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Steven Stapleton (Nurse With Wound) - Part One

30 August 2008

NURSE WITH WOUND (aka STEVEN STAPLETON) remains one of the more experimental artists of our time (both in visual and audio art forms), someone unafraid to fold, spindle or mutilate as his whim dictates. Many thanks to HOWARD WUELFING of Howlin Wuelf Media for setting up this trans-Atlantic phone call I placed to Steven on August 07, 2008.

Is COLIN POTTER the closest thing you’ve had to a Nurse With Wound band mate?

STAPLETON: No, not at all. Well, that’s a difficult one really, because I’ve pretty much done my own stuff the whole way and just had guests and friends come in. But Colin is my engineer, and I work with him as me the artist, he the engineer, but I always consider the engineer really important and so I credit Colin on the releases. Except when we went to the Lofoten Islands and did the Shipwreck Radio; that was definitely a collaboration between us both. At the moment, I’m working with ANDREW LILES, and I’d say he’s the closest I ever came as having as a band mate.

Who is your favorite collaborator with NWW?

STAPLETON: Andrew Liles. We just have a real connection and I really love working with him. Actually to be honest, a lot of the people I work with just give me a little bit of raw material and then I fiddle around with it. I’ve had actually very few people that I’ve physically worked with. Maybe FREIDA ABTAN was one. Generally, I just sort of overview and produce and mix material that other people have given me.

Who would you like to work with but haven’t yet?

STAPLETON: MISSY ELLIOT.

Does that tie into your forthcoming hip-hop project at all?

STAPLETON: It does! Well, I mean I would never work with her, I don’t think that would ever happen, but we do have some fabulous rappers on the album. It’ll be out probably early next year…that’ll piss off a few people.

I suppose given the way you work it’s not all that different from building a collage using various bits of sound.

STAPLETON: That’s true. People have been horrified by the idea, but basically, I love rap music and I love female rap music, and I’m making a Nurse With Wound album, but saturated with female rap, but authentic, you know? For me it’s a wonderful thing to do but I think a lot of people are going to be horrified by it. It’s like one of those things, once they actually have a taste maybe they’ll change their minds and think it’s ok. They’re thinking I’m making a straight hip-hop album. I’m really not going to do that.

I can’t imagine you making a straight anything.

STAPLETON: No (laughs).

The people who you recruited to work on this record, were they familiar with your work as a musician?

STAPLETON: One of them was, but the rest no. It was a complete mystery to them. But they’re very happy to do it. I’m not giving away names at the moment, I’m keeping the whole thing under wraps until it’s completed.

One last question on collaborators – has anyone turned down offers to work with you?

STAPLETON: No because I’ve never approached anybody, well apart from recently, the rappers. I’ve never approached anybody; they’ve always come to me. Well, no actually that’s a lie. I did ask JIM O’ROURKE if he would collaborate on the Angry Eelectric Finger things and he was happy to do that, but he’s probably the only person.

Were there any others on the list for that Angry Eelectric Finger project to get the raw material?

STAPLETON: No not at all. The three people I chose ( ed – Jim O’Rourke, CYCLOBE, IRR. APP. (EXT) ), wanted to do it.

At the risk of offending others, who do you think did the best job?

STAPLETON: I like the Cyclobe album the best.

Where did the alter ego BABS SANTINI come from?

STAPLETON: (laughs) Ok, well I’ll spill a few beans. When I was doing an album of manipulated samples from the 1950’s called The Sylvie and Babs Hi-Fi Companion I wanted to invent two fictitious females. So I thought of SYLVIE EPSTEIN and Babs Santini, and the name Babs Santini just stuck, I really liked it. When I make a record, I want it to look like there’s more people involved, like it’s more of a party effort, so instead of crediting myself with everything, I’d always credit the engineers as a member of the band, and invent a few people to put on the there. I went under the pseudonym Babs Santini because I thought it had a nice ring to it, and it kinda stuck. I enjoy it now.

It seems to me that you approach any particular project by looking at it being art as a whole statement.

STAPLETON: Oh yeah, I do. It’s because I have fun doing it, fun doing the artwork and fun doing the music. I love putting- I’m a collector, I always have been since I was twelve, collecting records and I love to pore over details of covers and things like that, other little insignificant things. So, I’m basically a record collector who’s decided to make a few records himself. So I like to make them interesting. I like to do the music because it’s fun, and I like to do the covers because it’s fun. I do all these things to please myself. I’m guilty of 100% self-indulgence, really.

Why limit the actual LP pressings to such small numbers, relative to the cd (with the inferior format for cover art)?

STAPLETON: That’s all down to demand really. Most of the cds that come out now are unlimited really, I try to keep all the old stuff in stock. But vinyl is really expensive, very few shops actually stock vinyl, so if I did 1000 copies vinyl of any release, I could sell them in a couple of months. If I did 2000, maybe a year. After that, they’re just hanging around at home. Even though there’s the demand out there, the distributors won’t take them, and the shops won’t take them, and there’s so few shops left because the whole thing’s changing so rapidly. So vinyl’s there for the fan of NWW or the fan of vinyl, and I think we do enough for that. We do pretty much 2000 of each release. Some of them haven’t come out on vinyl yet, probably because they won’t fit, like Salt Marie Celeste which is one track, 70 minutes long. I do as much as possible to get a vinyl release, but it’s very expensive to do, and there’s a limited amount you can sell, so that’s the reason. But I love my stuff being out on vinyl. I really love and appreciate the artifact of a 12” album sleeve. We all know, it’s wonderful to pore over that, rather than the pitiful cd equivalent. It’s really hard designing and doing the artwork for a cd cover, and getting the best out of that size (5” x 5”) is very very difficult. Whereas a 12” sleeve is the perfect artifact isn’t it? Everybody can have a piece of art in their own homes. You can frame it, or just stick it in your record collection, whatever. It’s a great medium, I think.

