Hugh John McIntyre
1936 - 2004
- Art Pratten (opening remarks)
- Robert McKenzie
- Warren Pratten
- Gordon Price
- Ken Klehm (read by Barbara Pratten)
- Tim Glasgow (read by John Clement)
- Isabel Huggan (read by John Clement)
- Ben Portis
- John Boyle
- Bill Exley
- Art Pratten (closing remarks)
Hugh McIntyre, Polymath / Curmudgeon
and Bass Player for the Nihilist Spasm Band
past away quietly, surrounded by friends
Monday December 6th. at South Campus
Son of the late Hugh and Annie McIntyre of St Thomas
Brother of Mary McLellan of St Albert, Alberta,
Uncle of Rob and Kathy McLellan of Calgary, Alberta, and
Uncle of Christine Josok of Hinton, Alberta.
Great Uncle of Megan, Kara and Ashley Josok
Hugh will be greatly missed by the Band
and by the entire membership of the Nihilist Party of Canada
which includes all his friends whether they like it or not.
In Hugh's memory a serious effort will be made to return
all his over due books to the library..
A Memorial service will be held
Monday December 13th at 7:00 P.M.
at A. Millard George Funeral Home
60 Ridout Street South
remarks by Art Pratten
Don't worry ...the band is not going to play
It's Monday Night and I am where I am supposed to be
Beside the Bass
I only had stage fright once
Our first public performance in Reaney's play "Down Wellington"
I went over and sat beside Hugh
And everything was OK
But I am a little shakey tonight
We all know why we are here
We are here
Because Hugh is not
And you all seem to be taking advantage of that fact by telling
stories about him
That is good because
Hugh enjoyed intelligent conversations about interesting
But he could not suffer fools
Fools provoked two reactions...
The first was a resounding "NO...you are wrong"
And then a point by point destruction of their argument
The other was to remain silent... go "Humph" and just walk
Last monday night in the intensive care unit at Old Vic
Hugh was surrounded by friends
As the support systems were shut down and Hugh's breathing became
We held his hands ...rubbed his shoulders...wiped his brow and planted
kisses on his cheek
And stood in silence...............but that did not last
Soon one than another started to retell the same old stories
knew by heart
Finally..... our astute Dr. John looked down and said
"Hugh is not breathing".
I think Hugh just got bored ...said Humph and shuffled off
Leaving the Fools behind
But don't be sad.....be alarmed
If any of you thought Hugh's passing meant the end of the
You are mistaken....The band will soldier on ...Every Monday Night
And I believe Hugh is with Greg and Vincent
And they are arranging some place to play
So you are doomed there too
John McIntyre 1936-2004
Some Personal Recollections
by Robert C. McKenzie
Hello. My name is Bob McKenzie. I have never before spoken at a funeral
or memorial service, and probably will never do so again, but I feel
the need to talk about the effects Hugh McIntyre had on my life. If at
times I seem to talk as much about myself as about Hugh, I hope you
will forgive me, as it is the inevitable consequence of my theme.
If this were my funeral, Hugh would not have come to it dressed like
this. In the more than four decades that I knew him, I can't recall
ever having seen him wearing a suit. I'm not sure if he ever owned one.
In the time before the advent of the oxymoronically-named dress code
known as "business casual," the London Public Library expected its male
employees to wear ties. Hugh was chastised occasionally by the
library's director for failing to do so. Hugh's response was that one
of the reasons he had grown his beard long was to avoid the necessity
of a tie, since even had he worn one, it would not have been visible.
I knew Hugh all my adult life. Now I know there are those, including
some present here today, who would take issue with that statement, on
the grounds that I have yet to live an "adult life." I would invite you
to accept the phrase as a figure of speech, merely denoting the
interval between ages 18 and 63.
I was 18 when I was introduced to Greg Curnoe by a Grade 13 classmate.
Many of the people I know today I first met in Greg’s Richmond Street
studio. The second person I met there, in June 1960, was Hugh McIntyre.
