Farewell to the Last of the Gentleman Adventurers.
Pat Fish aka The Jazz Butcher has died. 
by Alex Maiolo 

Sometime around 1987 I walked into a house in Greenville, North Carolina, where a collection of art students and characters bunked. A band I barely knew, called The Birthday Party, was on the stereo making an unholy racket, and I recall seeing a Scratch Acid album at the top of a stack. I gathered my friend who lived there, an absolutely wonderful artist called Paul Friedrich, had cool housemates who were way into noise rock. Scattered amongst the platters was an LP by a band called The Jazz Butcher Conspiracy. “Wow,” I thought, “a band that butchers jazz? What kind of crazy No Wave outfit is that?” We didn’t listen to it, but JBC was officially on my radar.

Weeks later I walked into the local record shop and saw a used copy of Distressed Gentlefolk, by the same band. I bought it, headed home, and immediately put it on the turntable.
Imagine my surprise when I heard the first song was a country tune. It wasn’t unusual for bands to go there. Punk and country were sometimes bedfellows, but certainly the next number would good n’ butchered.
Yeah, really butchered, I’ll bet.
Nope, it was pop. Not noise pop, or art pop, just pop. Then a kind of dream pop thing. Then some sort of hand jive situation. To my horror some of the songs were actually… jazz.
Seriously, when the fuck was the butchering going to happen?

Sometime in the middle of a song about how pets get horny every spring I realized The JBC was, you know, a clever band. I don’t mean that backhandedly, they were genuinely clever. We Americans are often easily charmed by the mad geniuses of the U.K. Robyn Hitchcock, Kevin Ayers, Andy Partridge, Syd, Copey – we can really fall for that stuff, hard, and JBC leader Pat Fish was clearly one of them. He and his bandmate, the shockingly brilliant guitarist Max Eider, churned out lyrics you actually wanted to quote.

It wasn’t always easy to get Jazz Butcher releases here in the U.S., but luckily I also found a used copy of A Scandal In Bohemia a year later.It marked the first time I’d hear a song living up to the gnarly promise of their name, in “Caroline Wheeler’s Birthday Present.” Bauhaus’ Kevin Haskins and David J. were on this record.
This seemed impossible to me, but also hinted at future discoveries of hard to believe connections.

I cherished these LPs and listened to them constantly. Through each release, and the personnel changes, I followed what The JBC were doing. I bonded with the person who remains my closest friend, to this day, over Cult of the Basement. I started using “Pat Fish” and “The Jazz Butcher” interchangeably, assuming anyone else playing with him was part of The Conspiracy. I finally got to see the band in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, around the time of Condition Blue. The show was so mind-blowingly good, and it was the first time I had a what-the-fuck-is-wrong-with-people-this-band-should-be-huge reaction. The first of many, really.

As the years rolled on, the legendary status of this man only grew in my mind. He was releasing records on the impossibly cool Creation label. He referenced Pynchon, and obscure films. He wrote a song comparing Mark E. Smith to the pope, and assured us that at least an interminable party is “better than a cold bath with someone you dislike.”  There were the side projects, like arty Black Eg. He was connected to great indie bands like Close Lobsters, The Blue Aeroplanes, and The Woodentops. He hosted TV programs. His band consisted of people with peculiar names like Kizzy, Felix, Pascal, and Dooj. He’d studied at Merton College, Oxford, but also ran around with messy, drugged up miscreants like Spacemen 3, having been an early champion of the band, attending their earliest gigs in the piss-soaked pubs of Rugby. He was good looking, elegant, seemed to be everywhere, and connected to everyone who was cool in indie music. It became clear that Pat Fish was a kind of rock n’ roll Zelig, minus the commonplace part. When Jazz Butcher fans gather, this is often the first thing that comes up. He made smart music that didn’t take itself very seriously, and it was played by the best musicians.

Heads were always keen to have the departed Max Eider return to the fold, and I finally got to see him play with The JBC at the turn of the millennium. The newly formed Death Cab for Cutie supported on that tour. It seemed correct that some kids who’d named their outfit after a Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band tune would be on the bill. That night was the first time I met Pat, and he was as charming as a fan of the band could have hoped for.

With the rise of social media The Butcher was able to connect with his admirers in a new way, and it was pretty inspiring to see him out there, doing it, not having gone the way of the rock n’ roll also rans. He was great at sharing remembrances and recounting odd happenings. He did online shows which got a lot of us through the lockdown.

