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Waking Wax Trax

By The Beachwood Music Desk

"Dannie Flesher, who oversaw the internationally acclaimed Wax Trax record store and label in Chicago during the '80s and '90s, has died at age 58," Greg Kot of the Tribune reported last week.

"Flesher died [January 10th] in his home town of Hope, Ark., of pneumonia. He had dropped out of the music business after Wax Trax folded and his life and label partner Jim Nash died in 1995. Flesher had returned to Arkansas in 2005 to live with family members.

"Nash and Flesher opened a Wax Trax store in Denver in the '70s, then moved their operation to Lincoln Avenue in 1978. Their store, stocked with imported punk and electronic music, defined the cutting edge and was like the city's island of misfit toys, where punks, freaks and outsiders gathered to buy music, advertise shows and plot their futures.

"In the '80s, the store expanded into a label that became the world headquarters for boundary-pushing artists who bridged disco, electronic music, rock, and the avant-garde. Some dubbed the sound 'industrial disco,' an umbrella term that included Ministry, Front 242, Underworld, KMFDM, and My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult, underground acts who went on to sell millions of records."

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"Wax Trax! was the epicenter of the industrial-music explosion in the mid- and late-'80s, with a staggering number of artists - including Ministry, Front 242, KMFDM, Revolting Cocks, Pigface - getting their start or otherwise working with the label during its heyday," Kyle Ryan of The A.V. Club writes. "It also heavily influenced Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, who mentioned during the band's final Chicago show being 'in love with Chicago and the Wax Trax! label' when the group started.

"In his book Concrete, Bulletproof, Invisible + Fried: My Life As A Revolting Cock, [Chris] Connelly describes how some of Wax Trax!'s artists treated the label and its eponymous record store as personal ATMs, so it's perhaps unsurprising that Wax Trax! went bankrupt in the early '90s. TVT bought it, but the party was over by the time [co-founder Jim] Nash died of AIDS-related illness in 1995. Flesher mostly stayed out of the business and kept a low profile after that."

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"[T]he impact the music on their label had on me was literally life-changing," Tom at Waveformless writes. "The label was what introduced me to industrial dance music and made my angsty teenage years just a little bit more tolerable. All these years later, I'm actually making my living from this kind of music. I don't have anything profound to say, so I'll just leave it at "thanks for the music."

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"This Chicago store was the destination of one [of our] awesome late night road trips," Ryan Cooper writes on his About.com punk music blog. "We arrived in Chicago in the wee hours and drank coffee, waiting for the shop to open. Once it did, we popped in and stayed just long enough to load our arms up with a few hundred dollars worth of records before hitting the road back to Michigan. That day sticks with me, both because it was a great day and because I still listed to a lot of the music I bought that day . . .

"Wax Trax left an indelible mark on the musicians involved, too. When I spoke with Paul Raven shortly before his death, Raven (a member of Ministry at the time) fondly remembered his time as a member of 'the Wax Pack,' and of all of the amazing musicians attached to the projects. It was a nostalgic interview, reminding me of a lot of names I'd not heard in years, but also giving me a glimpse that that was an era that meant as much to the musicians involved as it did to the fans."

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Wax Trax discography.

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Black Box: The First 13 Years.

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Wax Trax Denver.

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on January 19, 2010


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