Ed Kuepper playing at the Red Hill Auditorium (2011)
20 December 1955|
Bremen, West Germany
|Origin||Brisbane, Queensland, Australia|
|Genres||Rock, punk, avant-garde, post-punk, blues, grunge|
|Singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer|
|Instruments||Guitars (lead, acoustic, bass, 12 string), vocals, banjo|
|Labels||Hot, True Tone, Capitol, Survival, Normal, Castle, Prince Melon|
|The Saints, Laughing Clowns, The Aints!, Kid Galahad and the Eternals, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds|
Edmund "Ed" Kuepper (born 20 December 1955, Bremen, West Germany) is an Australian guitarist, vocalist and songwriter. He co-founded the punk band The Saints (1973-78), the experimental post-punk group Laughing Clowns (1979-85) and the grunge-like The Aints! (1991-94, 2017-present). He has also recorded over a dozen albums as a solo artist using a variety of backing bands. His highest charting solo album, Honey Steel's Gold, appeared in November 1991 and reached No. 28 on the ARIA Albums Chart. His other top 50 albums are Black Ticket Day (August 1992), Serene Machine (March 1993) and Character Assassination (August 1994). At the ARIA Music Awards of 1993 he won Best Independent Release for Black Ticket Day and won the same category in 1994 for Serene Machine.
Ed Kuepper's music career began in 1973 when he formed The Saints in Brisbane initially as a garage band, Kid Galahad and the Eternals. The line-up was Kuepper on lead guitar, Chris Bailey on lead vocals and Ivor Hay on piano. Early in the next year Hay switched to bass guitar and Jeffrey Wegener joined on drums, and they were renamed as The Saints.
Their early sound was a hybrid of Howlin' Wolf, Pretty Things, and The Stooges; it "eventually coalesced into [their] own distinctive sound as defined by Kuepper's frenetic, whirlwind guitar style and Bailey's arrogant snarl" according to Australian musicologist, Ian McFarlane. By 1975 Hay switched to drums when Wegener left and Kym Bradshaw joined on bass guitar. The group had difficulty finding performance venues: they converted Bailey and Hay's share-house into a music venue, 76 Club.
In June 1976 the group wanted to record their material but found no interest from the Brisbane music industry. By September they had set up their own marketing company, Eternal Promotions; and their own label, Fatal Records. They pressed 500 copies of their debut single, "(I'm) Stranded", it was co-written by Kuepper and Bailey. The track was lauded by Jonh Ingham of Sounds magazine as the "single of this and every week". In November the group were signed to EMI which quickly pressed their single and by December issued an album of the same name.
The group relocated to Sydney and then London, by May 1977, where they were promoted as punk rockers, however they eschewed "the spiky-topped, safety-pinned style of the leading UK punk groups". Kuepper noted "[The Saints] was a full thing by 1974. Two and a half years later, this incredibly fashionable movement comes along, only an arsehole would have associated himself with that".
Kuepper remained with The Saints until late in 1978, they had issued Eternally Yours (May 1978) and Prehistoric Sounds (October). According to McFarlane, Bailey had wanted "three-chord rockers and pop songs" while Kuepper preferred "less commercial, more cerebral material". Kuepper left the group, returned to Australia, and The Saints continued with Bailey using a variable line-up.
Ed Kuepper returned to Sydney late in 1978 and considered retiring from the music industry. However, in April 1979 he had formed Laughing Clowns as a rock, soul and avant-jazz group. He provided lead guitar, lead vocals and banjo; with former bandmate Wegener on drums; Bob Farrell on saxophone; and Ben Wallace-Crabbe on bass guitar. Early in the next year, Ben's cousin Dan Wallace-Crabbe (ex-Crime & the City Solution guitarist) joined on piano. In May 1980 they issued their debut self-titled six-track EP on Missing Link Records, which was produced by Kuepper.AllMusic's John Bush described their sound as "jazzier and quite a bit more experimental than" The Saints.
