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Thomas Truax merges a fevered imagination and solid song writing with a mad scientist’s brain for quirky gadgets. American singer songwriter, inventor and artist, Truax is cited as “one of the great rock eccentrics” and creates unique sounds that sit in the space between art-rock, post-punk, steam punk and his own distinctive brand of surreal Americana. Attending one of his shows is much more than a gig; it is an experience as you wonder just HOW he creates a symphony’s worth of soundscapes with his guitar Hank, loop pedal and evolving band of self-made instruments including a motorized drum machine made of bike wheels called Mother Superior, a pimped-up Dr. Seuss style Gramophone called The Hornicator and the Stringaling, all of whom accompany him on his current tour. Truax crafts rich, poetically evocative songs about insects trees, technology and a lifelong obsession with things lunar, treating the audience to fan favourites such as ‘Full Moon over Wowtown’ whilst projecting a moon onto the ceiling from end of his guitar, lighting up the faces of the crowd as he laced his way through the Green Door Store in Brighton. Thomas told GIITV that his latest album ‘Dream Catching Songs’ was a collaboration between Mother Superior and Budgie, and treated many of his Full Moon Club devotees in the crowd to some special tracks including ‘Fat Spider.’ Thomas never stops creating, writing new material every time there is a full moon and sharing it with with club members on Bandcamp, saying “part of the charm of the Full Moon tracks is that I may be as surprised as you are about what comes next.

Thomas has just teamed up with Budgie, the legendary Siouxsie and the Banshees drummer for his latest album, ‘Dream Catching Songs.‘ The trio of Mother Superior, Budgie and Truax found a special sort of synergy as they began work on Thomas’ tenth studio album. The musical triumvirate came about through a chance encounter and for Budgie and Mother Superior- a whirlwind romance.  While touring endlessly through Europe, Thomas found himself based in Germany for a time and it was at a festival in Dortmund where he and Budgie had chance to get properly acquainted. Thomas explained:

“We had a great conversation over dinner. I’d been a fan of his work since my teenage days in Denver. My performance was scheduled for later and he hadn’t seen it yet. I warned him that sometimes human drummers take offence to Mother Superior… but when I finished my set I went backstage and there was Budgie, waiting in the wings saying how much he loved my set. He was even holding a flower for Mother Superior and saying he was in love with her.”

The trio laid down the album’s foundations in Germany, before Thomas returned to Birmingham where he is now based to finish the album off over lockdown in his own home studio. 

“My tendency is to work slowly and if someone doesn’t stop me. I”ll work on the tiniest details forever,” says Thomas. “Budgie likes to work faster and stresses the value of spontaneity.” 

With previous supporters and collaborators that include Jarvis Cocker, Duke Special, James Smith of Yard Act, Richard Hawley, drummer Brian Viglione (Dresden Dolls, Violent Femmes) and the late author Terry Pratchett, Thomas Truax has released ten studio LPs to date including a highly-rated covers album ‘Songs From The Films of David Lynch’.  His latest album, ‘Dream Catching Songs‘ was released in January 2023.

Thomas Truax sat down with  GIITTV in one of Brighton’s great Independent Venues under the train arches, The Green Door Store. Its bare bricks and cobbled floors gave a gritty creative vibe where anything goes before his gig. He chatted to us while Mother Superior and the Hornicator rested on the stage awaiting the show, ready to enthral the audience later that evening.

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Thomas Truax- Credit-Sara- Louise Bowrey

“Both  Mother Superior and the Hornicator are  here tonight. I built quite a few of my instruments, but not the guitar,” he joked. His beautiful machine Mother Superior sat gleaming. “Mother Superior and Budgie have a ‘thing’… a drummer thing that I don’t really understand. I thought that maybe he wouldn’t like her…she’s a drum machine and drummers tend to find that threatening  but  Mother Superior and Budgie get along really well.”  Thomas honed his technical skills in his day job as an animator  for MTV’s Celebrity Deathmatch and Cartoon Network’s Robot  Chicken. Born in  Colorado, he lived in Berlin and now Birmingham and Dream Catching Songs is his tenth album.

Is it easier to tour with machines or humans?

Well, it depends. The machines don’t drive themselves or carry themselves up the stairs but other than that they are much easier. You don’t have to feed them or anything.

Was Krautrock an influence on your art ?

Krautrock was around my whole life and background and I was influenced a lot by that. Germany embraces everything in one way or another, but It is hard to say, in the internet age, where everything comes from.

 Did you start building instruments young? 

In a way I did. I was always building things and when I got into music for the longest time I didn’t  put two and two together. I built models when I was a kid and then I built  what I called a synthesizer out of an old record player, kind of like one of my drum machines when the turntable spun around I had things on it that it would hit.

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Mother Superior- Thomas Truax Photo Credit: Sara-Louise Bowrey

Siouxsie and the Banshees ‘s drummer Budgie is on your latest record, ‘Dream Catching Songs.’ How was it collaborating with him?

It was great. He’s very easy going in a lot of ways and works very fast.  He likes to play off of lyrics and things and listens to the lyrics and the lyrical delivery and plays off of that and also the machines and I sit around and dissect things and I probably dissected some of his drums – that’s the way I work and there were times when I sat there doing the sort of  post production work on the songs where I thought, “This is really exciting having the drummers from Siouxsie and the Banshees- one of my childhood heroes,” you know.

