In Reflection (1987)
The first solo album from 1986, recorded in Bondi Beach, came with a booklet explaining how all the songs were recorded. I used a Teac 3440 4 track and I furiously bounced tracks in order to get more space to record more instruments. All the stories are in the booklet, so try and track it down on vinyl or CD. Only having a simple drum machine that you weren’t able to program and with loftier ambitions for the tracks, I came upon the idea of creating my own snare drum. The local newspaper had a snappy sound when you hit it with a drum stick and allowed me to put in snare beats where I wanted them. The problem was that the more you hit the newspaper the more it began to shred and strips of ripped paper littered the floor. Luckily newspaper is not a rare resource, although finding one with exactly the right thickness and same sound as the previous shredded one wasn’t so easy.
Art Attack (1988)
Art Attack was recorded in the management office in New York City, (W57st & Broadway) in 1987. We could only work from 10 till 5.30 because that was the office hours and the building closed down when the offices closed down. It was recorded on a Fostex 16 track by Dare Mason and had an interesting mix of acoustic songs with cascading acoustic 12 string arpeggios like Water and You Whisper but also contains more experimental songs like Word, Fear and White Spots On My Jupiter Finger Jupiter Blue On My White Shirt – this does actually mean something if you would like to know. Listen/Space really should have been recorded with an orchestra but we couldn’t get them into the stationery cupboard with us. The cover art was supposed to be the absolute antithesis of In Reflection and sparser because we had more room where as In Reflection was busier because we had less room. It makes sense to me.
This was also the place that my treasured Rickenbacker 12 string (see front page) was stolen from as well as my black Shergold 12 string and another rare custom Rickenbacker.
“This is my personal favorite MWP record. Fearlessly all over the map. Pure pop to spoken word experimentation, And EVERYTHING in between. Most likely primitively recorded, it also boasts a warm production that is difficult to find on a record released in 1988. Drum machine sound actually leads to the charm of “She’s King”. “Listen/Space” somehow straddles the line between ballad and slow build prog rock. And it WORKS. The album proper opens and closes with the sparkling “Oh/Ah Stockholm” in a grandiose manner. The centerpiece is the sublime “You Whisper”, which boasts the best poetic lyrical imagery and the world’s greatest twelve-string chord progression.” (bkbrei)
Rhyme was recorded in a small cellar in Rörstrandsgatan in Vasastan, the northern part of inner city Stockholm. Again recorded on a Fostex 16 Track By Dare Mason it was an ambitious production in a damp cellar. When it was finished it looked and sounded like it had been done somewhere posh but believe me it wasn’t. The record again featured an eclectic mix from the acoustic poetry of Melody Of The Rain to the over the top drum machine production on Melancholy Girl. It was the eighties and nothing was going to stop those drums from sounding like that. The pure romance of Forever had lovesick couples playing the song at their weddings and the lilting country swing of the melody ridden Questions Without Answers spawned a great video in Stockholm filmed in Gamla Stan (Old town), Söder (the south part of the inner city) and Millesgården in Lidingö, the sculpture garden of famous Swedish sculptor Carl Milles. The photo on the cover was taken as a Rickenbacker promo shot by Caroline Greyshock but it looked so good that I decided to use it as the cover art.
Rhyme Press Release
“Rykodisc announces the release of RHYME (RCD 10114/RACS 0114), the second American solo album from Marty Willson-Piper. The album was recorded during January of 1989 in Stockholm, Sweden and features 12 tantalizing new songs from the lead guitarist of The Church.
After nearly ten years of cult status for The Church, last year’s STARFISH was the Australian quartet’s long overdue breakthrough album. Ironically, now that they’re stronger than ever as a unit, the various members are becoming much more prolific as solo artists. Both Peter Koppes and Steve Kilbey have released albums. Neither, however, have met with the enthusiasm afforded the work of the band’s sole Englishman, Marty Willson-Piper. ART ATTACK, his solo US debut on Rykodisc, featured 6 tracks from the import-only premiere IN REFLECTION and garnered high praise from the press (“Warm and intimate with grace, charm, and soul”–Boston Herald. “A brilliant collection of quietly psychedelic, wonderfully ethereal songs.”–Option).
The music of RHYME continues in this vein while exhibiting Willson-Piper’s best songwriting and performing to date. With the help of partner Andy Mason and friends, Willson-Piper has created a stellar album that expresses many moods and textures. He revels in his ’60s psychedelic influences with a tip of the beret to contemporary folk and beyond. “Questions Without Answers” is a perfect example of Marty’s knack for flawless melodic pop. His flair for the dramatic comes through on “To Where I Am Now,” a majestic piece guaranteed to raise goosebumps. “Melancholy Girl” bounces around joyfully in the face of its somber title. Throughout RHYME, the vocals are spellbinding, and the guitars, electric and acoustic, ring true.
The Church is currently in the studio recording their next album. Meanwhile, RHYME provides further proof that Marty Willson-Piper’s spark shines as brilliantly alone at it does in The Church.”
“New York Buddha”, B-Side on Questions Without Answers
Cover of “To Where I Am Now” by Noelle Hannibal
Spirit Level (1992)
Spirit Level was recorded at Dream Machine Studio in Stockholm, Sweden, in the early nineties with trusty friend, Noctorum collaborator and producer Dare Mason. On the previous album Rhyme we took the tape recorder into a room, unpacked it and set it up as a temporary creative space. This time we went into a proper studio and were grateful for having a sofa and a kettle.
