Nash the Slash was an original. Wrapped in bandages, like a mummified prog guitarist, Nash toured with Gary Numan and Iggy Pop and played along to silent films. With a drum box and electric violin, he fired up alternative music crowds with horror imagery and pulsating, processed riffs.
The man inside the mask, Jeff Plewman, died in 2014, aged just 66. He left behind a legacy of music that spanned film soundtracks and pop music, experimental works, and innovative songs from an alternative jukebox.
Nash is the subject of a forthcoming documentary film, And You Thought You Were Normal. The producers, Tim Kowalski and Kevan Byrne, took some time to speak with us about the details they have disinterred.
Nash was raised to prominence by Gary Numan, and he was loved by the electronic music scene, but he wasn’t a synthesizer artist. Why do you think that he was so adored by that scene?
TIM: Nash crossed a lot of boundaries as an artist. He was classically trained, but he made new sounds with conventional instruments in a world infested with guitars – which was very unconventional and punk-as-fuck in spirit. Combine that with the dark imagery and the theatrics, and it’s no wonder Nash ended up meeting with artists like Gary Numan at the fork in the road between rock and futurism.
KEVAN: It’s true that he wasn’t an electronic musician in a pure sense. He played synths on many of his recordings – usually a Korg Poly 6 and Roland D-50 – but overwhelmingly his music centred on electric violin and mandolin which were heavily processed through fuzz boxes and tape delays. He also used drum machines extensively in the early days, and the only other musicians using those at the time were post-punk bands or bands that were entirely synth-based, like Human League, etc.
There were strong electronic music influences on his music. He was a big fan of Kraftwerk, as well as early Tangerine Dream and Hans-Joachim Roedelius, and very much influenced by Eno, as well. I think some of those elements must have resonated with electronic music audiences.
Like Fad Gadget, Nash was a bit of an outsider. What do we know about the man beneath the bandages? Was he like the character he created?
TIM: Nash was the definition of outsider. A proto-nerd, if you will. He had a deep fascination with the macabre, lived in a movie theatre, and wrote scores for silent films that were shown there. Like many great artists, Nash had a complex character with many contradictions. He had a duality in his day-to-day persona, which – oddly enough – I think was amplified with the bandages.
KEVAN: Nash was a real dichotomy. His inner life was volatile and chaotic, and he remained intensely private until his death. The bandages reflected the mystery of his personal life, which was in some ways unknown to his family and friends.
He was generous and patronly, acting as a mentor to some, but could also be vindictive and petulant. His individuality and fierce independence made him an outsider.
His music fell across genres. He rejected the music industry; and he combined performance art and popular culture, which put him at odds with the world.
Besides working with Gary Numan, Nash toured with Iggy Pop and recorded with Steve Hillage. Are you planning to capture their memories?
TIM: I interviewed Steve Hillage at his studio in London. He was very gracious and forthcoming. Gary Numan also did an excellent interview with us last year when he was in Toronto. We’ve tried getting Iggy but we haven’t been as lucky.
KEVAN: We’re still hopeful that we can get an interview with Iggy, as a big fan. We also want to interview Bill Nelson, Laurie Anderson and – at the top of the wish list – Brian Eno. Nash reportedly met Eno whole recording “Dance After Curfew” with Daniel Lanois.
What are your plans for the film, once it is completed?
TIM: We intend to shop for distribution and are looking at some festivals. We hope to have the film released late 2019.
KEVAN: Dream release date is Halloween 2019!
You have been provided with some one-of-a-kind Nash instruments to help raise funds for the film. What is the story behind them?
TIM: We have been very fortunate to work with Trevor Norris, Nash’s good friend and holder of his estate. Trevor believes in this project and wants Nash’s story to be told, so he’s donated some one-of-a-kind items to us to fund this film. We have Nash’s bat violin that can be seen on a late 70’s TV appearance. We also have one of Nash’s sawed-up violins. Neither are playable, but they really are beautiful. We had 3 bows but they were claimed immediately.
KEVAN: One of the most interesting rewards is a never-before release of Nash’s first live performance (as Nash The Slash) at the Roxy Theatre in 1975. He played a live accompaniment to the Brunel silent film Un Chien Andalou. This was pre bandaged Nash.
Nash had a keen interest in visual art. Is there any material that he created himself in the archives? Will we get to see it?
TIM: Very true. Nash was very visual, had a long history of working with great artists, was a photographer, and had a very hands-on approach to creating his live shows. This extended into his home life. He had a doorway to nowhere in his garden and he did start to paint later in life.
Nash’s early photos from his days at the Rockpile, like Toronto’s Filmore, are being featured at the Masonic Temple and may come out in a book.
KEVAN: The most notable visual archival materials are the photographs that Nash took in the late 60s at the Rockpile (later named The Concert Hall/ The Masonic Hall). There are pictures of blues artists like Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, as well as rock legends, such as Led Zeppelin, The Who and Jimi Hendrix, all of whom were playing for the first time in Toronto.
How can fans help to support the project?
TIM: Please support us at: https://igg.me/at/youwerenormal.
KEVAN: we are running a crowdfunding campaign, and we are about 28% of our way to our goal of $50,000. There’s time left to hit our goal, so anything towards that is enormously helpful. Apart from that, like and share our posts on social media!!