We’ve got something really special here for you all today. It’s been almost a year and a half since Nash the Slash, the enigmatic and eccentric Canadian musician who rarely, if ever, conformed to popular standards, passed away. Slash had a long and storied career, touring with Gary Numan and being a founding member of FM, and a long list of releases that were always challenging to listeners yet ultimately rewarding. Fact: Bits from FM’s album Tonight were featured in Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood!
Later this year, Artoffact Records will be reissuing several of Slash’s albums on CD and vinyl. We’re here to present to you a stream of 1979’s Dreams and Nightmares, which has been remastered for the upcoming release. This album featured eight tracks, one of which was a piece meant to be the soundtrack for the surreal short film Un Chien Andalou, which was directed by Luis Buñuel and artist Salvador Dali.
On top of this stream, we also have an exclusive interview with Trevor Norris, Slash’s longtime business partner.
This is a really important and incredible opportunity that we’re very thrilled and honored to be a part of. We only hope you enjoy the music as much as we do.
Nash was an incredibly inventive and creative musician, always pushing the boundaries of music and its presentation. Where did all of this come from?
Nash’s was music fan first. I don’t think most people know how much of a musicologist he was. He knew everything about the most obscure bands and he could tell you stories for hours about which band influenced who in whatever genre. So his inspiration always came from his love for the bands he found interesting. He created such a unique catalogue of original music but he loved to do covers as well. He loved other artists that pushed the limits of their music, their instruments and technology and he used that as his inspiration to innovate himself. As the person behind the bandages, Nash was always intrigued and drawn to the bizarre, to the odd and things that were on the fringe or thought provoking. This kind of set the tone with his first live solo show as Nash the Slash when he wrote and performed the soundtrack to the very surreal and shocking Luis Bunuel silent film Un Chien Andalou in 1975. He would always say that his aim with his music and his stage show was always to shock but not offend. He rode that brilliant line in everything he did so that he stood out and was interesting to his fans and the public.
There was an obvious love of horror in Nash. How did that affect his creative outputs?
Nash and his love for the horror genre were as one – it was always just a part of his persona and esthetic. If you hung out at his house, you’d were always surrounded by stuffed crows staring at you, big metal spiders on the wall and great posters of horror films he loved. Aside from these dark themes that were the thread throughout his music, Nash’s soundtrack work really gave him his best outlet for his love of horror. He wrote soundtracks for Nosferatu (which Nash later released on CD in 2000) and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari as well as the 1995 horror comedy Blood & Donuts. Horror themes found it way into the essence of his Nash The Slash persona, album art, and of course his show visuals. I think it also likely stemmed from his great admiration for his two favourite authors Edgar Allan Poe and Ray Bradbury. Poe’s poetry and themes really struck a chord with him and pointed him in the direction of the dark and macabre. And of course his name Nash the Slash is taken from the evil killer butler in the 1927 Laurel and Hardy film Do Detective’s Think?. His best selling record to date, Dreams and Nightmares, which sold almost 12,000 copies independently, is an instrumental album of strictly horror stories.
Nash created a very interesting and iconic look, one that seemingly mirrored H.G. Wells’ “The Invisible Man”. I know that Nash wanted to maintain some privacy, but was there something more behind this persona that was created?
Nash always loved the creation of the name Nash the Slash – he always thought it was a great rock and roll name. The final look and bandages for his stage persona came a bit later so this separation between Nash the person and Nash’s stage persona developed over time. Initially Nash came onto the scene just as punk was taking off where everyone was doing the ripped jeans and t-shirt look. He wanted to stand out from his other punk rock peers and so he decided to go in the complete opposite direction and dress on stage in a formal tux and top hat. He figured this contrast plus his demented concert violinist fuzzed sound would really contrast the other artists of that time. Stage design and performance have always been important elements with such groups as The Who and Pink Floyd who Nash really admired but by the late 70’s, most new groups abandoned the concept. Two notable exceptions were Devo and The Residents. He always believed a great stage show can conjure up fond memories years after the concert goer has forgotten the set list. Having such a provocative stage persona and show also allowed Nash to transcend his real-life persona and be whoever he wanted to be. He had no boundaries and could push the envelope much father because of his anonymity. It’s funny you mention The Invisible Man comparison because Nash purposely changed his original black tuxedo and top hat to white outfits and a white top hat so he literally became partially invisible and part of the stage show. By being dressed all in white he was a human backdrop onto which all his carefully curate images were projected on. He would play and have all these psychedelic images projected on the screen behind him and onto his costume and that way he could just blend into the background as if he was invisible – bringing his music to the foreground for parts of his show
Behind his stage persona and bandages, Nash was an incredibly interesting person. In contrast to his intense and macabre stage version of Nash, he was definitely one of the funniest guys I had the pleasure of knowing. Humour was a big part of his life and it shows up in a lot of the things he did. If you watch any interview of Nash, even in character, he was always very witty and funny. He was always super passionate and sometimes to a fault but that’s what I loved about behind-the-scenes-Nash. His Nash stage character let him explore parts of his personality that he didn’t have an outlet for in his real life but then again I think there wasn’t much separation between the two. When Nash the Slash was born, I think he was able to disconnect with his former life as Jeff Plewman and get to redefine himself all over again. I knew Nash for 5 years before I even found out his real name – I think I found a piece of mail at his front door and asked him who this Jeff guy was. He preferred to be Nash off stage too, I always called him Nash as did most of his friends.
