Review Fix Exclusive: Wax Mekanix Talks ‘Freak Boutique’ And More

Review Fix chats with singer/songwriter Wax Mekanix, who discusses their career and new single, “Freak Boutique” and so much more.

Review Fix: How did you get involved in music?

Wax Mekanix: I’m an America guy, born in the early 60’s and raised in a small town, so that covers a lot of territory that can help illustrate what I was exposed to.  

I always loved music and embraced it in my life early on.  In my young teens I started teaching myself to play drums, guitar, and harmonica.  That, along with my interest in writing was quite the imagination incubator.  I was always creating something out of almost nothing, or so it seemed.  That spark and process has been with me for a long time.

In 1980, I joined what would become American cult rockers Nitro.  We started as a central PA garage band, evolved into a bar band, started writing original tunes, made a DIY record, got signed to a European label called Mausoleum Records in ‘83, landed on the pages of some cool European magazines like ‘Kerrang’ and ‘Sounds’, and played around the east coast of the US as we did lots of recording.  We went dormant in about ‘88, but kept playing together and separately in different forms until about 2012 when we were asked by some European record labels to offer up some reissues and new stuff.  Since then, we’ve dropped vinyl, CD, and cassettes on our modest and loyal audience.

All along the way, I’ve been writing and recording solo stuff regardless of if was releasing, performing, or not.  In about 2019, Philadelphia’s Electric Talon Records bumped into me and asked if I wanted to make some records.  I said yes to that really fast and, so far we’ve released ‘Mobocracy’ in 2020, “Blunt’ in 2021, and ‘Mobocracy Deluxe’ in 2022!  Whew.  What a long strange trip it’s been.

Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?

Mekanix: For music, it’s all over the place, with no set structure.  I’m not trained in anything related to music, so it’s all weird, casual, undisciplined, no-rules, or boundries. I think it’s similar to the way other rock music makers go about it, but I’m not sure of that since I usually write alone.

In general, my life has been filled with all kinds of influences that continue to inform me, like the ones you can see on my fun playlist here: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4OTQHDbzzGRXWd5KDiMaq7

I’m always writing down ideas, words, poems, and keeping them accessible so I can harvest stuff when I’m putting together song lyrics.  In parallel with that, I’m always noodling around on guitar with musical ideas that I’ll ‘bank’ like I do the lyric ideas.

I’ll keep doing this until one musical idea is sympathetic with another and then I’ll put them together.  I keep repeating that until I have a song structure that interest me.  In the recent songs, this means, a verses, a chorus, a bridge, a pre-chorus, an intro and/or coda, and a musical lick or riff.  The parts that are feeling like they go together usually suggest a tempo that I’ll set it all to.  

Once I have that, I’ll start trying to find a vocal melody by phonetically meandering over the chord changes.  That usually suggests a lyric I’ve had squirreled away somewhere.  I keep doing that until I fill it all in or get bored with it an abandon it.  I have tons of half finished songs laying around that are orphans.  Sometimes I pick them back up and sometimes they are forever alone.  Overall, I don’t force it because that would defeat the reason for doing it.  I’ve done this kind of thing for decades without much effort.  They just come along and almost show up unannounced asking for attention.  

With all of that said, I’m not married to pop structure, but it’s a guide for most of what I’m doing now.  One glaring recent exception to this process is a tune off of ‘Mobocracy Deluxe’ called ‘Manchester Strawberry Blonde’.  That’s just vocals and drums.  No melodic instruments are involved.  I really like it for many reasons, but mostly because it’s so different from every other track on that record.  The song was a good reminder that I have to stay open minded and listen to what the musical idea wants to become.  So there is a lot of following I do when I’m writing and recording.  I try not to lead things around too much.  I give the pieces space to kind of show me where to take them.  It’s an odd description if you’ve not done it, but it’s the best way I can articulate it.

Once a song is written, I take it to my excellent producer from Philly, Max ‘Lectriq’ Laskavy, and we optimize it.  He’s got amazingly good skills, talents, knows me well, and he has a natural sympathetic critical ear for making the best of the things I write.

After we are happy with the songwriting, we start recording.  That usually is me, a guitar, and a click track to start to build a structure.  If needed, I’ll cut some additional guitars or vocals, and maybe drums and percussion.  

If we get it that far and are still excited about it, we will start to call on our fabulous musician pals to add some of their unique ideas to the track.  We build, edit, refine, rearrange, and continue to bring the track into sonic focus until it feels like it’s complete.  That may take hours, or it may take months.  It depends on the specific piece and what it’s telling us it wants to be.  Again, that sounds arty-farty, but this is the best way I can describe it.

When the day comes that all the parts are where they need to be, we send them off to our buddy and legendary producer Gene ‘Machine’ Freeman for mixing and mastering.  Machine has made awesome records with killer bands like Lamb of God, Crobot, and Clutch.  He is really the true sonic architect of my records.  They sound amazingly good because of Machine and Lectriq.  


Review Fix: What inspires you?

Mekanix: This ebbs and flows for all kinds of reasons and is not just one thing.