About seven years ago, after a few pleasant exchanges in a music chat, I got a friend request from Pat, because that’s the era we live in. In another exchange, many years later, I shared with him it had just occurred to me that I’d never bought a new JBC record, only used. They weren’t always easy to find, over here, so the bins were the best bet. Nevertheless, it meant I’d never given Pat a dime, beyond concert tickets and merch. Feeling like the shittiest fan in history, I gave thanks for the online tip jar, and vowed to use it during the online performances. To my delight, other people seemed to as well. There would always be some message from Pat about how generous people had been, and then maybe something about his black cat Raoul. These eventually became a regular Sunday occurrence, billed as Live From Fishy Mansions.

This past Sunday Pat went live to tell his viewers that he felt like shit, and he just couldn’t play. He seemed truly bothered that he was letting people down, but assured everyone he’d make the show in Bristol, Thursday.

Two days later he passed.

Max Eider wrote “very sad to announce that my old friend Pat Fish died suddenly but peacefully on Tuesday evening. Pat rocked my world in every way and his death leaves a big hole in my life and in my memory, much of which was only stored in his outsized brain. Goodbye mate and thanks for everything. I’m going to miss you.”

Patrick Guy Sibley Huntrods, aka Pat Fish, aka The Jazz Butcher made a lot of people exceedingly happy with his art. He abhorred the fash as much as he adored his cat, and loathed a bigot as much as he loved a pint. He seemed like the kind of guy who would somehow drink and smoke his way to age 97, rather than leaving us at the way too young age of 64.

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One foot in Chapel Hill, NC, one foot in Scandinavia. Owns a bike in Copenhagen which means the Ridder Af Dannebrog is likely forthcoming. Recording engineer, Psych Rock/'Gaze guitarist, purveyor of Moroderik Musik, and electronic warrior of TRIPLE X SNAXXX and Themes for Great Cities. Apparently pro bono if you don’t count the free drinks. Currently receiving mixed messages from various modular synths.

21 COMMENTS

  1. thank you for a great tribute alex. we have a very similar history of music discovery. it is amazing how few know of the band. i was on college radio in pennsylvania when ‘distressed gentlefolk’ and spacemen 3 came into the station. this was a time that rocked my world. cheers, and how lucky we are to get to enjoy this smart and lovely artistry.

    • Cheers B.I. and thanks for the kind words.
      The reason I chose this approach is because I think a lot of people came across JBC this way. It was a case of good music getting to interested ears in a time when that wasn’t always easy. I think some bad record deals, pre-Creation, had a lot to do with it.

  2. This is a lovely tribute Alex, thank you.
    I’ve been a fan since the mid 80s and did the same online communication stuff with him that you did, and was gobsmacked when I last him play in 2017 when he stopped playing as he clocked me and said “Mark, how are you? So glad you could make it”. He then turned to the audience and said “Last time i saw Mark he was on Pointless, he did really well.” Pointless is a tea time quiz show in the UK that I went on with a friend for a laugh. The thought of my musical idol sitting at Fishy mansions cheering me on is one that will always make me smile. A gem, and will be sadly missed. The music will last forever.

  3. Pat was legendary. An Artist, gentleman and a scholar. His wit, charisma, charm and genuine care for fellow humans and felines alike was beautiful. He was generous, honest and hilarious. Northampton has a cloud above it that will never lift now. I am honoured to have known him. People like Pat are one in a trillion.
    To quote Prince, a fellow genius gone far too soon, “Those kind of cars don’t pass you everyday”.
    Rest in Peace Pat.

  4. Hi Alex, this is a wonderful tribute. You caught his genius perfectly. I was part of the first JB gig at Merton College in Oxford. We kicked off with Zombie Love which he rescued and rewrote from a tape I gave him. To clarify, the original idea behind the name was nothing to do with Miles Davis or carnivores. It was just a bit of nonsense. If there was a Nobel Prize for the absurd, he would have won it. His songwriting knew no edges. People have compared him to Ray Davies but I would throw in Noel Coward and John Cale. That’s why brilliant muscians with their own sound like Pete Millson (Max Eider) and David J. gravitated to him. Like you, I felt he would carry on drinking Budvar and smoking tabs until he’d reached a 100. At least his wonderful music will continue to thrill and I very much hope one of his labels will bring out an album of covers as a tribute. Once again, thanks. Mark Fiddes aka ‘The Antichrist’ (Ramon Destine)

  5. Criminally underrated and underexposed by the music press, Pat was a an absolute gem of an English songwriter, funny, aserbic, intelligent-and-then-some, an absolute gent and the sweetest fella you could want to meet. Feel truly blessed we managed to book him to play a beautifully curated and executed set at our wedding I. 2008. Last time I saw him he skiddled over and. gave me a warm hug. Gonna miss that man, the world will have a little less colour without him. RIP Pat, you were a legend for everyone who knew of you.

