May 03, 2000
May 3rd, 2000 Backstage at the Echo Lounge in Atlanta, Georgia. (and Max Eider was present off and on)
Lisa King: We'll just roll it.
Pat Fish: I'm a bit of a digresser, so that's probably just as well. I'm an old boy you know.
LK: So how did this whole thing start?
PAT: Coming to America and everything? The whole group started so long ago that I bet only two and a half people can remember. It all began .. him and me (points to Max Eider) used to play in a band many years ago in the city of Oxford, and it was one of those classic cases, of being on welfare and trying to buy your own P.A. and your own van, and trying to play in other cities, not realizing that there was no point in going to play in another city if nobody knew who the hell you were, and by November of '81 we got really tired of it. And I for one jacked in playing music at the age of 23, in1981. But I moved to the country, and I got really bored and I had nothing to do, so I taught myself how to play guitar. I used to play saxophone, and I taught myself to play guitar a little bit, and started making these little tapes at home. And one of the first things I wrote was a tune called "Zombie Love." Which is exactly that. It's about having sex with the dead. And I wanted to send this tune off to my mates, but I didn't want to put 'Pat Fish' on the cassette, 'cause I didn't really feel that this was exactly me, you know what I'm sayin'? So a friend of mine had come up with this phrase, 'Jazz Butcher' for a laugh. We were just making up stupid names for groups one night. And my friend 'The Anti Christ' he came up with 'The Jazz Butcher.' He also came up with direct mailing, so he really is The Anti Christ. Big advertising bloke now. Still speaks to me occasionally. Anti had come up with this thing, 'Jazz Butcher' and I thought "Yeah that's about right. Zombie Love. I'll put that on the side of the cassette like." I sent to two friends, and to two guys at record labels, basically because I thought it would give them a laugh. But one of them came back, the great Dave Barker, at Glass Records in London. He comes back and goes, "Hmmm. Want to make an album." And I'm like, "Want to make an album? Does the pope shit in the woods? You know?" so, .. yeah allright. Whatever. And so Max and I went touring down to South London, and made this record for about thirty five dollars. And Barker says, "Well, you've got to call it Jazz Butcher now." And so we called it Jazz Butcher and it stuck ever since. And when we made that first record, I had a little day job, and I thought well some people spend a fortnight in Spain or whatever, I'll spend a fortnight in a recording studio, and that's what a terrific holiday. Maybe if we sell a few hundred they'll let me do it again. And they did. We sold a few hundred, and they did let me do it again. But the second one went mental.
You know me and my girlfriend sit around at night listening to music and she goes, "It's the songwriting that counts," and I go "fuck all that, its' the sound that counts." And I'll go "Sound!" and she'll go "Songwriting!" and I'll go, "Sound!" I just met a guy back in Northhampton and he's 22, and he's totally into Can. And his band sounds totally like their into Can. It's wicked isn't it? I mean Can.
They're like sixty year old German hippies, and still no one has topped it, you know? Still the young people give respect. I always wanted to do "The Hula Dance." There was an incredible remix of that by a couple of kids from like Bonn or Cologne or somewhere. And it was almost like kind of techno bottom end. That marvelous thing where they take the vocals and put them into a sampler, syllable by syllable. I've been wanting to do that tune ever since.
We were doing a tour in '85, I can remember this to the day, it was the tenth of December. And we were in Naples, in Italy. And there is a photograph of Max and I; and there are walking deadmen. And they are in a better state than me. The band's only been going about two years, but a bottle of vodka every night, wheee he he he .. Owen comes up to me in Naples, on the balcony of this hotel, and he goes, "Hey." and I go "What." He goes, "You should join the SMDP." I go, "The SMDP?" and he goes, yeah, "The smoke more dope party." I ended that tour with a bloomin ulcer in my tummy. I was only about 26.
