Jetstream Sunset is the eighth studio album by eccentric musician and inventor of unique musical machines, Thomas Truax. When I caught up with Thomas lately he was sipping a coffee and chatting about the album.
“It’s a variety of stuff, the thing that most differs from my former albums is that about half of it comes from some collaborative work. Well I don’t know if ‘collaborative’ is the right way to put it. I brought in a live drummer, Brian Viglione (one half of The Dresden Dolls and current Violent Femmes drummer), and he was rarin’ to try playing his live drums next to ‘Mother Superior’ my mechanical drum machine and in those sessions we just had a really great time and came up with some great material. Originally I thought maybe this would be a collaboration album but my natural tendency is to get selfish so I took those tracks and mutilated them.”
I asked Thomas if he has a stock of part-finished ideas.
“Yeah, I’ve got a stock of half-finished ideas and a cellar full of half-finished instruments that should never have been started! A lot of it’s just shootin’ in the dark and the music is that way as well, a lot of times you think you’re on to something really brilliant … and then it dies a slow, miserable death. Other times you have an idea that you think ‘Ah, this is a crap idea, but I’ll drive it around the block’ and it turns into something. You just never know.”
I wondered whether Thomas could pin-point the time that his inventing started.
“Ummm, I think it happened probably in my mother’s womb; it may well have been inherited. My father was a carpenter and he had all his tools and his things that I wasn’t allowed to touch as a child, but then there was like a giant bucket full of random nuts and bolts and nails and stuff I could build things with, so that’s probably where it started. I was always fascinated by mechanical things.”
I Was a Teenage Post Punk by Thomas Truax
One of Thomas’s machines has recently been sold; sacrificed for the Pledge Music campaign used to fund Jetstream Sunset.
“The Pledge music thing is a great thing. Some kind soul from Texas bought Wendy Windchime, an instrument, kind of a sound sculpture that is on the album in at least a couple of places and when you do these pledge things you just want to offer some things for your super fans that are going to be really special to them, and like I said I’ve got too many half-made instruments sitting around!”
We return to the subject of music and the artists who Thomas considers to have influenced his own musical works.
“There’s so many of ‘em that I always feel a little bit hesitant to singles ones out, but, wow, I’d say Johnny Cash, David Bowie in many different guises has been always pretty interesting, quite clearly obviously Tom Waits has been an influence or a hero at least let’s say, umm, let me think, who else, there’s a lot of post punk bands from the UK were highly influential to me and punk itself was just sort of little before my time but I could completely relate to it when I discovered it.
Thomas, understandably keen to retain some element of mystery, was a little bit less forthcoming with details of his forthcoming tour.
“I don’t want to spoil any surprises (he laughs). It’s funny I have people will often come up to me and say at the end of a show ‘oh, you were playin’ a guitar this time’ and I’ve always played guitar and sang songs and yet of course people tend to remember more the instruments. I think I’ve created some really high expectations and hopefully I’ll live up to them.”
All will no doubt be revealed when Thomas Truax and his assorted menagerie of machines bring their unique show to The Mining Institute, Newcastle on Sunday 12 April.
Interviewer: Neil Pace