Frankly, I keep myself open to receive inspiration from all kinds of places.  I think of it as having my antennae up for signals to be received.  My songs are littered with things inspired by history, other music, different forms of art and literature, sports, current events, politics, technology, and just about every imaginable bit of information that swirls around me in the 21st century.

Nothing is off limits and I’m an equal-opportunity vessel for input.

Review Fix: How did the CO-Vid era affect your art?

Mekanix: It really re-calibrated me in a few different ways.  Most important, it forced me to think seriously about what should matter to me, and focus my priorities.  Specifically, that the people I care about are the most important thing, and nothing else should be ahead of that.  Period.

It also reminded me that I can do important stuff in parallel.  Meaning, in general, I try to do something everyday that’s good for my mind, my body, and my spirit/heart/soul.  I realize that it might sound kind of hippy-dippy, but it works for me.  The pandemic gave me pause and helped me to be more deliberate how I try to do that.

Like may others doing music, it enabled me to have a large chunk of uninterrupted time to write, record, and think about what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it.  It felt like a good time to step back, survey the creative horizon, and not just thrash around because of some imposed time crunch.  I now feel good about the choices I’ve been presented with and the posture I’m taking relative to what’s possible.  

While keeping a sober eye on the terrible impact to so many around the world, overall, I personally feel extremely lucky to have come through it with very little lasting damage to the people I care about.  Covid convinced me that it’s best to try to make lemonade out of lemons.

Review Fix: What’s a song you’d love to cover one day?

Mekanix: This is such an appropriate question!  I’m not going to answer this right now, because my next release will include not one, but at least three covers.  I don’t want to get out over my skis about it since the record company and PR folks like to do their thing when it comes to prepping releases. 

I’m really stoked about it since it’s a heavy, searing, strident, slamming, catchy, trippy set of jams that are unlike any of my previous records.  I worked with my core crew again and we all had a blast carving it out.  

I’m hoping that this will hit ears in early ‘23.  A few days ago, I finished recording everything and it is now in the hands of my producer pals, Lectriq and Machine for mixing and mastering.  I’ll save all the details about it until it’s out in the wild.  You’ll be one of the first to hear it when it’s offered up.


Review Fix: What does music mean to you?

Mekanix: There is a duality to it for me.  

First, I’m a receiver of it and part of an audience.  I’m like everyone else in that respect.  It’s an essential part of life in that it helps me to understand life events in relationship to time.  Important inflection points in my life are synchronized with artists and music. So when I hear something that is tied to that for me, I have a visceral response to it. I don’t do this deliberately. It’s an organic thing.

The other side is that the kind of music I create is a vehicle and outlet for my creativity.  It allows me to act on, and manifest parts of my conscious, subconscious, and personality that I’d not express, or maybe even acknowledge, otherwise.  This is powerful, therapeutic, cathartic, liberating, satisfying, and rewarding.  Honestly, it simultaneously helps to free me and focus me when I’m doing it right.  This is a unique experience that’s hard to express.  I suspect that those who do it, no explanation is needed.  For those who don’t have it in their lives, I’d never be able to adequately convey it.  It asks nothing of me and keeps me connected to the joyous child that exists in all of us, but diminishes in some of us.  In general, it’s a wonderful gift. 

Review Fix: How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you?

Mekanix: My elevator pitch would be: High-velocity, heavy, catchy, raw, electrified, confident, 21st century folk music!
Review Fix: How are your live shows different from your studio work?

Mekanix: It sounds naughty, but the most succinct way I could put it is…warning: so cover the kid’s eyes….live shows are like fucking for fun and studio work is like making love.  Anyone that has done both should be able to understand that.  If I need to explain that more, they someone needs to cultivate a better life.

Review Fix: What inspired your latest single?

Mekanix: ’Freak Boutique’ is based on the notion of corrosive societal duality, personal courage, collective cowardice, and the inevitable cost to anyone that exhibits public displays of individuality and bravery.  

To a certain degree, feeling different in any way, like an outsider or freak, is a universal human experience that colors and informs the view we have of ourselves and others.  The subtext is that there exists a myth about what constitutes normal, along with the insidious creep of unrealistic expectations foisted on people by others, and by themselves.  If extrapolated, most will agree that it can lead to the erosion of love for ourselves and those around us.  Walking that line between ambition to forge a personal identity and successfully adopting useful functional herd mentality, will always be a challenge as longs a humans live together. 

Review Fix: How is it different from your other work?

Mekanix: ’Freak Boutique’ is from my 2021 record ‘Blunt’.  It’s not intended to be different, because it was designed to be a continuation of the conversation I started with my audience on 2020’s ‘Mobocracy’.  That said, the sound of the music is different in that it’s not heavy electrified rock.  It’s organic, exotic, ethnic, acoustic instruments with no electric guitars cranked to 11. So in that respect it is a little different.  

None of that was done in a calculating way.  I was following where it, ‘Head’, and ‘Manchester Strawberry Blonde’ wanted to go.  I just kind of trailed them there and did my best to make them into what they were implying they wanted to be.