It's not like we're famous. There's no reason at all, I mean like, if you said to someone in my home town, that we go out and play to a crowd in whatever town in the U.S.A., unless they're one of my mates and they got used to the idea, they just laugh at you. And the great thing about my hometown, is that I never, ever get bugged or recognized. I never get any of that until one night. About '92. I went to see Chapterhouse in the venue just down the street. I went into the gentlemen's lavatory, I was just splashing away on it, and this kid comes up to me, (in drunken sailors voice) "Ayy .. Jazz Butcher .. ayyy .. "
And I'm like, "Don't you know what town this is? Leave me alone." But now I've got these twenty something's coming around my house, hanging out. And I really don't know what they want .. well, they want my Can LP's that's what they want. It's good, but in another way it's bad because really the twenty something's would be looking at people like Max and I and going, "Faack off you old fools!" you know? And you see bands today and they're in their twenties, and they are looking to Can.
"The Skinheads." We've been playing that so long now. Somebody told me they went to see Cracker. And they shouted out " The Skinheads!" And Dave Lowry goes, "Oh, you gotta' go see The Jazz Butcher." It's a shame that we couldn't bring our mate Curtis with us. Because he's got a big shiny bald head. And the little rap I do in the middle, I do it for him because normally he comes running on and does it himself: "I'm no so big. I'm rather small. I've got a head like a big bowling ball." He's from Edinburough. The black man from Edinburough. There had to be one. But he rules, Curtis. There's something for you to seek out. He's got a wicked little album out. Called 'The Bean King.' Curtis E. Johnson.
He was mad because for years he worked under pseudonyms. And then he said, "Stuff it. I'm going to come out and just be myself." So he makes his records as Curtis E. Johnson. And within months of its' release, Madonna starts recording a song by a bloke called Curtis Johnson. So I think it's just as well he put that "E" in there. But it also makes me laugh because it makes me think of "White Courtesy Telephone." "White Curtis E. Johnson? I don't think so." But he's really pail skinned, and he did a gig once in Northhampton. He's playing the blues he's doing "Hoochie Coochie Man," you can ask him about this, and he's singing this, and there's these two thirty something white kids, in the back, having a pint and watching him, and the guy is rather showing off to his girlfriend. And at the end of one tune he goes, " Mmmm. He plays the blues allright. For a white bloke." I had to tell him later. He's into making web sites for other people. His brother has a company that does like internet solutions, and so forth. His brother drives two Porches.
LK: So I guess that's big everywhere.
PAT:Well, it's getting that way isn't it? You meet a twenty something that says, "I'm a web site designer." And you think, "Yeah you're unemployable." The mad thing is it's the bosses, isn't it? The bosses, they're so set in their ways. "Oh we've got to get some of these computers, and oh yes twenty grand, that's fine .. etc." You know Curtis'll do it for you for thirty quid and a pint of beer! You just get that thing that the guys at the very top haven't got a clue what's going on. And they're the guys buying new software every year. They are the ones making it impossible for one computer to talk to another one you know. I suppose they keep the software companies afloat. But I'm a big fan of Radium myself. Those naughty Germans. Naughty, naughty, naughty Germans. You didn't hear this from me. Don't put this on the web site. Steinberg will find out and I will be killed. But honestly in our town the idea of paying for software is like, excuse me? Don't you have any friends? You guys are like five years ahead of us anyway. (Americans.) Here you are doing your streaming, and in Britain you're lucky if you can get a photograph up there. "I do not mean to publish any of these pictures if they're not copywrite, please contact me."
(Innocent bystander walks in room and says:) It's like that song, too much information by the Police.
