Nash is the picture of perseverance.
Though the suburban Montreal native is only just in his thirties, he’s already gone through more experiences, turmoil and hardships than a person twice his age. All of these experiences have shaped who he is today and are reflected in the eclectic and colourful musical landscapes he’s created for his The Death of Reason debut solo album for Fontana North/MapleMusic.
Nash embraced music in his teens and it has continued to be the driving force in his life through his ups and downs and stints as a CEGEP radio host (pimping mostly 'Cargo records' material), record company employee, concert promoter, aquatics instructor, semi-professional athlete, chess enthusiast, bookstore salesman, studio owner, construction worker, university student, non-profit organization co-founder, frequent hospital patient, repeated robbery victim, perambulant vagabond of sorts, singer, songwriter, composer, musician, quasi-engineer and producer. Much of his professional music career has been split between Montreal and roach-infested abodes in Los Angeles, with significant periods also spent in New York City, Toronto, Vancouver and touring across North America.
It’s tiring just hearing the things that Nash has done, so it’s no surprise that he says of making The Death of Reason: “One of the reasons this has taken so long, aside from some large bumps in the road, is that I just kept on writing whatever came into my mind and it took a while for the project to come together and take off.”
Nash's musical influences range from the alterno-indie-cynism of Beck to Phoenix, the quirkiness of Cake to Spoon, the rhythms of reggae and the haunting vocal touches of Failure and Depeche Mode. He takes elements from these artists and infuses them with unique arrangements, unusual instrumentation, danceable beats and memorable hooks to create a sound that’s truly his own.
Apart from a few helping hands here and there, Nash sang, played bass, guitar, keyboards, programming, omnichord and glockenspiel — pretty much everything but drums — on The Death of Reason, which he also recorded, engineered and produced.
“I don’t really know how to play any one instrument very well, but I know how to play all of them,” explains the good-natured Nash. “It helps in knowing how to put all of the pieces of the puzzle together.”
Nash recorded about three-quarters of The Death of Reason at his Montreal studio and the remainder at a rented chalet in the small ski town of Morin Heights, Quebec. With the exception of “Walk Alone” and “Armageddon Dance,” from which he took a few samples from producer/writer and friend, Ryan Battistuzzi, he wrote all of the songs himself.
“I used to have a pretty jaded perspective and always liked being alone better because people used to let me down a lot,” says Nash, who’s had run-ins with both record label representatives and guys with guns — and isn’t sure who’s shadier.
But for someone who’s endured so many hardships, there’s no escaping the sense of humour and hope that shine through the clouds in many of Nash’s songs “for those seeking a little bit more out of life.”
Catchy lead single “Sad Robot Harmonies,” which features a superior video directed by eight-time Juno Award nominee and three-time winner Christopher Mills (Modest Mouse, Broken Social Scene, Blue Rodeo), is a great example of Nash’s approach on the album. This is how he describes it:
“The song is a large thank you to some really good people in my life which points out the contrasts between good-intentioned people and people with agendas, and my inability to deal with or be able to cope with the latter. I figured I’d be ironic about it and tell it from the perspective of a robot with artificial intelligence who’s so frustrated with humans and the terrible things that they do that he decides he can’t take it anymore and resorts to building himself a tree house so that he can be removed from his human counterparts. The song ends with the moral of: ‘No matter how shitty things get, there’s always good, and love prevails despite the sadness of things around you.’”
Nash says second single “Taken Away” is “about when life deals you a bad hand and how to make the best of it, and to get back up on one’s feet. I wrote this when I was sick and feeling down about my future in this world and realized that, no matter what, I had to get back up on the horse. I went right into the studio two days after my third operation, high on painkillers, and went back to work. The message is that everybody hurts, relatively or not, and to not let the bad things in life stop you from living it.”
Another song close to Nash’s heart is “Friends are Drugs,” which he drew from his experiences as a teenager and wrote for his niece.
“I’m trying to tell my niece that her uncle was definitely a guy who pushed boundaries, but was always responsible. It’s a reminder to value and be loyal to your friends when you’re a kid because they help to form your character, and are there to support you as you grow up.”
While recording The Death of Reason was largely a one-man operation, Nash is backed by a full band for his engaging live performances. He plans to stage a lot more of those in support of the album, so keep an eye out for him passing through your town.
Nash has composed the score for Long Gone Day, a film loosely based on the life of deceased Alice In Chains singer Layne Staley. He’s also writing a movie script.
Canada has produced some notable Nashes over the years. There’s been mummy bandage-wearing musician Nash The Slash and two-time National Basketball Association most valuable player Steve Nash and of course, news caster great, Knolton Nash to name a few. With the release of The Death of Reason, we can add another Nash to that list.