Interviews and Press

Frank Donnelly’s 2001 Peter Koppes Interview

Peter Koppes is one half The Church’s guitar tour de force. He is also currently the only Australian born member of the group. Resident on the Sunshine Coast Qld now, Peter has a solo canon of four albums. Besides this he has collaborated with Margot Smith, Damien Lovelock, Mae Moore, TheRefo:mation and Steve Kilbey, while still finding time to set up his own record label, Immersion. Although greatly respected by his peers as a guitarist, Peter could just have easily been the bands drummer.

“I was involved in bands at school, as a drummer, from about the age of 12 I learned guitar from the members of one of my early groups. We used to rehearse in a local church hall and Steve’s band used to play there too. I was playing guitar at that stage and was invited to replace one of the two drummers with Steve’s band after they witnessed me playing a drum solo on our drummers kit. I quit that band to go to college which lasted about 6 months before I decided to sell up go overseas for a year. When I got back I moved to Sydney. Steve soon did the same and we began to get The Church together.” Shortly after teaming up with Steve again, Peter recounts how the fledgling band were given one of their first breaks by a piece of office furniture.

” Friends of mine were operating a new studio called Rhinoceros, which went on to become one of the best studios in Australia. They were starting out and agreed to give us some studio time in exchange for an office chair that someone had left in my van when I helped them move. We got enough time to record about 7 tracks, which formed the basis of our first album, and they got the chair they needed.”

When starting out as a musician Peter took some inspiration from the work of a number of artists coming from more than one instrumental point of view.

” As a drummer I was listening to Santana and Jimi Hendrix’.Coincidentally they were probably the guitarists who had the most profound impact on me later on. My ideal for a band though had to be Pink Floyd.”Peter has been in the band from the beginning, but he did take a break from it for a few years between 1992 and 1996. He had his reasons for this, but eventually it was the music that pulled him firmly back into the fold.

” I think we are all staunch individuals in the band and we have all thought about leaving at one time or another. In fact Marty and I have both left for periods and returned. At the time things really took off for us, I was torn between my loyalties to the band and to my young family. So I always felt challenged by the trappings of success as much as I was thrilled by them. The music has always been the justification. I originally left the band in 1982 but I agreed to stay to tour for a month because I really liked the album we had just done and I didn’t want to contribute to it failing. After that I was still there by the time I decided to leave again in 1992. The funny thing was that when I told Steve he told me that I couldn’t really leave as I had never officially re-joined. Well I’m back now and I intend to stick around until I get kicked out.”

The career of The Church has had its fair share of highs and some low points occasionally the two elements would meet.

” I remember when we were at our peak in Australia we used to regularly get girls jumping up on stage and grabbing us. There was one time at the Festival Hall in Melbourne when a fairly small girl got up to grab me only to freak out when she realised I was 6ft.4.

” The stock belief among fans of The Church is that Peter handles most of the atmospheric guitar duties while Marty takes care of rocking out duties. Peter suggests that what you may see on stage isn’t always a full reflection of what happens in the studio.

“On recent records Marty and I have swapped roles a lot, so it would behard for the listener to tell who’s doing what. The song demands what we playrather than our individual styles. Our songs can be so complex if Marty’splaying something really hardcore Ill go for the atmospherics but sometimes it works the other way.”

The Church are one of a very few bands whose career has spanned over two decades. Being in a band this long creates acomplex series of relationships between the members. Whatever differences have cropped up are usually overcome maybe this is the secret to longevity.

“Marty, Steve and I all have personal bonds with one another on different levels – I dont think any of those individual bonds have much in common except for the fact that we make music together. On a creative level we know that whatwe do together is better than what we do in most other collaborations. Everyone in the band thinks they know what is best to some extent, but what we end up doing usually has a vector of everyones ideas. Thats why it still works.”

Frank Donnelly July 2001 – (updated April’06)

One thought on “Frank Donnelly’s 2001 Peter Koppes Interview

  • Mathieu

    Loved your guitar playing in Tucson Arizona. You were playing a Gretchen?


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