  6. So many of we Americans have a similar “JBC discovery” story…. not enough to bring fame in the US though. But the music, the “Glorious and Idiotic” music, is still there for future discoveries. Although we no longer have Pat, the most generous and kind musician I’ve ever had the pleasure of “friending” (a ridiculous concept which would make a great Butcher song). In my mind, that is his legacy. He opened himself up like a book to anyone who wanted to read. We’ll all miss that.

  7. Thanks for this nice writeup! I was gutted to learn that Pat has passed on. My introduction to The Jazz Butcher came via our Seattle radio station KJET playing the then new track “Get It Wrong”. I was immediately hooked, went out and bought the album and then started picking up the earlier releases when I could find them. I was a fan.

    Later on in 1999, I saw Pat and Max at The Crocodile Cafe (in Seattle). I brought along a cassette and the guy running the board made a recording for me. After the show, I went around to the back bar and Pat and Max were just standing at the bar having a beer. Both were quite nice.

    Next day, I created a 2 disc bootleg of the show and shared it to the JBC fan group. You can see the inserts here.
    http://jazzbutcher.com/gigs/1999/Sep16.html
    Amusingly, someone was able to make a copy of the bootleg and hand it to Pat at the next show (which I think was in Portland). Pat described the sound quality as “boxy” but was very appreciative.

    Like many of you, I can’t help wonder how someone as good as The Jazz Butcher (and the musicians he played with) didn’t break through into the wider consciousness. Pat and The Jazz Butcher created some of the best music of my younger years. Gone, yes, but certainly never to be forgotten.

  8. many thanks for this. a friend of mine had a cassette of Distressed Gentlefolk in high school (80s) but it wasn’t until many years later I started listening again. Pat’s lockdown living room gigs were a bright bright spot and I marveled at his ease playing everything from John Cale to his own early works. he seemed like such an easygoing fellow. he’ll be truly missed.

  9. This is a lovely tribute. You’ve nailed so much about what made him such a special musician and person. Thank you.

  10. What a wonderful and accurate summation of the proletarian genius of Pat Fish.

    A colossus has passed. We didn’t deserve him.

  11. Fabulous tribute. Most of it echoes my own experience and how I feel about Pat/JBC. There was no other artist who covered so much ground from indie rock to ballads to humour without even breaking sweat. He will be sorely missed.

  12. That’s a beautiful tribute.

    I did a tiny bit of guitar on the album he had just finished in an amazing studio near Northampton. It is so immensely sad that he will not be here for its release. It’s going to be an absolute blinder.

    My best memories and anecdotes from my 53 years on this planet are from 1990 to 1993 when I toured with him and Dooj and Nick around Europe and the US.
    Missing you already Pat. X

  13. Thank you for these kind words, friends.
    There’s always a risk of putting too much of yourself in these types of articles but I had this suspicion that my path to The Butcher would be very similar to others’.
    Seems like it was a good call after all.
    Rock n’ Roll needs more bon vivants and I hope, one day, a RaconteurCore genre springs up.

  14. Kind words for my old pal, but I’m pretty darn sure Pat would not have appreciated you printing his given name(s). As he once wrote me, ” Some people seem to like to dig these things out, as though somehow their diligence is going to please you…after you went to the trouble of operating under another name to begin with. Whatever, other folks’ motivations are necessarily beyond our ken…” Guess you couldn’t know, but it’s not too late now to edit the article….

  15. A lot of us loved this man just as you did, Alex. I mean, I could replace a coffee house in Chapel Hill with a dorm room in Ann Arbor and 1991 with 1986…but it’s pretty much the same story. Great music that formed me at a time when I could still be formed, and just such a fun, funny, brilliant, talent, good-hearted fellow who loved animals and hated fascists with equal passion.

  16. i first met Pat in the oranges and lemons pub in 1978 when he was playing with the Institution.We became friendsand i spent a lot of time with him in those early years watching him develope into the jazz butcher he
    would become.I’ve always liked danciing and I danced at all the Jazz Butcher gigs I attended over decades
    with so many talented musicians he was involved with.He threw aparty at fishy mansions for my 50th birthday
    and came over to Oxford to perform at my 55th birthday.We both shared a lifetimes love of cats anplayed a lot of backgammon.His inspiration over all these years is impossible to explain or how much I shall miss him.
    As he once said sometimes the english language is not adequate at all. He influenced many people with his
    songs and music and will be missed by many peopleincluding me farewell PAT there was nobody else like you

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