Nash the Slash, Mysterious Canadian Experimental Musician, Dead at 66
He was a mystery until the end who few knew by face.
Nash The Slash, the intriguing experimental rock musician who wrapped his head in gauze bandages and wore glasses, a top hat, bowtie and tuxedo — and who esteemed music crit Lester Bangs once declared “is the kind of opening act that makes the headliner work twice as hard” — has died at age 66
While exact details have yet to be released, his friend and frequent collaborator, surrealist painter Robert Vanderhorst, broke the news via social media.
Nash, whose real name was Jeff Plewman (he kept that hidden too for many years) was a multi-instrumentalist who toured with Gary Numan, Iggy Pop and opened for the Who and the Police in the 80s. He emerged on the Toronto scene in 1975 as a solo artist and joined the progressive-rock group FM in 1976 whose 1977 album, “Black Noise,” eventually went platinum. He left the band in 1978, but would join them again from 1983 until 1996, all the while working solo.
In 1998, he performed at Toronto’s Pride Week and continued to tour in Ontario. In 2008, he did a UK stint, which resulted in the limited-edited Live In London album and DVD. In 2010, he reunited onstage with Numan at the Opera House in Toronto. In an interview at that time Numan recalls coming to Toronto around 1979 and seeing Nash The Slash play by happenstance.
“I was so blown away by what he did, I did a really bad thing actually — I cancelled the support band that I had for the whole tour there and then, and got Nash to do it…it really made a difference to the tour. I think it really added something special to it.”
Just heard that Nash The Slash has died. Nash was quite possibly the most unique performer on the planet. Very sad news. GN— Gary Numan Official (@numanofficial) May 12, 2014
In 2012, Nash made a lengthy post on his web site, announcing he was “rolling up the bandages. The thrill is gone, it seems for more than B.B. King,” he began. “I'm proud of my remarkable 40-year career in the music biz with no hit (commercial) records. As an independent artist without management, major label support or any grants whatsoever (thank you Canada Council and Factor), I toured internationally and accomplished so much. I was unique on stage and on my recordings. I refused to be slick and artificial. I opened for and toured with some of the best musicians in the world, and was regarded highly by my peers….
“I created one of the first Canadian independent record labels (Cut-Throat Records) in order to release my music and merchandise to the public. I was the first Canadian musician to use a drum machine on an album (1978), at a time when drum machines were outlawed according to the bylaws of the Toronto Musicians' Association. I was the first to record an album, 'Decomposing', which was listen-able at any speed, and miraculously reviewed in Playboy magazine. I composed and produced music for film and television, and for multi-media exhibitions of the surrealist paintings by my friend Robert Vanderhorst…”
The retirement letter goes on to explain that live gigs don’t excite him anymore, his eccentric style/genre finds no place in today’s scene and the theft of music had devastated an important source of his income.
“Really sad to hear about Nash’s passing,” punk legend Joe Shithead of D.O.A. told Billboard in an email. “A few years back Nash and D.O.A. teamed up to play four shows together in Southern Ontario. D.O.A. would play a full set, then Nash would come on stage to join us for the encore. It was F-ing great! It gave a whole new twist to the songs having Nash’s incredible violin playing added in, and the looks on kid’s faces was pretty rich as well, it took them a minute but would get into it after about ½ a song. To me, having been a long time fan of Nash, it was a great honour. Nash The Slash, you will be missed! RIP my friend.”
“Everyone in the Toronto scene in the seventies knew Nash from his performances at The Original 99 Cent Roxy Theatre, run by Gary Topp — where he would perform the score to movies live — and then with his groundbreaking work in FM,” Cam Carpenter, who was doing marketing at the time for Quality Records, told Billboard.
“Larry Macrae at Quality Records signed Nash to solo deal in 1984 and we did the album of covers ‘American Band-Ages’ and later the re-formed FM album ‘Con-Test’ in 1985. We became friends during this era and I got to know the incredible man behind the bandages. He always played by his own rules and his legacy will continue to grow. A true original.”
One-time booking agent RJ Guha says Nash was on the roster of CPI-Brockum, repped by Mike Greggs, when he worked there in 1987-88. “I came up w an idea for him, Phantom of the Pop-era, with the image of the phantom mask in sunglasses and bandages. He loved it. Within a week, he had a 1,000 posters done with it and he skewered everyone he could for the next three years on the road.
“As a way to say thanks, he took me (and Greggs and Bill Seip) to a WWF show, 2nd row ringside — Ultimate Warrior and Macho Man. I had the time of my life and couldn’t believe the camera and lens Nash brought with him. At the very end, he literally leapt over the first row to get close up of a bleeding macho man with the belt... insane. Since then our paths crossed a fair bit when I had Matrix as an agency. Had lunch with him a few times at Stratengers, which was home base for him.”
Broadcast Hall of Famer David Marsden still plays FM and Nash The Slash on his current radio show at Oshawa’s CKGE FM. “I was originally introduced to him by David Pritchard, at CHUM FM, and he did many of the [CFNY’s] CASBY Awards and the Uno Awards. He appeared on those. He appeared at several of the Police Picnics for The Garys and we’d bump into each out and have a good time, laughing and scratching and carrying on and then we wouldn’t see each other for months. He was a very private man.
“I called him the Invisible Man simply because once he took off the bandages he would go out into the crowd at one of his own concerts and no body knew it was him.”
As Nash concluded on his web site farewell: “Creativity in all its facets should be inspirational, and as such should be absorbed, its subtleties appreciated, understood and then woven into the fabric of some other person's creative vision. I'm very pleased to have shared my creative endeavors with so many people around the world. I hope I've left a few breadcrumbs in the forest, to inspire others to find their own path.”