I was sitting down when he entered the room, so from my perspective he
looked even bigger than he really was. His presence seemed to fill the
room. He had no facial hair in those days, and the hair on his head was
trimmed to an extremely short brush cut. He was an imposing figure. I
think “intimidating” would not be too strong a word. Not that he was
loud or aggressive in any way – far from it. He spoke quietly, but with
an air of utter confidence. Not that he was speaking to me.
I saw a lot of Hugh throughout the early ‘60s, but he never spoke to
me. He wasn’t exactly rude. If I said “hello” to him at a party he
would grunt a nonverbal acknowledgment of my greeting. Otherwise he
simply took no notice of me. I thought I knew why. He was five years
older, better educated, very intelligent, and he obviously knew a lot
more stuff than I did, so he no doubt thought a conversation with me
would be a waste of time.
Hugh didn’t speak more than a few words to me for four years, and as I
said, I accepted this state of things on the assumption that he didn’t
think I was worth speaking to. Then one evening in 1964 I was wandering
around Cole’s bookstore (the old one on Dundas Street near the Loew’s
and Capitol theatres) when Hugh came in. We both wandered around the
store independently for several minutes. Then, to my surprise, he came
up to me and asked if I had seen the book Native Son by Richard Wright.
Oddly enough, I had happened to notice it during my browsing, and I
showed him where it was. Somehow this little incident broke the ice,
and from then on Hugh spoke to me. In fact I think it would be fair to
say that from then on he never stopped talking for the next forty years.
Once the initial obstacle, whatever it was, had been overcome, it was
always easy having a conversation with Hugh. If I couldn’t think of
anything to say, it didn’t matter because once Hugh had been primed he
could go on indefinitely. He knew everything about some things, and
something about virtually everything. If you mentioned his favourite
bass player, he would tell you that Charles Mingus didn’t like to be
called Charlie, and that his last name, M-I-N-G-U-S, was a phonetic
spelling of the Scottish name spelled M-E-N-Z-I-E-S, which we would
pronounce “Menzies” but which, Hugh would explain, in Gaelic is
pronounced “Mingus.” Only Hugh wouldn’t have said “Gaelic” because he
had learned when he was in Scotland that the people of the Western
Highlands and Islands who still speak that language call it “Gallic.”
Hugh’s one-sided “conversations” were never boring. He was like one of
those books which you find so fascinating that you can’t put it down at
bedtime. Many times I stayed up later than I should have because Hugh
didn’t provide a convenient stopping place, and at any rate (to use one
of Hugh’s favourite expressions) I wanted to hear the rest of what he
had to say.
Hugh was, of course, a librarian, and, not surprisingly, he read a lot
of books. In the course of talking about some of the books he had read,
he directed to me to some very enjoyable reading I might not have
discovered on my own, particularly the excellent series about Swedish
police detective Martin Beck.
Here in London in the 1960s there occurred what has been termed,
without exaggeration, a “cultural explosion.” Not only did more people
become actively involved in the arts; they did so in their own way. It
was called “regionalism,” a term which Hugh defined as referring to a
sort of do-it-yourself movement.
Seeking to document London’s burgeoning art scene, Greg Curnoe created
a publication called Region, which, because it appeared infrequently
and at irregular intervals, he referred to as a “sporadical.” Then, in
1966, Greg, Hugh, Art Pratten, Robin Askew, and Tony Penikett commenced
publication of 20 Cents Magazine, which described itself as “an open
forum for all of the people of this area who are involved in cultural
pursuits.” Over the course of the next two years the list of
contributors to 20 Cents did indeed come to comprise a “Who’s Who” of
culturally alive people in the London region.
By 1968, the founders had tired of their virtually thankless labours,
and it looked as though 20 Cents was about to fold. I offered to try to
keep it going. The old management agreed, and Hugh, in his capacity as
outgoing publisher, signed a document passing on the magazine’s title,
and ownership of its only asset, a mimeograph machine, to me.