After hanging up the bandages in late 2012, there was a year and a half before his tragic passing. What did he do in that time?
After Nash officially retired in 2012 he spent a lot of time exploring his love for painting as well as finally getting the time to just be a music and arts fan again attending a few shows by bands he loved. Some fans were obviously upset by Nash’s decision to retire and decide not to tour anymore but you have to remember Nash was a solo artist in his sixties. It’s extremely difficult to lug all the gear around and travel around playing shows even in the best of shape. A typical day leading up to a show could be anywhere from a 10-12 hour ordeal from beginning to end – that joy he felt playing for that 1 hour got trumped by all the hardship of travel and logistics in the end. After a 2-3 year creative break after his 2008 Live in London album and tour Nash did start recording ideas again and pondered a new album. We are still assessing if there is enough material that was recorded in that time that might be able to be released some day. We’d like to stay true to Nash’s integrity and only release material that he felt worthy of. That is why we are very excited about this 4 album re-issue through Storming the Base. All of Nash’s first four original albums are going to see the light of day again and on beautiful vinyl – the format that Nash always preferred his records to be heard. We have worked very hard on the re-mastering and artwork so everything is a close to the original and Nash’s vision for those projects.
There was obviously some anger with Internet piracy and online sharing, as mentioned in the website’s final message. How do you think Nash would’ve responded to the growth of paid online streaming services, which have really grown in popularity in the last few years?
I honestly think it will be decades before this all gets sorted out. When an entire industry model is turned on it’s head and no real replacement put in place it takes time for things to settle. It’s pretty laughable when a popular artist gets millions and millions of streams and only gets paid a couple hundred dollars. And this is an artist who has sold hundreds of thousands of hard copy albums. Even mainstream artists cannot afford to live off their recordings these days – they have to tour to make a living or license songs to film, TV or commercials. Think about an independent artist like Nash – he would be collecting pennies, as are most indie artists of today. He would be just as furious about the lack sustainability in this new model. The effort to reward is not in balance anymore so I think he would be just as discouraged to try and release anymore material. However on the flipside, I think he would see a glimmer of hope in this growth of niche music markets and the renaissance of vinyl that is occurring worldwide and be a bit surprised at the reality of the interest in re-issuing his music back on vinyl. He unfortunately was not only caught in the middle of a civil war in the music industry but in an era of excelerated technology advance in music production, which moved too fast for Nash to catch up. He loved the internet and how it created infinite access to information but he could never embrace computers in the studio – when he made music he just wanted to plug in his toys, turn some knobs, crank it up and rock! He would say Inspiration is fleeting and if you have to wait for updates and plugins to load you risk the chance of losing that really great idea.
At the end of the day, what was Nash trying to accomplish with his music?
I think Nash would say he was just trying to turn people onto something that was interesting, thought provoking and unique. Through his music and performances he was able to channel all his interests, all the bands he loved that nobody but him had heard of, some his favourite fringe films, dark poetry, surrealistic imagery, incredible art and still provide a way to connect that to his fans. Nash was extremely proud of his contribution to the world of music. He put every bit of himself into every show and his music. He was always humble about his success and he worked harder than anyone to accomplish what he did. He never took himself too seriously and never once took for granted some of his accomplishments. It’s really incredible – he was able to grind out a 40 year career in the music business being independent without a commercial hit, without a label, without a manager. He also never had to compromise his vision; he made the music he wanted to make on his own terms. I think his fans would agree that this is one of the reasons why he connected with them and why his peers admired him his blue collar spirit. For us, these first four albums that are about to be released we think truly encapsulate Nash the Slash at the peak of his creativity, passion, and as he solidified himself as an innovator and Canadian music icon.
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