Thursday, December 07, 2006

Laugh, Clown, Laugh:
A Chat With Ed Kuepper

Earlier this year, I interviewed Ed Kuepper (the Saints, the Laughing Clowns) by email for a piece, "Written in Exile," which appears in the current issue of Resonance. Since I was only able to use a few quotes, here's the complete transcript for those who may be interested.


Did the Saints form in 1973 or 1974?

Late 1973 in high school.

Did you and Chris Bailey [lead singer]
work on the Saints box set?

Kind of, I did the mastering and some remixing etc. with Don Bartley (which was a stipulation of my involvement), and kind of instigated the project after renegotiating the crummy deal that we'd signed all those years ago. Chris had a lot of input regarding his notes and the order of the photos and so on. I know he was sent the stuff after it was mastered and I'm assuming he approved because I didn't hear to the contrary.

Together, separately?

The latter--there wasn't a lot of direct contact--most communication was via the very nice new staff at EMI.

Did the Laughing Clowns leave for England
before or after the Go-Betweens?

Honestly can't remember, possibly a bit later because the Clowns were doing quite well on the touring circuit here.

[The Go-Betweens also formed in Brisbane.]

Was there any correlation between the two?

Not really. The Clowns went over because I had been there earlier with the original Saints [Kuepper left after 1978's Prehistoric Sounds] and thought it would make a nice change of pace and an opportunity to build our character--I think all the bands would have gone over regardless of who else was there. The thing to be aware of is that, in those days anyway, England was relatively easy to get into for Australian bands, unlike the USA.

Were you in touch with the Go-Betweens and/or the Birthday Party while they were based in England?

Yes, we did some shows with both and would see them socially at bar-b-ques and so on from time to time.

The Laughing Clowns - "Holy Joe" (1980)

Had you been in touch with Grant McLennan
[the Go-Betweens] in recent years?

Several times, most recently a couple of days before he died. In fact, he wanted to come over to my studio to do some recording

Were there any bands in England
with whom you felt an affinity?

Not personally.

Any British bands you simply liked, whether
as performers or people (or both)?

I thought the Fall were good, but mostly wasn't incredibly impressed overall--I actually felt the UK was a bit [of] a musical wasteland , but I don't presume to know about everything that
was going on. The best thing I saw when I was over at that time was the Sun Ra Arkestra.

Any new artists you're excited about?

I've been working on my own stuff a lot recently and usually
only listen to old favourites--new stuff kind of gets in the way
and makes me either feel overly cocky or inadequate--so best
to leave it alone.

How do you feel when people trot out the word "legend"?
Umm...depends on the context.

How about the word "God"? Which Everett True and the gang at Melody Maker have
been known to use in
regards to your work.

I'm not that religious,
but to each his own.

When did you and Jeffrey [Wegener, Clowns
drummer] start playing together again?

About a year or so ago, when I did some shows involving film in Europe for the MFLL project (a long, involved story).

Do you listen to as much jazz now as
you did when you were in the Clowns?

Probably, though I can't say I've kept up to date

An off-the-topic question, but have you seen The Proposition? I loved it, but have no idea what the reception has been like in Australia. I'm asking
partly since you and Jeffrey have been playing with
Nick Cave and the Dirty Three as of late...

I haven't seen the film, but have heard and liked the soundtrack--the film got pretty good reviews, I think.

That's it, unless there's anything you would like to add. Thanks for your time--and the music, of course!

No trouble--thanks very much for your interest.

Endnote: For more information about Ed Kuepper, please see his excellent website, The Kuepper Files, from which I swiped these 1983 images by Judi Dransfield (Kuepper's wife). Clinton Walker's Inner City Sound: Punk and Post-Punk in Australia, 1976-85 is also worth a look for more info about Australia's punk/post-punk scene. Give these links a try for my review of Scarce Saints: Hymns of Oblivion and an Aints bio. Video from YouTube.

No comments: