Thomas Truax

Last updated

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

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



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.


Compilation tracks


See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Arrangement</span> Musical adaptation of a previous work

In music, an arrangement is a musical adaptation of an existing composition. Differences from the original composition may include reharmonization, melodic paraphrasing, orchestration, or formal development. Arranging differs from orchestration in that the latter process is limited to the assignment of notes to instruments for performance by an orchestra, concert band, or other musical ensemble. Arranging "involves adding compositional techniques, such as new thematic material for introductions, transitions, or modulations, and endings. Arranging is the art of giving an existing melody musical variety". In jazz, a memorized (unwritten) arrangement of a new or pre-existing composition is known as a head arrangement.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rhythm guitar</span> Technique providing rhythm and harmony to an ensemble

In music performances, rhythm guitar is a technique and role that performs a combination of two functions: to provide all or part of the rhythmic pulse in conjunction with other instruments from the rhythm section ; and to provide all or part of the harmony, i.e. the chords from a song's chord progression, where a chord is a group of notes played together. Therefore, the basic technique of rhythm guitar is to hold down a series of chords with the fretting hand while strumming or fingerpicking rhythmically with the other hand. More developed rhythm techniques include arpeggios, damping, riffs, chord solos, and complex strums.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Television (band)</span> American post-punk band

Television is an American rock band from New York City, most notably active in the 1970s. The group's most prominent lineup consisted of Tom Verlaine, Richard Lloyd (guitar), Billy Ficca (drums), and Fred Smith (bass). An early fixture of CBGB and the 1970s New York rock scene, the band is considered influential in the development of punk and alternative rock.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Slits</span> British post-punk band

The Slits were a punk and post-punk band based in London, formed there in 1976 by members of the groups the Flowers of Romance and the Castrators. The group's early line-up consisted of Ari Up and Palmolive, with Viv Albertine and Tessa Pollitt replacing founding members Kate Korus and Suzy Gutsy. Their 1979 debut album, Cut, has been called one of the defining releases of the post-punk era.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Drum machine</span> Electronic musical instrument that creates percussion sounds

A drum machine is an electronic musical instrument that creates percussion sounds, drum beats, and patterns. Drum machines may imitate drum kits or other percussion instruments, or produce unique sounds, such as synthesized electronic tones. A drum machine often has pre-programmed beats and patterns for popular genres and styles, such as pop music, rock music, and dance music. Most modern drum machines made in the 2010s and 2020s also allow users to program their own rhythms and beats. Drum machines may create sounds using analog synthesis or play prerecorded samples.

<i>Erhu</i> Chinese two-stringed bowed musical instrument

The erhu is a Chinese two-stringed bowed musical instrument, more specifically a spike fiddle, which may also be called a Southern Fiddle, and is sometimes known in the Western world as the Chinese violin or a Chinese two-stringed fiddle.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Music of Wales</span> Music associated with Wales

The Music of Wales, particularly singing, is a significant part of Welsh national identity, and the country is traditionally referred to as "the land of song".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rhythm section</span> Group of musicians within a music ensemble or band

A rhythm section is a group of musicians within a music ensemble or band that provides the underlying rhythm, harmony and pulse of the accompaniment, providing a rhythmic and harmonic reference and "beat" for the rest of the band. The rhythm section is often contrasted with the roles of other musicians in the band, such as the lead guitarist or lead vocals whose primary job is to carry the melody.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Guzheng</span> Chinese musical instrument

The zheng or gu zheng, is a Chinese plucked zither. The modern guzheng commonly has 21, 25, or 26 strings, is 64 inches long, and is tuned in a major pentatonic scale. It has a large, resonant soundboard made from Paulownia wood. Other components are often made from other woods for structural or decorative reasons. Guzheng players often wear fingerpick made from materials such as plastic, resin, tortoiseshell, or ivory on one or both hands.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Beatnuts</span> American hip hop group

The Beatnuts are an American hip hop group and production duo from New York City. Its current members are JuJu and Psycho Les. JuJu is a Dominican American from Corona and Psycho Les is a Colombian American from Jackson Heights, Queens. Although only peripheral members, they are routinely acknowledged by Q-Tip as being members of Native Tongues. The Beatnuts were originally a trio before Fashion, now known as Al' Tariq, left the group to start a solo career. V.I.C. was also a member of The Beatnuts' production team for a while.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Budgie (musician)</span> English drummer

Peter Edward Clarke, known professionally as Budgie, is an English drummer best known as the drummer in Siouxsie and the Banshees. He is also the co-founder of the Creatures.

Joni Amelia Fuller is an English singer/songwriter, pianist, violinist and composer from Lancashire. She is the founder of Your Strings Attached.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hip hop production</span> Creation of hip hop music in a recording studio

Hip hop production is the creation of hip hop music in a recording studio. While the term encompasses all aspects of hip hop music creation, including recording the rapping of an MC, a turntablist or DJ providing a beat, playing samples and "scratching" using record players and the creation of a rhythmic backing track, using a drum machine or sequencer, it is most commonly used to refer to recording the instrumental, non-lyrical and non-vocal aspects of hip hop.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Breakin' Down</span> 1995 single by Skid Row

"Breakin' Down" is a song by Skid Row and released as a single from their third album, Subhuman Race. The song was released in 1995 and written by Dave "the Snake" Sabo.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">That 1 Guy</span> Musical artist

Mike Silverman, better known as That 1 Guy, is an American musician based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He frequently performs and records as a one-man band, singing and using a variety of homemade musical instruments.

David Cronenberg's Wife is a London-based band. The name is taken from the Canadian film-maker and actor David Cronenberg.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Glossary of jazz and popular music</span> List of definitions of terms and jargon used in jazz and popular music

This is a list of jazz and popular music terms that are likely to be encountered in printed popular music songbooks, fake books and vocal scores, big band scores, jazz, and rock concert reviews, and album liner notes. This glossary includes terms for musical instruments, playing or singing techniques, amplifiers, effects units, sound reinforcement equipment, and recording gear and techniques which are widely used in jazz and popular music. Most of the terms are in English, but in some cases, terms from other languages are encountered.

Cursed is the sixth album by English rock band The Scaramanga Six.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Band (rock and pop)</span> Musical ensemble which performs rock music, pop music, or a related genre

A rock band or pop band is a small musical ensemble that performs rock music, pop music, or a related genre. A four-piece band is the most common configuration in rock and pop music. In the early years, the configuration was typically two guitarists, a bassist, and a drummer. Another common formation is a vocalist who does not play an instrument, electric guitarist, bass guitarist, and a drummer. Instrumentally, these bands can be considered as trios. Sometimes, in addition to electric guitars, electric bass, and drums, also a keyboardist plays.

Sergeant Buzfuz are a seven-piece band based in London. Their musical style has been referred to as indie folk, psychedelic pop and anti-folk. They take their name from a character in The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens. The current line-up consists of core member Joe Murphy, Eilish McCracken, William Barr (mandolin), Ian Button (drums), Polly MacLean, Joss Cope (bass) and Stu Crane (guitar). To date the band have released six studio albums, one extended play (EP), and seven singles.


  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". 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". 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". Retrieved February 9, 2023.
  9. "Budgie & Thomas Truax - 'A Wonderful Kind Of Strange'". Retrieved February 9, 2023.
  10. Linazasoro, Nick (December 5, 2022). "One of a kind Thomas Truax announces return to Brighton". Retrieved February 9, 2023.
  11. "Full Moon Music Club".