A few months back, my friend informed me about some documentary about Wax Trax Records. For those who don’t know, Wax Trax Records was both a record store and label based in Chicago, Illinois. Before Grunge took over the U.S. during the ’90s, there was the Post-Punk strains of Industrial music.
The Industrial music genre dates back to the ’70s, pioneered along the way by bands like Throbbing Gristle. (Which I was fortunate enough to catch their reunion tour back in 2009, over at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple.) There’s different sub-genres of Industrial Music, which branches out to Noise and Experimental. Associated acts range from Skinny Puppy, Coil, Psychic TV, Chris & Cosey, Test Department, Einstürzende Neubauten, Clock DVA, Fad Gadget, Nurse With Wound, Foetus, Swans, etc., etc., to more Avant-Garde stuff like Merzbow and Current 93. If you want sheer noise, you can always do Whitehouse. If your goal is to piss off your neighbors, there’s always ‘Christianity Is Stupid’ by Negativeland. By the mid-’90s, Industrial hit the mainstream with acts such as Nine Inch Nails.
Prior to bands like Nine Inch Nails, Rammstein and others, there was Wax Trax. Wax Trax hit its peak during the late ’80s and early ’90s, prior to Grunge as previously noted, and before Rave culture hit the States. Wax Trax became very popular among the Alternative music set. This led to Wax Trax nights across the country. There were tours focusing on the Wax Trax label. Back when I was a teen, I remember seeing one Wax Trax event with a band called Front Line Assembly. One of my own Wax Trax favorites was Front 242.
Fast forward to 2010. By then, both the founders of Wax Trax label had passed away due to AIDS. Julia Nash, daughter of co-founder Jim Nash discovers the label’s inventory was kept in storage in an Arkansas barn. After Jim Nash’s death, his partner in both personal and business moved back to his hometown, taking the overstock with him. When Dannie Flesher passed away, Julia Nash took it upon herself to keep the Wax Trax legacy going. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, The Industrial Accident film was released in 2017, and the soundtrack in 2018.
Thus leads to my own personal events. My friend Christine had been telling me about the upcoming film showing for months. Eventually she got me hyped up to see the documentary. Nostalgia kicked in. Couldn’t help but reminisce about the days when the label “Alternative” actually meant something. Now, I owed a few favors to Christine. After all, she hooked me up with tickets to see Television and Front 242 (first time I saw then was way back in 1988 or ’89…second time was in 2017) within the past two years. She’s done other things as well. Let’s just say she’s an awesome pal. Christine was going to be in another state during Record Day. She asked me if I could pick up the exclusive Record Day release, being sold at places like Rough Trade NYC.
First things first. Lately I’ve been attending a local Queens writing workshop. It’s something I’ve fallen in love with as of late. It’s facilitated by an amazing woman. She reminded me about F. Scott Fitzgerald while introducing me to Marcel Proust. A local paper even wrote an article about the writing class. I’m in the article photo, even though I look fat. Eh. What can you do. Actually, don’t answer that.
My immediate goal was to attend the writing class, then go down to Rough Trade. It’s been a while since I’ve been in touch with vinyl culture. Within the past ten years, vinyl has been having a cult-like resurgence. I hadn’t had a turntable since 1997. Which meant I’ve been completely out of touch with record collecting culture. Access to my own huge collection of valuable vinyl was blocked, thanks to my father. Basically lost my whole entire record collection. The only vinyl I managed to rescue are my 45’s. There’s a few rarities among the 45s, like a Poison Girls single. That’s another story altogether, but I won’t dwell on that.
As I’m sitting in the writing class, I get this nagging feeling that my ass should be heading to Rough Trade ASAP. But I’m an old fart now; I’m no longer that 17 year old who once ripped down a large Skinny Puppy concert ad near NYU. The wheat paste was barely dried on the back when I tore it down a late Manhattan night. It was for the sole purpose of decorating my teenage bedroom walls back in Queens. Then there was that promise that I would get the Record Day exclusive for Christine, who’s done so much for me. As soon as I was pondering all of this, Christine texts me. Guilt kicks in. Need to learn how to be cold blooded. So I pull an ultimate douchebag move to all my writing workshop peers. Claiming it was an emergency, I pack up my junk, and walk out of class. In my haste I even left my Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee behind. Well, it was an emergency.
