Biography

Peter Koppes is an Australian born guitarist, singer, songwriter, keyboardist, bassist and producer, best known as a founding member of the internationally successful Australian band, The Church which first formed in 1980. He is a multi-talented instrumentalist, also playing mandolin, drums, piano, and harmonica.

Whilst growing up in Canberra in a musical family the sounds of the Hammond organ originally captivated him, and so began his journey as a musician. “I started playing drums with an interest in The Shadows, and then Jimi Hendrix’s Mitch Mitchell really inspired me with his jazz style. I think Santana had the same effect and the guitar playing seeped in to me as well, although, musically I think of Pink Floyd as my template for a band”.

Peter was 12 when he became the drummer at school in a rock band called Bacchus Marsh. He then learned guitar from the members of this early group. Later, with another band called Timelord he played guitar, rehearsing in a local church hall. Steve Kilbey, who would later become his colleague in The Church, had a glam rock band called Beyond Beavers that would play there too. An invitation came in 1974 to replace one of the two drummers with Steve’s band after they witnessed a drum solo he played on his drummer’s kit. Peter joined, but the singer left and they became Precious Little, with Steve on vocals. Soon after, he reverted to guitarist as they transmuted into Baby Grande, with the addition of guitarist extraordinaire Dave Scotland and friend Joe Lee on bass. This two and a half year collaboration eventuated in some recordings, but he left to go to college studying electronics and engineering. After 12 months he decided to sell up and go to England/Europe for a year with a guitar, whence he began writing folk songs. Significant time was spent in Stockholm, Berlin, London as well as on a tug boat on the waterways of Holland. An Eastern musical influence that appeared on his 1992 album Water-Rites may have been as a result of 2 weeks spent in Morocco.

On his return, he moved to Sydney to join a short lived band called Limazine before again teaming up to play music with Steve Kilbey who had recently moved there too. Following an invitation to play a support from a manager/promoter friend, they formed The Church. Included was ex-Limazine drummer Nick Ward, aka Nigel Murray on drums, who interestingly was a less than favourite school colleague of Steve. Together they arranged and completed Steve’s song ideas, and made a demo tape utilising studio time at a friends 4 Track studio to record backing tracks that would later be overdubbed at home using Steve and Nick’s recorders.

At this time, Marty arrived in Australia. He attended a show with a friend of Peter’s and was asked to join the band because he could play guitar, looked like he belonged in the band and the music needed another player to develop it further. Marty contributed to the demo, and with Peter spent a week arranging his parts for some live shows. At the same time Peter had garnered interest from publisher Chris Gilbey, of The Beatles publishing company Northern Songs who then witnessed the first and only rehearsal with Marty before the gigs, however missed the first show and the second was cancelled due to the band not wanting to risk being unable to pay for the PA and lights. So Peter announced to Chris that the band couldn’t continue and was disbanding. Chris said he would sign the band anyway, paying them a stipend, putting them in a rehearsal studio, recording an album, found them an agent, and then a record release with EMI!

The Church achieved early chart success in Australia with songs such as ‘The Unguarded Moment’ and ‘Almost With You’ that were also released internationally. The band also gained recognition for its’ distinctive jangled harmony guitar style which was originally instigated by Peter and sometimes mistakenly attributed solely to 12 string electric guitar.

Soon after recording the second album ‘The Blurred Crusade’ however Peter became disenchanted with several non-musical aspects of the band and chose to depart. He was convinced to return to participate in an Australian tour to promote the album which was then followed by a US visit with Steve to meet Capitol Records who were interested in signing the band.

Thereafter Peter continued with The Church to tour internationally, recording several more albums though recommenced to write and also to record his own songs. His song ‘As You Will’ was included as a B/side and extra CD track for the band’s ‘Heyday’ album and some of the demos were released in 1987 as an EP called ‘When Reason Forbids -A Requiem’ and the album ‘Manchild And Myth’ on an independent Australian label. Later Rykodisc would combine them for release in the USA with it attracting favour in Billboard magazine’s ‘Recommended’ section.

In 1988 The Church had strong chart success in the USA and Australia with ‘Under The Milky Way’ and its corresponding album ‘Starfish’ that included a song written earlier by Peter called ‘A New Season’. Pressures and extended absences may have brought about the split in Peter’s marriage and it features in some songs on his second album ‘From The Well’ recorded and released soon after. At the time, Steve also invited Peter to write and record some songs for his double solo album called ‘Remindlessness’and the magnificent ‘Danielle’ and ‘Soul Sample’ were born.

The Church then recorded ‘Gold Afternoon Fix’, which featured Peter’s song ‘Transient’. This soon became a fan favourite and a much loved inclusion in their live set.

This was followed by ‘Priest= Aura’. However Peter again felt disconnected from the band and left to pursue his interest in his solo band The Well with ex-Flowers/Icehouse keyboardist Anthony Smith, bassist Jim Leone of the Celibate Rifles. This band also included recently removed drummer of The Church, Richard Ploog, who had earlier invited Peter to record and perform with Celibate Rifles’ Damian Lovelock’s solo project The Wigmen. They also performed some of Peter’s songs from his first album when they played live.

The Well played live and recorded songs that were released as an EP called ‘Iridescence’and later the fan favourite solo album ‘Water Rites’.

There was still contact with Steve, who asked Peter to play guitar on some songs for albums he was producing, being Australian artists Margot Smith’s ‘Adored’ and ‘Lifetime’, Stephen Cummings’ ‘Everything Breaks Your Heart’, and Canadian Mae Moore’s ‘Full Circle’.