For the next two years my sister Linda and I continued publishing 20
Cents, monthly except July and August. Two of the magazine’s founders
continued writing for the magazine: Greg Curnoe with his monthly “Radio
Journal,” and Hugh with a curmudgeonly column which he chose to
call “Uncle Hugh Sez.” One month when he felt extra curmudgeonly he
changed the title to “Uncle Hugh Snarls.” By 1970, circumstances had
changed in a variety of ways and 20 Cents Magazine had run its course.
The last issue was published in the summer of that year, with a photo
of Hugh on the cover, marching in a picket line along Queens Avenue.
The cover story of that issue was about the strike by the employees of
the London Public library, the first of its kind in Canada, and as far
as we knew only the second library strike in North America.
I don’t suppose Hugh, or I, or any of the people who produced or wrote
for 20 Cents Magazine thought we were turning out something of enduring
significance. It seemed important to try to get each issue out on time,
but we never realized that for decades in the future curators and
scholars would be seeking out back issues of the magazine for research
In 1969 I had plenty of time to work on 20 Cents because for several
months I didn’t have a regular job. Our financial situation was growing
precarious, and the telephone had been disconnected. One day toward the
end of the summer my wife said to me, “Don’t you think it’s about time
you went out and looked for a job? Nobody’s going to come to the door
and offer you one.” The very next day somebody came to the door and
offered me a job. It was Hugh, grumbling that he had had to come in
person because he couldn’t get me on the phone. He asked if I would
like to come to work for him as the film technician at the London
Hugh was the film librarian at the Central Library. Over the years he
had built up a large collection of 16mm films. It was a circulating
collection, and part of my job as film technician was to inspect the
films as they were returned. I was also the library’s projectionist,
both for previews in the back room of the film department, and for
showings in the library auditorium.
In the mid-sixties, about the same time as 20 Cents and the Nihilist
Spasm Band were getting started, Hugh initiated a weekly feature film
program called Kinotek, a name Hugh coined from two Greek words, which
would translate freely as “Movies at the Library.” Hugh’s own subtitle
for the program was “A Continuing Festival of Unusual Films.” The
original projectionist for Kinotek was Murray Favro. Every Wednesday
from Fall to Spring Hugh would stand at the front of the auditorium and
precede the evening’s film with a very brief speech which consisted
mainly of admonishing the audience not to smoke. He would conclude by
walking up the aisle, shouting “Okay, Murray!” toward the projection
booth, and the movie would start. I can’t remember if he said “Okay,
Bob!” after I took over as projectionist.
Some time in the ‘70s the London Public Library became part of
something called the Lake Erie Regional Library Service, and it was
decided to move the film collection out of the Central Library to some
location in the hinterlands. Hugh was unwilling to move, so he gave up
his position as Film Librarian, and for the rest of his career worked
as a branch librarian. I offered to continue Kinotek, and, with Hugh’s
blessing and the agreement of the library, for the next four years I
had my own movie theatre to play with, thanks to Hugh McIntyre.
One of Hugh’s many interests was chess. He belonged to a chess club
that used to be located in an old house on Dundas near Waterloo. He
played chess with various people at the Auberge du Petit Prince, the
restaurant which Ginette Bisaillon and Robin Askew founded on King
Street in 1972. A number of us used to hang out there late at night
after the paying customers had left. It was convenient for Hugh,
because he lived in an apartment over Anderson’s art store at Dundas
and Maitland, just a block from the restaurant. Soon the Petit Prince
became even more convenient for Hugh, because he became Ginette’s
tenant, in part of the big house she owned next-door to the restaurant.
