On April 16th, INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENT: The Story of Wax Trax! Records shall see its official release, complete with a special Record Store Day soundtrack to commemorate the occasion.
Wax Trax! Films presents INDUSTRIΛL ΛCCIDENT: The Story Of Wax Trax! Records focuses on the story behind the independent record store and label. Tracing the bizarre journey of two music-obsessed men from the bible belt to Chicago, this film travels through the underground culture of music and art as these two men expose emerging music and artists to fans from around the world for the first time.
Originally launched in Denver in 1975, founders Jim Nash and Dannie Flesher moved their small independent record shop, Wax Trax! Records, to Chicago in the fall of 1978. Within a year, the new location at 2449 North Lincoln Avenue became a nucleus for the underground culture that was emerging in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. From the beginning, Jim and Dannie’s ability to combine obscure and fringe music with underground culture created a language that set Wax Trax! apart from traditional U.S. record stores.
The core of the Wax Trax! retail store focused on importing music and design that was currently emerging in Europe. Early seminal post-punk and experimental bands such as Joy Division, Throbbing Gristle, and Cabaret Voltaire were first exposed to Chicago through the Wax Trax! store. A combination of Jim and Dannie’s infectious personalities coupled with their passion for counter culture quickly gained national notoriety as Wax Trax! became a Mecca for fans looking for international new wave, punk rock and experimental music scenes that were being brought into the U.S. for the first time. Throughout the ‘80s, Wax Trax! became the meeting place for ideas and a primary home for many kids that lived outside mainstream culture.
Beyond retail, there was no master plan. Originally trying their hand at producing small runs of bootleg records for the store, in 1980 Wax Trax! branched out into a quasi-legitimate record label. The first three releases by artists Strike Under, Divine, and Ministry would unknowingly secure the label’s future ethos of punk… trash… dance.
Jim Nash and Dannie Flesher; founders of Wax Trax! Records
It was the third release in this initial series, Cold Life by Ministry, that changed everything. Becoming a surprise club hit in Europe, this provided Jim and Dannie momentum and cash to acquire new artists to the label and WAX 004, Front 242’sEndless Riddance EP, set the stage for Wax Trax! to become America’s preeminent experimental label of the 1980s and 1990s.
INDUSTRIΛL ΛCCIDENT: The Story of Wax Trax! Records is layered and overlaps across many important musical benchmarks. The label’s global contribution and influence to early punk, dance, industrial genres cannot be overstated.
Through interviews with the artists, the film explores the origins and the label’s work with My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult, Front 242, COIL, Chris & Cosey, Laibach, KMFDM, PIG, Underworld, Meat Beat Manifesto, Front Line Assembly, Young Gods, KLF, Greater Than One and many, many more.
INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENT also deconstructs the arsenal of side projects by Al Jourgensen and Paul Barker of Ministry by artists closest to the projects. True stories of the Revolting Cocks, Acid Horse (a collaboration with Cabaret Voltaire), Pailhead (a collaboration with Ian Mackaye of Minor Threat and Eric Spicer of Naked Raygun), PTP, Lead Into Gold (a solo vehicle for Barker), and 1000 Homo DJs (Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails) are revealed for the first time.
As the store and label became wildly successful, cracks in the foundation began to appear. The model of handshake deals and pure artistic freedom that built Wax Trax! was not sustainable and the label and store began its fast descent into bankruptcy. Despite the business challenges Jim and Dannie faced, the untold progression of events that followed was heartbreaking.
INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENT follows the thorny arc of the rise and fall of an important musical movement as well as explaining how the details and artifacts of this entire Wax Trax! Records history was nearly lost forever.
Check out the Industrial Accident trailer now!
Six very special evenings have now also been announced. Entitled the Vans Presents: Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records Experience Events; Chicago, Brooklyn, Toronto, Austin, San Francisco, and Los Angeles will all play host to special celebratory screenings of Industrial Accident accompanied by panel discussion Q&A about the film with its creators and performances by Ministry and Cold Cave. The Ministry set promises to weigh heavily on Ministry’s Wax Trax era. Vans Presents: Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records Experience Events (all venues TBD).
