The story goes that in 1977, 19-year-old Steven Stapleton was arrested in a London record store. Was he shoplifting? Naw, the kid was just opening up sealed albums, and swapping the LPs! This infamous prank acts as a pretty easy metaphor for Nurse With Wound--the moniker under which Stapleton has made amazing, inventive and excellently annoying music for the past 25 years--whose approach to sound has consistently remained just as whimsical, fucked-up, and surprising.
In 1975, after discovering the heady rhythmic delights of Krautrock, Stapleton split for Germany and was soon drawing album covers (and roady-ing) for the likes of Guru Guru. Back in London in '78, Stapleton and a few friends put together a swell experimental LP with out-of-tune steam-powered synthesizers, squalling guitars, and tape collages. Released in an extremely limited edition on his own United Dairies label, Chance Meeting on a Dissecting Table of a Sewing Machine and an Umbrella included in its liner notes a wide-ranging list of 150 musical influences--a move both humble and precocious.
Chance Meeting didn't sound much like anything at the time--and since it was not exactly punk, and as fellow anomalies Throbbing Gristle's album came out first, NWW were tagged "Industrial." In the years since, Stapleton's been headily prolific as a genre-defying painter and musician, collaborating with and releasing records by members of Current 93, Stereolab, and various Krautrock heroes. Stapleton has consistently been ahead of the curve in championing and creating "outsider" music, dreamy minimalist drones, lounge-retro shtick, and please-don't-call-them-soundscapes.
It's near impossible to find anything written about Stapleton that omits the words "enigmatic" and "idiosyncratic." The guy rarely performs live, doesn't have email, and has talked to the press like twice in his life. Thanks to Portland's Chris McBeth, whose label Beta-lactam Ring releases the band's product, Stapleton will appear at Doug Fir this Saturday in support of the release of three collaborative albums (with Jim O'Rourke and others), each titled Angry Eelectric Finger. Stapleton will DJ and perform with the San Francisco-based copyeditor's horror, irr.app.(ext.). The following night Optic Nerve Arts celebrates an opening with 94 of Stapleton's hand-painted covers on display.