Nash the Slash Biography
James Jeffrey “Jeff” Plewman, better known by his stage name Nash the Slash, was a Canadian musician born on March 26, 1948. Nash was born in Toronto, Ontario. A multi-instrumentalist, he was known primarily for playing the electric violin and mandolin, as well as the harmonica, keyboards, glockenspiel, and other instruments .
He performed with surgical bandages covering his face starting in 1979. “During a gig at The Edge in the late 1970s to raise awareness of the threat from the Three Mile Island disaster, he walked on stage wearing bandages dipped in phosphorus paint and exclaimed: ‘Look, this is what happens to you.’The bandages became his trademark.” Prior to 1979, Nash performed three times on TV Ontario’s Nightmusic Concert, first as a solo artist (a live broadcast which was never re-aired), then with FM (Nash and Cameron Hawkins), and again as a solo artist. In all of these appearances Nash wore his typical black tuxedo, top hat, and dark sunglasses, but not his signature bandages. He was also photographed in this attire for a profile in the Toronto Star, published April 28, 1978.
He attempted to keep his true identity the subject of some speculation, although the Star profile of 1978 had already matter-of-factly revealed his real name,in later years. Nevertheless, in a 1981 interview with the UK magazine Smash Hits, Nash was questioned about his real name, and replied with “Nashville Thebodiah Slasher”. As a result of his coyness about his name, some fans came to believe that the Nash persona was an alter-ego of Ben Mink, who replaced him as FM’s violinist in 1978. This is a common misconception, but he has been photographed onstage with Mink.
The “Nash the Slash” persona came from silent film, and Nash said he took his stage name from that of a killer butler encountered by Laurel and Hardy in one of their first films, Do Detectives Think? (1927), for which he composed a soundtrack score.
Nash the Slash Career
Nash’s music is a complex blend of New Wave, new age, and punk rock, using electric mandolins, violins, drums machines, and a variety of effects and sonic devices. He wrote, played, and produced most of the material on his solo albums by himself, though he also worked with producers Daniel Lanois and Bill Nelson. Before working as a solo artist, Nash recorded an unreleased song called “Slasher” with a group called Breathless, which also included his (and FM’s) future producer, Michael Waite on bass guitar. The song appeared on a “various artists” promotional album titled Concept (after the Toronto-based management company, Concept 376; this was one of a series of such albums), but was not issued to the public in any form. The promo album does not list the group’s personnel, or even a songwriting credit, but Nash is clearly heard singing a song, beginning with the lyrics “Hear the children of the night” (though this was a completely different song from his later work, “Children of the Night”), and playing electric violin. The song also featured a complex organ solo not in Nash’s usual style (nor that of Cameron Hawkins, his band mate in FM).
Nash’s first solo performance and live presentation of music to film occurred when he played his soundtrack to Luis Buñuel’s silent film Un chien andalou (1929) at the Roxy Theatre in Toronto on the 17th March , 1975. Nash also composed music for other classic silent films including Nosferatu in 1922 and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari in 1920. When performing soundtracks, Nash would appear on stage beside the screen,using his own projection screen when a full theatre screen is not available, the same format he uses when performing concerts. He has also composed scores for modern Canadian films Roadkill in the year 1990 and Highway 61 in the year 1991, both directed by Bruce McDonald. His other movie score and soundtrack work included The Kidnapping of the President in 1980, Black Pearls in 1989, and Blood and Donuts in 1995.
During that period, Nash made his first appearance on record, on David Pritchard’s solo album Nocturnal Earthworm Stew in the year 1976, with a short solo track titled “Nash Metropolitan”, and on an improvised piece with Pritchard and drummer Martin Deller (with whom he would later work with in FM). He also appeared on the live TV-Ontario program Nightmusic (before its change in format, where it became Nightmusic Concert); in this incarnation, the show was a televised version of an FM radio show hosted by disc jockey Reiner Schwarz, and had not previously featured a live performer. Nash claimed he was both the first and last musical artist to appear on the show.
After working as a solo artist for at least a year, Nash formed the group FM in 1976, initially as a duo with Cameron Hawkins; drummer Martin Deller was added later. The group began recording in July 1976, though no performances in its duo format were issued at the time. However, they did appear on television and in live concerts, beginning in November 1976. In the year 1977, with Deller added to the group, they recorded the album Black Noise, which received a gold record award. By the end of 1977, Nash had left FM, and resumed his solo career starting with another television appearance on Nightmusic Concert on February 28, 1978. Nash rejoined FM from the year 1983 to 1989, and again from 1994 to 1996. During these years, he recorded a further three albums with the group. FM also recorded three albums during Nash’s absence from 1977 to 1980, with Ben Mink as his replacement.
Nash had intended to restart his solo career in 1978 with a new album featuring all the music from his Nightmusic Concert TV special, plus his soundtrack for Un chien andalou, but found the sound quality of a test pressing to be unsatisfactory, so he issued a four song 12-inch EP titled Bedside Companion instead, on his own label, Cut-throat Records, which he continued to operate for the rest of his life. A full album, Dreams and Nightmares with the rest of the Nightmusic material, the soundtrack, and a few new songs, appeared the following year. All music from these records was instrumental, and both are now available on one CD titled Blind Windows which also includes the 45 rpm EP playing at 33 rpm as the “Marsden versions”, a joking reference to disc jockey David Marsden who mistakenly played the entire record at the wrong speed on radio when it was released.