PAT: By the Police? I like the Backstreet Boys a lot more than Sting. I do man. They've got that do-wop thing going and some proper R & B going on in the bottom end. I know it's tailored for mass consumption, and shit, but they are actually making decent music. Not that good, I mean it ain't going to blow your mind, but when you're comparing them to Boy Zone or West Life or something .. So I don't know what to tell you. Keep on with all that factious Jazz Butcher history? We've only got 'bout another 23 years to go .. But it kicked off, and we didn't expect shit. But the second album we made got noticed. Possibly because David J was on it, and he had just come out of Bauhaus. It kind of went off and we got into Europe, and the English kind of abandoned us really quick; by 1985 we were all over Europe but we were still playing pubs in Britain. In about May '86, we were playing in a pub in south London, we were getting about 250 quid, about 400 bucks .. not even that, maybe 350 bucks playing in a pub, and that Barker character from Glass Records, he goes, "Would you like to play in the U.S.A.?" We were just like, "Oh leave it." And we bloody did. We bloody did. And we were so ill prepared. Cause we got over here, not knowing what was going on. And it turned out that CMJ and Geffen put out this compilation album of one of our first three records, and it was number 2! Nobody told us! And I just opened the paper one day, and was like "Oh look, The Ramones are on the top of the .. .FUCK!" So we were totally unready for that. And by the end of '86 we were split up. Max was gone. We'd been out about two years, getting lucky in complete chances. Just complete frauds. We'd been out a few years and it was just time to get lives again. I dunno .. I just kept doing it because I didn't think I was good for anything else. I made some more records, and then right about the middle of the '90's Max was hanging around. He'd sometimes open for us. And then we split up at the end of '95, and in '96 some guys in Spain who didn't know us invited us to do a gig. Because they didn't know we had split up. So I called him up, and out we went. Well, we've been around the houses. I'm just trying to get up to date. Between '95 and last year we've popped out and done the odd gigs. We've done weddings .. a wedding on a boat in Seattle. I've got this one song. It goes like this: " This room is swaying like a boat .. " and I thought I can't miss this .. "because it IS a boat." We had a laugh at that. We just started doing things if it fell into our laps and involved a pleasant trip or something groovy then we'd go and do it. And then last year, come September, we did about five dates up and down the west coast. And they went really, really well. Although we knew it wasn't going to be as strong for us on the East side, but we thought there's no record company behind it, there's no machine behind it, but on the other end we don't want anything out of it except a really good time. We've just been playing around. We played to 11 people in Iowa City. Do you know where that is? Because I'm fucked if I do. The keenest one, the keenest person in Iowa City had driven for something like 300 miles from Kansas City. And he'd been tripping the whole way.
LK: Where did you record the new record?
PAT: The one we just made? We recorded it in the back bedroom of our ex-guitar player's house. 'Cause we had this guitar player from about '90-'92 time, called Pete Crouch, who ended up leaving the band to become an air hostess. Quite literally, you run the risk, if you fly to London on British Airways, you might just get Crouchy going, "Coffee sir?" Having freaked out, and run away from the group to be an air hostess, he would show up to the gigs and get massively drunk, and go "Take me with you! Take me with you!" So we've stayed good mates, and he's built himself a little home studio. So we made the record.
"Walking With Jesus." I sang that once. And I was excited about it all day; I was walking around Northampton, and I was walking around town all day thinking, "Yes, yes. I will sing it tonite like Otis Redding." Yes. Made a rock fool of myself. Do you know Richard who started Spectrum with Sonic Boom? He's got a record out called 'Tribe Of Two Thousand.' Have you heard that? Well, the band is called 'Tribe Of Two Thousand' and the record is called 'Phased and Confused.' And it's wicked. He's got this really got this very good-looking, charismatic, and also thoroughly mad singer. The guy's been like forcibly locked up a few times in his career, which is getting a bit manic.
LK: So have you done any other things?
