Thomas Truax September 2014

Thomas Truax, Craig John Davidson and Kitchen Cynics – The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen – 30/09/14

SB and DS find themselves back at The Lemon Tree this evening for the fascinating Thomas Truax, supported by the Kitchen Cynics (Alan Davidson) and Craig John Davidson.

Thomas Truax -

The evening kicked off with the Kitchen Cynics telling various stories , such as that of the patricidal murderer turned artist, Richard Dadd (‘Richard in Bethlem’) and eventually insane woman Maria Phillip, nee Dadd – a sister of Richard Dadd (‘Maria Midnight’) set to music. Looks like the Dadd siblings had some mental issues.

If you want to catch the Kitchen Cynics, he’ll be playing at the Keeping it Peel memorial gig on 25th October in The Tunnels.

Kitchen Cynics - Kitchen Cynics -

I’ve seen Craig John Davidson quite a few times now and tonight he struck me as having a bit more passion (and some new songs) – maturing as a performer maybe? He was struggling with a cold though, so his voice was a touch rougher than usual.

One song may have been inspired by last years’ US trip – Gustave, a song about an illegal Mexican immigrant employed by the protagonist of the song to help do up his remote mountainside home. Craig John Davidson seemed to slip into an American bluesy drawl when singing it.

Craig mentioned that is was the third time the trio had performed in Aberdeen – and Thomas mentioned he got to stay with Alan Davidson after the show as a reward for asking him to support him

Craig John Davidson - Craig John Davidson -

Neither of us knew what to expect from Thomas Truax. OK, so we’d both seen the Kitchen Cynics and Craig John Davidson several times now and I’d heard Thomas Truax has some unusual homemade musical equipment so I was expecting the main act would be leaning more towards the Kitchen Cynics (who favours making unusual sounds with odd bits of stuff) than Craig John Davidson in regard to style.

Watching him potter about setting up his kit, I was reminded of Sheldon Cooper (Big Bang Theory) in mannerisms and movement, but that resemblance all but disappeared when he began to speak.

Well, what can I say – if he’d been British, eccentric genius is maybe the right description for him. He’s American though and totally original. Here’s what The Lemon Tree description said about him:

‘One of the most imaginative characters on the pop music fringe, Thomas Truax (pronounced troo-aks) travels the world performing with his “band” of bizarre self-made Tim Burtonesque instruments including a motorized drum machine made of bike wheels called ‘Mother Superior’ and a pimped-up Gramophone called ‘The Hornicator’, as well as his venerable resonator guitar ‘Hank’.’

You can see Mother Superior and the Hornicator in this video, of ‘Why Dogs Howl’:

Between songs he tells amusing and imaginative stories about how he came up with the song, an example being for ‘Why Dogs Howl’ in the video link above – he said he was on a picnic with his dog, Doug, eating egg & cress sandwiches, when they eventually realised they’d set up on top of an ant’s nest. The song was written when they got home afterwards…

Thomas Truax - Thomas Truax -

Other ‘instruments’ he introduced on the night include the Stringaling (a small bongo drum with a flexi pipe from a tumble dryer attached and a lot of stings and a teeth chattering skull) and the Back Beater (a drum machine worn on the back that looks like it was made from a small routlette wheel and radio aerials).

He uses a loop pedal to great effect, building up layers with the various things attached to his inventions. The Hornicator is basically a gramophone horn, with a mic attached (for an echoey vocal effect) along with some plucking stings. Tapping the horn with his eyeball ring provides some effective percussion. These various effects are built up via the loop pedal to provide backing for his vocals.

Mother Superior is a couple of bike wheels with radio aerials which can be extended or collapsed to vary the beat. One wheel works the bass drum, and the other a tapping device attached to another gramophone horn. There is also a tambourine and some cymbals for extra effects. This device is used in conjunction with his guitar for the more traditional style songs.

For one song – ‘The Butterfly & The Entomologist’ – he uses a small handheld fan (his personal fan in case no-one shows up) to strum the guitar giving a fluttery effect reminiscent of a trapped butterfly fluttering inside a jar.

He mentioned that he’d been asked to provide a rock & roll style musical score for a production of Peer Gynt in Germany and he played a few of the tracks from that. What he didn’t mention is that he performed the music live in an open cage hanging over the stage. I guess this is where the Troll part of the tour title – ‘Trolls, Girls and Lullabies’ – comes from.

‘Full Moon over Wowtown’ was performed unplugged and wandering through the tables, and behind the bar. I was sitting at the front and had no trouble hearing him when he was right up the back of The Lemon Tree – some strong lungs on this guy.

Thomas Truax - Thomas Truax - Thomas Truax - Thomas Truax -

His set list (which looked like it had been through the washing machine in his pocket a couple of times) was basically ignored. He says he just likes to have them there to give him ideas of where to go next.

He asked for the lights to be turned off for ‘Beehive Heart’,  a Hornicator song played while wearing illuminated whirly glasses, which provided some interesting percussive effects when they rapped against the mic as well as a buzzy droning sound reminiscent of a summer’s day in the flower garden.

He managed to overrun by about half an hour – aided and abetted by a willing audience. His last song ‘March Winds’ was a suggestion made earlier on in the evening and is one from the album Monthly Journal, an album composed of 12 songs, one for each month.

Honestly, we could have listened to him for a lot longer. Rarely do you get an evening where you have no idea where you will be going next and when they happen, it is joyous.

‘til next time Thomas… adieu.

You can see more pictures of Thomas Truax from the gig in our flickr album here.

Words and pics by Dark Secret and Still Burning.

Thomas Truax Website

Craig John Davidson Website

Kitchen Cynics Facebook

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