04/13 - Chicago, IL
04/15 - Brooklyn, NY
04/17 - Toronto, ON
04/19 - Austin, TX
04/22 - San Francisco, CA
04/23 - Los Angeles, CA
Julia Nash, daughter of Wax Trax! co-founder Jim Nash, talks frankly with PureGrainAudio in this interview about the reasons behind making this documentary, what the film has managed to accomplish in its screenings so far, and the future plans for Wax Trax! Records.
For context, INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENT starts off with Julia arriving at her dad’s partner’s farm where she walks into a barn with one wall packed to the rafters with boxes of photos and physical product from Jim & Dannie’'s Wax Trax! life together.
That scene in Industrial Accident where you pull up to the barn in Arkansas freaked me out. It was very obviously a treasure trove of musical history (and the impetus for an excellent documentary) but it was also pretty overbearing as well. Most people who are into music will recognize a hoard like that because it probably looked like their basement, garage or storage container. What ran through your mind when you saw that for the first time? Did you want to run away from it at all? Julia Nash: Honestly, I was sick to my stomach. This was my dad and Dannie’s entire history rotting away in a barn, both personal and professional. Things I hadn’t seen in years, things that I never got to see once my dad passed away. These guys saved everything. Invoices, pictures they took when they saw the Sex Pistols, their record collection, canceled checks, stickers, matchbooks, posters, records, and music magazines. Insane, insane, insane museum-quality collection sitting there in garbage bags and boxes!! We would pick through a box of Front by Front records and halfway down find home movies, photo albums or a random Thrill Kill Kult demo. Overwhelming is a gross understatement.
How old were you when a lot of this music your dad and Dannie helped nurture was coming to fruition? Nash: I was about 12 or 13 at the time the first releases came out (Strike Under - Immediate Action, Divine - Born to Be Cheap, Ministry - Cold Life). I moved to Chicago and worked for the label after high school in 1986, during the time the releases were coming out nonstop.
Here’s a very cool old shot of the Wax Trax! store way back in the day!
Were you actually into any of these bands yourself? Nash: Yes, Pailhead is probably one of my all-time faves, but I loved all of the side projects, Revolting Cocks, PTP, Acid Horse, 1000 Homo DJs. There weren’t many Wax Trax! releases that I didn’t like. That first TKK record is amazing, and anything Chris Connelly is involved in is brilliant. You also have to understand that most all the artists and staff were a pretty tight family. Most all these artists either hung out or worked at the store/label. It was as if your older brothers were in a band and you just intuitively supported and championed what was being created around you. It was a pretty special and incredibly creative time.
Did you attend any of their concerts? Nash: Of course, and I still do! I did merch for 242 on their last U.S. tour, and we are about to hit the road with Ministry in April. But historically, the most memorable, hands down, was the Revolting Cocks “You Goddamn Son of A Bitch” show at Metro. It was a complete disaster, total chaos and I was actually afraid of what I was seeing on stage. I remember turning to my dad and asking him, “What is going on?” Hilarious now, of course.
The first U.S. appearance of Front 242 in 1984 at Medusas was an amazing show. It was a performance, unlike anything I had seen before. They still put on one of the best live shows. The Thrill Kill Kult show at the Riviera was on Halloween and their first live performance. It was so raw and experimental, but you really could see Franke and Marston laying the groundwork for everything that came later. Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger) was the MC for the night. We all had a blast!
How much contact did you have with Wax Trax! after your dad passed away? Anything? Any of the artists? Nash: 1996-2000 were some very dark years. After my dad passed, Wax Trax! became a quagmire that most people weren’t aware of.
Regarding the store, I closed (it) in January of 1996. It had been on life support for some time. The combination of the retail climate in the mid-‘90s with deeply discounted big box stores, and the reality that my heart was not in it with the same passion as dad and Dannie, I felt that it was imminent to end the store after my dad passed. I asked their permission one night at dinner, and they both were super supportive of my decision. Dannie and I talked again a couple of months after my dad had died and he said, “let’s do it!” It was an incredibly hard decision given the history and what it meant to a lot of people.
