Tarantula/Sandpebbles, brella.org (AUS) 6 July, 2005
Ed Kuepper must have put the wind up someone over the years. He's a man with a formidable reputation - renown for being surly, droll, a perfectionist.
|Interview by Chris Hollow|
Sitting in the Northcote Social Club, I'm waiting for Kuepper to finish his sound check. Pedantic about his set up for a show - a run through can last for hours. This occasion is no exception. "It's why I don't have support bands playing with us," he tells me later. "I hate fucking them around but they always get fucked around when they play with me."
Kuepper, who celebrates his 50th birthday this year, looks svelte as he lets rips through chestnuts like the Stones' 'Gimme Shelter', Del Shannon's Runaway' and other various bits and pieces from his current live show with former Laughing Clown drummer Jeffrey Wegener.
But it's when Kuepper lets loose on his own material like Sleepy Head, a melted down 'Know Your Product' and 'Eternally Yours', a song he first wrote for the Laughing Clowns and has revisited many times during his solo career, that I really start to take note. These numbers, with their sly melodies, sit very well with the covers repertoire. They are classic tunes.
Indeed, Kuepper is a rarity on the Australian scene. The depth and breadth of his work is phenomenal. Not only does he have the ability to sell records but he's also willing to experiment. As an artist there's a lot to admire.
Later, in the cramped confines of the Northcote band room, Kuepper picks over a hamburger as he talks about the Laughing Clowns, the band he formed in the ashes of the original Saints in 1979. Quietly spoken and showing a wry sense of humour, I find him surprisingly easy to talk to given his repute.
"The Saints were a major label band whereas the Laughing Clowns were always independent," he says. That, for Kuepper, is the biggest difference between the two bands he helped pilot before going solo. "When the Saints moved to London we were on good wages, staying in nice flats but the Clowns never had that luxury."
For most, the biggest difference is the Saints are remembered, and revered, and the Laughing Clowns are all but forgotten.
Indeed, the Laughing Clowns occupy a grey area in the Kuepper canon. Not as succinct as the Saints, not as successful as his solo career. It's been a decade since any Clowns material was available when a 'best of' called Golden Days - When Giants Walked the Earth was released. It didn't make many new fans for the band. But, it also didn't get much press time either. In that same year, 1995, Kuepper also released a Saints collection called The Most Primitive Band in the World, a compilation of the Aints (the side project he did with Celibate Rifle Kent Steedman) and three, count 'em, three full length solo albums. Is it any wonder the Laughing Clowns might've been overlooked?
But now comes a remastered 3cd box set, Cruel, But Fair, that presents the Laughing Clowns for both rediscovery and some much needed re-appraisal.
Cruel, But Fair has taken a very long time to come out - are you a perfectionist?
The Laughing Clowns are often tagged as jazzy and experimental.
Do you have to be well drilled to be chaotic?
If you've got a clear vision of how the music has to be - do you have
to be an arsehole to get that vision across?
Given that you are playing with Jeffrey, what are the chances of a full
Laughing Clowns re-union?
Over the last couple of years you've spent
a considerable amount of time getting your past affairs in order…did
it feel necessary to do so?
There's been two generations of people who haven't actually heard this
music. The Saints are getting their due but what about the Laughing Clowns?
Will the Laughing Clowns have the last laugh?
©2005 Christopher Hollow
|Copyright: the owner.|