary. And I've always been a very diligent learner ...

I know what I feel is the strength of the drummers in the past in this band. I totally take my hat off to all of them. I HAVEN'T come into the Church and gone, "Richard Ploog sucks and I'm going to do better!" ... I think I am in The Church. I know the band are totally happy, and I know Steve knows this is the best combination he's had. I would never had got the band in the same way to what it is now if I had been the drummer in the first place. If I was really frank and honest, I wouldn't have come up with the same sort of things that Richard did. I learned a lot learning his drumming, really trying to do that. When I first came in I didn't mind feeling as if I'm in a tribute band. Now I'm totally in it. We're trying to find the time at the moment to learn more songs off the new album. Other songs have been played for so long everyone's kind of forgotten about opening up and absorbing new song structures.

[Q: Which songs from the new album will you be playing on tour?]
"Louisiana" and "Buffalo," two more slightly, sort of classic songs. "Anaesthesia" - feeling like it's gonna be great. We're trying to work out who plays what, how we're gonna cover what's on the album. Pete wants to do "Tranquility." This is the beginning of the tour, and I know also that Steve kind of felt that until we get into next week the record's not out here. We're taking a quick crack at "This is It." In Australia we're doing "The Great Machine." A friend of mine (William Bowden) who played radiotronics on the album, he's gonna tour with us. I kind of talked the band into it. I'm a bit apprehensive about how it's gonna go. We've had hair-raising rehearsals. (Bowden) will be like an Eno character, playing bits and pieces and being weird and making sounds.

[Q: Any of the "hair-raising" atmosphere in rehearsals due to being back in America after so long? Or what does the band think of America in general?]
Steve and I are surprised (to be back in America). Peter claims that he always knew we were gonna be back here. Peter believes American audiences are intensely loyal. Steve and Marty have done acoustic tours over here. I'm aware that the band has continuing support and a following. I think one problem is, with the volatile sort of rehearsals, that last year we played seven or eight shows in Australia. Steve was feeling at the time that this would be the last album and we may never play live again. We were all thinking that. Then we got really excited.

And, um, I think one problem is we were just so good on our last two gigs that I know that I'm nervous deep down that we've done it. Our last show at the Metro in Sydney was one of the best gigs I've played in my life. Not just with the Church, but as an experience. We were playing nearly two and a half hours, last year on that tour. We just want to play that one show and know that we can do that all the time. ...

[Q: So you're afraid of never hitting that high again?]
Not of never hitting it again, but maybe the first two shows we might not, and that would be disappointing. The Metro gig was nearly a year ago, so hopefully we've all forgotten.

[Q: Are you a native Aussie?]
I'm a New Zelander with a Polynesian upbringing who spent some time in England when I was much younger. I fell across to Australia in 1981 and since then I haven't really had the time. I've just become an Australasian. (In the last several years I've) gotten back to England and through Europe, so I'm a bit more cosmopolitan. But I don't wear my nationality on my sleeve. ... I've always gravitated towards the English scene in Australia. The Church is perceived as a more English band. We've become a truly multi-national band now, and that is because I'm still fairly much based in Sydney, Peter is in Sydney but very manic at the moment, Steve is in Sweden now, Marty is between Sweden, London and the rest of Europe and thinking about relocating to L.A. Everyone will eventually be on a different continent. (We'll call ourselves) the Intercontinental Church. That'll be really good. America's been sadly ... I was going to say "neglored." [Tim messed up saying "ignored," and we laughed about that for a second.]

[Q: When did you first become aware of the Church?]
I arrived in Australia, I had been in the country about a day and a half, and I heard "Unguarded Moment." I heard a song back then by the Choirboys, by something else. ... In that first two weeks I don't think I could tell the difference in what I was listening to. Six months after, I was driving past a venue in Sydney, and I was driving slowly. I saw a flash of color on stage. [It was in early 1982 at the Bayview Tavern, a venue where he had previously seen a band he liked at the time.] I went back in, walked in and saw about four to five songs of the Church. I was really blown away. I was still coming to terms with Aussie culture and Aussie rock, and these guys were very unlike it. These guys were dressed up. Always had that image. I didn't have much to do with 'em for two years. Then I started being thrown into the situation (He first opened for the Church while in a band called the Venetians.)

But I don't mention that too often; I'm not proud of the early part of my musical past. I've grown and reeducated myself in the last 10 years, musically. I really feel - right now I don't feel particularly lucky, with the state of my head and lack of sleep and all the amount of things to do today, I'm not necessarily feeling that lucky. ... But I'm not lucky: I put myself here, and I've worked, I've worked unbelieveably hard in the last two years with this band and for this band. It's pretty cool to get to this point in your musical career where you can say, "That's where it's got to and it's cool and I'm gonna do this." You just sort of float into this thing that ends up probably giving you overall more musical experience.

This is my first American tour. I can throw my weight around in any argument about anything except touring America. The guys have hundreds of stories.

[Q: What's your favorite Church album prior to you joining?]
"Blurred Crusade." If you ask me in six months' time, it could change... I'm still getting over the fact that the first Church album I ever had was "Blurred Crusade." At the time I was just so blown away with the sound of that record and Richard's playing, his composition, his parts, his musicality and his discipline. It's hard because "Priest," I mean, yeah ... [He didn't articulate it, but it seemed that Tim was somehow dissatisfied with "Priest." But that's only my best guess.] As a record, just as a body of work and something for the listener, I would put "Starfish" next.

I feel there's something really solid and warm and there's something going on in the band at the moment that's really evident on the album. I'm really, really happy with it. I'm really pleased with where it's (the band) kind of glued and grown back to. I don't want to cast any negativity or doubt on the two albums that Peter wasn't fully involved in, but I think that it's a really good thing that it's formed back together like this. The interplay between Peter and Marty is totally, in the history of melodic rock music, is totally original. There are no two other people that play (like that). Steve is a blessed man because he opens his mouth and sounds the way he does, singing talking, whatever. He's born with it. There are two very sort of indiosyncratic and recognizable sounds what with his vocal and the interplay. And Steve's "bass sense." We all played different things, all absorbed so much of each other's musicality. We all play bass on this album. We have a joke: (This will be the tour with) four bass players on stage. Steve played a lot of guitar on this record.

We drive to San Diego this afternoon (for the first concert). ... Blessed under fire.

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