Regarding the label, Wax Trax! was 100 percent dad and Dannie, so once TVT was involved it really wasn’t the same. Without my dad, it got worse. Dannie wasn’t completely equipped or supported to steer the label on his own. He had an enormous amount of pressure from TVT to continue the earlier success while at the same time neutering him and taking away any meaningful decision-making power. As a result, Dannie kind of checked out professionally and the label just became a hollow shell. Dannie was also grieving and going through an incredible amount of pain from the loss of his partner of (over) 25 years. As a result and a way to cope, he pushed a lot of the people closest to him away and brought some pretty ugly things and people into his life at that time. He really wasn’t himself during this later period.
For me, this all played into distancing myself from the label. It was very difficult to watch Wax Trax! veer so far off course during this time and by the late ‘90s I had little or no contact with what the label had become. I definitely remained in contact with some of the key artists that I had grown up with. Most had moved on from the label at that point and the new heaviness of Wax Trax! wasn’t part of those relationships.
A shot from right inside the shop itself featuring all four BAUHAUS members.
You went away from it all for a time, what brought you back? Nash: You have to remember that by 2002 everything was over. The label had officially been closed by TVT and fans had moved on. The genre had become bloated, and forgive me, but somewhat cliche. The fans that helped build the label had moved on with their own lives. For roughly ten years, no one cared, including myself.
Honestly, what brought me back into all of this was Dannie’s passing in 2010. I thought it was an important chapter closing for not only music history but the incredible achievements that these two guys made by just following their instincts. I felt the least I could do, as their daughter, was to tribute their lives and contributions properly.
In April 2011, my husband Mark and I, along with the help of a core group, organized and held a three-day concert event at Metro in Chicago called the Retrospectacle 33 1/3 anniversary. This charity event brought current and former artists from Front 242, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, Revolting Cocks and KMFDM, back together under the Wax Trax! umbrella for the first time in almost two decades. That really was the start of everything that is currently happening.
How quickly did you get together with Mark, Drew, and Brian to formulate this Wax Trax! documentary? Nash: Mark is my husband and getting together with him is not what you want to hear, I’m sure. But seriously, this is a great question that never gets asked and could actually be the story of its own documentary.
First, you have to realize that I have never done this before and knew absolutely nothing about making a movie when starting out. It began as something totally alien and so far away from my comfort zone. Secondly, this documentary was originally conceived as just a small bonus add-on to the then planned ‘Retrospectacle’ live DVD. We had originally found and hired a different crew in 2012 that we trusted and thought could help us form our vision. The project was derailed in 2015, and we will leave it at that.
In 2016, we said fuck it, let’s just start over. From January to September of 2016, Mark and I would fly all over the world with Brian re-interviewing all the key people you see in the film. We would immediately feed Drew all the new footage, and he would be editing simultaneously before all the interviews were even done. This film is amazing and ironically, never would have happened without the production of the 2015 version coming to a sudden stop. It was totally nuts and a crazy way to make (two) movies, and I couldn’t be happier with the end result.
Regarding Brian Schilling, he was a happy accident and jumped in out of the blue on one of the early interviews with Trent Reznor. He is a super talented cameraman, and we loved his creative input. Plus he is an all around great guy. Drew, we already knew, because he and our daughter dated in high school. Mark and I thought, “let’s see what he’s got.” This was his first feature, and he’s the real unsung hero as he has been able to boil down this incredibly dense story. We also thought it was important to have someone edit this with no background knowledge of Wax Trax! whatsoever for a clean approach on the storytelling. He did such an incredible job.
One of Ministry’s best-known songs is “Everyday Is Halloween.” The Wax Trax! single was touted as Ministry’s “comeback” single after cutting ties with Arista Records.
What did directing this mean for your job at Rush Medical Hospital? Nash: It meant a lot of crying. I’m kidding. It has been and continues to be a balancing act. Working only three days a week is super helpful, but I also work with a great group of nurses, and they are always willing to switch days if I need it. I tried to keep that part of my life separate and didn’t really tell anyone what I was doing until it was unavoidable and ended up in the press.