Meanwhile, Kuepper and the group's manager, Ken West, started up their own label, Prince Melon Records, to release early work by Laughing Clowns. Laughing Clowns subsequently issued three studio albums, Mr Uddich Schmuddich Goes to Town (May 1982), Law of Nature (April 1984 on Hot Records), and Ghosts of an Ideal Wife (June 1985). During July 1984 Kuepper rejoined The Saints on bass guitar as a touring musician alongside Bailey, Chris Burnham on lead guitar, and Iain Shedden on drums. However "old conflicts arose and he left" according to McFarlane. Laughing Clowns disbanded early in 1985 as Kuepper started his solo career.
Early in 1985 Ed Kuepper started his solo career by recording his debut album, Electrical Storm (June 1985), which was co-produced with Bruce Callaway (New Christs) for Hot Records. For the album he provided vocals, guitars: electric, acoustic and bass, and mandolin; he also used Callaway on guitar, Nick Fisher on drums, and Louis Tillett on piano. McFarlane described the album as "stark and angular". While Bush felt it was "surprisingly pop-oriented".
In the following year he formed a backing band, The Yard Goes on Forever, with Michael Arthur on guitar; Louis Burdett on drums (ex-Powerhouse), who was replaced a month later by Mark Dawson (ex-John Kennedy's Love Gone Wrong); and Paul Smith on bass guitar (ex-Laughing Clowns). As well as touring he used the group to record his second studio album, Rooms of the Magnificent (September 1986), with additional session musicians. It was produced by Kuepper and appeared on Hot Records for the UK market and True Tone Records for the Australian market.
A third solo album, Everybody's Got To, appeared in February 1988 on Hot Records (UK), True Tone Records (Australia), and on Capitol Records for United States release. McFarlane noted his second and third albums had "consolidated the band's impressive live standing and contained many fine examples of guitar/horn-driven rock". While AllMusic's Dan LeRoy praised its "tight, polished alt-rock" sound as "perhaps his finest album ever". His fellow reviewer Bush related that it "failed to click with radio programmers or the public". The album's second single, "Nothing Changes in My House", had been released in November 1987 and reached the ARIA Singles Chart Top 100. A four-track EP, Happy as Hell, was issued in 1989 before Kuepper changed his musical direction.
Ed Kuepper and Dawson worked on an acoustic album, Today Wonder (October 1990), which McFarlane described was recorded "using unconventional guitar effects and an unusual drumkit" the pair "proved that less is more with a mix of new tunes and covers". Australian journalist, Ed Nimmervoll, noted that the album had "changed the tide. Suddenly he was in favour again" whereas his previous material "seemed to fall on deaf ears". Kuepper and Dawson also formed a side project, Mephisto Waltz, with Chris Abrahams on piano, which toured and performed "ambient instrumental" music with "unconventional sounds" but they did not record any material.
In April 1991 Kuepper formed a grunge-like band, The Aints, with Kuepper on guitar and vocals; and initially the line-up had Tim Reeves on drums; and Kent Steedman (also in The Celibate Rifles) on bass guitar. McFarlane noted that they quickly released "three fiery, distortion-drenched albums":S.L.S.Q (May 1991), Ascension (December) and Auto-cannibalism (June 1992). McFarlane further elaborated that with "blistering, guitar-heavy tracks ... these albums were the antithesis of Ed's solo work".
Kuepper continued his solo releases with his next album, Honey Steel's Gold, appearing in November 1991, which peaked at No. 28 on the ARIA Albums Chart - his highest position on the Australian charts. According to McFarlane it was also the "highest mainstream placement for an independent album to that time". At the ARIA Music Awards of 1992 he was nominated for Best Independent Release for the album. Kuepper won Best Independent Australian Release in 1993, for Black Ticket Day (August 1992), and in 1994 for Serene Machine (March 1993).Black Ticket Day and Serence Machine had each reached No. 45.