You have had other high profile fans and collaborators too, like the late Terry Prachett, Brian Viglione from Dresden Dolls and Violent Femmes, Richard Horley and Jarvis Cocker.

Yea Richard Horley, came to some shows of mine. We have mutual friends and we talked about all kinds of things. He was going to take me on tour and then the politics of the business got in the way. He was going to produce some stuff for me but,again, he is somebody that after one of my shows he came up at the end of the show and I don’t even want to say what he said as he was SO incredibly flattering saying, “It was one of the BEST gigs I’ve ever seen,” so for me that’s a nice thing to get on my good side, he laughed. I collaborated with Jarvis, but not with Richard.

..and I initially met Jarvis Cocker when he was doing rehearsals in the arches in London where he did a kind of happening thing where for a week or more his band was rehearsing and having performers come in and people jam with him. Again, another person playing in his band knew me and said, “Hey come down and play with Jarvis” at this thing and then the show they were doing I think it was the next night. Jarvis and I got talking and he said, “Why don’t you play support?” That was a nice surprise.

Dream Catching Songs’ is your tenth album. Has the music industry changed much over the years?

Not in a massive way. I try to constantly challenge myself so if I ever feel like I am replicating things that I have done before then I usually throw it out  and try and twist it in some new way and things have changed around more than what I have done

For example, in the early 2000s when I first started playing festivals in the UK, there was almost a thing where if you  had a loop pedal then it was like you were cheating  and even though I use it. It was my novelty thing for a while , but you  almost felt like, “Am I really getting away with this?” Now EVERYBODY and their brother expects to have a loop or pre-recorded stuff on the stage and I still kind of follow somewhat of a rule of not having pre recorded stuff in my live shows …so it’s all live.

Over the years, the subject matter of your songs seemed to focus on insects trees, technology and lots on the moon. In ‘Dream Catching Songs,’ you have been including more topical and political themes.

Of course, what I sing about  that is going to  change over the years. I don’t know if that’s for better or worse. I probably write  more topical stuff and political stuff  than I used to. I think when you start making rock n roll music you are just thinking about trying to attract girls and trying to have a crazy good time and talk about how miserable you are and then once you have done that once you have written enough songs about that you start looking around outside yourself….  The Moon and Nature has always been there but I think this sort of miserable music that I used to make. There is still some of that…We are all miserable sometimes, he laughs, and I also still have a healthy disrespect for completely happy music.

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Thomas Truax- Credit- Sara-Louise Bowrey

Has where you lived influenced  your your musical output art; Colorado, Berlin, Birmingham for example?

It always does sometimes you don’t see it happening, but then when you go away from it, you recognise something that if you listen back. When I was a kid in Colorado I wanted to get out of there and it wasn’t until later when I look back that I saw that there was a great underground music scene happening there and a certain sound that I didn’t respect as much until I left it which is kind of so true of live and many things that happen so yea…I hear that now.

Is it easier to see things more clearly from a telescopic distance?  Yea I think so….  Does that influence your art?

Yea. When you are making music its an exercise in zooming in close or trying to get the birds eye view and looking at things from different angles. 

Has Birmingham had an influence?

It probably has and it will probably be more apparent to me if I’m standing away from it.  There’s some obvious things about Birmingham. It’s an industrial capital. Machine making and things like that are quintessential parts of Birmingham…. (Machines are, of course, an integral part of Truax’s craft) It’s a rapidly changing town. It’s great to be in a place that doesn’t necessarily have that sparkly reputation of a lot of other places, but to see it really  quickly metamorphosising into something bigger and hopefully better is really interesting.

Is there spontaneity in the live gigs. Can it change from place to place?   Yea…  I’m not that much of an improvisor but I improvise with spaces and I always try to assess what the audience and vibe of the room is on a given night, so that influences things and when you are not playing in a group of people you don’t have to have a meeting with the rest of them if you decide to change a song or setlist. I always have a set list but I often break away from it if I feel like ‘this part’s not working’ or ‘I’m gonna go in a different direction.’ There are pieces where  I will lay down a basic loop and then go crazy and improvise on top of it so I almost contradict what I just said

Later that night from the stage Truax looked down at the crowd smiling and said, “In an interview earlier I was asked if I was asked if I improvised… and I said no…but I just have…” He laughed. He also thrilled audiences by walking out the side door half way through the gig continuing to play his music in the street and walking back in the back door without missing a beat. He could be heard singing outside, projecting his moon at the sky before entering through the back door with his guitar carrying on with the same song to the joy of the audience. Truax keeps his  writing fresh and urgent by spontaneously writing a song for Full Moon Club devotees every time the moon is at its fullest. The synergy and circuitry between the audience, artist and his machines is unique and uplifting. He takes us all into his weird world during the show and the audience embraces every unexpected avenue that he takes us down. The music itself is tight and high quality and the means to which is is created is much more than novelty- we are all in awe of the quality of the music that is being produced by such a random selection of mechanical treasures.

Going forward, are there any musical plans?   I have been so focussed on this recently that there is a gaping hole afterwards I’ve got some ideas. I’m sure I’ll fill that in as soon as I’ve finished this tour.

Traux blew the audience away that night at the gig at The Green Door Store, with his bandmates Mother Superior, The Hornicator, Hank and The Stringaling. No wonder Richard Hawley and Jarvis Cocker are such huge fans. Thomas’ latest album, Dream Catching Songs, is out now- Order here : MUSIC – Thomas Truax Central

See Thomas Live:

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Photo Credits: Sara- Louise Bowrey

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.