What drives your decision on what to reissue and what to keep deleted?

STAPLETON: Whim, really (laughs). Suddenly, something clicks and ‘hey, that hasn’t been out for a while’ and I’ll put it out again. There’s no real method there, although there’s been some criticism that I haven’t put the early things out again so I’m just starting a reissue program w/ Dirter records, who are going to put out all the 12” albums as vinyl. Starting with Chance Meeting on a Dissecting Table of a Sewing Machine and an Umbrella and going right up to the present day. There’s also a reissue program of the first three Nurse records with extra bits and bobs from the sessions and things.

Have you seen (other original NWW members) JOHN FOTHERGILL or HEMAN PATHAK recently?

STAPLETON: No, I haven’t seen Heman in 25 years, and John in 15. No, I lie. I saw John at the launch of *DAVID KEENAN*’S England’s Hidden Reverse book. But we’ve just kind of gone separate ways. It was nice to see him again and have a beer, but we’ve got different ideas on things these days.

Speaking of David’s book, do you feel that his observations on both yourself and the scene and times in general are accurate?

STAPLETON: No, completely not. Absolutely not. That book tried to tie all those things in a movement, and there was no movement there. It was just a journalist trying to make something that just really wasn’t. I was always irritated by the fact that I never actually got an interview for the book. DAVID TIBET had a series of I think probably 30 interviews over the period of a year. Because I lived in Ireland, I didn’t get one. Every single thing, every comment in the book was from previous interviews or stuff he had cobbled together. There was no actual interview for the book.

(surprise) Did he try to get in touch with you?

STAPLETON: Well yeah, he did at one point. He even came over to the house. But it just so happened that at the time, I was really ill. The day he was here I had severe food poisoning so I couldn’t do the interview. I fully expected it to happen again at some point, but then I got the call at some point, saying ‘the book’s finished, what do you think?’ It was kind of a big disappointment to me, really.

I imagine he also had interviews w/ PETER CHRISTOPHERSON and JHONN BALANCE ( COIL principals)?

STAPLETON: Yeah but not very many, I think he only did two with them. Basically there was a lot of time spent with David. I remember Balance before he died said to me that though he liked the book he thought that Coil didn’t have enough time to express their views and it was a lot of garbage that was printed about them.

Has living in Ireland changed the way you approach music?

STAPLETON: No, not at all.

Are you still in Clare?

STAPLETON: Yeah, I love it here. I don’t think I’ve been influenced at all by the Irish culture. In fact I know I haven’t at all; I’m pretty much the person I’ve always was, as I was growing up in London.

What prompted your decision to play performances again after such a long period?

STAPLETON: There was kind of an abortive tour in the early 80s, which although it was fun it was dreadful too. We had no idea what we were doing…we’d just take some drugs, go on stage and see what happened. And that was fun at the time, but now, when I hear some of the bootlegs I just cringe, it was terrible. I decided then that I wouldn’t do any more gigs until I really knew what I was doing. I decided that I would at some point try to make something really interesting, bring up some different elements in theatrical things, all kinds of unusual performances into one to make it fantastic, an absolute sensation. Then I went on tour with CURRENT 93 and Coil, and I saw how it easy it was for them to do stuff, it was really really simple. So I thought, hang on, I’m looking at this wrong. Maybe I should just get a band together and have some fun on stage. Which is exactly what I did! It went down well, everyone was happy, we all had fun. I don’t treat it very seriously at all, but it’s a great thing to do, and it’s becoming more and more interesting as we have different guests each concert. We’re gonna just keep doing it and see how it changes.

In 2006 when you were at the Brainwaves fest, why did you decide to DJ rather than do a live performance?

STAPLETON: I was asked to do it. That was a real piss-off actually. He (organizer JON WHITNEY) said to me ‘Would you like to come over and DJ’ and I said fine, and I expected to have a booth at the side of the stage, somewhere where I was just playing music. No, they set me right up in the middle of the stage, you know? I just fucking sat there and pressed a button, because that was what I was going to do. I was just going to play music from other people, I was not going to do a performance. I just thought it was absolutely ridiculous to be put into that predicament. And then, when I finally did start playing, the cd players were faulty! It was just ridiculous. Having said that, I have nothing against Jon, and I did really, really have a great time at that festival, but putting me as a DJ slapbang in the middle of the stage with a spotlight is utterly absurd. Jesus, you see these laptop bands, it’s the most boring thing in the world to watch. But someone with a cd player and a finger is even worse! (both laugh)

[in the interest of fair play, Jon replies: “It was my idea to have him do a set with unique projections behind him. I didn’t think he would want to spin between sets for three days straight. However, I have asked him back again for Brainwaves this year and intend on having him DJ only between sets, probably up in the balcony with the lighting, sound, and visual crew. (And this time we’ll rent professional gear!)”]

You’ve got an upcoming show in Dublin. Do you whave anything in mind, or is there going to be a surprise for the gig-goers?

STAPLETON: It’s definitely a surprise, in fact one major surprise. But I can’t mention it now because it will ruin everything.

Part two will run next week.

 

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