The Church recorded an album without Peter, and he returned partially for ‘Magician Among The Spirits’ in 1995 as a guest writer and player on 2 songs. The release of this album suffered with the collapse of the USA record company. Remarkably, fans were also openly dismissive of the track choices, preferring to make their own compilations, including tracks from B-sides, which included two more tracks written with Peter.

With The Church finding itself without a recording deal, Steve and Peter recorded a more progressive album at Steve’s studio also with Tim Powles on drums. They called it ‘PharmakoiI/Distance Crunching Honchos With Echo Units’ and released it independently in 1997 as The Refo:mation.

This reunification of sorts led to a suggestion that The Church reform for a tour to raise interest and funds for recording another album. This it did, producing ‘Hologram Of Baal’ released in 1998.

During this same period Peter’s Immersion Music record label was set up in partnership with mentor Sebastian Chase of MGM Distribution, to represent his previous solo catalogue and new solo release ‘Love Era/Irony’. Included, was an album by Margot Smith called ‘Taste’ which featured Peter, Steve Kilbey and Tim Powles.

The Church reinvigorated, has since released many more lauded albums including ‘A Box Of Birds’ covers album, and ‘After Everything Now This’. On the ‘Parallel Universe’ album, Peter sung the psychedelic ‘Reward’, on ‘ Forget Yourself’ the sublime ‘Appalatia’, on ‘Uninvited Like The Clouds’ he sings the epic ‘Never Before’, and on ‘Untitled #23’ vinyl edition, the very memorable ‘LLC’ (an anagram for Little Love Central).

In 2002, Peter released his 5th solo album ‘Simple Intent’. He was involved in various stints including co-writing and recording the song ‘Moon Over Water” with Sydneysider New Folk artist David Lane in 2003, and as session guitarist on various tracks of Australian Hip Hop artist Figg Kidd’s 2003 major label album, ‘What Is Figg Kidd?’.

Peter has since resided on the Sunshine Coast of Australia since 2004, preferring natural landscapes and sanctuary from the frenzy of the city. His talents extended to teaching music and he conducted seasonal ‘song writing’ and ‘performance for demo recording’ short courses at Nambour TAFE, ‘harmonisation’ workshops at QUT Brisbane, and is offering private tuition in guitar, bass, drums and song writing.

He also developed a song writing relationship with fellow local/international singer/songwriter Michelle Bradford-Jones. They have produced soundtrack material and the anthem song ‘Journey of Friends’ for a fund raising cancer benefit documentary commemorating the Smiling For Smiddy Foundation. 

A double compilation album of Peter’s solo work was released in 2008 called ‘Misty Heights And Cloudy Memories’.

A great milestone for The Church happened in April 2011 when the band performed ‘A Psychedelic Symphony’ at the Sydney Opera House with a 70 piece orchestra to a sold out audience. This significant event was filmed and released in 2014 as a DVD and double CD. Throughout the same year the band toured USA and Australia presenting the mammoth triple album show called ‘Future Past Perfect’ that featured the entire 3 albums ‘Starfish’, “Priest=Aura’ and ‘Untitled #23’. One show was filmed and made available on Moshcam streaming then released as a triple DVD compilation a year later.

Very significantly in 2014 The Church recorded and released the much lauded album ‘Further/Deeper’ after being joined by guitarist Ian Haug from Australia’s most successful local band Powderfinger as guitarist Marty Willson-Piper had made himself unavailable to the band. A second album ‘Man Woman Life Death Infinity’ with the same line up was released in 2017 and several world tours were undertaken.

Not announced officially until mid 2020 was Koppes’ departure again from The Church in 2019 following cancellation of the rest of the years’ touring due to the drummer’s severe foot injury sustained on the last date of the second part of the USA tour for ‘Man Woman Life Death Infinity’ album. 

Since then he has produced and played on songs by Sunshine Coast emerging, young, female singer songwriter Mayah whose 2019 debut single ‘Endless Mistakes’ achieved almost 500,000 streams within a year and second single ‘Butterflies (the rush inside)’ released in early 2020 had so far achieved 40,000 in 6 months. Together they streamed three live performances during the Cover 19 pandemic.

In July 2020 an EP released by Emma Tomlinson, also a Sunshine Coast singer songwriter featured Koppes on finger style nylon guitar and Ebow electric guitar for the highlight track ‘Silver Lightning’. They have also appeared live together on occasions such as Emma’s sold out show for Noosa Alive Festival in 2019.

Again significantly, in September 2020 following 2 singles and an EP, was the release of album ‘Lone Drifters?’ by his new ensemble called Syncretism with guitarist Dave Scotland, previously a fellow member of the Canberra glam rock band Baby Grande founded in the 70’s with Steve Kilbey of The Church.

Scotland had remained largely unknown except as a very celebrated guitarist by those who had experienced his extraordinary playing, especially using a right-handed instrument left-handed. Their co-production is Scotland’s songs and Koppes’ lyrics, especially rich in their guitars and effects, sounding both modern and classic.

The next solo album called ‘Music Evolution Therapy’ was released in August 2022 which is a musicology reference work of 56 short instrumentals featuring piano with orchestral effects that exemplify revolutionary music scale theory relating to Augmented and Diminished chords as well as a previously unidentified scale for the Dominant 7#9 ‘Hendrix’ chord. It can be truly psychedelic if played on shuffle as background music with its many varied and enriching harmonic environments.

This album pre-empted the final launch in late April 2024 of the completed educational website for mastering guitar scales called Guitar Modal Harmony which celebrates the knowledge and experience from twenty years of a diversified teaching career in music. 

The future may include worldwide lectures and new recorded music is planned.

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