Ed Kuepper next album, Character Assassination (August 1994), peaked at No.32. It was nominated for an ARIA Award in 1995. Further nomination occurred in 1996 for The Exotic Mail Order Moods of Ed Kuepper (October 1995), 1997 for Frontierland (September 1996) and Starstruck: Music for Films & Adverts (March 1997), and 1998 for Live! with His Oxley Creek Playboys (June 1998).
During the early 1990s he was one of Australia's most prolific recording artists. He has recorded more than twenty solo albums using a variety of backing bands including Ed Kuepper and His Oxley Creek Playboys, Ed Kuepper and the Institute of Nude Wrestling, The Exploding Universe of Ed Kuepper, Ed Kuepper and the New Imperialists, and Ed Kuepper and the Kowalski Collective. Bush noted that "Despite his very appreciative cult of fans and torrid release schedule, Kuepper has not managed a breakthrough to wide popular acclaim".
Kuepper has also been involved in sound tracking radio drama and experimental films. During 2004 he toured Australia and Europe performing semi-improvised music to some of these films under the banner of Music for Len Lye (MFLL).Len Lye (1901-1980) was an artist known for experimental films and kinetic sculpture. Venues included the Institute of Modern Art (Brisbane), Sydney Opera House, the Austrian Film Museum (Vienna) and the Cartier Foundation (Paris), where Kuepper was the only rock musician to be invited apart from Velvet Underground.
2007 saw the release of Kuepper's Jean Lee and the Yellow Dog album, which was inspired by the story of Jean Lee who was the last woman hanged in Australia, and features amongst others, performances by Jeffrey Wegener (Laughing Clowns), Peter Oxley (Sunnyboys), Warren Ellis (Dirty Three), and Chris Bailey (The Saints).
After extensive touring in 2008 opening for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Kuepper joined Cave's band as a touring guitarist upon the departure of founding member Mick Harvey in early 2009. Kuepper also relaunched Prince Melon Records. He has also covered several songs by Eric Burdon & The Animals.
In March 2012 Kuepper released Second Winter, containing essentially songs from the Electrical Storm and Rooms of the Magnificent albums, but with completely new arrangements and feel, and more in the vein of Today Wonder.
After spending most of 2013 on the road, performing a series of "Solo and By Request" shows, Kuepper released The Return of the Mail-Order Bridegroom, the second instalment in a mail-order series, containing reworked acoustic versions of songs by his former bands The Saints and Laughing Clowns, as well as new versions of his solo material and songs popularised by artists including Jimi Hendrix and The Walker Brothers.
In Addition to his brief 1984 stint as a touring bassist with the Saints, in September 2001 Kuepper and the original line-up of The Saints came together for a one-off reunion, when they were inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame.
On 14 July 2007, Kuepper, Chris Bailey and original drummer Ivor Hay re-united for another one-off gig at the Queensland Music Festival, with latter The Saints band member Caspar Wijnberg on bass guitar.
In January 2009, as part of the All Tomorrows Parties touring festival - curated by Mick Harvey, The Saints with Kuepper, Bailey, Hay, and Arturo LaRizza played shows in Brisbane, Sydney and in Mount Buller, Victoria. This was followed by a Melbourne show on 14 January as part of the Don't Look Back sideshow concerts, where they performed the (I'm) Stranded album in its entirety.
In May 2010, Kuepper & Bailey reunited for a monthlong tri-residency series of shows in Brisbane, Sydney & Melbourne. With Kuepper on electric guitar/vocals & Bailey on acoustic guitar/bass guitar/vocals they played a selection of songs from both solo careers and post-Kuepper Saints, as well as a few covers.
In late 1979 at a performance by The Saints in Sydney, Ed Kuepper met arts student and photographer Judi Dransfield - the couple later married. Since 1994 Dransfield-Kuepper has supplied art work, photography or illustrations for various Kuepper-related albums.