ISSUE #53 / March 28, 2019
Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records
Julia Nash is the daughter of Jim Nash, famed owner of one of Chicago’s, (and really the world’s), most influential record stores and labels. Wax Trax! Was a key player in the ‘80s and ‘90s in the experimental dance and post-punk scene and served as the proving grounds for many of the acts that would become synonymous with the term “industrial.” Julia has spent the last decade compiling and editing footage from home movies and interviews and shaping them into what is now an award-winning documentary that tells the full story of her father’s label Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records. The soundtrack to the documentary will be released on Record Store Day 2019, and Julia was gracious enough to speak with us about her work compiling the documentary, the legacy of Wax Trax!, and life, both inside and outside the music industry. The conversation was recorded over the phone and transcribed below, edited for content and clarity.
JN: Julia Nash
CCS: Good Morning, Julia, thank you for agreeing to speak with me about your documentary and its forthcoming soundtrack.
JN: No problem! Good morning to you as well.
CCS: Why was it important for you to make this film?
JN: The impetus for making the film came out of the three-day event in 2011, Retrospectacle 33 1/3, which was put together to pay tribute to my Dad (Jim Nash) and Dannie (Flesher). It was a respectful send-off and a way for everyone to get together one last time. It wasn’t supposed to go past that in any way, but speaking with the fans during that three-day event was just incredible. I had no idea the impact that the record store and the label had on people, or just how my dad and Dannie had managed to change so many lives. The film is for people knew my dad and Dannie as well as those who didn’t. It’s a about a wonderful place, and the two people who made it possible.
CCS: Right, but making a film like this is an enormous effort in terms of both time and emotional investment. I understand that it was important for others to hear this story and have this documentation, but why was it ultimately a worthwhile project for you?
JN: It really was for the fans, really. But because I and my husband aren’t filmmakers, we had no idea how horribly grueling it was going to be (laughs). I don’t think if we had known we would have done it. We would have thought, “Oh that would be cool,” but then we would never do it (laughs). But in all honesty it was for the fan base. Wax Trax fans are just the most incredible, kind, sweet, loyal, dedicated people, and the outpouring of love and support they’ve shown me and my family… I just felt like, ‘I owe this to you guys, you should see this!’ Headed into the filmmaking and editing process, it was very emotional and difficult for me, and I ended up having to hand things off to my husband Drew and our editor Mark Angle from time to time. Now that it’s done, I’m incredibly proud of the film and the work we did. I don’t know if my dad would be proud or pissed that I spent so much time editing together all this old footage, but I think it’s a great thing for the world to have and my kids to have as well.
CCS: It almost sounds like you’ve made a home movie that you are now sharing with the rest of us.
JN: Basically, yeah. It’s very intimate and personal. The biggest challenge was capturing my dad’s sense of humor. It’s one of those things that if you knew him, you know about it, and getting enough of it into the film was such a challenge. The bonus disc has a few stories that will really enlighten people and inform them about the type of humor that he had.
CCS: So definitely watch the bonus disc when it’s available?
JN: Yes! It will be included with both the DVD and Blu Ray.
CCS: That will be out this April?
JN: Yes, April 16th is when it is all released.
CCS: You did a lot of great interviews for the film, but was there anyone you wanted to talk to but couldn’t?
JN: We asked everyone who we thought was important to the story. It was kind of a drag that we couldn’t talk to Marilyn Manson and some others who had credited Wax Trax as an influence or had been involved in related projects but wouldn’t do it because the timing was wrong or something. We just had to stop filming at some point. We had between fifty or seventy interviews in the end.
CCS: Oh, wow!
JN: There were also people who we had interviewed, and who had great stories, but what they talked about didn’t fit with the narrative of the film. We just couldn’t include everyone. We talked to store employees, Cynthia Plaster Caster, my uncle, my aunt, Dannie’s brother… we started out wanting to do a quick “dip your toe in” origin story for dad and Dannie, but with the way the story was going, and the flow of it, people have to get dropped out. In all honesty, the history of what dad and Dannie did in just a few years could be its own mini-series.
CCS: What were the hardest parts to cut to get the interviews down to a manageable length?
JN: For me personally, the hardest things to cut down were conversations with my family. At least I have them recorded now. But a lot of little stories that ended up on the bonus disc are some of the biggest stories for me. I was talking with my husband about this the other day; we both really want to show off the bonus material. It’s an hour-plus of material. It’s like a whole other film. We love it!
CCS: One thing I’m sure a bunch of people are wondering- how did you come up with the name Industrial Accident for the film?
JN: My husband and I started making this film in 2012 with a different director under the name Monumentary, which was a name my daughter came up with. She’s great at naming things. But when we rebooted the project we brainstormed names with a few people. We had some ideas that played off of a Revolting Cocks theme that would be fun, but may have prevented us from getting wider distribution (laughs). I think it was Ken Waagner who came up with the name Industrial Accident, and it really seemed to fit.
CCS: Do you mind if we unpack the name a little more? Wax Trax was known for releasing a lot of industrial music, harsh dance mixes, and post-punk in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but this happened organically; no one intend to cultivate a scene. Your dad and Dannie moved the store from Denver to Chicago, and then started releasing music through a label without any real plan.
JN: Yes, that’s the “accident” part. What they were doing got labeled “industrial” which my dad hated. People have to label everything. He didn’t feel like it fit what he was doing at all.
CCS: You, Paul Barker, and others have pushed back on the “industrial” label in the past. Your dad wasn’t happy with it, either. Why don’t you think the label applies to Wax Trax?
JN: I’m not speaking for Paul, but you couldn’t label what was on Wax Trax as just one thing. Its catalog runs the gamut. You can’t say Chris Connelly is industrial. To me, industrial is more like Test Dept or Throbbing Gristle- those types of groups.