Review Fix: What are your goals for the rest of  2022?

Mekanix: For the last few weeks of ‘22 I’m doing quite a few things creatively:

1. I’m prepping a new record for release in early ‘23.  I’ll certainly be howling about that a lot as soon as it’s ready for prime time.

2. Me and my band are getting ready for gigs that are starting in early ‘23.  It’s guitars, bass, drums, all cranked to 11!  We’ll begin with local Philadelphia shows first, then see what develops.

3. I’m doing lots of press and promotion for ‘Mobocracy Deluxe’.  It was dropped in October, so it’s been fun to get that out to my audience and see the cool reaction to it.

4. I’ve got some interesting visual art in different stages of creation, too.  That’s a constant that is closely tied to the music I’m making.  Those two things have been going hand-in-hand for a while and are enjoyable, for sure.

5. I’ve been beavering away at writing a new batch of songs.  This is always in my life, honestly.  I’m writing something at all times, but it’s been a bit stronger here in the fall of ‘22.  They are unlike the recent records I’ve made and I’m excited to get into the studio with them to see what they want to be. 

Review Fix: What do you feel you have to do to get to the level you want to in music?

Mekanix: I was recently talking with my guitarist pal Tom Altman about this exact thing.  I’ve been doing this for so long that I arrived at my answer quite a while ago.  Believe it or not, I do this with the singular goal being that it has to please me.  I’m not on a mission to achieve any measurable level of success.  The reward is the journey of doing the work.  Full stop.  

I hesitate to say this to anyone because it usually sounds like a throw-away quip, pompous, pretentious, arrogant, and selfish.  As if I see myself as a presumptuous artist residing in some sort of rarefied air of eccentricity.  Unconcerned with commerce, criticism, or the unwashed masses.  That’s not it at all.

I’m certainly an acquired taste, and my records don’t seem to fit nicely into a typical stylistic category.  That’s really satisfying in some respects, but distressing to some, in other respects.

I’ll focus my answer a little by saying that, with Electric Talon Records we’re releasing my stuff as a bit of an experiment.  If there is a tangible objective, then we’re trying to determine if what I do creatively can be self-sustaining from a financial perspective.  That’s typical and everyone making music these days is on this trip, I think.  

Since I don’t have to feed myself with the proceeds from music-making, I’m lucky to be able to do things in this way.  I see that as a huge positive for me and anyone interested in my work, since it frees me from any non-creative influences that might skew how I’d do what I do.  That kind of unobstructed approach is rare and usually leads to some pretty interesting results, so I’m hacking out out my path like this to see where it leads.  So far, it’s been a blast and is turning out better than I expected.

Review Fix: What’s next?

Mekanix: Live gigs begin for me and my crew of snarling, slamming, howling guitars, bass, and drums in 2023.  We will start locally around Philadelphia, PA, USA, assess the landscape, and then see if exploring more of the world is in the cards.  So, we are quite stoked for that.

New music is always in the pipeline.  Specifically, I’m putting the finishing touches on a new release that will be different than ‘Mobocracy’ and ‘Blunt’.  This means thematically and sonically.  Imagine if The Beach Boys, Black Sabbath, Beatles, and Jimi Hendrix made a record together in 2022, it might sound something like what I’m hoping to drop soon.  Co-produced once more by Lectriq, mixed and mastered by Gene ‘Machine’ Freeman.  It’s going to be a ferocious and joyous thing. 

I’m doing some unusual writing on it that will be a fun twist once you hear it.  I’ll be on vocals, some guitar, drums, and percussion.  I’m pounding it out in Philly with my core gang of awesome pals like guitarists Tom Altman and Chris Bishop.  There’s backing vocal help again from Lectriq, Crobot frontman Brandon Yeagley, Mason, and Ms. Marissa Wolner.

I’m doing lots of visual art, too. Since I usually do all kinds of creative things all the time.  A new set of original paintings and cool photographs will accompany the release that’ll give my audience an idea of where my head’s been while making the new record.

Then, it’s rinse and repeat.

Review Fix: Anything else you’d like to add?

Mekanix: Most important is that I want to thank you for inviting me.  I can’t overstate how much I appreciate this.  For independent artists like me trying to get traction in this environment of so much music being released all the time, it’s a serious challenge to get in front of audiences.  For some, it’s the difference between success and failure on a certain level.  I’m a fan of the landscape since it opens up the opportunity for success to those who do good work, and are willing to work hard and smart.  With the help of folks like you, I’m trying to do just that. 

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About Patrick Hickey Jr. 12824 Articles
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Master Jedi and Grand Pooh-bah of ReviewFix.com and is the author of the book, "The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews with Cult and Classic Video Game Developers," from leading academic and non-fiction publisher McFarland and Company. He is currently the Assistant Director of the Journalism Program at Kingsborough Community College and is a former News Editor at NBC Local Integrated Media and a National Video Games Writer at the late Examiner.com. He has also had articles and photos published in The New York Times, The New York Daily News, Complex and The Syracuse Post-Standard. Love him. Read him.

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