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About The Aints!
The name would seem to indicate that the Aints were a Saints tribute band -- or that they were driven more by negative than positive energy -- but that isn't quite right. Nor is it completely wrong. Unlike most "tribute" bands, the Aints included an original member -- Ed Kuepper -- who was part of the project from the start. In fact, he instigated it. Although Saints songs were definitely part of the program (especially during its inception), so were Kuepper originals. He has claimed that the Aints were basically an attempt to reclaim the excitement of the Saints back when they were based in Brisbane, Australia, in the early '70s. The name came from a bass drum head that belonged to former drummer Ivor Hay. The "S" in Saints had worn off, thus leaving the word aints. After guitarist/songwriter Kuepper left the now Sydney based band in 1978, singer/songwriter Chris Bailey kept the Saints going with a variety of different lineups (he has also recorded a number of solo albums). This didn't sit well with Kuepper, who went on to form his own band, the Laughing Clowns, which would raise a jazzy ruckus of their own until 1985. Kuepper proceeded to issue several well-received solo recordings before forming the Aints, which sounded a little like the early (punk) Saints mated with some of the Clowns more avant-garde tendencies. They had little in common with latter period Saints or even Kuepper's solo work, both of which were more pop-oriented. The band debuted in 1991 when Kuepper took the stage at the Harold Park Hotel on April 13, with Kent Steedman (from the Celibate Rifles) on bass and Tim Reeves (from T. Rex) on drums. The resulting limited-edition live recording, the grungy S.L.S.Q. ("Slightly Limited Sound Quality"), featured eight tracks -- mostly Saints material -- including cover songs such as "River Deep, Mountain High" (Ike and Tina Turner), a staple of Saints set lists, and Del Shannon's "Runaway." The original LP also included a limited-edition 7" single, featuring the Saints' classic "(I'm) Stranded," recorded on the same date. S.L.S.Q. was subsequently issued on CD (despite its status as an "official bootleg"). Released later the same year, Ascension took its title from the John Coltrane recording of the same name and cover art from the Stooges' Funhouse. The band's first studio effort was laid down in two days, just as the Saints debut, (I'm) Stranded, had been. While the songs on S.L.S.Q. were mostly Kuepper/Bailey compositions, those on Ascension were new Kuepper originals. The lineup had also changed, with Steedman and Reeves replaced by Artie Sledge on bass, Mark Dawson on drums, and Tim Hopkins on saxophone. Of Kuepper, Melody Maker noted in their review of the blistering disc, "The man is a God." Clearly the Aints were perceived -- in Australia and the U.K. at least -- as more substantial than a mere tribute band or side project. The same lineup recorded 1992's similar follow-up effort, Autocannibalism. The title implied that the band were now "cannibalizing" themselves rather than the work of the Saints or the Laughing Clowns (Kuepper's fiery guitar work also bore comparison to Neil Young and Television's Tom Verlaine). As with its predecessor, Autocannibalism featured only six songs, but wasn't an EP -- three of the tracks topped eight minutes (just as Ascension's sprawling title-track clocked in at 11 minutes). 1993 saw the release of Cheap Erotica, a CD-only EP featuring tracks from all three Aints recordings, including "(I'm) Stranded," and 1995 brought forth Shelf-life Unlimited!! Hotter Than Blazing Pistols!!!, a remastered full-length collection, also drawing from the first three releases. While Kuepper has since pulled the plug on the Aints, his solo career continues unabated. But it isn't as if he ever stopped -- the entire time he was in the Aints, he was recording solo material, including some of his more highly regarded efforts, most notably Honey Steel's Gold. ~ Kathleen C. Fennessy