I learned from Hugh that I would never be a chess player. I knew how
the pieces moved, but I had no understanding of strategy. Hugh was
patient enough to play a few games with me at the restaurant, but he
didn’t have to be patient for long because he always checkmated me very
The first time I visited Hugh’s apartment I noticed a large round
ashtray beside his chair. The reason it caught my attention was that
not only was it absolutely full, but also that its contents were neatly
divided into three equal sectors: spent matches in one third, ashes in
one third, and butts in the final third. In the course of many visits
to Hugh, I never saw that ashtray empty, nor did I ever see it
overflowing; it was always exactly full. How he kept it that way is a
mystery to which now I suppose I shall never have the answer. Hugh
always smoked Player’s Medium, the last domestic brand of unfiltered
cigarette. If he ran out of cigarettes and accepted one of mine, he
always broke the filter off.
I wonder how many of you ever heard Hugh sing. Hugh used to drink beer.
I used to drink beer. Eventually we both quit, for different reasons,
but Hugh and I used to drink a lot of beer. One night he came to my
house. We listened to music and drank beer. We did this all night, and
between us drank an entire case of beer. At some point during the
night, or more likely early morning, I put on some Hank Williams
records. To my amazement, Hugh started singing along with them. He had
a pleasant, rather high singing voice, well suited to country songs.
And he knew all the words, not only to Hank Williams’ well-known hits,
but also to the more obscure numbers.
In 1971, while he was still at the Central Library, Hugh organized a
lecture series on Music of the Twentieth Century, with each lecture
given by someone with expertise in a particular field of music. He
asked me to give the lecture on rock’n’roll, knowing I had both the
requisite knowledge and a record collection adequate to supply the
appropriate musical examples. I remember how he introduced me, and I
quote: “Bob McKenzie claims that what he doesn’t know isn’t worth
knowing. His friends will tell you that most of what he does know isn’t
Early in 1973 CFPL-FM decided to change its format and broadcast a
number of specialized programs hosted by people from the community.
Someone from the radio station remembered Hugh’s lecture series, and
approached him to get the names of people with expertise in various
musical genres who could host the new programs. Hugh gave them several
names, one of which was mine. I soon became the host of two
thirteen-week series of one-hour musical documentaries, one on early
rock’n’roll and the other on jazz. Now, thanks to Uncle Hugh, I
would be playing records on the radio for two hours a week, on a
major-market station no less, at least for thirteen weeks. Hugh himself
hosted a show called “Spoonful of Blues,” but he chose not to continue
after completing the first thirteen weeks.
Before long, I found myself on the air live all night long, seven
nights a week. Hugh was among my most faithful listeners. He frequently
called in requests to the jazz show which I did Monday through Friday,
and, much to my satisfaction, he occasionally called to ask about
something I had played with which he wasn’t familiar. At least for a
few minutes I had the rare experience of knowing something Hugh didn’t
My Saturday all-night show was called “Moondog’s Rock’n’Roll House
Party,” a variation on the name of the first rock’n’roll radio show,
hosted by Alan Freed on a Cleveland, Ohio, station in the early ‘50s. I
know Hugh listened to every one of those shows, because he never missed
calling in between 1:00 and 2:00 A.M. with a request. He always asked
for the same record. He must have really liked it, so I thought I would
close by playing it for him once again.
[CUE MUSIC. AFTER ABOUT THIRTY SECONDS, FADE UNDER]
The Trashmen, with their 1964 hit, “Surfin’ Bird.”
[FADE MUSIC OUT]
It has often been stated that Hugh was a
large man but I don't think many people appreciate how enormous he
appeared from the eyes of a child.
As one of the Spasm Band’s offspring, I have known Hugh all of my life.
As a child my involvement with Hugh was minimal. I had no idea
what to make of him. He was referred to by the friendly moniker
of "Uncle Hugh" but as a child he seemed to be anything but
friendly. My feeling is that Hugh tolerated us children with mild
impatience. We were noisy, rambunctious and we got in the way of
good conversation. From my perspective he was a great big
bear of a man, with gruff mannerisms, a deep deep voice, and a look
that often seemed to pass right through you.
Our relationship changed dramatically during my mid-teens. The
Library was setting up computer courses on newly purchased Commodore
64’s and Hugh was the librarian at Landon, my local branch.
I had been involved with computers for several years at that
point. I am not quite sure how it came about but somehow it ended
up being suggested that I could teach computer usage at the library.
