Four decades after the release of his first record, the iconic Australian classic [I’m] Stranded by The Saints, Ed Kuepper returns with an album that may well be considered a high point in his lengthy and uncompromising career.
Recorded over three days in August at Gasworks Studio, Brisbane Lost Cities is Ed Kuepper’s 50th release (excluding compilations) and is the 21st on his own Prince Melon Records label.
For Keupper, making music is about creating a place where the listener can transcend the everyday.
‘For the most part I want to create some kind of sound or music that elevates me out of various situations, something that helps me transcend; it’s a saviour in a way, music; it was where I went when I was younger. I used to lose myself. It was a great escape and a great solace and a fortifier in a lot of ways. Without making too big a deal of it, music still does that for me and hopefully what I do does that for my listeners.’
This latest album grew out of Keupper’s writer’s block. When he’d languished in creative limbo, Keupper did the unthinkable: he organised a tour performing material he hadn’t written yet!
‘I was suffering fairly extreme writer’s block and it was getting a bit depressing, so I decided I would announce on my Facebook page that I would do a month-long residency along the east coast of Australia. I didn’t have any material. I knew if I didn’t do anything it could have dragged on and on. Some people assume it must get easier if you have been making music for a long time, but some things can get stuck and it’s very easy to do a few albums and not feel a sense of urgency about it. I wanted to break that.
‘Lost Cities is my 50th album, but I didn’t want that to be the only point of focus about it; I wanted it to be a signpost of a new direction and more work to come.’
Keupper pulls his inspiration from everywhere. With the opening track Parvane inspired by a book from 1960s by Keith Roberts, set in an England that never went through the reformation and eschewed technology. It describes a world that isn’t what could be. In some way we constantly go back into that backwardness.
For Ed, the creative process is a fluid one. ‘I try not to be close minded – if something strikes me then I try to go with it. When you are writing you need to go through a period of exclusion where you need to cast away certain things. I did that with Lost Cities. In some ways it’s really expansive, but it’s also singular in that every song is performed and recorded in the same way – it gives them a unified flow; the whole album feels like its one piece.
‘I made it sound like it was an album, which makes more demands on the listener; why not? People don’t have to listen,’ says Keupper.
‘Even with the early shows before the album was recorded, I could tell it was working in a really generous and appreciative way. I haven’t done that in a long time – gone out and played a whole set of new material – and doing those songs after recording and being released I look and see where I can shift them to make them unique for live performance.
‘Once something is recorded for me it’s one stage of the process. After that each live show is another step and sometimes they can be greater or smaller, and I love the idea of a live show being a unique event; it needs to stand alone. So it gives the shows that extra little something – a little bit of danger – because you aren’t sure where things are going to go…’
Ed Keupper launches Lost Cities at the Byron Theatre on Sunday. Tickets at byroncentre.com.au or 6685 6807.