April 23, 2000
Credit: Brian Kelly
Still, a lot of immensely talented bands inhabit the fringe, yet never get their 3-4 minutes on "alternative" radio. Well, be fair, there can't be room for everybody. And if Santana qualifies as alternative, what hope does the little guy have for airplay?
For too long, The Jazz Butcher Conspiracy has been overlooked and under-played. Though they may not have conquered the airwaves, they will have hi-jacked the 7th street entry for their own demented purposes on Sunday, April 23rd. Pat Fish (the Jazz Butcher) and his ever changing line up of conspiritors have released, by my count, 10 albums, 13 singles, 6 compilations and 3 live albums since their debut in 1983. In doing so, they have produced music that is thoughtful, poetic, political, funny, poignant, powerful and irreverant. They are as adept at wild, feedback driven guitar rock about war in the middle east, as they are acoustic ballads about talking elephants. Though deeply influenced by the Velvet Underground and Jonathon Richman, the Butcher has proven himself to be the king of his own particular rock idiom. His output defies classification, looting and pillaging every known musical genre. Their greatest "non-hits" are a stylistic smorgasbord. From the jazz laced "Partytime" to the rock-anthemic "She's On Drugs" to the ballad-y "Girl-Go", the only common thread is found in the Butcher's unique ironic sensibilities. Though critically acclaimed, and having a small but fanatical following that make trekkies seem aloof, the rock and roll pedestal they deserve seems just beyond their reach.
And frankly, that's okay with them. Says Pat Fish "Personally I measure our success by how far away from home we have got. For the band I wish an unending supply of cash money. Not holding my breath, though. "The band, who tour the U.S. and Japan this spring, sees the recent return of original guitarist Max Eider and drummer Owen Jones, both of whom left the band in 1987. Max tells of the inspiration motivating a reunion after more than 10 years,"Boredom... and the fact that none of us had grown up and got lives. " Not to mention, "A trip to Majorca promoted by someone who didn't realize the group didn't exist. "Pat continues, "The unexpected foreign trips were so much fun that we simply became more open to the idea of playing live again. And our adoption of e-mail meant that it was suddenly much easier for us to find out where we were wanted and get there. "Playing live has led to an official reforming of the band, who retired in 1995.
A performance in Hamburg, Germany last year was recently released as a live album, called "Glorious and Idiotic". The JBC has also been working on a brand new album, due out in June. How was it to go back into the studio together after all this time? "Not sober" Says Max, "Not tense. Like going home. Best time I've had in semi-rural Surrey so far this year. "Pat adds, "Perhaps `into the studio' is a bit misleading. The record was made with no professional input whatsoever, and is largely constructed from bits of string and stuff that we found in the garden. In terms of the new material, Max has contributed four absolute whoppers to the set. ""The record also reflects what we've been listening to recently, Although I'm surprised at how `Jazz Butcher' it has come out. We're going to call it `Rotton Soul'. "Regardless of personnel changes or stylistic approach, the music has always come out sounding very `Jazz Butcher'. This is more than partially due to the very personal and observational lyrics. The Butcher has often likened their albums to postcards... documenting things as they are for the band at the time. So from what "place" is the latest postcard being sent?"semi-rural Surrey" jokes Max.
"Many of the songs come from fairly dark and scary places, but we were having a good time when we recorded them, so it's kind of `bitter-sweet' I suppose. "What can we expect of the new album? Citing previous Butcher confections, Pat suggests, "Imagine a particle acceleration of `A Scandal in Bohemia', `Sex and Travel', and `Cult of the Basement' and I guess you'd be on the right road. "An inspired first step down that road would be seeing the band live. The dynamic of Pat Fish and Max Eider on stage is nothing short of bliss.