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ALWAYS EXPERIMENTING

Ed Kuepper
Ed Kuepper

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a musician in possession of a brilliant album in 2019 must be in want of door sales and merch sales if he wants to also be in possession of an income.

“If I wait for random inspiration I achieve very little.”

Ed Kuepper

But even in these days of free music streaming and non-existent CD players, the cult figure who is Ed Kuepper is able to usurp this reality and still regularly sells considerable numbers of CDs and records to his legions of committed fans – some who have followed him since his days in Australian punk band The Saints, in the 1970s.

And this same diaspora of fans bought out every ticket to several of the shows on his current tour at venues across the east coast

He plays in Perth at Freo.Social next week and west-coast fans can expect to hear some of what they recognise – but with new sounds, new expressions. When I spoke to Kuepper this week over the phone, he was just starting to record a new album and couldn’t pin down what Perth fans could expect to hear from the live show.

He said his last solo tour four years ago was all about workshopping songs for the album he was then working on – Lost Cities – but this tour will not be the same.

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He is always experimenting with sounds and next week expects to play both new and old songs.

“I’m currently recording my first solo album since Lost Cities in 2015 and I am still unsure how the next album will sound,” he said.

“With the Unedited Unhinged tour I’ll be taking different approaches to songs that people may already know.

“It’s more the mastering or working out the style and aesthetic of the songs,

“I like the idea of playing songs to people where they will have some kind of connection, but I will be using different instruments.

“The audience will hear things that are evocative of what they’ve heard before – it’s the tonality, the colours that I’m going to use that will be different.”

Kuepper has a distinctive sound, but punters at next week’s show can expect to hear a range of instruments that are new to him.

“There is an electric tenor guitar that Warren Ellis (from the Bad Seeds) gave me – it’s completely different, with four strings, and it is all much higher … a different sound. It is a sparser sound but also a full sound,” he said.

“There is also a 12-string electric which I’ve never played onstage before, and the way that I tune it gives it a fairly lush orchestral sound.”

“It’s all a work in progress and I think people will be taken with it.”

All but one show on this tour will be solo, but Kuepper often plays with different arrangements of musicians.

“I like to chop it up a bit – I’ve never had an interest in doing one thing and sticking to it.

“I must have a low attention span or I just get bored

“I think it is important to push yourself, even in a solo environment.”

Kuepper said was always encouraging to learn his shows had sold-out.

“You can never assume that will happen – I’ve been around for a long time but I’ve never been a “chart” act, so to be sold out …I’m quite grateful,” he said.

In the past Kuepper has performed requests from the audience.

“The diversity of material that people ask for is substantial and goes across decades – and that is really great. It’s heart-warming.”

When asked about the new album he is creating, Kuepper said he couldn’t yet comment on what to expect.

“This will be radically different to The Aints album of 2017, The church of simultaneous existence, which was a really good record,” he said.

“It is a work in progress at the moment – I just started yesterday and its sounding very good – but where it goes needs some work.

“My most successful recordings, artistically, have a particular ambience about them, an atmosphere about them.

“It’s really important to me that a whole album has that.”

Kuepper said that he doesn’t stream music and prefers to listen to an album in its entirety, rather than listening to a random selection of songs.

And don’t go to Spotify expecting to find his whole canon of work – often he will create an album and only release it in hard copy to his loyal subscribing fans.

Kuepper started his music career in the early 1970s playing with the early punk band The Saints – which Nick Cave described as “god-like”, and “anarchic and violent”.

Australian rock historian Ian McFarlane described The Saints’ distinctive sound as being defined by Kuepper’s “frenetic, whirlwind guitar style”. Kuepper later played with the Laughing Clowns before beginning a solo career in the mid 1980s, and starting the band The Aints.

During the 1990s his musical output was prolific and saw his albums enter the charts, bringing him wider acclaim and awards, and bringing him to the attention of younger generations.

His song-writing fervour continues today – though he said he found the song-writing experience variable.

“The only way for me to write is to allocate a few hours every day, otherwise I’m not disciplined,” he said.

“I like the idea of getting up before sunrise and writing for a few hours, but I don’t always do it. There is something quiet about it which allows a kind of meditative concentration, and if I go into my studio and start playing I get something out of it – though that varies all the time.

“If I wait for random inspiration I achieve very little.”

Ed Kupper plays Freo.Social on Friday 13 September. For more information and tickets, click here.

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