I remember feeling more than a just little fear and trepidation when I
first went to the library talk to Hugh about the
position. I had no idea how to talk to him.
Here was a man that even the adults seemed to defer to. His pace
of speech, his deep voice, and his shear presence commanded
attention. I'd never had a real conversation with Hugh and
suddenly I was going to be working for him.
Other staff at the Library seemed to treat my relationship with Hugh
with a sense of curiosity. Here was someone who "knew" Hugh from
the outside. They discovered that I had known him as "Uncle
Hugh”, they quizzed me on the Band, how Hugh acted with his friends,
what his house was like and so on.
More fascinating than that, here was someone that Hugh actually talked
to. It was no secret that during his time at Landon library Hugh
was not so affectionately referred to as "Grunt" by some of the patrons
and staff. The reason was obvious. Hugh could at times be a
man of very few words. Sometimes a grunt or snort might be all
the response that a person could get from him. Sometimes they got
I used to think of how funny it was that some people rarely heard Hugh
speak because I had found times that it was hard to get Hugh to stop
talking. I can distinctly remember times when I would show up to
work for one of my shifts and spend nearly the entire time in the back
room listening to Hugh. This was especially true after he would return
from vacations or one of his trips to Cuba. Hugh could at
times have lots to say.
Hugh was a wonderfully complete source of information. A true
polymath. He seemed to know something about just about
everything. Like with most people, the secret to getting
Hugh to talk was to find his hot topics. For Hugh and I many of
our conversations focussed around our common interests of science
fiction, computers, basketball, and of course music.
I would say that Hugh and I have been friends now for the past 20
years. I certainly can’t claim to have truly understood
him. I don’t know if many of us can. But I have always
enjoyed our conversations.
I have several favourite memories of Hugh but tonight I’d like to share
one of my most recent.
About 2 years ago The Band played at Koolhaus in Toronto opening
for Sonic Youth. It was a weeknight. I went along with the
band partly out of interest and partly to assist as a roadie. Before we
left I had asked my dad if there was any chance that I’d end up
driving. I was told no, there were lots of drivers going, “don’t
worry about it”. So off I went packed in John’s van along with
the rest of the band and their equipment.
Earlier that day as we were packing the van Hugh told me that he
thought he was going to sound great that night. He’d spent the
days leading up to the show listening to Charles Mingus.
That night the Band was loud. The Band was great. By the
end of the night they were obviously tired. It was late.
There were lots of excuses being made about why someone else should
drive us all home.
Somehow fell to me to drive us back in the wee hours of the
morning. I was tired as well. I had worked that day and
unlike most of the band I was going to have to go to work the next
morning. I reluctantly said I would drive but I would appreciate
it if someone would talk to me to keep my brain alert. Dad said,
no problem, Hugh’s awake he’ll talk to you. Well Hugh did talk,
not exactly to me, not exactly to anyone. For the entire trip
back in the van Hugh quietly read all the significant sign posts as we
For many years Hugh has been joining the Pratten family for Christmas
dinner. With Christmas less than two weeks away it is sad to
think that Hugh will not be at the table with us this year. And
I, for one, will miss my Uncle Hugh.
- A Warren Pratten, December 13, 2004
is Ken and I used to work at the Empty Bottle in Chicago. Hugh
and I talked a few times, and I even formed a band to open for
the second time you played there. I saw the obit in
the London Free
Press, cried and then wrote the following. I just want to share
your fan, Ken Klehm
I just found out that my musical hero died. I woke up this
the news that Dime Bag Darryl was shot, but CNN didn’t tell me about
Hugh after he died Monday. He didn’t make music that most people
dance to, or even listen to (heck, neither do I) but he was famous to
Hugh McIntyre played a homemade 3 1/2 bass in the Nihilist Spasm Band
(the greatest band in the world let alone their native London Ontario).
He was a large man with an equally large beard, even back in 1966 when
their record, Record, was released with his photo on the cover.
