Brian "Nasher" Nash was the guitarist for the 1980s band, Frankie Goes to Hollywood. The bands worldwide smash hit Relax reached No 1 on the UK Singles Chart in 1984. His new album 432-1 Open the Vein is released in June via Babylon Pink Recordings and we got a chance to speak to him about the single, album and his thoughts on how the tuning of music can really make a difference.
How would you describe your new single ‘XO’?
It’s a jaunty pop tune written about a friend of mine who’s no longer with us.
Did that make it a difficult song to write?
No. It was a celebration of my time spent with the guy who lived next door but one from me called Amit. We used to go out occasionally to watch the football and it would inevitably get messy when we hit the Hennessey XO. That’s where title came from. “Come on, let’s have one more before we stagger down that road!”
The single is taken from your new album which is out in June. What was that like to record?
It was great! I hadn’t recorded anything in a couple of years as I’d been involved in other projects and I spent a long time recording an audio version of my autobiography which has absolute hell! I went into the recording studio with a mobile phone full of ideas and bits of recordings and started from there, sitting in a windowless room until the early hours of the morning!
Did you find that a good way to get the creative juices flowing or was that a struggle for you?
No, it wasn’t. Once I started it was like the dam had burst. I’d been waiting to do this for a long time and as soon as I started the gates were open and the tunes came quite easily, as did the lyrics. The album is the sound of a man in his fifties looking at the world and not being happy with what he’s seeing.
Do you find your experiences or politics have helped shape this music?
It’s not really political. It’s just a view, seeing how the media report things [like] the migrant crisis. You have people like Katie Hopkins – ‘Show me the bodies, and I still won’t care’. Who in their right mind wants that message put out on their airwaves? Yet we still are bombarded by her and her ilk sending this message when we should have a bit of compassion for people.
With the election ongoing that must lead to a lot of material?
I find the whole thing utterly depressing to be honest, and I’ve tried to steer away from it. I know where my opinions lie and they’re personal to me, and they’re outside of any political party really. All we want in the world is a bit of equality, fairness and compassion. In my eyes there’s only one party who I believe can deliver that [but] other people will beg to differ. I’ve got three kids myself in their mid to late twenties. We’ve got to stand up for them and they’ve got to stand up for themselves because they’re the ones who are going to be following on after.
I’ve got a lot of faith in the youth. I don’t believe the rubbish in the papers that they’re all hooded youths who are coming to mug me. They’re literature and media savvy. I’m hoping they’ll bring the revolution, maybe one day! “They say I’m a dreamer, maybe I’m not the only one.”
You did an audio book of your autobiography. What was that like?
Recording it was absolutely horrible. You’ve already done the creative part when you’ve written it, and reading it out was like knitting. [It was] hours on end sitting in a windowless room talking to yourself. All the lovely bits of alliteration look great on the page but when you come to speak them it’s like you’ve got Cilla’s teeth in! It’s very difficult and frustrating but once I started in and I was committed to it I had to get to the end, but it’s not something I’ll be repeating!
But writing the book was more interesting?
Writing the book was fantastic! I’ve got some friends who I’ve known from back in the Frankie days who run a hotel in Jersey and it was closed during the winter so I got the opportunity to visit Jersey and sit in the dining room of this hotel with me being the only person staying there. It was like The Shining only nobody died! It was a fantastic experience. It required solitude to get it done; there’s no way I would have done it at home – there’s always something to do. You have to get a loaf, or get the car fixed, or the garden needs doing. There’s always these countless distractions to get you away from it. Sitting in a hotel dining room looking out at the majesty of St. Brelade’s Bay every day was inspiring.
You’ve had a great history of working in bands, such as Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Was it fun looking back at those times?
Yeah. For every experience there’s downsides to everything, but the positives easily outweigh the negatives. I’d describe it as going out to a party in 1984 and coming home three years later! It was a whirlwind, but an experience I wouldn’t change, even for the downsides of it. Coming to write about it, there were times where I was crying laughing remembering the stuff that occurred. I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy so I’m always going to look at the up-side rather than the down.
You have a live date this month so how would you describe your live sound?
Preaching to the converted! I’m quite aware from going to a lot of gigs myself that a guy with an acoustic guitar playing his own tunes can only be as interesting as you make it. You can have the greatest songs in the world but sometimes that’s not enough to keep everybody on board. I’ve started talking about what the songs are written about and having a bit of banter with the audience, and his has developed. I tried it a couple of times and people would come up to me afterwards and say ‘the stories are great, and that’s what makes it with the songs’. It’s developing; it’s like ‘an evening with’ for want of a better phrase!
Do you have any more gigs coming up?
There’s a few up there; they’re coming in all the time. I’m playing in London on my birthday, one in Brighton and a couple in Wales.
Which album would you pick as a good introduction to you?
I’d say the new one. It’s miles ahead ahead of anything I’ve done before. The title is ‘432-1 Open the Vein’ and the 432 refers to the tuning reference. Musicians will know that everyone will tune to A440. For this record I went for A432 which was what people referred to as natural tuning. I think there’s something in that. It’s supposed to bring out a more emotive response in the listener. If you Google 432 v 440 it’s a never ending rabbit hole that you can go down, to things like Goebbels who during the Second World War insisted that propaganda music was in 440 as it was a more grating experience and an external experience rather than internal. Apparently Hendrix played in 432, as did Mozart, and 440 has only been an international standard since 1959. I’m convinced just because of the resonance of the instruments and the sympathetic harmonies. The reason for the 432 is at 432 middle C is 256 Hz which divides down to itself. At no other pitching will that happen, and you think that all these musical instruments were once living things, and all living things have cycles, and the earth revolves at 8 Hz and it goes on. I’m convinced that by playing things like autoharp and plucking the strings, [with] the amount of sympathetic frequencies you get coming up from the instrument. It’s something about nature. I’m convinced and I’m staying there. 432 rebels! 440 – you can keep it!
You release material on your own label ‘Babylon Pink’?
I got ‘Babylon Pink’ from a Bill Hicks sketch. I’m a huge fan. It was one of his sketches about him and his 16-year-old mate trying to bunk into a porno and the film was called ‘Babylon Pink’. It sounds kind of groovy, like the name of a popstar.
Finally what are your big ambitions for the rest of the year?
There’s too much! I haven’t got a bucket list but I just hope that people will get into the music and enjoy it, and enough to come out and see me live, and expand from there. It’s an infinite experience. You’ll enjoy it. Out of the people that see me play, not many people walk out, even though ‘oh not another guy with an acoustic guitar!!’