PAT: What, other things outside of Jazz Butcher? Yeah, a few things. Produced a few bands. No one really successful. Done a lot of recording with Spaceman, The Blue Aeroplanes .. We toured with the Aeroplanes over here in 1990; they were coming and we were coming. We had done a little tour together around the U.S. in 1990; It was the band that made the album 'Swagger'. They really had firepower. Paul who ended up playing drums in the band, he was playing drums with us on that tour. They kind of toppled over, they thought we're not and indie band anymore, and we're gonna be proud of it. They recorded with Larry who produced Los Lobos, engineered Bob Dylan, and what a lovely bloke he was. I thought they were incredible. I saw the Aeroplanes on tour about March 2000, and I was like no, get off. Impossible. But then again, most people that would see Jazz Butcher on tour would think that can't be possible. It's amazing what goes on. I don't want you to think that we're doing like the Eurythmics or something. We just don't feel like that you know. For us it's just this wicked holiday. You wouldn't believe how well we've been eating. If there is a feature of this tour in the United States, it's not thick crowds or devotional goodwill; although there have been elements of all those things. You know the average European will spend four or five weeks in the U.S. and it's like "Ha ha! Burgers! French Fries!" But no .. well, it's like the beer thing when we first came in '86, you were just lucky there was Becks and Heinekin. But like now, the beer thing has kind of like come around. In a few years there's going to be room for Socialism! Well you know sometimes when we're out on the road, and we're getting a breakfast like, we'll go to Bob Evans or something, you can see like 25 waiters and waitresses, and it still takes 20 minutes for your eggs to come. And you're like, "Wow, you have your beaurocracy; all you need are some tanks!"
I think it's good, I dunno, I think it was the eighties, but things got really homogenized here. And now you're into the local thing. Every town's got their local brewery, and their local attitude, and their local paper. I've always liked the place, but now I think it's a little bit more on the go. I'm not a huge fan of Bill Clinton, but I'm not bothered with what he does with his 'willy' like. But he didn't do that much for me. I was happy when he beat Bush. But it just seems that when you get a guy like him hanging around, and also because there were like wars to take your attention away; But it seems like there's just a little more looseness at home. You know it's the redneck with the baseball bat that's got the license to .. well .. with that having been said, JBC and rednecks .. we get right on. Only a couple of nights ago, down in a shed in Birmingham, Alabama, by their own admission, they're own slogan, is "The Neck. Birmingham's Dirty Little Secret." And we got down there, and there was perhaps forty or fifty people into it, and the rest were just disinterested rednecks, and by the end of the night they were all there. The soundman said we were the best band he had seen in five years. While they were making you a cheeseburger, they were making me a cheeseburger. No .. we sound like we're being really horrid to Birmingham, but the people that showed up they were tops, even though they didn't care about the group. They were just top people. I have friends from Montgomery. This isn't like worth putting on the internet is it? "I have mates in Montgomery."
LK: We'll just take your words, and sample each word. And copy and paste them and make our own story. And then sync it to "The Wizard of Oz."
PAT: Oh, what is that thing that went around about five years ago, about Pink Floyd and The Wizard of Oz? What was that about?
LK: Yeah, you start it at the third lion roar, and they supposedly, "Dark Side of The Moon" synched up as a soundtrack.
PAT: This has got to have originated somewhere with long winter evenings. No, you've got to be really bored to come up with that. You've got the 'Wizard of Oz' on video, and someone grabs 'Dark Side of the Moon,' and it's like, you can't even think of something better to put on than 'Dark Side of the Moon.' Bloody Christ, how many people have come out and tried it? Somebody was on some tabs on that one. Yeah, cause things do seem that much more important. Or so I've heard .. One big thing for me was when Eno started making his records when he'd just come out of Roxy Music.
It's almost like the missing link for me between late sixties and the punk thing. And I love them. But you never hear it anywhere. I've tried to put it in my music, but somehow it always gets smoothed out even though I know it's there. But if my words ever sound mad, it's because like I've always thought the words on those records were great. Because they did mean something. It wasn't really like he was writing in code, you just had to take it totally literally, and then it was like, "Fuck, you know, Brian .. "
Copyright © 2006, Lisa King. All rights reserved.