I fell in love with him before I ever heard a note of his band.
were playing a rare US gig in the club where I worked about 8 years ago.
I got asked to loan some of my amplifiers for the show. I did, and
broke out my biggest/loudest/ugliest bass stack for him. I
myself to him and gave a quick briefing on the amp’s quirks. He
me for providing him a fine Canadian made product, and proceeded to
He was there for a while, plucking a string, and then twisting a knob,
thumping another and twisting again. As he worked for a sound that he
liked, his face took on a puzzled look. Finally he ran his hand
left to right, sweeping across all the knobs turning them to 10. He
raised his hand and then brought it down on a string. . .
Let me pause here to tell you that I used to play loud; so loud that
most of the people I played with would cringe when I got going.
Drummers would complain that they couldn’t hear themselves. I
had this amp up more than half way. The cabinet is the only one I
ever seen with a warning that,
"This thing is so damn loud that the sound may hurt you!" on the
The amp scares me.
Hugh just gave a contented smile and was ready (I’m sure he turned it
down at some point otherwise no one would hear the rock in the pot).
The Nihilist Spasm Band changed the way I experienced and thought about
music that night. They were the sole inspiration for the sporadic
Mirror Dinghy that I was a proud part of for years, and I think of them
whenever I pick up an instrument. More than that, I wanted to be
I still do. To play for close to 40 years with life long friends
be a wonderful thing, but to do so with the joy and grace that I saw in
him that night must be spiritual beyond my understanding. I
myself that night that I would never lose the ability to feel the
childlike glee that comes from making a lot of noise, and playing what
needs to be played. Age is not relevant unless you let it be.
I’m going to go down to my basement, dust off that big Traynor amp, and
play to remember my hero. I hope that 25 years from now I can
story in words or some other form of soundwaves, and teach some other
young punk of a kid that there is so much more to know and that he can
have a ball while learning it.
i was over at the Old
Victoria Hospital this
afternoon when Hugh McIntyre
died, just a stone's throw away from the Old Vic Tavern (known to most
as "The Bucket Of Blood") where The Nihilist Spasm Band once held a
night residency. He passed away very quietly, surrounded by most of the
Spasm Band members and friends. i held his right hand for a while, and
the callouses on his fingertips from the just-shy-of fourty years of
away on his three and-a-half string
bass (this hand also occasionally operated the stopwatch that he
emphatically used to tell the rest of the band that they had damn
well gone on long enough and it was time to start another
"number"). As i held his fingers i could feel their warmth and every
once in a while he would gasp and take one more breath and i was struck
by how long it seemed to take him to die. As many of you know, Hugh was
a big man and (though i never once heard him complain about his own
cumbersomeness or fragility) it took a certain amount of patience to go
anywhere with him because he moved so slowly. He was never in a hurry;
i think he was blessed with the ability to never have to
be in a hurry. Even though he had technically already passed on i'm
the vast majority of his body was still very much alive, and probably
so for quite some time.
Hugh was an exceptional musician by his own right,
and as is fitting for the bass player - he was the band member least
afraid of real, steady rhythm. While Murray and Boyle seemed to try to
shove sticks into the spokes of any steady cycle of time, Hugh was
happy to keep the steady groove going - especially when given a drummer
like Aya Ohnishi that would choose to groove with him. But true to
Nihilistic form, on occasion he would hammer out a tumbleweed
of grumbly noise (my favourite moment in the Spasm Band Documentary
About Me, The Rise of the Nihilist Spasm Band is the clip from
Rochdale College in the 1960s when Hugh is positively wailing on
his bass!). But more than that, Hugh was an exceptional musicologist,
fluent in many languages
from early free jazz to way earlier chamber music to Cuban Guajira.
One of my favourite memories of Hugh was catching a lift home in his
cold Monday nights last winter and hearing whatever he had in his car
player. One day it would be the hardest dub reggae, and the next time
would be something else and he would always be able to fill the short
home with a comprehensive explanation of exactly what we were listening
He was also a fantastic historian who seemed to remember everything
happened, anywhere. He would know about some war that happened in Asia
1127 or something - really far-out stuff. He recently explained the
entire political history of Cuba to me in about 20 minutes.
