Departures — January 31, 2020 at 9:06 pm

Peter Koppes leaves The Church ‘to explore his own musical path’ as band preps new album

The Church circa 2010. From left: Steve Kilbey, Marty Willson-Piper, Tim Powles, Peter Koppes

Founding guitarist Peter Koppes has left Australian alt-rock legends The Church for the second time “to explore his own musical path,” bandleader Steve Kilbey announced on Facebook today, while also revealing the group is at work on a new studio album.

The departure of the 64-year-old Koppes — who previously had walked away from the band between 1992 and 1997 — now leaves Kilbey, 65, as the sole original member of The Church.

On Facebook, Kilbey wrote:

A band is like a family and over 40 years it is only natural that families will change and that members will come and go. Therefore it is with great sadness that we must announce the departure of Peter Koppes from our ranks to explore his own musical path. Peter has made the hugest contribution to the Church’s sound and he will be sorely missed. However the remaining members have decided to carry on with this immense body of work which Peter, as well as Richard Ploog, Jay Dee Daugherty and of course Marty Willson-Piper, have been invaluable in creating. We wish Peter all the success with whatever he pursues from now on.

Kilbey also announced that The Church’s new lineup will include drummer Tim Powles, who joined in 1994; guitarist and vocalist Ian Haug, who succeeded Willson-Piper in 2013; Jeffrey Cain, who’d served as a multi-instrumentalist on tour since 2017; and a new addition: guitarist Ashley Naylor. “We are already under way creating a brand new album, which so far is turning out to be a beautiful thing,” Kilbey wrote.

The last big shakeup for The Church came in 2013 with the departure of Willson-Piper, one that, on the surface at least, seemed less amicable than Koppes leaving the band. At the time, Kilbey issued a cryptic statement about Willson-Piper not being available to make a new record: “The Church will have to move on without him or have no Church at all. Which one did you want?”

The Church has released two albums — 2014’s Further/Deeper and 2017’s Man Woman Life Death Infinity — and continued to tour extensively since Willson-Piper left.

Here’s Kilbey’s full Facebook message:






  1. Andy Patterson

    When a friend first texted me about this, I was hoping someone had recycled an old Marty headline and just got the name wrong.

    Man, this one stings. First of all, heaps of thanks to Peter for all that he brought to the band and the fans. He and Marty complemented each other brilliantly, both musically and visually. “A New Season” and “Appalatia” rank way up there in any list of my fave Church songs. And “Take a Vow” off Peter’s gem of a solo album “Manchild & Myth” will definitely be making my SUE Best of ’88 list. I also have to add that my wife and I were truly fortunate enough to be stood right in front of Peter at the band’s last Sacramento show in ’17. That evening is going to mean even more now.

    On what I hope will actually be a bright note… The Church came out with “Further/Deeper” after Marty’s exit–and as skeptical as I was about how that album was going to sound, it’s now firmly in my Church Top 5, if not Top 3. So another winner might be right around the corner from Steve & Crew. And if Peter, Marty, and Richard Ploog were to ever surprise us with something of their own, I am so there! ;)

    Thank you, Peter. All the best to you musically and beyond!

  2. I hope there is a special place in hell for whoever OK’ed their deal with Arista that allowed them to make off-the-label solo LP’s. That really was the beginning of the end for this band because it diluted the creative tension and set the precedent that everyone would start saving songs for their own LP’s. It truly never was great after that. Anyone hoenest would have to admit they werent worth a damn after Starfish. And that was 32 years ago.

    • I’m sorry but this is just wrong. I’m a lifelong fan of theirs well before starfish, and that was definitely not the end. Every album after that was a least great, and most more so. Priest=Aura not amazing, are you insane? Hologram of Baal, Forget Yourself, After Everything Now This, some of their best albums period, better than Starfish and anything before, except maybe for my personal favorite, Heyday. But anyone thinking they were not still a great band after Starfish is just missing out.

      • I agree completely. Starfish is a great record, but is overrated. Priest = Aura is their masterpiece and there are so many other brilliant albums after Starfish. Starfish wouldn’t even be in my top five.

    • That is patently ridiculous.

  3. john f browne

    sad only thing next is for steve to leave

  4. This is very sad indeed. And it’s hard to think of this upcoming album as a “Church” album. If it’s just Steve and a bunch of non-original members, it’s no different than “The Slow Crack” or “Unearthed” or any Kilbey solo albums. The Church is a brand now more than a band.

    • Relayer71

      Sorry, but at this point in time, it’s kind of silly to throw Tim Powles in with “a bunch of non-original members”. He’s been with the band for 26 years now, far more than anyone including the original drummer.

