A mechanical mastermind, Thomas Truax manipulates random objects into his own bizarre and genius musical instruments, a vision as well as sound that cannot be missed live. While Nick Cave comparisons are understandable, theatrically and voice-wise, pigeonholing this man is unthinkable. The List caught up with Truax during his UK trek to get an enthralling glimpse into one fascinating creature.
Were you a geeky science kid?
I was a junior mad scientist, shy yet accused of making grand speeches in the dark from my crib.
Tell me a bit about the onstage accompaniments. How many contraptions have you come up with and what was the most recent one?
I've built lots of strange instruments, some of which are fairly simple like a new one called the Black Tambourine which is the first instrument I've built that actually bites my fingers whilst I play it (with plastic teeth). I hadn't intended that, but that's how most of my best ideas emerge, by accident. The Hornicator, my best known instrument, was like that. It's built on the frame of an old gramophone horn, literally bells and whistles attached, but originally I just picked it up thinking it would be part of another instrument, one of my mechanical rhythm machines, of which I've got several. The latest is Mother Superior. Louder, stronger, groovier than my last drummer, Sister Spinster. They're all good bandmates, they don't eat up the rider, complain, or fill the van with farts.
Your recent single Joe Meek Warns Buddy Holly was released on February 3 2009, the death anniversary of both great men - did you do that because of your own fixation on Buddy Holly, or a fixation on Joe Meek, or perhaps a fixation on Joe Meek's fixation on Buddy Holly?
The third. I like when you find some luminary figure can also be a fan, like we all can. Joe was ahead of his time, had a home studio and released independent records decades before the rest of us. In fact he seemed to live in some kind of world where time's rules as we know them didn't apply much at all, as in predicting the death of Buddy Holly to the day over a year before it. Pity he got so paranoid. A fascinating character. As was Buddy Holly, but the song's about Joe.
What are you working on at the moment?
I'm on the road at this moment. In an hour I'll be onstage in York. This tour is the pre-release tour for my new album 'Songs From The Films Of David Lynch', so at least half the songs in the set are covers that were featured in Lynch films. When on the road everything becomes about putting on the best show I can, and replacing batteries or fixing broken equipment, etc. That's something I spend a lot of my days doing.
When did you move to the UK and is your heart in London or New York?
After about two decades really loving New York, it started to gradually grow wrong for me there in many ways. I like it better from a distance now. So my heart is in London now, which sort of opened its smoky arms to me, rather than knock me hard. We'll see, so many things in life are transitory, it's not good to stay put for too long.
Name five influences: living, dead, inanimate, etc
Caffeine, cats, the vibration of a mobile phone, Nino Rota, Debussy, John Lennon, Alfred Hitchcock, my girlfriend, the smell of ginger, the full moon. Oops, that’s 10. Better slow down with the caffeine I guess.
What kinds of theatrics await us on Thursday and Friday?
Depends on what’s still working by then, in part! But whatever shape we're in, it'll be wild at heart.
What was the last song you listened to?
A Whiter Shade Of Pale by Procol Harem
Thomas Truax will play Apr 2 at Brel, Glasgow and Apr 3 at Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh.
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