Wax Idols’ Hether Fortune talks Thursday tour, new remix, Iggy Pop dreams, Oasis & more in BV Q&A
It's been a tumultuous year-and-a-half since Hether Fortune released American Tragic, her third album as Wax Idols. Collect Records, Geoff RIckly's label that released that LP, went up in the flames of its backer Martin Shkreli's scandal, and a tour with metal cult legends Pentagram went south due to an "overload of bullshit." On the plus side, Wax idols went from being a glorified solo project to an actual band and have started their own label, Etruscan Gold, that released Wax Idols' new single "Everybody Gets What They Want" in 2016 and has just reissued American Tragic digitally and on cassette. There's a bonus track on this cassette, a remix of "Deborah" made by Wax Idols guitarist Peter Lightning. Electronic and ethereal, that remix premieres in this post and you can listen to it, along with the rest of American Tragic, below.
Wax Idols have a busy year ahead. Though Collect Records no longer exists, Fortune remains tight with Rickly and Wax Idols will soon be on tour with his band, Thursday. (They wont be on the NYC stops of that tour but are playing a headlining show at Brooklyn Night Bazaar on March 31.) They've also got a new album due out this fall, the quasi-concept LP, Happy Ending, which will be Wax Idols first made as a full band.
Ahead of all this, Fortune took some time out two answer a few questions via email about the tour, the new label, the "Deborah" remix, a dream starring Iggy Pop, and a recent gig fronting an Oasis cover band. Read that below.
After putting out LPs on Hozac, Slumberland and Collect Records, you've started your own label, Etruscan Gold Records. What made you decide now was the time to go in that direction?
I think when you're a newer band and you don't know what the hell youre doing, it's kind of crucial to have an established record label to help you get started. At least that's the way it was when I first started this band. Things are changing now.
I will always love Todd at HoZac for being the first person who thought this project was worth investing in. We released a 7" with Suicide Squeeze, too, and David was a pleasure to work with. But yeah I never had formal contracts with any of those record labels, which allowed me to move around between labels easily. I've always been very wary of legally binding documents when it comes to the music I make. I've heard so many horror stories in my life about green bands getting royally fucked by misleading contracts and I wasn't going to let that happen to me, not that I ever thought anyone at those labels would do anything like that intentionally - but the music industry is a business & in business, things can get messy.. cut throat even. It seemed like Collect was going to be a real long term home for us but then that went belly up & it absolutely broke my heart. I just got tired of relying on external systems to put out records after that. My bandmates & I didn't want to sit around waiting for another label to save us - as a group we don't sit around hoping for the best like amateurs. We are workers. So we said fuck it - let's start our own label just to ensure that when we have a record done, we won't need anyone to put it out for us. There's a huge learning curve to this side of the industry but we've had management for the first time ever in this last year or so, which has been tremendously helpful with getting the label going. It just feels like the right thing for us right now. We've had some offers from other labels, but what they were offering just wasn't up to snuff for where we are and the amount of work we've put in at this point. We're not signing away rights to our music for a meager sum of money. It's not worth it. We would only work with a label again if they value the project and believe in it as much as we do. Geoff Rickly and Norman Brannon (Collect) were, and still are, so passionate about and devoted to this project. Big shoes to fill.
What can you tell us about the remix of "Deborah" we're premiering?
Well, Peter is an absolutely brilliant composer and musician & a lot of the music he makes on his own is electronic. I wanted to include the new members in the re-release of American Tragic somehow, because they didn't play on that record, so having Peter remix a track of his choosing seemed like a cool thing to do. It's really different from the original version. I love it.
Your new(ish) single "Everybody Gets What They Want" continues in the more direct approach of "American Tragic." Is this a good indicator of what to expect from the new album?
Hmmm. It's hard to say right now as the record is still in progress. We're certainly not abandoning the guitar sounds I, and these day Peter as well, have cultivated over the years so expect more of that. But I wouldn't suggest that anyone expect anything from this record in terms of the way it will sound as a cohesive body of music. We've written the same songs over and over again using different approaches and when we get back in the studio it'll get pushed even further. It sounds like Wax Idols. Whatever that means!
* an aside: the single reminds a little me of this song "No Stars" by late-'80s Detroit band, Figures on a Beach. Being from Michigan originally, are you familiar with them? If so, is there lore of the band in the annals of Michigan Alt-Rock?