As luck would have it, the bus heading towards Williamsburg took like, forever. Despite that a Lyft would’ve brought me there in max, fifteen to twenty minutes depending on traffic. Finally arrive at Rough Trade, jumping at the end of the line like Mark Spitz. A few people standing on the line give me harsh eye daggers. Like they want to cut a bitch.
“Is this the end of the line?” I inquire.
Nope. A Rough Trade employee informed gently that I was not at the end of the line. In fact, the line for Record Day exclusives continued…across the street…down the block…almost at the very end of the block.
In my embarrassed Lucille Ball moment, I excused myself. That wasn’t good enough. Slinking away, I felt the judgmental glare of the others. I knew they were silently, but yet viciously accusing me of cutting the line. When I slithered to the end of the snake trail, another employee with a megaphone approaches. He’s holding a paper. The paper contains a list of all the Record Day 2019 exclusives, now exclusively sold out. He reads the list through the megaphone.
The Wax Trax soundtrack, particularly the Record Day exclusive, was one of the first to sell out. Then came all the others. Captain Beefheart exclusive was sold out. Hmmm. I would’ve gotten Captain Beefheart. Motorhead exclusive, sold out. Would’ve brought that one as well. Madonna exclusives, sold out. Hard pass on Madonna. What else? Duran Duran exclusive sold out. Hey! I still love Duran Duran. If I was still collecting vinyl, I definitely would’ve brought that one. The sold out exclusive list was long. When it was announced that even Mutant Ninja Turtles Record Day exclusive was sold out, it was time to jump ship. Yes. Even music by fictional fighting turtles was sold out.
Even if most of the Record Day exclusives seem to be reissues, it was still discerning. On one hand, it was good to see hard copy media still selling. On the other hand, not getting the Wax Trax exclusive really meant one thing, which I have yet to explain. You see, that Wax Trax Record Day exclusive had a valuable item attached. It was a much coveted item. The Record Day Wax Trax soundtrack exclusive contained two tickets. They were VIP tickets to the Wax Trax documentary screening and the Q&A that followed. Plus a free concert by Cold Cave and Ministry who was doing strictly a late ’80s/early ’90s set, connected to the Wax Trax era. Now who wouldn’t want that? That’s what my friend Christine really wanted. That’s what I was hyped up about. Those VIP tickets.
All hope was abandoned. The consolation prize was going home to finally catch up on some much needed sleep. It was an unusually hot Spring afternoon. Global warming wasn’t kind to me, as I stood overdressed on the gentrified pavement. As I was walking towards the L subway, I hear someone call my name. Turning around, it was my friend Michael. Michael was someone I had met two years ago at a Gary Numan concert. We followed each other on Facebook. Michael and me begin a conversation. He was on his way back to Rough Trade, to get his Bauhaus Record Day exclusive signed by David J. David J’s signing wasn’t scheduled until five p.m. It’s been a long week for me, so I suggest we should sit down somewhere to continue the conversation. Michael informs me that he also had purchased the Record Day exclusives for Duran Duran, and the Wax Trax soundtrack.
We locate an OG bar, one without the stench of pretentious hipsters. It wasn’t a dive bar per say. Instead it was a well maintained watering hole, one that had been opened for decades. Only the tap was updated, featuring some IPAs, and of course, Williamsburg’s own Brooklyn Beer. Michael asked me about my birthday, which had recently passed. There were other subjects discussed. I buy him a drink because we have one thing in common. Our all time favorite band is Siouxsie and The Banshees.
As I’m fetching our drinks from the bar counter, Michael pulls a Hail Mary.
“Happy birthday” he says, giving me one half of the VIP tickets that came with the Wax Trax Record Day exclusive.
I was in shock. Asked him if he was sure, and he was. I profusely thanked him. Michael then heads over to Rough Trade for the David J signing. In pleasant disbelief, I head over to the L train. Of course I texted Christine about what happened. My assumption was she was going to be a bit miffed. Fortunately she was completely cool about the entire situation.
Monday comes around. It’s the day of the film showing, the Q&A, and the concert. I’m more psyched than ever before. Suddenly I’m 17 all over again. There was plans to meet up with Michael before heading over to the venue, which was I head over to the venue, Music Hall of Williamsburg. Gut instinct kicks in again. So I decide to hit up Williamsburg earlier than usual. Sure enough. By the time I arrive, the lines are long. There’s two lines. One for VIP tickets, one for general admission.
