‘Til You Come Back With Me: Ed Kuepper On The Reinvention Of The Aints

Image: The Aints! – supplied.

Author: Sean Lees

Harkening back to his earlier material, Ed Kuepper returns with The Aints! in tow to shine a light on an unrecorded chapter of The Saints through the release of The Church of Simultaneous Existence. With a mess of the hard, thumping energies of (I’m) Stranded and Eternally Yours colliding with the disparate, jazz-fused Prehistoric Sounds, the end result is an album that blurs the lines of time.

‘Red Aces’ lands with a grinding wall-of-sound guitar tones melded together with boisterous horns. Kuepper’s vocals shift seamlessly between the urgency of ‘You Got The Answer’ to intimate during ‘Country Song In G’ without as much as a flicker. This is kept in tow with tightly knit drum and bass with the sultry slither of piano smoothing out the rough edges. As a whole, The Church of Simultaneous Existence is a pure expression of The Saints; a group that always tested the limits of punk rock.

Sean Lees: What lead to your decision to reform The Aints?

Ed Kuepper: A promoter suggested that somebody should do something to commemorate the 40th anniversary of (I’m) Stranded and to celebrate the ‘73 – ’78 era of The Saints. I umm’d and ahh’d about it for a while and thought ‘yeah, we should do it’ and that’s basically how it happened.

SL: What inspired you to revisit and record The Church of Simultaneous Existence?

EK: I didn’t really get enthusiastic about the tour until I remembered there are actually quite a few bits and pieces; quite a few songs that have never been recorded. It got me thinking that this has a potential beyond purely being a victory lap. I wanted to bring something else to it, because there are people around who absolutely love those records and I felt the story needed to be completed in a way.

SL: It seems like a fairly natural progression playing the 40th anniversary shows with some unreleased material interspersed, to now having The Church of Simultaneous Existence. How did this initial idea develop into the album?

EK: We did play it by ear as we went along. Initially, I introduced a handful of songs just to check whether my hunch was correct and that people would actually be interested in the way I thought they would. The stuff they hadn’t heard was received really well, so we added just a few more songs as the tour progressed and as the tour finished, there was an album.

It was a relatively painless and ‘see how it goes’ approach the whole way.

SL: What was it about these songs that ‘refused to die’?

EK: What this has reminded me of is the number of songs I have unrecorded – there’s heaps. There’s another album worth of songs from the era we’re talking about now and stuff from The Laughing Clowns and solo. There’s probably three or four albums of unrecorded material. There was no way in the world I thought any of this would be happening forty years later – I was thinking if this has a life of a couple of years, that is really good.

SL: How do you negotiate authenticity and reinterpretation of your songs? Does this differ in a live or studio setting?

EK: It was largely live in the studio, I’m unsure of what kind of influence it has on my writing, possibly not that much. I think if anything it reminded me of the beauty of going out and doing things instead of agonising over them too much.

We kept to instruments that could have been used in the 70’s. One hundred per cent analog recorded and mixing. There was a contrivance about it to be pure to the material as it was originally. That said, where I thought it needed to be improved I did that, I didn’t keep what I considered to be a crappy line or lyric or a bridge that didn’t work just for the sake of authenticity.

SL: How has the input of co-producers Peter Oxley and Tim Pittman or live group Paul Larsen Loughhead, Alister Spence and Eamon Dilworth influenced the sound or feel of the record?

EK: Everybody added a bit of their own character. In a lot of ways, I prefer not to say very much, just ‘here’s the lines, this is the approach’ and leave the playing to the band – I think that it works quite nicely for the most part. The really great thing about it is how everyone threw themselves at it one hundred per cent which created a really enthusiastic recording session.

It isn’t just trying to emulate what the Saints would do. I sussed over what I was doing with Laughing Clowns – that is where I was at that point at time. Al Spence is quite a keyboard genius in a lot of ways, you have a really fantastic piano in a song like ‘You’ve Got The Answer’, which possibly may not have been done if recorded in 1975 when it was largely written, so there is some hindsight to the process.

SL: Did you make any considerations in regard to recording previously released tracks, Laughing Clowns and early Aints material?

EK: I thought that they were good enough to include and sorta sit at the narrative. The Clowns recorded ‘Winter’s Way’ and did it differently at the time, and a lot has to do with the ways they are arranged at various times. It’s the arrangements that often change over time instead of the style of writing.

I sorta regret not recording a few of the songs back in the day, but not enough to really worry about it. There were songs that didn’t make (I’m) Stranded like ‘Demo Girl Pt. 2’ which would have given a much broader impression of what the band was doing in Brisbane in the mid 70’s. I like (I’m) Stranded, but a lot of the material was left off so that it would be a very focused, tight and immediate impression.

SL: The Guardian just recently underwent a ‘Songs of Brisbane’ poll and among the songs picked, there are a number of The Saints, Laughing Clowns and solo songs listed. How does it feel to know your music has a continued impact and influence today?

EK: I’m flattered and I think it’s great, I would be lying to say I didn’t think it was terrific. There is music that means a lot to me and does still after many, many years of listening to it. If anything I’ve done does has the same effect on somebody else – I can’t think of anything better really.

The Church of Simultaneous Existence is out now through ABC Music.

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