Did you have to take a leave to make it? Nash: I am proud to say that I did not. (I probably should have.) Surprisingly I managed to stay employed and have enough planned time off remaining to go on this mini-tour in April!!
I ordered merchandise from WaxTraxChicago in 2016. Mostly because I was surprised it was even possible to do so. A moon face Wax Trax shirt and a 242 Propaganda shirt. Please tell me they are legit... Nash: Yes, they are completely legit if you get them from us. In fact, I don’t think the 242 Propaganda shirt is going to be produced again, so good choice and a rare one for the collection.
There is actually a ton of old obscure stuff on the Wax Trax site at the moment. Is this all stuff you pulled out of the barn? Nash: Yes, it is.
I feel like there is a genuine resurgence in this music. Thirty years down the road, a lot of this material is out of print, and fans reflect on the label (and its roster) with rose-coloured glasses. Are you finding more interest in the material from this era thanks to your documentary? Nash: From what I’ve seen so far, the documentary and the original catalog, in general, have complemented each other really well. Fans of the music have sought out the film and fans of the film have reached deeper into the catalog and its artists. The film has helped put a face and a story to a lot of this material or releases that many fans had no idea about which in turn spurs interest. Keep in mind, the golden age of Wax Trax! was truly underground. It was never really “in style” and therefore was never allowed to go out of style. I think that helps the material stay current and still relevant with old as well as new fans today.
This is an old shot of Revolting Cocks from back in the Wax Trax! days.
Do you have a game plan for WaxTrax in the next five to ten years? Anything that might not be embargoed that you can share. Nash: We were really excited that The Young Gods approached us to license their new album. Unfortunately, the timing along with this release wouldn’t allow us the time or energy to do it justice. It is so unfortunate because the record is fantastic! As far as long term plans, we have some things that have been brewing, but our immediate game plan is to sit back and take a moment to enjoy the fact that this project is complete. Maybe catch up on some sleep and reconnect with friends. Making this film and curating the soundtrack has been emotional, challenging and exhausting, but also so much fun.
Talk a bit about the Record Store Day release for Industrial Accident, you have copies of the film on DVD/Blu-ray along with a beautiful soundtrack of rare material from the era to unleash upon the world on April 16th. How closely have you been working with Carrie Colliton and the Record Store Team to bring these releases to life? Nash: Carrie and the RSD folks have been so supportive and helpful during the planning of this release and tour events. We’ve been able to work closely with them as well as Vans to create something really special for fans. It’s safe to say that joining forces with these two juggernauts has been a way to elevate this film and soundtrack beyond what we thought could even be possible.
In celebration of the RSD release, you are doing a six-city ‘tour’ in April showcasing the film with a panel discussion featuring yourself and a panel of different guests in every location. Chris will be playing a few of the Ministry shows and will hopefully participate in the panels. Ministry will play some live music from the Wax Trax! days with Cold Cave opening each show. What are fans going to see here? Nash: In addition to seeing a great documentary… We will have merchandise to support the film as well as some of our classic designs from the Wax Trax! (online) shop. There will also be a special Wax Trax! exhibit in a few of these select cities. The Ministry set… I have no idea what to expect from these guys! I did see the setlist, and it is going to be everything that fans have been wanting to hear for years. This will pull from Ministry’s catalog including side projects up through Psalm 69. Basically, people will hear selections of Jourgensen’s output with nothing later than 1992.
Will this actually see Al and Paul Barker together again on stage? Nash: Unfortunately, no. The dates conflicted with Paul’s schedule, and it wasn’t possible this time around.
A shot of the Industrial Accident vinyl package.
Will there be merchandise available for sale at each stop? Nash: Yes. Lots of goodies!
When you went into this documentary, what were you hoping to achieve? Nash: As stated earlier, initially we were making this to support the Retrospectacle live component. It was intended to give people a little more insight into who was responsible for creating Wax Trax! and the reason the three-day event happened in the first place.
