The Church's 11th album shows once more new facets of the band. Shrinked to a duo after "Priest=Aura", Steve Kilbey and Marty Willson-Piper recorded their 1994 album "Sometime Anywhere" mostly by their own. On 1996's "Magician among the Spirits", there seemed to be a permanent drummer again with Tim Powles, as well as founding member Peter Koppes was "Special Guest Star on guitar". But only just, on "Hologram of Baal", there is a line crediting after "The Church are..." all four names.
A newly gained stability you can notice with the timeless wave rock of the album. For more information look at this issue's review - we don't have that much room and Marty himself shall tell you more. Some more facts important for the interview: last year Marty had recorded a record under the name "seeing stars" with All About Eve's Andy Cousin and Mark Price, his 5th solo record, "Hanging out in heaven" will probably be released in the new year, and besides their numberless side projects (good overview on Phantom records' pages, http://www.cmm.com.au/phantom), The Church will tour not only America and Australia but in winter probably Germany, too!
ZILLO: How long has Peter been officially back in the band?
MARTY: When we were half through with "Magician...", he called and told us he'd like to be back in the band again. Steve and I spoke about that and thought that it would be great to have him back again. He played on three or four pieces on "Magician", then we toured together and then we made "Hologram Of Baal".
ZILLO: According to this, Peter played on more of "Magician"'s songs
than on the two he is credited as a co-author.
MARTY: Erm, ..., i think he...that's a good question. I'm not sure. He played definitely on the songs he co-wrote. But on the others...Perhaps not necessarily, but it could be. Sorry, I have to be inexact but the point is: shortly before I had an interview with a music magazine and they asked me who played which guitar bits on the record. And I had to explain to them, that I sometimes played the bass [Brian: Notably, Marty played bass on the 14-minute title track.], sometimes the lead guitar, sometimes the drummer played the bass and Steve the guitar. Of course, live we'll divide that up as follows: Steve will always play the bass, Peter and me the guitars but in the studio we decide who can realize which part best. E.g. on "Louisiana" Pete is playing the 12-str. rhythm guitar, I'm playing the bass but live Steve will play the bass, I probably the 12-str and Pete will do the leads. Though in the studio I played the leads already in the background...but...we will see, when we'll rehearse for the concerts how it's done best.
ZILLO: How are your songs written?
MARTY: Usually we're jamming a lot, when something cool comes out during improvising, we're working on this and invent more parts. When the arrangement's ready, we play it a few times and after that it's recorded for the record. After that it is Steve's job to write the lyrics and to record his vocals. We don't write music around ready made lyrics, first we create a musical piece. That is probably a quite unusual method, but that is how it turned out after the 18 years we're working together. We lost that silly "demo-syndrome": first write a song, record a demo version, then later, in the studio, try to record a "real" version. Very often, a song is simply a magical moment you can capture best, when it's developing. I think that's exactly the essence of The Church: We are trying to capture magic moments.
ZILLO: You're not singing on the new album...
MARTY: No. Steve wanted me to, but I thought it finally would be not too good for the album. I thought, the album needed more of "P=A"'s unity. But as already said: there are no rules. I can sing on two or three songs or on no songs at all, that's not important. If we all think it's useful for the album, then I'll sing. If not, I don't care. There are no egos in the band anymore. We grab each other's instruments, we sing or not - that what is important are the songs we try to write how it corresponds with a certain moment.
ZILLO: So does "Hologram Of Baal" start musically where "P=A" ended, as
it does with the cast? *Brrrrr!! I know that sounds awful...*
MARTY: No, not that much. The point is: when you are in a band which is together so long, you have to re-invent yourself constantly. Some time you don't wear the same clothes as you wore as a teenager. When Pete had been absent for 1.5 albums, we had to re-invent ourselves compulsorily, because someone had been missing and when he came back again, we had to find a new common basis. I think every album is a step forward. I assume that because of this we have always problems with some fans, it seems to be that there are people who like certain phases of The Church. It's like people who wished The Beatles had been always playing songs like "She loves you". If The Beatles had done this, they would have become Gerry & The Pacemakers. That's the difference between 60's groups who were important long-lasting those who didn't. We have to outgrow our audience. We don't play what the audience wants us to, we're doing what we want to. And before all there is a "core-audience" which is following us everywhere and is growing with us. But no-one can expect us to play these short, poppy, catchy songs we played on our first records.
On the other hand even on our first album we had a song like "Is this where you live", a long piece with weird improvisatory parts. This side was always existing in the band. So we don't jump around between extreme positions, we are elaborating the facettes which had been always existed in The Church.
