Fish heads (& tales)
Andrew J. Brooksbank
Fish heads (& tales)
To coincide with the re-release of Crocodile Tears and The Velvet Cosh we caught up with David’s former band mate, album session player, sleeve note writer and fellow Northamptonian Pat fish a.k.a The Jazz Butcher to discuss his part in this seminal album…
David joined The Jazz Butcher in April of 1984 and left in February of ’85 (to join Daniel and Kevin in a new project: Love And Rockets) and the album (Crocodile Tears) was issued in March of ’85. So he was recording whilst still an active member of the Jazz Butcher correct?
Very much so. As I said in the sleeve notes, David doesn’t like to try and put together a whole bunch of recordings at once. He prefers brief guerilla strikes with usually quite specific objectives. In 1984 the Jazz Butcher thing was a going concern as a band, playing mostly in London, but we still had lots of days when there was nothing to do. Max (Eider) and I would fill these voids with our day jobs. David would do much the same, writing and recording being, of course, his day job already.
Sometimes the whole of the Jazz Butcher band would be at one of David’s sessions, like the one at Woodbine that produced “Too Clever By Half” and “Ship of Fools”. Sometimes we wouldn’t know what he’d been up to until he played us the results.
You played flute on Justine, how did you become involved in the sessions?
I can’t recall the exact mechanism by which Dave offered me the session. It is quite possible that he sent me a postcard! Mitch Jenkins and I didn’t have a phone between us at home in those days. I definitely went over on the bus.
I have known you a long time now and have never come across a correlation between the flute and you before (or since) – Why the flute?
I’m surprised you missed the flute thing. It was actually the first instrument that I learned, though my teacher was kind enough to switch me to a tenor sax, which is a bit more rock and roll. But both instruments work much the same way. I play flute on “Chinatown” and “Goldfish” on the “Bath Of Bacon” album. Also on “Buffalo Shame” on “Distressed Gentlefolk”. I played flute on the “Recurring” album by Spacemen 3 too. Not many people who can say they have played a flute with the psychedelic stormtroopers of Rugby, but I can honestly put my hand up to that one. The saxes on “A Scandal In Bohemia” & “Distressed Gentlefolk” are me as well.
Let’s talk about your writing of the sleeve notes for this re-issue of Crocodile Tears…did you use a blue print for your text? (like playing the album again)
Well, I knew that I would need some kind of a theme. Certainly I played the record a lot and I spent time trying to remember those days as though I was there. Sounds daft, I know, but I have quite a powerful long-term photographic memory and I was
actively seeking to re-experience what it was like to be young and making music in Northampton in 1983/4.
I was trying to see how it would have looked from Dave’s eyes as well, which is something that would never have occurred to me to do when I was young and pissed. I was trying to relate in my mind the things Dave was writing about on the record and how it must have felt for him to be living the life he was living at the time, out of Bauhaus and hanging around with a bunch of people that nobody had ever heard of while they drank Special Brew and chased women. I seem to remember there was quite a lot of that in Northampton at the time.
So I settled on a sort of change/downsizing/integrity thrust, which I think went some way towards conveying at least part of what the album is about.
You don’t mention any of the extra tracks in your notes was this conscious?
I simply hadn’t heard them at that point. I only received MP3s of the additional tunes after my deadline had passed and I had already sent my notes to the record company.
Were you given any “rules” by the Doctor or a frame in which to build upon or was it simply left to you?
In true John Cale style, he left it up to me.
You mention about hopping on a bus to Wellingborough, it gives no indication on the re-issue or the original so from this I’m guessing the sessions were recorded at Beck?
Justine was certainly done at Beck. I think the title track was done there too. Other places David used were Woodbine in Leamington and Mad Malcolm’s Recording Shack & Alsatian Farm (aka Ace Studios) in a village called Bugbrooke.
You have written many sleeve notes for various Jazz Butcher albums over the years, was this the first non-Jazz Butcher piece?
A few years ago Joe Foster’s Rev-Ola label re-released Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers. I had the honour to pen the notes on that one. I can’t think of any other occasions on which I’ve done it, but something might have slipped through the net somewhere…
Special thanks to Pat Fish
© Apollox May 2005