CCS: So deconstructed post-punk?
JN: Yes, exactly! My dad didn’t have a plan. Everything came back to his love for music. He operated on the premise that, “This is what I like, this is what I’m putting out, I think it’s amazing, more people should hear this.” He never thought about whether something would fit in the “industrial” category. It was nothing like that.
CCS: How did moving the shop from Denver to Chicago and change the trajectory of what Wax Trax became?
JN: It opened things up. This was a big city. Denver did not have that same vibe. It was a better hub for fostering a scene, for sure. They found more like-minded people here. It didn’t have that much to do with them being gay men either. They were just two dudes working on a label. Unfortunately, for the time, their relationship was still somewhat closeted as it wasn’t something that was widely accepted at the time.
CCS: They couldn’t live their lives “out,” per se. Not in the same way a couple can now.
JN: It makes me think sometimes about what they would be doing if they were still around. Would they still be doing music? Or would they just be content being grandfathers? Like, would they be done with all this sh*t with the music business? I have no idea (laughs). But it’s fun to think about. I do know that my dad would still be helping me fix things around the house. They were both so great that way (laughs).
CCS: So things wouldn’t have changed domestically, but do you think Jim and Dannie would have taken another career path?
JN: That’s hard to say. Music was a deep deep love of theirs, and I don’t think they would ever turn their backs on it entirely. I do know they would be excited to see what everyone is doing today. Chris Connelly for instance, you can’t even touch that guy and his creativity.
CCS: Would they be surprised that people still have so much interest in the music they put out?
JN: Yes. But then again, no. It really did hit me while making the documentary how much of the music they put out still resonates. A lot of that stuff still sounds contemporary.
CCS: Who are some of the acts carrying forward the Wax Trax legacy today?
JN: Off the top of my head, Youth Code would be one. They are doing something so different, and they are super awesome people. I really love Boy Harsher. Cold Cave, also. Cold Cave will be opening for Ministry during the mini-tour they’ll be doing for the film release in April.
CCS: It’s great to hear you give shout-outs to so many hard working bands. Do you mind if I ask why you didn’t follow in you father’s footsteps in terms of a career? I believe you told me previously that you work in healthcare now.
JN: Yes, I’m an oncology nurse. The reason I didn’t get into music is because I thought the industry was totally sleazy and f*cked up (laughs). I just didn’t want to deal with it. But music is so ingrained in every aspect of my life at home. My family wakes up, the Sonos comes on, and my daughter fills up the playlist. We are such music lovers at my house! But growing up and being a part of it, seeing everything that was going on… if I love something, I don’t want to be involved in the business side of it. I don’t want it to be ruined.
CCS: Your dad didn’t care much for the business side of music either it seems. None of the bands on his label had contracts; they were allowed to take their masters with them when they left. It was more about the art and community than the commerce it seems.
JN: He would be so crushed when people would leave the label for that very reason. I think the hardest for him was when Thrill Kill Kult left. That was heartbreaking for him. He was really all about community.
CCS: Speaking of community, there are many parts of Chicago that are rapidly gentrifying and it is putting a lot of pressure on our local artist communities. Do you think it’s still possible for a label or a record store like Wax Trax to be a third place, or a focal point for a community in Chicago?
JN: It’s different now. Most stuff is online. But you can still go to record stores and concerts and meet people. You just have to make it happen.
CCS: Right, but the original store was in Lincoln Park, and that is not a neighborhood where a community like the one that formed around Wax Tracks can thrive anymore.
JN: There will always be places in the city where artists can come together. Right now Pilsen is still one of those neighborhoods. Probably because it’s more isolated than places like Wicker Park. If they ever route an L line down there then you know sh*t is rolling down hill (laughs).
CCS: In addition to the documentary, you’ve also revived the Wax Trax label. How has that been going?
JN: Good. As far as releases, we did that first Cocksure 12”, we released Paul Barker’s Low and Slow, a 242 7”, and we talked with Young Gods about releasing their new record, but with the documentary we just don’t have the manpower. It’s a bummer, because that new record is fantastic! Our priority right now is the soundtrack for Industrial Accident. We need to get that into the hands of people and promote it properly. Once that settles down we have other ideas in the works. We’d really love to do a coffee table book of all the Wax Trax art. We have so much imagery, its mind blowing! We’re giving folks a tiny little taste of what we have in a booklet that will come with the disc of the documentary.
CCS: Any more visual projects in the works? Maybe a VH1 special?
JN: Give us a break! No way, this is a one time deal (laughs)! If I had endless amounts of cash, I could break the footage up into such a great little series. Some people will be mad that we didn’t feature their favorite band, but we only have so much time. And we had to make room for the story of the label, too. People who know nothing about the music have watched it and then told me afterwards what an amazing story it is. They might not be Ministry fans, but they’ve told me that we’ve made a beautiful film. Hearing that is such a great feeling.
CCS: For newcomers- people who maybe aren’t familiar with the Wax Trax story- what do you hope they take away from the film?
JN: I hope people don’t think it’s too corny to say this, but be yourself. Do what you love. The story of these two guys who just loved what they did and brought people in to share their passion- it is a story of two people who were unstoppable. The sh*t that they did in no time at all, it’s incredible. Take chances. Take risks. That’s the message I want people to take away from the film.
CCS: I don’t think that is corny at all. That sounds like a great message. Thank you, Julia. This has been an outstanding conversation.
JN: For sure. Thank you!
The soundtrack to Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records will be released on April 13, 2019 (Record Store Day). It will be available at participating retailers. You can also preorder it by visiting their website.