There really hasn't been any discussion as far as i
know about what will happen with the Spasm Band. While it seems at
times unthinkable to have a Nihilist Spasm Band without Hugh, i expect
the band will soldier on. It was probably as much of a shock when Greg
Curnoe died and it kept going then - and the current residency at the
dissent. club here in London is convenient and comfortable. The Spasm
Band is such a family that it seems like they/we need our regular time
together now as much as ever, with the weekly sermon of music, humour
and insight. Especially humour. Leaving the hospital today on the way
to the car (parked on the street at a city parking meter) a teary Bill
was heard to quip, "That was awfully considerate of Hugh! I still have
time on my meter!"
-- Tim Glasgow
[london, canada - monday, december 6th, 2004]
In Memory of Hugh McIntyre
Having only seen Hugh a handful of times since I left
1965, my memories of him are of necessity lodged back in that era. Greg
Curnoe was our mutual friend, and most often I saw Hugh along with
when they would come to my little apartment on Dufferin Avenue late at
for something to eat. I usually had a couple of cans of Campbell soup
on hand, and carefully stocked a brand of Dutch sugar cookies they were
known to favour… and they would spend an hour or so at the table,
whatever conversation they’d been having when the pub closed, and I’d
soup, and listen. When those two got talking, there was seldom room for
a third opinion. However, I also saw Hugh at the library, and we’d chat
so that during those years, 1964-65, I considered him a friend and was
complete agreement when Greg suggested that Hugh was the person to
some poetry I had written. Those were the days when we all wrote
but I was taking it seriously enough that I wanted “an opinion” which
course meant “praise”. Thus I gave my sheaf of poems to Greg who passed
who duly called and invited me out so we could talk about my “work”. I
don’t remember exactly where we went, but I
sitting across from Hugh waiting breathlessly for his first remarks as
took the poems from the envelope and laid them out on the table.
”These are really pretty bad,” he said, in a tone of such regret and
affection that I still regard that moment as the best rejection I’ve
had. Slowly, we went through the poems and he showed me what utter crap
they were, and yet he did so without discouraging me from ever writing
He was a good kind man, and I have had a huge affection for Hugh ever
that evening. I am sad to think that he is gone.
Within the Nihilist Spasm Band, manned with extroverts and eccentrics
and characterized by a homespun mix of flamboyance and invention, Hugh
McIntyre’s taciturn manner demanded special respect. Hugh was loyal,
reliable and consistent. He exerted discipline by exemplifying it. He
was dedicated to making the Spasm Band better than it would have been
otherwise. And it became among the very best in the world. In the
band’s culture of free opinion and argument for argument’s sake, Hugh
was never gratuitous. Behind demonstrative ravings and displays of
exhibitionism and sheer prowess, Hugh was naturally and enviably large.
Because he was a big man, Hugh learned to take measure of his self,
came to terms with his appetites and was very sensitive and considerate
as to how he affected others. He was humble and in his later years a
bit shambling, but modesty did not disguise majesty. He drove a small
car that he slipped into like a garment. He inhabited an untidy
cottage, by all appearances abandoned, but when a visitor came to the
door, after some moments of indeterminate quiet, the whole structure
shook to life and there would be Hugh, as big as the house.
Not only did Hugh possess a corporeal advantage, he had a superior
conception of time as well. A product of long, successive generational
lines, his grandparent’s lives reached back to 1850s Scotland. He had
the ability to peer around the distant corners of history. When history
was insufficient, it nonetheless informed the prisms of imagination and
Hugh never overlooked the obvious. He cherished regional patterns. If
the Canada Southern Railway offered a teenager from St. Thomas
excursions to prosperous, urbane Detroit, that was not an opportunity
to be passed up. If, as a university student, he fell in with a bunch
of locals that vehemently, delusionally, nihilistically proclaimed
London the center of their creation, well, why not?
