And You Thought You Were Normal: Nash the Slash (RIP)

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We hardly knew Jeff Plewman, the man behind the bandages. Nash the Slash, on the other hand, had a global following. In his top hat and suit, Nash was a silent film star in an age of noise; widely appreciated for his misuse of electrified violins and mandolins. Fed through effects pedals and played over drum machines and keyboards, Nash’s instruments yielded shrieks and drones that could mute a banshee or echo Prokofiev.

Gary Numan stumbled across Nash in a Toronto nightclub and immediately dropped his scheduled support act. Nash accompanied him on tour, gaining exposure, a UK record deal and even a place on a Smash Hit flexidisc (alongside OMD); however, unlike Canadian label-mates, Martha & The Muffins, Nash failed to achieve commercial success in the UK. Dindisc, the Branson-funded label run by Carol Wilson, promoted Nash as a post-punk novelty act, playing on his horror-film imagery and clever covers of songs by The Rolling Stones and Jan & Dean. Frustrated by the lack of appreciation for his inventive original material, Nash returned to Canada.

From his base in Toronto, Nash released records on the Cut-throat imprint. The label’s distinctive logo included a skull, and one of the eye sockets was positioned over the spindle hole on Cut-throat releases. Listening to a Nash album therefore required listeners to impale the skull and rotate it around the violated socket. That dark sense of humour and his attention to detail were constant features of Nash’s work, whether in songs like “Vincent’s Crows” or in the production of a Nash the Slash comic book.

Nash played to packed arenas and small clubs. He warmed up for The Who but also for The Spoons. He toured with Iggy Pop and played along to silent films in local cinemas. He composed albums that could be played at any speed and practically invented the sound of The Orb and System 7 with “Blind Windows” in 1978.

He retired from music in 2012, leaving a note charting his accomplishments and lamenting the consequences of file-sharing:

A journalist once asked me to describe a typical Nash the Slash fan. I replied, ‘They just get it’. They get my references to Ray Bradbury, Boris Karloff, and even my opening quote from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It was my intention to shock, but not offend.

Nash had a full stage name – Nashville Thebodiah Slasher – but his family and friends knew him as Jeff. His passing last weekend leaves a hole in the heart of alternative music.