Do you feel you accomplished what you went in to do? Nash: Yes, we do. We wanted to put together an honest view into not only the history of store and label but also the two guys who created this incredible world. The one challenge that was difficult and something I really wanted people to experience was my dad’s wicked sense of humor. That was extremely difficult to convey without him. Fortunately, we were able to explore that further through artists stories in the bonus material from the DVD/Blu-Ray release.
And now that it’s being seen and you are hearing people’s reactions to it, do you think the film has captured the things fans remember about the label, and the bands that were on it? Nash: I think so, but hopefully new discoveries. Most importantly, I think people walk away from the film with a new knowledge and understanding of Jim and Dannie, who they were, why they did what they did, and hopefully, they feel even more a part of this big Wax Trax! family.
There is always footage that doesn’t make a final film, especially with documentaries. Can you talk a bit about some of the footage that didn’t make it into the final movie that you Mark, Drew and Brian were excited about? Nash: So so true. Especially this documentary. There are so many layers to this story, and we have so much content that we could have easily made this a mini-series. Some of our favorites we have compiled for over 75 minutes of DVD/Blu-Ray bonus material as mentioned previously.
If it exists, will this footage possibly be available at a later date for mass consumption? Nash: Never say never.
Here’s the Revolting Cocks’ official music video for “A Stainless Steel Providers” from 1990!
What do you want from the public right now in regards to this film? Their tweets? Photos? Instagram pictures? Is there a forum where they can share their Wax Trax! stories? Is that something you want or need? Nash: In so many ways, Wax Trax! exists because of its fans, not the other way around. This film is a response to the thousands of personal letters and notes we’ve received over the years sharing the intense feelings on how the label or store saved them when the majority called them ‘fags’ or tried to make them feel worthless because of the sub-culture they were into. This has always been a safe place for a lot of people, and as a result, an intense family grew organically making Wax Trax! much more than just a music label for a lot of fans. For those people we just want them to see the film. It is our way of answering all those letters, emails and posts to let them know that we heard them and they will always be family to us too.
The entire Industrial Accident film is a testament to your dad and Dannie and their mutual passion for music - do you think they’d like the documentary if they were around to see it? Nash: I sure hope so! They might feel a bit uncomfortable with terms like “legendary” or “visionary” being thrown around since they were not really fueled by ego. They were just into doing cool stuff without any conscious intent of building a legacy. I can, however, picture my dad and Dannie with wry grins knowing that even after the creative chaos and dysfunction all these years later people still give a shit.
Could you share a story around the original Wax Trax store? Something unique you remember about it from the time you got to hang around there in the 1980s/early 1990s? Nash: There are so many!!! I have two super memorable moments off the top of my head.
01.John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd came into the store and started talking with my dad. I was standing next to him and must have been about 11 or 12. My dad told them to hang tight, and he ran out to grab a newspaper so they could sign the ad for their movie ‘1941.’ I just remember my dad running out the door and left me standing there with these two guys from Saturday Night Live. I can’t remember if they were in Chicago to promote the film or if they were shooting ‘Blues Brothers’ at the time.
02. I was 13 and in town visiting my dad and Dannie over some type of school break, and my dad got me a DJ gig at 950. He made signs and taped them to the registers “PRETEEN WORLD with DJ Julia Nash” ‘Preteen World’ was a skit on SCTV, and although it is hilarious it’s not so hilarious when you are 13 and not preteen! So in comes Duran Duran to shop at the store and when they came to the register to pay they noticed the ‘Preteen World’ sign and said they were going to come. I was 13 and mortified! ‘Planet Earth’ was hot off the presses, and they wore their new romantic blouses and were so cute!! They indeed showed up to my DJ gig, and Simon LeBon and John Taylor came into the DJ booth to compliment me on playing Roxy Music’s ‘Do The Strand’.”
WAX TRAX! Records releases the documentary and soundtrack Industrial Accident: The Story of WAX TRAX! RECORDS on April 16h. You can pre-order the film here, and find info about a special Record Store Day exclusive soundtrack due on April 13th right here.