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If you haven’t already, please start with part one, as this is the second and final part of my telephone conversation with Steven.
What sort of construction method do you use when making a record? Do you seek source material to support a specific idea, or do you hear some bits and then want to use them and go in that direction?
STAPLETON: It’s always different. Every time I record I try to make it different and interesting, to come at it from different angles. From found material to live material, to collaged environmental things…I’ll try anything, anything at all. I never want it to be the same. I don’t sit down in front of a computer to make a record, I’m all over the place.
Analog or digital?
STAPLETON: Everything. I don’t use synthesizers generally, but everything else. Colin Potter’s started working on computers so we’ve started doing some computer stuff as well. I just love the idea of getting stuff down onto any medium, and then manipulating it and changing it. Starting from a viewpoint like that…the greatest thing is when some machine or some instrument fucks up and something interesting happens and you say ‘Hey, this sounds good’ and then you go off in that direction. One the reasons why the Nurse material is so varied is because I just love to do that. If a mistake happens, I just follow the mistake. If I go into a studio and most of the machinery is broken apart from, I dunno, an echo box or something, ‘Great, let’s start with the echo box and see what happens.’ I love playing…it’s all playful stuff. I’m serious about the finished thing as a piece of art, as a statement in a way, but when it comes to the actual process of recording I just love playing around, to see what things do. Turn things up to thirteen, turn them down to naught. See what happens.
In the 1997 interview you did with the English magazine Wire, you make the statement that no one cares, reviews, or otherwise makes known their responses to your music, you put it out there and it just disappears. Do you still feel that’s the case?
STAPLETON: Yeah, I still stand by that, but it’s my fault because I don’t have a computer, I don’t have any medium to receive any reviews or anything like that. Even now it’s changed a little, but at least for fifteen years, living in Ireland, it was like living in a little bubble. Out things would go, you’d finish an album or a bit of artwork, and it would go into the world and I wouldn’t hear anything at all. Friends of mine would occasionally say ‘Ah you got reviewed there’ but I probably wouldn’t see the review. It’s different now because we’re playing live, and whizzing around the world and you get people coming up and showing you articles and things, and meeting the fans and they’re telling you what they think about various albums. I’m now getting much more of an interesting point of view than what I had before.
I’d like you to describe your mental image of an average NWW fan
STAPLETON: No, that’s not possible. At most gigs it’s 50/50 female/male, and ranging from teenagers to pensioners. There is none really, no stereotype.
After the LEMON KITTENS record, United Dairies was solely limited to releasing your work. How did VOLCANO THE BEAR change your mind?
STAPLETON: I just hated the business side of things. I love being creative, I love doing the covers and the music, choosing who is going to be on the label, and helping them do their album. But when it comes to anything involving money, or the business side, I hate it, absolutely hate it, so that’s why I stopped doing it.
In the nineties I released the Volcano The Bear records because I thought they were astounding and they needed to come out, this band really is quite wonderful and everybody should hear them. Everyone who likes Nurse should hear them. So I went against my better judgment and put them out. And I was really pleased I did! But pretty much from there I’ve stuck with just putting out my own stuff really. I put out a record from Freida Abtan recently which I think is quite wonderful, and there’s also an album by Andrew Liles and (wife) DIANA ROGERSON which is coming out soon, which is quite remarkable.
The new record (Huffin’ Rag Blues) is a pretty fun record. Do people often misunderstand your humor?
STAPLETON: There’s a lot of people who like my more serious side, and there’s a lot of people who like my silly side, and there’s a few who like both. Generally, if I put out a serious record, I get a lot of complaints from the humorous people, and if I put out a humorous album the serious people get upset so I don’t know what to do (laughs). I don’t particularly want to please my audience, I’m just pleasing myself. For that record, it’s a good combination. I like Huffin’ Rag Blues and I think it works as a serious piece of music and as a bit of fun too.
How was working with FAUST on the making of Disconnected?
STAPLETON: We got on really well, and we are going to be working a lot in the future. In fact we did a live performance recently at the Faust festival and JEAN-HERVÉ joined us on stage for “Rock and Roll Station,” and I joined them on stage and did a big 10’ x 8’ painting while they were playing. We’re going to tour America together next year hopefully, so the friendship is cemented.
It’d be great to see you guys over here.
STAPLETON: We’re looking at maybe 14 or 15 dates.
When you were younger and went over to Germany to work and hang out with various bands, was Faust one of those bands?
STAPLETON: That’s the funny thing; Faust wasn’t. I made the effort to go to Wümme in ’73 when I think I was sixteen and they weren’t there. The schoolhouse was still there and in operation and they just weren’t around. I imagined they had a commune and were recording all the time but it wasn’t quite like that. So I missed them, and that’s why it’s so nice to have a connection now. They actually heard about that little event of me going and spending a very cold night in a bus shelter. Jean-Hervé and ZAPPI said they want to be dropped off in Ireland so they can make a pilgrimage to my house at some point soon and see if I’m in.
In those days it was always a constant journey of discovery. There was no information like the internet about all these bands, these German bands. Also, these weren’t available as imports. If you found one album, in 1973, by any of those early German bands it was amazing, because they weren’t available anywhere. So being so enthusiastic about it, me and my friend Heman went off to Germany and we just toured around. We were just fans, meeting loads of musicians who couldn’t believe that anyone in England had actually even heard of them, let alone liked them. So we made a lot of really interesting connections. We were basically like Krautrock groupies.
On the infamous Nurse list (the insert that came with the original LP), it’s still pretty astonishing to me because even in this day, it can still be challenging to find small market/outsider music.
STAPLETON: Lots of stuff on that list’s not been reissued.
So how did you find all that stuff, were the local shops that well stocked?
