The Exploding Mr Ed.
The Exploding Universe Of Ed Kuepper plays The Zoo on Friday, the Sands Tavern Maroochydore on Saturday and the Great Northern Hotel in Byron Bay on Sunday.
The other day I was trying to figure out which Australian musician might have been interviewed more times than any other. I came to the conclusion that Ed Kuepper could be in the running to accept that prize, despite the fact that he would probably much rather remain silent. My point is that I was left feeling a little confused trying to find questions that Mr Kuepper might not have been asked. It seems reasonable to assume that Mr Kuepper has dealt with his fair share of incompetents who seek a memorable sentence or two then offer up the “Thanks for your time Ed” before hanging up. Anyway, after my initial questions, delivered with much less nous than usual (being a most professional amateur journalist), I jumped in with the stupidest question I could muster: Do you think you’ve released a lot of albums?
“(Pause) I… I don’t think that I can answer that question.”
So I came back with my standard, “Um.”
So I tried: Is it a case of not being able to stop writing and recording?
“(Laugh)(Sigh) Er… well I just… (sigh)… it depends on the period of time you’re talking about I suppose. I mean I’m certainly not in the same league as say, Slim Dusty or Miles Davis, although I am significantly younger, so given time…(kind laugh).”
Good we’re getting somewhere. Mr Kuepper, it appears, has agreed to humour the incompetent journalist. I continued in this vein, asking: Do you think that you should release, say, one album every twelve months?
“No, not at all. In the past I have gone for more than a year without releasing a single thing, but then in another year I have released three or four albums.”
Then after probing a little about his happiness with the label that has been loyal to him for such a long time (Hot Records) – Yes, he is happy – I struck on another angle: Have you any interest in larger labels releasing your albums?
“Well, larger labels tend to work in a different manner to small labels. To give credit where it’s due the people that run Hot today are primarily the people that ran it when it started. They are one of the few truly Australian labels left which is something of an achievement. Especially when you consider that most of the larger labels survive because all that they offer in this country are colonial branches - they receive their instructions from overseas.”
Then at this point struggling to lead the interview in the direction set out in the journalist’s handbook (ie, ask about: new album, band line-up, tour dates, etc etc) I apologise for focusing so much attention on record labels.
“No, no, that’s all right. I think that the importance of the record label to an artist is overlooked in Australia, because a lot of young bands really do believe that they need to sign up with a major label to get overseas exposure. Festival, for example, went on a bit of a signing spree a few years ago and it doesn’t really look like much has come of that, there seems to be no real commitment on the part of any of the labels.”
The inverse is Mr Kuepper’s long relationship with Hot; a lot like a family I suggest.
“Well, yes, though it’s a mutually respectful situation. But I certainly don’t think of them as mum and dad.”
Here is one, I have it, it’s a question. A tad obvious but I offer it anyway: Did you experience the down side of larger labels when The Saints started out?
“Well with The Saints it’s safe to say that we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, and you live and learn. Unfortunately I don’t have the control over the work that I created in those days that I would like. Quite a lot of it is reasonably worthy. It would be nice to get it back.”
Reasonably worthy! Reasonably worthy!! Good God.
I mention Saints compilations I’ve seen and ask Ed’s opinion.
“Well the only compilation of Saints material, that I can think of, that is worth owning is the one Raven put out a few years ago. They didn’t go the whole hog, I asked if we could remaster it but they blanched at the budget. Those recordings would have benefited from the experience I’ve gained in the mastering studio over the years. The record could have sounded absolutely fantastic had they gone the whole distance. Having said that they’ve still done quite a good job. They have done a vastly superior job to any of the transfers EMI did when the albums were issued on CD. Raven have done a very good job and, on top of that, they managed to unearth a number of songs – due to some clues that I gave them – that had never been released. As far as I’m concerned you should forget about buying the individual CDs and just stick to the Raven compilation.”