Amid the tumult of the Spasm Band, where exaggeration and distortion
threshed away almost all features of individualism, Hugh maintained a
poignant figural integrity. His signature bass line was almost too
obvious – the footfall of a giant. But amid the chaos and caterwaul,
the giant was really a gentle, devoted man, nimbly running here and
there with his fingers, responding to, shoring up and rebuilding
structures that were crumbling on the spot. His monumentally pedestrian
sound was, to my knowledge, unique, naturally suited to the electric
bass but borrowing from the talking drum. I think that Hugh sought a
narrative in everything he did. Despite his solitude, he lived a
remarkably complete and beautiful life. I admired him greatly and, like
so many others, will miss him deeply.
- Ben Portis
My Friend Hugh
I've know Hugh McIntyre for over 40 years. All that time except
for 1 year I have lived away from London, so I can't say I knew him
initially. As everybody knows, he was a big gruff guy. When he was
he was rather intimidating, both physically and intellectually. Being a
polymath, he could usually outmanoeuvre you in an argument and swamp
with factual information and confounding detail. He was one of those
people who, when you were foolish enough to attempt to say something
and intelligent, took great pleasure in saying "WRONG!", and then
you. Occasionally he was wrong, but one was usually too slow on the
to prove it until it was too late. Basically, I guess I was afraid of
for a quarter of a century.
It was the Spasm Band that threw us together and kept us together.
Hugh's bass was very uncomplicated..., no effects boxes, just a
powerful amplifier, 1 hole to plug into and a volume control. While I
was still untying knots in the spaghetti of my leads and cords Hugh
would pound out a thunderous, spine rattling riff or 2 and he was
ready. Invariably, when I was finally
ready to give the first timid toot on my kazoo, Hugh would holler "too
Boyle", and he delighted in telling me that I was the reason the band
extra deafening that night, that it was much quieter when I didn't come
At the beginning of the nineties, both my parents died quickly
followed by the death of our great friend and colleague Greg Curnoe.
meant both that there was a greater urgency for me to come to London
often because the band had to continue, and that I had no place to
So I started staying at Hugh's place, and that's when I got to know the
real Hugh McIntyre: the one who read and remembered more books in 6
than I have read in my lifetime; the one who would talk your ear off on
any subject; the generous and considerate one. Hugh became my closest
in the band, the one who would call me up and talk for 2 hours
to tell me about some breaking band news but also covering politics,
new science fiction books, ideas for band projects, and anything else
popped into our heads. All of us were affected deeply and changed by
trips to Japan and the incredible generosity of the wonderful people we
met there, and the band's escapades became even more significant and
after that. I think Hugh enjoyed our adventures more than any of us,
he played an important part in organizing the trips out of town or
I'm so glad we pulled off a triumphal return to Europe last Spring and
relished every minute of it. The last call I got from him was a month
so ago. He called to tell me about the surprise arrival of the band
at Dissent, the club on Dundas Street where we play these Mondays, the
jams till closing time, the talk of a recording session with their
Peter Buck, and the R.E.M. concert next day at the new arena. A few
later he entered hospital.
As a poor but smug artist, I always pity people who spend their
lives earning a living and never get to experience the supreme joy of
an artistic creation. Hugh hated that notion, but nevertheless the Band
gave him that experience as it did us all, and Hugh loved it maybe more
than any of us. I can't imagine continuing to play without his bass
through my bones, but of course, we will continue to play. Hugh won't
us to stop.
John Boyle, Peterborough
Remarks by Art Pratten
And also let you know
Hugh's ashes have fallen into the hands of
The Nihilist Party of Canada
And there have been several suggestions where they should be scattered
But one place holds a particular appeal
Scattering them around at the Library
Of course we know that this is both
Sacrilegious and totally illegal
But.... if your are ever checking out a book
and it feels a little gritty
or you hear strange grumbling from the stacks
You just never know