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Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax Records documentary review

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Wax Trax Records was a record label based in Chicago that was so cool that they said no to the demos that would become Nine Inch Nails’ first album, Pretty Hate Machine, in 1989.

Wax Trax Records was founded by partners in life and business, Jim Nash and Dannie Flesher. Arguably, few people outside of the gothic and industrial subcultures would’ve heard of industrial music if not for them.

Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax Records is a documentary feature directed by Julia Nash, the daughter Jim Nash. The film was crowd funded by Ms Nash who has also revived the Wax Trax label. The project couldn’t be more close to the heart of Julia Nash as she spent a lot of time at Wax Trax growing up.

The documentary is largely the story of Nash and Flesher’s passion for punk and new wave music which saw them open a record store called Wax Trax Records in Denver, Colorado in the mid ’70s.

When Denver became too small for their ambitions they opened Wax Trax Records in Chicago. The film recounts the pair began bringing bands they wanted to see to Chicago, such as Bauhaus, and then releasing singles and albums by artists no one else would. They released the unique trio of the punk/new wave of Strike Under, followed by Born to be Cheap by drag queen Divine and the first Ministry twelve-inch single.

As Wax Trax became a more successful they offered record deals to any artist they liked and also licensed European artists in America. Although bands on the label included everything from punk and post-punk, gothic, dance (e.g. KLF) and new wave, Wax Trax became synonymous with industrial music.

The Wax Trax store was the Mecca for any musically minded misfit in the Chicago vicinity – the punk, gothic and queer communities all found a home at Wax Trax.

Industrial began in Europe with the likes of Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire and Einstürzende Neubauten (with roots further back in Kraftwerk and others) and bands on Wax Trax such as Ministry, Revolting Cocks, KMFDM, Front 242, Frontline Assembly and others took it to another level. These artists influenced everyone from Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Korn and Faith No More, and even hip hop and RnB artists such as Dr Dre, Cypress Hill and Kanye West.

The film demonstrates the taste makers Nash and Flesher were and how the Wax Trax store was the Mecca for any musically minded misfit in the Chicago vicinity. Punk, gothic and queer communities all found a home at Wax Trax. The risks Nash and Flesher took were extraordinary, as they gave their bands anything they wanted. For a long while this paid off.

One particularly good story is Nash and Flesher’s decision to buy Al Jorgensen (Ministry, Revolting Cocks, Pailhead, Lard) a brand new, state of the art Fairlight CMI synthesizer in the mid -’80s for $US60,000. This was to be used to create music for Jorgensen’s new project, Revolting Cocks, which he formed with members of Belgian electronic/industrial group, Front 242. Well, the guys took the Fairlight out of the box and managed to turn it on and get it going but they couldn’t create layers – hence the  repetitive nature of the first Revolting Cocks album, Big Sexy Land. They repeated the formula on later releases because it turned out so well.

Unfortunately, the changing nature of the record business and Nash’s untimely death saw Wax Trax’s fortunes take a turn for the worse and the imprint was sold to TVT Records.

The film features interviews with all the major players from Wax Trax as well as Trent Reznor, Dave Grohl, Ian Mackaye and Jello Biafra. The footage of the store showing Wax Trax artists from the ’80s and ’90s is a treat for fans.

Julia Nash has essentially created a film of her father’s (and his partner’s) life’s work and what that work did for the world music scene and especially for industrial music.

What is missing from the film is found on the DVD bonus feature. The film itself only lightly touches on the life of major Wax Trax artists (Ministry, Revolting Cocks, KMFDM, Front 242, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult and others) but the bonus feature on the DVD delivers in spades. We get interviews with members of all of the above relating to their origins of various bands, how they wrote and recorded their music, as well as tales of life on the road.

Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax Records is a fascinating look at two men who dedicated their lives to industrial music and counter culture. The DVD bonus feature will have fans of Wax Trax drooling over the gnarly details.

Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax Records is available from

INDUSTRIΛL ΛCCIDENT from Wax Trax! Films on Vimeo.

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