It was the end of 2007. Pete Wylie’s monthly ‘Classic’ nights at The Zanzibar Club were drawing to a close and The Mighty Wah! had opened up the floor for his famous friends to join him at the regular semi-acoustic sessions. Brian Nash, the ex-Frankie Goes To Hollywood guitarist, was up and and he started to strum some familiar chords. The crowd began to nudge each other in recognition and ‘The Power Of Love’, a winter’s tale that went all the way to number one back in 1984, wrapped its massive arms around Seel Street and co-writer Nash held a usually rabid room rapt in his gaze.
It’s a song Nash is particularly proud of and a moment that has repeated itself many times since – including at venues as diverse as the Echo Arena and Philharmonic Hall. It’ll play a part in Nash’s return to Liverpool this weekend, too, at his solo gig in Gustav Adolf Church (‘The Scandi’): “The huge amount of production that went into Frankie’s records limits the acoustic options for those songs, so I usually do ‘The Power Of Love’ as a gift for the audience’s patience for listening to me ramble for an hour,” laughs Nash. “I can’t imagine attempting ‘Two Tribes’ on an acoustic, can you?” We can’t. Fortunately, though, we don’t need to imagine watching the singer/songwriter hold another room rapt in attention, as we’ve seen it happen on many occasions since that winter’s night at The Zanzibar.
Nash has released three solo records and there is another in the pipeline, so we had a chat with the ex-Frankie guitarist and published author (the criminally underrated ‘Nasher Says Relax’ was released in 2012) to discuss his work as a solo singer/songwriter and much more besides…
Playing solo gives you almost limitless options when it comes to a set list. How do you decide what to play?
There are some that are always in there, but I do try to vary it a bit. I have bought a couple of little toys to enhance the experience, too, as I know that the singer/songwriter with guitar can border on tedious after half an hour.
What can people who might not have seen you play solo before expect?
Political and miserabilist ranting from a bitter and angry man approaching middle age and discontented with the world he sees around him! Seriously, though, you’re all in safe hands – I am playing a lot of new stuff, which is quite political and largely angry… bring your own ale, take a pew and get on board!
Great stuff! Tell us about the new songs…
I’m close to finishing a new album called ‘432One: Opening The Vein’… the ‘432’ part of the title comes from the fact that all of the instruments have been tuned to 432 Hz, as opposed to the standard 440 Hz. This is known as ‘Verdi tuning’ and I could bore you to death with the details!
Go on, then!
In short, it is said that music is more of an internal experience at 432 Hz, whereas at 440 Hz it’s an external experience. Joseph Goebbels had all Nazi propaganda in 440 as it was harsher on the ear, so, knowing the Germans and their efficiency there would definitely have been some science behind this. All modern pop music is mostly 440 and it all sounds like propaganda to me!
Speaking of propaganda, the storytelling aspect of your work is something that you have developed isn’t it?
I have gone into a bit of the background of the songs and what they are about in recent gigs. It can sometimes border on comical and gets a few laughs… I don’t take myself too seriously, but see performing as a little opportunity to “sow seeds”, as Bill Hicks once said. If I can make one person feel something during a performance, and maybe change an opinion or open a debate, then that is a goal and I win one-nil.
Your book certainly opened a few debates… it was a cracking read that should have found a wider audience. Fair?
I feel I could have had a decent crack at a hit book if I would have had some help… I wish I would have gone with a different publisher because I feel incredibly let down by Trinity Mirror: there has not been a single written review in any media to date and that’s a joke. If it had been reviewed and people said it was rubbish, then I would accept that – but the reviews from readers were so positive and I’ve had over 100 5* star reviews. I signed with them because they own about 300 papers, but not even an advert appeared in any other publication outside of the Liverpool ECHO – I got more press and radio myself than they did! Having said that, I’m proud to be a ‘published author’ having left school with one O-Level in English Language!
Social media has played a big part in any success the book has had, then?
In terms of levelling the playing field, the Internet and social media have been great. I love that we have a forum to share opinions and I’ve hosted threads upon which two sides of an argument have been put forward, discussed, debated and conclusions reached amicably. This is our window to the world.
London has been your window into the world for a while, now. What do you love about living in the capital?
The best thing is being able to see international artists play live – I recently saw Rickie Lee Jones for the fifth time and she was amazing. Her only UK date was in London and she was stunning. That said, I am falling out of love with the city – the building work is out of control and every single plot of land seems to have something built upon it… I see parts of the city that I love being overshadowed by the ‘cranes of greed’. I also seem to be surrounded by brands and small local businesses have no chance. I love the integration, though, like Liverpool it is a beacon of tolerance and racial harmony, but it is changing a lot… the xenophobes seem to be on the increase.
You mentioned Liverpool… what do you miss about the place?
The people. I love Liverpool… it’s not the city I left in 1983. A lot has changed and I have had a real reconnection with the place recently, that began when my eldest daughter left home to attend Liverpool University – she stayed and has told me that she will not be returning to London. There have been serious discussions in the Nash household in recent months that suggest we all may follow her in a couple of years, too…
Saturday, June 4th 2016, Gustav Adolf Church, Park Lane, Liverpool
Pic by Bill Gray