Thomas Truax

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Thomas Truax
Thomas Truax (cropped).jpg
Truax in 2010
Background information
OriginNew York City, United States
Genres
Years active2000–present
LabelsVarious labels
Website www.thomastruax.com

Thomas Truax ( /ˈtræks/ TROO-aks) is an American songwriter, performer, animator, and inventor of experimental musical instruments. [1]

Contents

Biography

Thomas Truax with 'The Hornicator' at the Innocent Village Fete August 2007 ThomasTruax at Innocent Aug 07.JPG
Thomas Truax with 'The Hornicator' at the Innocent Village Fete August 2007

Truax first came to prominence as a solo performer in the 1990s in New York City as one of a group of musicians and songwriters (including Lach, Jeffrey Lewis, Curtis Eller, The Burning Hell, Dibs, Boo Hoo and Beck) who made up the antifolk movement based around the Sidewalk Cafe on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Truax's emergence as a solo act came after years of fronting bands (most notably Like Wow). [2] The move was in part to remove the need to rely on other people to perform and to embark in a new direction that would distinguish his act from the hundreds of bands and singer-songwriters active in New York. This new direction involved the construction and playing of unique instruments, as well as more traditional singer-songwriter style songs. The "inventor" side of his musical act drew on his work as an animator on MTV's Celebrity Death Match and a fascination since early childhood with building objects out of whatever materials he had available. Thomas's use of "primitive" technology, the often fantastical elements of his songs and gothic overtones (his website talks of his instruments "as though plucked straight from the mind of Tim Burton") have led to him being linked to the subgenre of steampunk.

Truax's first two instruments were the Cadillac Beatspinner Wheel and the Hornicator, the former being a system of spinning wheels, metal spokes and small cymbals, which, through the use of various contact mics, "beats out" through the PA a primitive drum beat that forms the backing to songs that Thomas then plays on guitar. Its large size made the Beatspinner Wheel unsuitable for touring, so Truax created a smaller version, entitled "Sister Spinster" that he uses to this day. The Hornicator started life as an old gramophone record horn, before Truax added a set of strings, a kazoo and a microphone. Here Thomas beats out the rhythm on the horn's metal casing (using a ringed finger to create a 'click' and other fingers to create a contrastive "thud") which is then repeated through the use of a looper pedal that records the beat and loops it over the PA, allowing Thomas to add more layers of other instrumentation (through the strings and other implements attached to the Hornicator). Finally Thomas sings a vocal through a microphone attached to the instrument. [3]

Other instruments work as variations on automatic rhythms and looped beats: the Stringaling features a vaguely bongo-like drum at the top of a length of clothes drier tubing to which is attached a variety of musical devices with pull-strings; Mary Poppins features a metal column attached to which are two arms that fly out to the side and spin, creating a train-like rhythm; the Backbeater, made up of several rotating spokes, straps on to Thomas' back and spins to create a low rhythm. Some songs do not feature any of his inventions, most notably "Inside the Internet" which is played solely on guitar, and "The Butterfly & The Entomologist", which is again played on a guitar, albeit with the use of a pocket fan that Thomas used to hit the strings to produce an eerie effect. Common themes in Thomas's songs include love, loneliness, travel, the animal kingdom, nature and technology. [4]

Truax was once challenged to show how he makes an instrument. Given many items retrieved from a recycle bin, within 15 minutes he created a rhythmic invention which he looped through effects with water and rubber bands. [5]

Though Truax usually only performs solo, his records contain songs with full band arrangements, along with his invented instruments. He has been featured in several music documentaries including Adam Clitheroe's "One Man In The Band" (2008) and Gabriel Shalom's "Instrumental" (2005). [6]

In 2013, Truax composed a new original score for Henrik Ibsen's play Peer Gynt, which was staged at the Theater Dortmund, Germany during its 2013/14 season, with music performed live by Thomas in an open metal container suspended above a stage of water. [7]

In 2020, Truax began work in Berlin recording with British drummer Budgie (Peter Clarke), formerly of Siouxsie and the Banshees who played along with Thomas’s mechanical drum machine Mother Superior. [8] A single ‘A Wonderful Kind of Strange’ was released in April 2020. [9] A full album ‘Dream Catching Songs’ followed in January 2023. [10]

Truax maintains a subscription fan-site, [11] offering exclusive content, "work in progress" videos, etc.

Singles

Compilation tracks

Albums

See also

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References

  1. "Thomas Truax Herald Feature 6_2_05". Archived from the original on December 4, 2008. Retrieved October 7, 2008.
  2. "Thomas Truax – Biography & History – AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved June 23, 2018.
  3. McNamee, David (March 22, 2010). "Hey, What's that Sound:Thomas Truax's homemade instruments". theguardian.com. Retrieved February 9, 2023.
  4. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on December 4, 2008. Retrieved October 7, 2008.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. "SUPERSWEET : WRONG URL". Supersweet.org. Retrieved June 23, 2018.
  6. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved September 27, 2008.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. "Theater Dortmund: Sind wir nicht alle Peer Gynt?". Archived from the original on November 13, 2013. Retrieved November 14, 2013.
  8. Rowe, Katrina (January 5, 2023). "Thomas Truax In Cardiff On Jan 18". westwaleschronical.org. Retrieved February 9, 2023.
  9. "Budgie & Thomas Truax - 'A Wonderful Kind Of Strange'". music.youtube.com. Retrieved February 9, 2023.
  10. Linazasoro, Nick (December 5, 2022). "One of a kind Thomas Truax announces return to Brighton". brightonandhovenews.org. Retrieved February 9, 2023.
  11. "Full Moon Music Club".