Dear Readers, we are pleased to offer you in this article an interview with an American Rock artist. Welcome Wax Mekanix.
Hi, how are you?
Thanks so much for inviting me. 2022 has been a good year for me and I’m really looking forward to 2023. I can’t overstate how much I appreciate your interest in what I’m doing. What you do
and how you do it is so important for independent artists like me.
You offer a 70s-inspired Rock genre but with your own personal style, where does your passion for music and these sounds come from?
Primarily, I’m known as a rock artist. My creative history started as a founding member of American heavy cult rockers, Nitro in 1980, so my love of snarling, strident, slamming guitars, bass, and drums is at my core. When I’m making my records, I usually start there and then bring in other diverse influences.
Since I am an American male born in the 60’s, with roots in a small town in Pennsylvania, I was exposed to the typical music, culture, and art in the same way as millions of others like me. Specifically, TV along with AM and FM radio permeated everything. That was lots pop music, rock, folk, blues, some classical, all connected with the earworms that were advertising jingles. Also, I had siblings that influenced my music tastes until the time I moved away from home at about the age of 17. In my early teens, I started to learn to play drums and guitar. In parallel with that, my tastes started to focus on British rock and American Rock. Big influences for me at that time were The Beatles, Dylan, Neil Young, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Kiss, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Boston, The Cars, Steely Dan, and others like that.
My tastes and influences are really broad and cross many genres, for sure. A good place to see this is in a cool playlist that is some of my all-time favorite tunes:
“Mobocracy” was released in 2020 and also received a Grammy Award, how would you describe this record?
Mobocracy was the manifestation of the vibes I was getting from 2015 until it was released. America, and the world, was going through some serious tectonic shifts socially, politically, and economically. The anger, frustration, and general sense of unease was everywhere. As I was writing and recording the songs, whatever was in the ether was seeping into my work. Like other artists, I take stuff in and then give it back relative to how I do what I do. I was one of many commenting on the times I found myself in.
I didn’t set out to make a “statement”. I was basically letting the tracks define what they wanted to be and then did all I could to facilitate that. I do more following of my records than leading them anywhere, honestly. It ended up being a heavy rock record with flourishes of pop, folk, and industrial. Overall, it acknowledged my influences of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s while keeping eyes on the current musical horizon.
A special version of this work is coming out, what will listeners find special about this re-release?
The special version is called ‘Mobocracy Deluxe’. It brings together 2020’s ‘Mobocracy’, 2021’s ‘Blunt’, and some interesting rare extras that are part of that creative period for me. I wanted to bring all of that stuff together in one release since it’s all one conversation that I was having with my audience at that time.
Although sonically different, ‘Mobocracy’ and ‘Blunt’ are really similar thematically. The extras on ‘..Deluxe’ are there illustrate a bit of how I go about making my records. I really like this kind of thing from artists I follow, so I’m trying to do that with my work for my audience. Also, in addition to streaming and downloading, it’s in CD format for those who have asked for that. In some ways, it feels like the satisfying closing of a creative chapter for me as I move forward into some new territory sonically and thematically, so it was important to draw a line in the sand in this way so I can feel right about moving on to some cool
stuff I’m doing next.
Several artists participated in the album, what did they bring to your sound?
The reason my records are held in such high regard is because they are different and sound good, technically. This is a direct result of the diverse and breathtakingly talented people that helped make ‘…Deluxe’. In general, I invent the songs and the ideas about any record I’m making. Sometimes I co-write, but it’s usually me carving out the things alone. I then call on my amazing musician friends to help me execute the tunes in the studio. Once that’s in the can, two awesome producers perfect it. The diversity is a huge influence since it spans genres and brings disparate notions to my core of heavy rock guitars, bass, and drums. Encouraging this intermingling of styles is liberating, excting, and usually invites new ideas that spark other ideas that make what I do sound somewhat unique and specific to me. If I do anything, I try to
create an environment where interesting things can happen.
