Oregon Music News: Oregon’s all-genre music magazine since 2009

02/06/2019

"Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax Records!" : Reel Music 36

By BOBBY SCHENK // You can see it on Friday, February 8 @ 7:00pm and Saturday, February 9 @ 4:30pm at Whitsell Auditorium of the Portland Art Museum.

OMN is happy to be a media sponsor of Northwest Film Center's Reel Music 36. You can see it on Friday, February 8 @ 7:00pm and Saturday, February 9 @ 4:30pm at Whitsell Auditorium of the Portland Art Museum.

This is the kind of music documentary that needs to exist.

When I think of this film I immediately want to drive to the nearest record store, buy a Ministry album and smash it against my face out of sheer love for what it represents.

Focusing not just on the history of the record store but on the development of the industrial music genre in the United States, this movie is a true synthesis of what Wax Trax! Was not just for the artists but for the people as well: a family. Founded in Denver, Colorado in 1978 as a record shop celebrating and glorifying all things counterculture, the film moves on to chronicle the evolution of the Wax Trax! from a gathering space for music lovers into a label breaking cutting edge music throughout America by licensing bands from Europe, organizing tours and developing a catalog that would go on to become repersentative of the '80s underground movement.

But the true punch in the gut this movie provides is found in the love story between the two founders, Jim Nash and Dannie Flesher. Julie Nash, who wrote and produced the film, does a terrific job at painting a picture of Nash and Flesher not just as a partnership but as a team, two halves of the same whole. The film opens with a derelict building stuffed full of collapsing cardboard boxes. The voice-over makes it sound more like a low budget horror movie than a musical documentary.

Nash was married and had two children before he met Dannie, discovering his sexuality which led to a relationship that lasted 27 years. The screen soon fills with rich, saturated photos of the kind of underground scene every high school punk dreams of being apart of, and Nash and Flesher had the keys to the basement.

Show posters and dusty Kodak photographs combined with interviews from label employees, band members and friends form a band of misfits that didn't just find records when they walked into that store on Ogden Street. The movie takes us through the 80s in their entirety, ignoring the rollerblades and hairspray in favor of music that no one knew existed. As the store became more and more successful, Wax Trax! eventutally moved to Chicago, Illinois setting up shop on Lincoln Avenue.

Starting with singles by John Waters' movie queen Divine, as well as Immediate Action in 1981, the record shop soon began licensing and distributing records from European artists such as Front 242. As Wax Trax! began to license more and more records, they also began working with Al Jourgensen, putting out his first single 'Cold Life'. The success of this record combined with a growing interest in Jourgensen's music led to the formation of Ministry, generally credited as one of the pioneers of the Industrial Metal genre.

Nash and Flesher continued to support his career, eventually booking Front 242, a European act that they had licensed for Wax Trax! as the openers for Ministry's first headlining tour in 1984. The film moves through the 80s recording the development of Jourgensen and his side projects as well as the increasing popularity of the artists Nash and Flesher believed in, eventually culminating in a successful catalog with over 120 releases.

The label rise was as meteoric as its fall, however and eventually the duo had to file for bankruptcy as the commercial appeal of industrial music spiked the interest of major record labels, leading to many of the artists on the label separating and taking their backlog of records with them. The story arc between Nash and Flesher and their relationship stays refreshingly stable, and the soundtrack is haywire; a virtual bible for any fan of the industrial genre and a roadmap for the newbies.

Despite the history, the graphics, the archival photographs and concert footage, what really held my interest throughout the 90 minute movie was the motivation of Jim and Dannie. Their connection, the belief and love they held for what bands like the Revolting Cocks and the Thrill Kill Kult brought to the public, is what unites music nerds throughout the whole world and probably the whole universe: a rock solid faith in the power of music and what it can do for other people.

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