Upon returning to Toronto in spring 1981, Nash released an instrumental “mini-album” Decomposing , which purported to be playable at any speed, with song timings on the label quoting three lengths, depending on whether the record is played at 33, 45, or 78 rpm. However, songs from this record also appeared on compilation albums and singles, where they always play as heard when Decomposing is played at 45 rpm. This remains Nash’s only significant release that has yet to be reissued on CD.
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Nash’s next album was And You Thought You Were Normal of 1982. This included the track “Dance After Curfew” produced by Daniel Lanois prior to his association with Brian Eno. The single became a surprise club and radio hit in Poland, which was then still behind the iron curtain, where curfews and restrictions on western culture were imposed by the government of the time. A 12-inch single featuring a remixed and extended version of the song was issued in the USA on PVC Records.
Nash’s next project was an album of American rock classics titled American Band-ages. Nash enlisted the help of his former FM collaborators Cameron Hawkins (keyboards) and Martin Deller (drums), and the album was released in 1984. The album was aimed at the US market, but due to distribution and management problems, including a change in record labels (to MCA, after Quality Records folded in 1985), it never got the exposure Nash thought it deserved. In the same year, Nash released a compilation album (with most tracks remixed) titled The Million Year Picnic on Ralph Records in the United States, the label which was home to The Residents.
While working on American Band-ages in 1983, he proposed to promote it with a double bill tour with his former band FM. But Ben Mink, Nash’s replacement, had left the band that year; therefore, Nash rejoined the group, staying with them from 1983 to 1989 (followed by a reunion tour from 1994 to 1996), and retaining the idea of a double bill by performing solo as the opening act. With Nash, FM released further albums: Con-Test in 1985, Tonight in 1987, and RetroActive in 1995.
After the FM broke up in 1989, Nash embarked on a series of film soundtrack projects, and revived his Cut-throat label in 1991 to issue these on CD, and has also used it to re-issue his earlier records. New albums of songs with vocals have also been released on the label: Thrash in 1999 and In-A-Gadda-Da-Nash in 2008, the latter consisting entirely of cover versions.
During 1992 to 1993 Nash the Slash collaborated with the electronic music artist Plexus to create a series of visually intense live shows called Psychedelitron. They performed Psychedelitron live between 1993-1995. In 1993, the show was performed only at Stratenger’s in Toronto, Canada, every third Saturday of the month from March to October. The performed two sets, each a mix of Nash the Slash and Plexus songs. Later, in 1994 and 1995, they took the show to other venues, including the grand opening of the Toronto Public Library at 239 College Street to commemorate the inclusion of the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation & Fantasy in this library location.
Psychedelitron utilized intense visuals, including a refinement of Nash’s psychedelic projector lighting, strategically placed pin lights to increase the perception of the stage size, strobe lights, fog and indirect and silhouette lighting. The techniques used during Psychedelitron, and their subsequent refinement during the reign of the shows became an important visual aspect to Nash’s later shows. Psychedelitron was also used as way to re-define Nash’s shows both visually and musically.
Nash performed as part of Toronto’s Pride Week, publicly acknowledging that he was gay in the year 1998. During 2004 and 2005, he was again working with Robert Vanderhorst, under the name Two Artists, on the project View From the Gallery, a live multimedia event presenting a fusion of surrealistic visuals with classic stylings in music. Nash appeared as a character in several comic books by Matt Howarth, including issues #2–7 of Savage Henry. Nash also provided original music on a CD for Howarth’s graphic novel The Simultaneous Man.Nash continued to tour, mostly in his native Ontario, but occasionally elsewhere, including a 2008 tour of the UK, which resulted in a live CD/DVD. 2011 saw Nash release his first ever compilation album, titled The Reckless Use of Electricity.
Nash the Slash Albums
- Bedside Companion (EP) (1978)
- Dreams & Nightmares (1979)
- Children of the Night (1981)
- Decomposing (EP) (1981)
- And You Thought You Were Normal (1982)
- American Band-ages (1984)
- Highway 61 (soundtrack) (1991)
- Thrash (1999)
- Nosferatu (soundtrack) (2000)
- In-A-Gadda-Da-Nash (2008)
Nash the Slash Retirement
Nash announced his retirement via his website on November 6, 2012, stating he was “rolling up the bandages” and shutting down his official website on December 31. He thanked his loyal fans for their support during his 40 years as an independent artist, but stated that live gigs no longer excited him and that his “eccentric style/genre finds no place into today’s scene.” He also mentioned the “theft of music on the internet devastated a very important source of his income.”
Nash the Slash Death
On May 10, 2014, Nash died at his home in Toronto, Ontario at age 66, from a suspected heart attack. Robert Vanderhorst confirmed his death to the media two days later.