As example, I did some writing and recording with dirty, funky, heavy, groove merchants Crobot. Specifically, guitarist Chris Bishop and vocalist Brandon Yeagley. I also have pulled from my NWOBHM brother, Nitro guitarist John Hazel. My Philadelphia urban crew was guitarist Wendell ‘Pops’ Sewell, and vocalists Marissa Wolner and M11SON. They were joined by Philly legend Tommy Conwell. Lectriq and I
also did some backing vocals. Leader and guitarist of doom rockers The Stone Eye, Stephen Burdick dropped in, too for some tast guitar on a few tracks. Doing a ton of ferocious heavy lifting on guitar and bass was my pal of 30 + years, Tom Altman. Tom and I have so much in common musically and personally, that I can’t
imagine making my records without him. He’s steeped in the same things I was and knows me so well. He’s patient with me, and almost telepathically translates my vague ideas into magnificent performances that are both tributes to our shared influences and fresh at the same time. He’s a joy to work with that I’m so greatful for. The two sonic architects are a crack team of Philly’s 100%-er Max ‘Lectriq’ Laskavy and
legendary Gene ‘Machine’ Freeman. I’m the weakest link in the chain for sure and feel so fortunate to have such a solid team. Making records with them is fun and a learning experience at the same time.
Will there be a chance to hear your music live, do you have any plans in this regard?
I’m rehearsing now for some dates to start in 2023. It’ll be a raw, heavy, loud, snarling gang of four. Consisting of two guitars, bass, and drums cranked to 11. Our mission statement is to reimagine the jams on ‘Mobocracy Deluxe’ and hammer out some farm-fresh unreleased songs. We will start playing around Philadelphia and see what happens from there. We’re eager to get out there and see how far we can push
these songs to keep them fresh and fun.
You are also a founding member of the band Nitro, what can you tell us about that?
We started Nitro in 1980 and had a very focused mission. In our late teens and early 20’s, we were taking in European and American heavy rock, and passing it through our lens of tight, heavy, loud, aggressive guitar, bass, drums, and howling. Dana Confer is the voice of Nitro, John Hazel the guitarist, Brad Gensimore pounds the bass, and I keep the beat. Our original songs were searing snapshots of American-made adrenaline and sweat much like some of our contemporaries, Metallica and Anthrax. We forged a DIY EP called ‘LETHAL’ in ‘82, were picked up by Belgian metal label Mausoleum in ‘83, recorded and gigged relentlessly until about ‘87. We never broke up and are still good friends, play together sometimes, and have reissued tons of vintage and new Nitro in the 2000’s. Nothing is planned for new Nitro right now, but we never say never.
Do you have plans for a new record in the near future?
Yes! In fact, I just finished recording a handful of new tracks. I hope they’ll be out in early 2023. It’s now in the hands of producers, Machine and Lectriq for mixing and mastering. It’s certanly different from anything on ‘Mobocracy Deluxe’. The new songs are trippy, very heavy, catchy, and a bit psychedelic. Imagine if Black Sabbath, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and The Beach Boys made a record together today. I think it maght sound like what we are doing next. If all goes as planned, we will be ripping through these songs live in ‘23!
Music has changed a lot over the years and is constantly evolving, how do you see the future of the Rock genre?
The only constant in music is that it changes constantly! For all of the obvious flaws, the internet democratized music releases and it’s wonderful. A profound change, for sure. I think that this has changed the trajectory of rock in that it will invite in all kinds of hybridization. Some will be awesome and some will suck. What is most exciting is that new and hugely talented artists now can have their work presented to the world with few boundries. Those who succeed will work hard, work consistently, and work smart alongside the greats. I can’t wait for what’s on the horizon.
What advice would you give to young artists approaching music with Rock sounds?
Honestly, I would not be presumptious enough to know what is good for others. Especially, since art is so personal and unique to each artists. That said, if I was asked this question by anyone aspiring to be creative, I’d recommend to do what makes them happy. Create what pleases and satisfies them. Regardless of what anyone thinks. Full stop. It sounds like a cliche, but it’s the central posture that will sustain any artist across the arc of a career. Fashion, trends, and tastes change, so trying to chase or satisfy that would be tough,
and usually ends up in a place that’s not why creative people do the work. The way I see the decades of my creative life is as a trip, a process, a journey, not a destination. The making of the creative piece is the point for me. It’s not about commercial or critical acceptance/approval. That’s nice if you can get that, but those things are not why I do what I do. Check in with yourself from time to time to verify that you’re still doing it for the reasons that make sense for you.
Thanks to Wax Mekanix for the interview, wishing him all the best for the continuation of his artistic career.
Thanks again for sharing your audience with me. Keep doing the great work!