I was not familiar with them until I looked them up after seeing this, haha. Awesome band. I haven't lived in Michigan since I was 17 and back then I was mostly into punk & hardcore. I'm not an expert on Michigan alt-rock bands. I did have an amazing dream about Iggy Pop last night though. He made me lay down in a pile of mud and performed some weird ritual on me. After I was initiated or whatever, he offered to pay me $5000 just to hang out with him on tour. He told me that there was no one else alive anymore that could keep up with him or make him laugh. It was one of the best dreams I've ever had.
You've already got the title of the new album -- Happy Ending -- and I know it's a concept album...how much of it is mapped out / finished?
80% ? Like I said before, we are working and reworking every song until we feel like it's good enough. All killer, no filler.
You're touring with Thursday, and 'American Tragic' was on Geoff Rickly's Collect Records. Where do you two first meet?
We met when I was 14, I think? I was the biggest Thursday fan dork on the planet when I was a teenager so I went to every show within a 300 mile radius (and sometimes further haha) throughout my teens. I would linger around waiting for an opportunity to talk to Geoff about poetry and stuff. He was so nice to me. I was such an awkward nerd... I was really uncomfortable with myself as a teen. I had no confidence. But Geoff took a genuine interest in me when he had no real reason to and it helped me in so many ways, when I reflect back on it. He's always been a hero to me.
Does Wax Idols' live show change when opening for crowd of Thursday fans as opposed to when you're doing a headline show?
Well we are only playing a 25 minute set so we will just be ripping through songs & not fucking around at all. I guess we never really fuck around though. We're not a stage banter kind of band. I'm not playing guitar at all on this tour, so that's a new thing for us. We've never been given an opportunity to play consistently to crowds this big so we are definitely going to take full advantage of the opportunity & leave everything on stage every single night. I've been literally training, physically, so I can pull off stunts without hurting myself hahaha. We'll see - I'm likely to fall off of something at some point no matter what I do. Clown life.
Generally though, we perform the same way to 5 people or 500 & in this case, for 1000+. That's always been my rule of thumb - give it your all every single time, not just for a sold out audience. It's disrespectful to the few to give them less than you would give the many. Our audience doesn't suddenly become more important to us because it is increased in size. I've seen artists have really entitled, spoiled attitudes about this kind of thing and it makes me furious. Those kind of people are in it for the wrong reasons and don't deserve their audience. We have never been like that and never will be.
How many new songs are you doing on this tour?
The set is almost entirely new songs. I think we are playing 1 or 2 songs from previous records...maybe. We figure most of the people at these shows won't be very familiar with us anyway so we may as well use the opportunity to focus on what's exciting to us right now, which is the new material.
You recently fronted an Oasis cover band. What's the key to doing a good Liam Gallagher?
Huge eyebrows, the right hair & a total shithead attitude. Keeping your hands behind your back & looking generally disinterested helps as well. Also - mock Noel whenever possible.
Should Oasis get back together?
Fuck yes they should. What huge band exists right now that is even remotely as entertaining as them and with the tunes to back up the attitude? It doesn't exist. Not that there aren't bands out there who have what it takes, but the industry seems uninterested in nurturing real rockers who write their own music nowadays. So they may as well come back till someone else can top them. I doubt they ever will, being the dickheads that they are. Noel is so rich he doesn't need a reunion. Prove me wrong boys!
Wax Idols - 2017 Tour Dates
03.08: Oakland, CA @ Starline Social Club
03.28: Boston, MA @ House of Blues*
03.29: Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Bazaar†
03.30: Philadelphia, PA @ The Fillmore Philadelphia*
03.31: Silver Spring, MD @ The Fillmore Silver Spring*
04.01: Charlotte, NC @ The Fillmore Charlotte*
04.02: Lake Buena Vista, FL @ House Of Blues*
04.04: Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade*
04.05: Nashville, TN @ Marathon Music Works*
04.07: Houston, TX @ House of Blues*
04.08: Dallas, TX @ House of Blues*
04.10: Tempe, AZ @ The Marquee*
04.11: Los Angeles, CA @ The Wiltern*
04.12: Berkeley, CA @ The UC Theatre*
* = supporting Thursday, Touché Amoré, Basement
† = w/ Pop1280, Decorum