Q. Formed in Toronto in 1976, this band began with only two members taking care of all of the musical instruments. Which unique band, featuring Cameron Hawkins and Nash the Slash, and renowned for hits such as “Phasors On Stun” and “Just Like You”, am I referring to?
A. FM – Cameron Hawkins, appearing as a typical rock star at the front of the stage, playing synthesizer, occasional bass guitar, and lead vocals; and Nash the Slash, a mysterious figure in dark clothes lurking in the shadows at the back of the stage, playing electric violin, electric mandolin, backing vocals, and operating a drum machine. Aside from Cameron’s bass, the group did not use guitars. The duo first met each other while they were jamming with a band called Clear.
Some time after February 1977[the group became a trio when they added Martin Deller on drums.
After appearing on the CBC TV variety show Who’s New, FM were approached by the CBC to make an album, ultimately titled Black Noise, which the group presumed would be distributed in stores like a normal release. But the CBC chose to sell it by mail order, and only announced its availability during several radio shows. A mere 500 copies were pressed, which was sufficient to meet the demands of this limited promotion. The CBC edition’s black and white cover shows a picture of a manhole cover; a different cover by Paul Till was used for later reissues on other labels.
In late 1977, Nash the Slash left the group for a solo career, stating that the addition of a drummer gave the band a sound which was too commercial for his liking. This comment would be frequently quoted in articles and reviews years later for irony, as some of his later work, with and without FM, is viewed as being much more commercial and pop-oriented than the first FM album.
Before the end of 1977, Nash was replaced by Ben Mink, who also played electric violin and electric mandolin. Their first record was Direct to Disc (also released as Head Room, or Headroom), and was made using the direct to disc recording method, in which recording tape is not used.
Later in 1978, the group got is first proper record contract with Visa Records in the USA, and Passport Records in Canada, the latter distributed by GRT Records. Their first release for these labels was a reissue of the CBC album, Black Noise, now made available in stores for the first time. A single from the album, “Phasors on Stun” helped to promote the album, for which the group were presented a gold record award. However, Cameron Hawkins claims they never received royalty payments from any of the Canadian LP editions, as their contract specified all payments were to come through Visa Records in the USA, and none of the three Canadian distributors passed royalties on to Visa.
Interesting. I didn’t know that. Thank you
Our pleasure to add to your already fast knowledge of music Kevin.