ZILLO: But I think the new album sounds partially catchier than the last
MARTY: OK! But that's just the same as with "Under the milky way". It was coincidence that it became a hit. We are apparently one of those bands who can make either a weird or a catchy record without knowing before how it will turn out. We don't have any influence on what comes out in the end, we have to wait for this.
ZILLO: And Tim is a permanent member now?
MARTY: Yes, definitely. He belongs to us since the final recordings for "Sometime Anywhere". We love him. Everyone of us wants to marry him, but he's wearing a beard and that's unfortunately not what we like. No, he's a really great drummer and fits very well with the band [that means: he is a good friend, a good person to work with...the translator] And he has engineered the new record and contributed very much to "Hologram of Baal".
ZILLO: Have there been guest stars again? You can hear violins on the
MARTY: Yeah, that's Linda Neil again. And William Bowden contributed some weird, spacy radio electronics. But that's it already. And - before all - there are no keyboards on the record, even when it sounds like there had been some...
MARTY: Yes. No keyboards.
ZILLO: Oh. So the sounds at the beginning of the CD are those radio
signals you were talking of.
MARTY: Exactly. But proper keyboards don't exist on the record. Look, The Church have always been good in atmospheric guitars.
ZILLO: But at the beginning of "Tranquility", I would bet I can hear
ZILLO: Wow! Tell this to your German company, they praise the record
because of your use of keyboards which gives such a modern sound to your
MARTY: So, please call them and tell them there are no keyboards on this record.
ZILLO: OK! I will. [done already. The interviewer]. Change of the topic:
what's going on with the Seeing Stars? Will you continue with them?
MARTY: No, I think I will not, because the others are in other bands now. Mark is with Del Amitri and Andy's playing with a new band called Hallucination. And I'm with The Church, producing other people's records and doing my solo stuff as I've always done, so I think Seeing Stars was a unique project.
ZILLO: But some time before it sounded like Seeing Stars were a new
MARTY: They were - for five minutes, but things are changing.
ZILLO: So The Church is your main project right now?
MARTY: Well, my main project's always what I'm doing at the moment. I'm very busy producing a yet nameless Swedish band, that's very important at the moment. On the other hand The Church need lots of time, because we'll do a world tour in the near future. I'm always trying to be as busy as possible. Sometimes it's a bit different to deal with that much work simultaneously, but obviously The Church is really important for us all. For me, it's always been, I've always been the one who thought the band should stay together, because of the music we are able to create together. Even when Pete left and we didn't have a drummer, I said "C'mon, man, we can make good records, so let's do this". If we would make crappy records it would be different but I think we're not doing this. Okay, it's always difficult to judge if you make crappy records or not and no-one would say about himself with joy "Hey, I make really scrappy records, we have to stay together to make more of them and probably there are people who don't know what to do with what we're doing. But I have always believed in our music and it is the only reason why we are still together. What else? I mean, in the last couple of years it was not worth it because of financial reasons...
Manfred Upnmoor, translation Stefan Horlitz
German magazine "Zillo" October 1998.
"Hologram Of Baal"
Finally they are back again, the (after the death of The Chameleons) incumbent Grand masters of guitar wave rock. Finally not only available on import and as a firm quartet, too, with Kilbey, Willson-Piper and Koppes as well as drummer Tim Powles. The phase of experimentation of the last two albums "Sometime Anywhere" and "Magician among the Spirits" is over and logically consistent, they start where they stopped: their 1992 album "Priest=Aura".
Not as gloomy as at that time, partially quieter, but always typical The Church. Yes, and finally the guitars of Marty Willson-Piper and Peter Koppes interlink, circle around and create those effect-laden textures usually done with keybords - The Church do it with guitars. And above all Steve Kilbey's calm but insistent voice, some time double tracked, which gets lost in his own lyric universe.
Ten new songs, from the mystic "Anaesthesia" via the dreamy "Louisiana" to the groovy uptempo track "No Certainty Attached", from the epic bliss of "Tranquility" via the unbelievable complexity of "Buffalo" to hymnic "Another Earth". It's hard for me to compare this group to other bands, this group, working for 16 [sic] years on their own definiton of timeless rock music and, 10 years ago, once even reached mass-appeal with "Under The Milky Way". But what's all this...one of the greatest bands of my musical system of values has made a new album, and those who still don't know it missed something.
What I don't know too (because it wasn't included with my promo disc) is the bonus CD "Bastard Universe" with a one hour jam session. More later.