STAPLETON: It was a total passion, a feverish passion for unusual and bizarre music. Literally it was like an every day occurrence. I used to work in the center of London and there were 8 or 9 secondhand shops at the time, and at my lunch break I would scour every shop. At the weekend, Heman, John and I would tour England. ‘Where are we going this weekend? Well, we’ll go off to Aberdeen and check all the shops there.’ It was just a furious passion and then we started going abroad…France, Germany, Italy, Holland. And from that came meeting all the musicians. Getting their numbers, ringing them up. I went to stay with CONNIE PLANK, I was there when FLOH DE COLOGNE were recording Tilt which they remain today one of my all-time favorite bands. It was a great time. In fact right at the moment I’m negotiating with some people to put out a Krautrock double cd of my favorite bands and tracks from between ‘68 and ’72, from the German scene. I was just playing some of it when you rang, actually.
So when you did the list, were all those bands you heard music from, or just about?
STAPLETON: No, no we heard every single one. They are all influences on us. Basically, when we did the list we had no idea it would have a life of its own, and become this thing, this monster. We did the list because I wanted to put on the album our influences, and all these bands were bands who really influenced us, regardless of the fact that we couldn’t play. They gave us the enthusiasm through their music, to do something, so we wanted to give a little something back and thank them. Each one of these people, these 200 or 300 people, we just wanted to say thank you, thank you very much, we really enjoyed your music.
They kind of gave you the push, the momentum to do your own adventuring?
STAPLETON: Yeah, exactly. And how that list became that monster that it is, I just don’t know. The BBC did a four hour program on the list, that’s astounding. Quite incredible, really.
The release you did with David Tibet (Bright Yellow Moon and Purtle), that was credited as both a NWW and Current 93 record, whereas other times you’ve worked together it’s either one or the other.
STAPLETON: I’ll tell you why. We’d made two albums ( Sadness Of Things and Musical Pumpkin Cottage) as David Tibet /Steven Stapleton and we liked them very much, but they didn’t sell. We couldn’t shift them, we could not sell them, no one’s interested. But, NWW and C93 sell a lot. So we did a third record ( Octopus ) under the name Stapleton and Tibet, and the same thing happened, very few sold, a quarter of what Nurse or what Current would sell. So therefore, on the next collaboration we do together, a full 50/50 collaboration, not like me producing Current, or David guesting on one my records, we thought Bright Yellow Moon we’ll do as Nurse and Current and it really sounds it, if you really listen to it you can hear the Nurse parts and you can hear the Current parts.
Would you ever consider releasing a DVD documentary about the making of a Nurse record, how you and your friends go about creating it.
STAPLETON: Yeah, I wouldn’t be averse to an idea like that. But I’d need someone to come along and say ‘Look, I’m gonna film this and I’m gonna hang around with you on and off for a year.’ In fact when we were in the Faust festival, they were doing exactly that they were making a film about Faust, the way they record, the way they play, the way they live, their collaborations and how just really how things come about. It was really lovely to take part in that. If anyone came up to me, sure- who knows the people who did the Faust thing might want to do one. I think Dirter will be putting it out.
Name your top ten Krautrock records of all time
Fliessbandbaby’s Beat-Show – Floh de Cologne
Kangaroo – GURU GURU
Kraftwerk – KRAFTWERK
Osmose – ANNEXUS QUAM
Psychedelic Underground – AMON DÜÜL
First Album – DZYAN
CAN (I missed his choice, as a call-waiting beep obscured it)
Faust – FAUST
(pause) It’s a hard question, there’s lots to choose from! Only 10!?
Xhol Caravan – XHOL MOTHERFUCKERS
Possibly another Floh de Cologne again, but I’m sure I’m missing out on something.
How about something from DOM or BRAINTICKET?
STAPLETON: No, I like the Dom album, I like Brainticket, but I wouldn’t rate it as the total pinnacle of Krautrock. Probably a WOLFGANG DAUNER record, either Output, Oimels or Free Action.
I found the Osmose record last year and that’s quite a great record. I really liked it.
STAPLETON: It’s got such a different feel to it, like none other; it’s just on it’s own, that record. Oh yeah, another one, number eleven. The Paul and LIMPE FUCHS record, STÜRMISCHER HIMMEL, Anima. Do you know that one?
No, I don’t.
STAPLETON: Well you should. It’s remarkable.
Is there a cut from that on your upcoming two cd compilation?
STAPLETON: Yes, absolutely. Pretty much all those bands will have something on that, if we can license it. They’re very very obscure albums. Maybe we’ll just have to put the track on, take it from the vinyl, and have them contact us and we’ll pay you royalties.
(Steven turns the tables and asks me some questions)
STAPLETON: Have you heard the Huffin’ Rag Blues album?
I did, in fact I wrote a review of it.
STAPLETON: Do you enjoy the album?
I did. It was pretty different from some of the Nurse records.
STAPLETON: People said that it was a radical change, but it isn’t at all. If you go back and listen to Cooloorta Moon, that piece could have been off HRB.
I liked it because it had a thematic quality and it chugs along.
STAPLETON: It chugs, definitely (laughs).
Who did the vocal part for ‘sometimes I take my huffin’ rag out behind the dumpster’?
RICHARD FAULHABER. He’s another guy, an amazing guy who does a kind of free improvisation acoustic composition. He’s another person I admire greatly and United Dairies is going to release his album in about three months. He’s also a wonderful comedian as well, and a great impersonator.
(Steven asks me to send him a physical copy of the transcript, as he doesn’t own a computer, and gives me his address, omitted)
STAPLETON: We don’t have any street names or numbers or post codes. Just address it to Steven Stapleton, Ireland and it will probably get to me.
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