We befriended Stockholmer Anders Hernestam who plays drums with two of Sweden’s most well-known acts, Thåström and Weeping Willows. Anders also played with the more recent MOAT project (the collaboration with German-Swede Niko Röhlcke). Recently relocated, now Swedish resident, American ex-pat Michael Blair who had played with Elvis Costello, Lou Reed and Tom Waits also contributed drums along with bass sessioneer Matts Alsberg on I Can’t Cry. Other Swedish luminaries appear throughout the album, including Mats Ronnerstam on the rest of the bass and Martin Rössel on slide guitar on Even Though You Are My Friend.
Spirit Level is a more organic album than its predecessor and includes the atmospheric Scandinavian Stare, fan-favourite Luscious Ghost and the aforementioned I Can’t Cry (covered by the high-cheek-boned Charlie Sexton, presently Bob Dylan’s long time guitarist). A French setting for Adelle Yvonne and the gentle catharsis of Will I Start To Bleed, back to Scandinavia for The Saddest House In Stockholm and to warmer climes and the River Nile for Melts My Heart with its hypnotic primitive beat, exemplifying an eerie yet accessible beauty that pervades all of the songs on this captivating album.
Hanging Out In Heaven (2000)
Although it seemed like a long time between Spirit Level and Hanging Out In Heaven, I had been very busy with All About Eve and three different productions in Sweden with Håkan Ahlström, Moderna Män and Justin Clayton. Most of the Hanging Out In Heaven album was recorded in LA with Shep Lonsdale in his home studio but it never seemed quite finished so it sat on a shelf for a while. I was contacted by Robert Walker from Heyday Records in San Francisco and he showed great interest in releasing it. So I finished the album in Gävle, a town north of Stockholm where I had worked on two of the productions with Andreas Ahlenius at the controls. We recorded 4 more tracks completing the album, one of them was Forget the Radio featuring Christer Björklund on drums. The album also featured the tragic I Don’t Think So, written spontaneously, lyrics and music in my flat in Ladbroke Grove in London.
Recording of I Don’t Think So, live on The Andy Cousin Show (with Olivia Willson-Piper & Marty Willson-Piper).
Live At The Fine Line Cafe/Live At The Knitting Factory (2000)
“I found a cassette one day in a box I was looking through in the loft. It had ‘Fine Line’ and a date written on it. I’ve no idea who recorded it, where it came from or who gave it to me. It just appeared. It was so unlikely, that it had to come out, if not for me at least for the audience…”
Live From The Other Side (2004)
Over the years I had played quite a lot of solo shows in different parts of the world. There was a venue in Newtown, an inner city suburb of Sydney called The Sandringham Hotel where I had established a residency and I played there each time I travelled to Australia. I would play four shows over a month on say a Thursday night and I would arrange the tables and chairs in the room so it looked cosy and I would light candles, have tea lights on the tables and burn Nag Champa incense. I had made a couple of live albums before but recorded on cassette – this time I had a mini disc player! One of the most annoying, fiddly, small buttoned, frustrating devices ever known to digital man. This particular trip I recorded all the shows and realised that one of them sounded particularly good. I sent the discs to my friend Dan Grigsby in New York for mastering, to try and get the best sonic possibilities out of this primitive recording. So this is one show from then with the talking removed as in those days I would talk as long as I played. The record featured 17 songs all performed acoustically with songs plucked from all the previous solo albums. It also featured poetry and my reading of Federico García Lorca’s stirring poem Cry To Rome.
Nightjar came about because between the release of Hanging Out In Heaven and the two Noctorum albums I had written another batch of songs. The songs were starting to get old before they were recorded as I had been playing them live and they had become staples of the set. Lullaby For The Lonely, I Must Have Fallen and Feed Your Mind had worked well as acoustic songs. So instead of making a new Noctorum album from scratch we decided to record the batch of songs that I had written but produced by Dare in a Noctorum style. It still has acoustic elements with songs like More Is Less, the countryesque parody A Game For Losers and the yearning The Love You Never Had. When we came to record Lullaby For The Lonely we decided to add drums. It was actually me playing the drums on this track, except for the long drum roll that was played by local drummer Nick McCloud – the wonders of technology.
No One There I wrote at my parents’ house just after my Mum had died and I hear her in that song. Otherwise Song For Victor Jara was written out of despair for the plight of this man, who was tortured and killed by the fascists in Pinochet’s military coup that overthrew and murdered Salvador Allende, the left wing elected president of Chile in 1973. It has become to be known as the other September 11th. I was asked to perform this song on the 25th anniversary of the coup in front of an audience of Chileans at Marrickville town hall in Sydney. I had the song translated into Spanish and read it aloud before performing the song in English. Everyone in the audience knew who Victor Jara was, it was a powerful moment for me. On a trip to Chile a few years ago, I visited his grave in Santiago. The cover art and title were inspired by reading about the Nightjar, a bird that prefers not to fly if it doesn’t have to and nests on the ground. I drew the picture on the cover with pen and ink and then flipped it onto its side for the mirror image resembling a butterfly.
Recording of Feed Your Mind, live on The Andy Cousin Show (with Olivia Willson-Piper & Marty Willson-Piper).