When I speak to Ed Kuepper, it is after a confusing exchange of rescheduled interview slots to take into account the time difference between Sydney and Brisbane. Having finally been given a time, I call him as he is finishing breakfast and not at all expecting any bumbling journalist to interrupt his morning. Though friendly, his voice suggests a weary reluctance to have to talk up his projects one more time.
Since 1976, Kuepper has released almost a record a year, either with The Saints, Laughing Clowns, or as a solo artist backed by a number of touring bands whose names are the stuff of strange legend: The Yard Goes On Forever, Oxley Creek Playboys, The Institute Of Nude Wrestling, The Exploding Universe. My first question has to be about the significance behind these spectacular names.
“I didn’t want the kind of thing – like some musicians do – where they’ll have a kind of a brand name that they put out, and it doesn’t matter who becomes involved in it, it’s all just one brand. There are quite a few like that now. So that was what was behind it. The picking of the names themselves…” he chuckles. “Well, that was just to make them as memorable as could be. That said, they weren’t accidental. Each of those tours had a significantly different sonic aspect to it, so [the names weren’t] just some affectation. They all had some significance.”
When Mick Harvey left The Bad Seeds in 2009, Kuepper took over as their touring guitarist. Given he was already instrumental in the founding of several classic bands, I ask how it felt to become part of a well-established act that was not his own.
“Well, I kind of agreed to do it on the basis that I wasn’t replacing Mick,” he explains. “I wasn’t going to be Mick Harvey number two. He does what he does, and does it well. But they struck me as being a good band, so I didn’t have any real hesitation about playing with them. But I was quite strict about the fact that I wasn’t going to do it as a straight session man, and that was all cool, so it worked.”
Having found early and immediate success with Aussie punk icons The Saints, I’m curious if Kuepper can recall what his expectations were of his music in those early days; if the drive to write and perform was something that he had always aspired towards in some way or another.
“It was just something that has been with me from early on. I never wanted to be a fireman or anything like that; I always just wanted to somehow be in a band. Whether I had any realistic expectations of where that would take me, I don’t know. Looking back, I would think probably not. It was just what I wanted to do, and I stayed focused on that even when teachers and parents were advising that it was great as a hobby, but I should probably start looking at accountancy soon, get some job in a bank. If you had’ve asked me when I was 16 or 17 if I’d still be doing this all these years later, I’d probably wouldn’t have even really considered myself as being able to say alive ’til that stage. But you persevere. Life’s too short. I don’t know whether I knew that at the time, but I sure do now.”
Catch Ed Kuepper at The Gum Ball Festival 2014 with Hoodoo Gurus, King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard, The Septembers, Melody Pool and more at Belford, Hunter Valley on Friday April 11 and Saturday April 12.