      Not just that, but he was the best thing to happen to the Church at the time: he’s a fantastic drummer and having produced or engineered most of their albums (or had a hand in it) since he joined has given them a far better sound on the albums than before. There seems to be far more multi-vocal/harmony bits and interesting experimental sounds/noises on the albums since he’s joined.

      As for the announcement, it makes me sad. I was upset about MWP leaving, but at least that left PK, and although the last two albums have been great, I’m kind of worried about the next album.

      Still, to some degree, this has always been Kilbey’s band anyway and I still have some confidence that with him and Powles on board, we’ll still get a good Church album.

  5. Kilbey dismissed MWP’s departure by saying the Church isn’t a band, it’s a body of work. Seems they’re about to put that to test.

  6. Jason Wilbet

    This is like Paul McCartney declaring his current band is now the Beatles.

    • Or David Crosby touring solo as CSNY!

      I think that’s what annoyed me so much when Kilbey pooh-poohed MWP’s departure. Whether he wants to admit it or not, “The Church” has ALWAYS been defined by the guitarists playing on either side of him — their complementary styles and approaches to the instrument, their contributions to the arrangements, their solos burned into our brains over decades, their identities, even their looks. You can’t really say “The Church” and not picture the three of them, even though F/D was indeed an excellent record and I’ve seen them play I think six times since MWP left and enjoyed all the shows. One was among the very best and most energetic Church shows I’ve ever seen, actually.

      I guess I’m just bowing to the inevitability of change. I’m glad the music lives on, and if the current incarnation comes to town I’ll probably go see them. It will take a certain suspension of disbelief, though, where you just think of it as a performance of good songs by good musicians rather than “The Church.”

  7. Vernon Harmon

    Love the site, but using a photo from 2010 is just lazy. There are plenty of recent photos of the band with Ian instead of Marty. Why not just use a promo shot from Starfish with Ploog? Further/Deeper is an amazing album and while I personally think MWLDI wasn’t quite as good, it is still better than 99% of what gets on the radio today and Ian more than holds his own live. I love Marty but give Ian a little respect — it’s been 7 years since Marty left!!

    • Fair point. But not lazy, I did put thought into it. I chose this photo because Koppes is more prominent in it than the other promo photos I have, and I knew the post would discuss Willson-Piper’s departure, too. Plus I made a point of noting that it was a photo from 2010, not a current band pic.

  8. Scott Stalcup

    Eh. Steve’s still singing. Still The Church then.

  9. The Church has a legacy, that is paralleled by few. Forty years. I have been a fan since mid-eighities. I was disappointed when Willson-Piper left, but reality is they haven’t lost a beat. This one does sting, though as Peter was so instrumental to the Church’s sound. Those two albums in the 90s he was not a part of have a slightly different sound. A part of me thinks th le church should hang it up, but as someone else said, the church is a brand, and in that respect I understand why Kilbey wants to continue under the name.
    Steven in Atlanta

  10. I saw these guys in Westbury a few years ago. They shared the bill with The Psychedelic Furs. Entire show was great! While the Church wa amazing and my favorite part of the show was Peter’s lead with the E Bow, I was shocked when Peter came to the front of the stage and yelled “Fuck You” to a couple of people a few rows back who appeared to be either recording or taking photos. Peter wasn’t joking he seriously look extremely upset. I do not condone the people recording. But Peter really blew his cool right there. I sensed that something was bothering this man deeper than those people in the audience recording. Peter thank you for the musical inspiration as I feel that I am a better guitarist from watching and listening to you.

  11. I dreamed this happened, and was sure it was only a dream until I just found this article. well, that’s it for me then. i won’t be listening to any new church stuff. love your work peter. thankyou and goodnight.

  12. Ted Freeman

    Just saw a tour photo with 5 ppl and none looked like Peter so I googled and top of list found this Slicing Up Eyeballs article – you guys ALWAYS have the lowdown on bands I loved; thanks and extremely impressive.

    The loss of Peter is just final devastation. My favorite Church was the Ploog era, not to take away from Tim but the music got more droney and repetitive often in later years. Interesting point about saving best tunes for solo work bc I always will appreciate a great poetic mysterious Kilbey lyric but the Heyday era melodic drive and weave of MWP and PK was my jam, sorry those of you claiming best albums of late; I listen to them occasionally but will leave these incarnations to newer fans if you want to think of it as The Church; I decided not to see them again ‘till Willson Piper was made peace with so, now I will just wish Steve well. Still trying to see his documentary; he’s a singular force but The Church is now a memory recreated by a talented shell that should really take on a new name imho. Kilbey has no shortage of ideas; think of a new moniker. MWP and now Koppes is too much; you guys were stellar. – Ted in Atlanta

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