They let the VIPs enter the venue first. I was lucky enough to get a seat for the film showing, last seat on the left, first row. It was the only seat left. The rest was standing room only. A DJ was spinning classic Wax Trax era tunes as everyone waited for the documentary to begin. Others decide to go downstairs to the bar.
The documentary itself was quite good. It was a candid, first person look into the rise and fall of Wax Trax records. During the viewing, I got caught off guard by being a bit emotional. One thing about this film, it helped bring legitimacy to a underground phenomenon. Wax Trax and relative labels like 4AD, Play It Again Sam (later to be distributed by Wax Trax), Caroline Records, along with others, was a viable part of music during that era. The film could’ve left David Grohl out, though.
Most of the Wax Trax acts were mentioned, such as Thrill Kill Kult, Laibach, Revolting Cocks, KMFDM, Pailhead, Legendary Pink Dots (who were on Play It Again Sam) and of course, Ministry. How can one forget Ministry. Al Jourgensen and his crew played a massive part in the history of Wax Trax records. Ministry also reconstructed themselves from being a dance New Wave synth band, to the endeavor of the Twitch period, to the Industrial Metal hybrid they later became more known for. ‘Uncle Al’, as Jourgensen is now affectionately known by fans, had his fingers in many pies. As a multi-instrumentalist, he spread himself around with numerous side projects. Besides Revolting Cocks, he was involved with Lard, Acid Horse, and 1000 Homo DJs.
After the film was the Q&A.
The panel, moderated by Andy Wombell, a former employee for Wax Trax records, featured Julia Nash, her mother and former wife of Jim Nash, Jean Payne, Chris Connelly from Revolting Cocks and other bands, and Frankie Nardiello, aka Groovie from Thrill Kill Kult.
Alright, you want to hear about the concert. It was Cold Cave, then the main headliners, Ministry. Strange for me, this was my third time seeing Cold Cave live. Second time seeing Cold Cave within months. First time catching Cold Cave live in 2009, opening for NON.
Back in February or March, I saw Cold Cave live over at Brooklyn Steel. Psychic TV was supposed to open for Cold Cave, but Genesis P-Orridge hasn’t been in good health lately. Psychic TV had to cancel their slot last minute.
Cold Cave did an upbeat set. Not to be rude, but I was waiting for Ministry.
Ministry did not disappoint. Uncle Al was never,ever going to do anything before The Land of Rape and Honey era. Not anything from ‘With Sympathy’, not anything from ‘Twitch’. Probably will never touch material from those two releases for the rest of his life.
What albums he did perform: ‘The Land of Rape and Honey’, ‘Psalm 69: The Way To Succeed & The Way To Suck Eggs’, and ‘The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste’.
Chris Connelly was brought on stage, performing No Devotion, a Revolting Cocks song.
The timing could’ve been more perfect. There’s a line in the song that goes “burn the temple…” Meanwhile, there was news about the fire at France’s famous Notre Dame cathedral. Afterwards they did a song from 1000 Homo DJs. Doing a cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘Supernaut’.
Overall it was a fantastic night. Christine managed to get to the show via general admission, Michael showed up later, it all worked out. Didn’t hang with either one though. I ended up being close to the front row, sans ear plugs. Not being prepared, my ears were ringing for two days after the concert. To recover, I had to forgo listening to music on my headphones during the rest of my weekly commute. Not 17 years old anymore.
During the Ministry set, some 40 years olds decided to mosh for old time’s sake. Why was I not surprised. One old fart decided to stage dive. I’m thinking “dude, how old are you?” His body almost landed on top of me. As I quickly stepped back, his body slammed onto the floor. Nobody caught him. Guess crowd surfing wasn’t in the cards. Me and another woman who was around my age, yelled “asshole” at him, but he didn’t hear. The music was too loud. He got up, shook himself off, heading back into the audience. The woman who jeered along with me started to complain about another woman. It was a younger lady, tattooed all over with pink hair, going nuts to the songs. Yet by the end of the Ministry set, both ladies ended up becoming friends. As I was leaving, the two generations of women exchanged Facebook info. If anything unites people, it’s music. There was good vibes all around that night. Such a brilliant event. Which was capped off with an acoustic version of ‘Everyday Is Halloween.’ If only everyday was like this.
My concert high continued all throughout the next day. Eventually it came crashing down Tuesday evening, while riding the R train back to Queens. Some crazy homeless man threatened to climb into everyone’s bedroom windows with the intent to kill. His reasoning was to avenge himself for not receiving any spare change on the subway. Welcome back to reality, kiddo.