Not since 2000’s “High Fidelity” has there been a movie about a Chicago record store as close to the heart as “Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records” — except this one is a true story.
‘INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENT: THE STORY OF WAX TRAX!’ SCREENINGS & PANELS
When: 2:30 & 8:30 p.m., April 1
Where: The Vic Theatre, 3145 N. Sheffield
The new documentary, exclusively debuting in a pair of test screenings this weekend, tells of the rise, fall and possible future of the beloved Chicago indie. The North Side store was once the place for misfits and music aficionados in the post-punk and new wave nexus of the ‘80s and ‘90s. An accompanying label also became the driving force behind the industrial music juggernaut that produced bands like Ministry, Front 242 and My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult.
Yet barely a physical trace of this important chapter of local music history still exists. The former storefront, at 2449 N. Lincoln Avenue, is now a family dental clinic. The scene’s nightclubs, such as Medusas (3257 N. Sheffield) and Neo (2350 N. Clark), ground zero to hear new records, are now offices and daycare facilities, respectively. And the whole counter-culture vibe of the Lakeview neighborhood and its capital, Belmont and Clark, have become virtually whitewashed.
Thankfully, cameras were rolling during those formative years and captured a slew of candid home movies, uncensored live performances and B-roll footage that fill the 90-minute rock doc with plenty of nostalgia for the diehards and a compelling narrative for the curious.
“Industrial Accident” is the “labor of love” of Julia Nash, current owner of Wax Trax! and daughter of original founder Jim Nash. She had the idea to begin the arduous film project after organizing a sold-out concert weekend in 2011 (the Wax Trax! Retrospectacle: 33 1/3 Anniversary) that was supposed to be a commemorative tribute to her late father and his life and business partner Dannie Flesher, both of whom had passed away by 2010.
“As we were talking with people that weekend, we realized the effect [Wax Trax!] still had on everyone, and I thought this is pretty important,” she says. Julia Nash had an idea to produce a Retrospectacle concert DVD with a bonus disc that gave “a little backstory” on Jim and Dannie who opened their first store in Denver before moving to Chicago in 1978. “But soon it started to unfold that [they were] the main focus,” she says. “And we really wanted to give an inside look at the creators of this whole thing.”
What results in “Industrial Accident” is one big love story — about the two men who met at a David Bowie concert and their undying passion for music that, by happenstance, created a new genre that influenced a whole flock of followers. Many of them are included in the film. In addition to interviews with the main roster of artists like Front 242’s Patrick Codenys, Dead Kennedy/Lard’s Jello Biafra and Ministry’s Al Jourgensen (who’s largely been absent in Wax Trax!’s comeback), there’s also thoughtful sound bytes from Steve Albini, Metro’s Joe Shanahan, Trent Reznor and even Dave Grohl who discovered the store as a teenager. “He asked me to do [the HBO docuseries] ‘Sonic Highways,’ and I said, ‘I’ll do your film if you do mine,’” Julia Nash jokes.
“Industrial Accident” was supposed to come out around the same time — in 2015 — but legal battles with early collaborators put the film in limbo. “In January 2016 we started reshooting the entire movie and kicked ass all last year to get the film done,” says Julia, whose husband, Mark Skillicorn, worked on graphics along with Wax Trax! alum Jason Novak. Julia’s daughter, Olivia, also is credited for some of the footage as is Shayna Connelly, a DePaul teacher and the wife of Ministry/Revolting Cocks musician Chris Connelly.
“The whole family vibe is still there,” Julia says of the new crew while also referencing the many dedicated fans that stood patiently by and participated in a Kickstarter campaign, nearly doubling a $45,000 goal in a matter of days. “That blew our minds,” she says, “to see that outpouring of support and love. I still have such a hard time wrapping my head around it.”
In return, Wax Trax! is hosting the special fan screenings before the film enters the festival circuit. Post-show panel discussions are also planned, featuring Connelly, Biafra, Groovie Mann and Buzz McCoy (from My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult), Paul Barker (Ministry), former label and store employees and Julia herself. She, of course, re-ignited the label in 2014 with its first new release in 13 years since TVT Records (which bought out Wax Trax! in 1992) shut down.
“You never know what the future holds,” Julia Nash says, hinting at future releases, merchandising deals, even a possible Wax Trax! museum. “There’s nothing definite, but we’re always thinking about the next thing.” A statement her dad would be proud of.
Selena Fragassi is a freelance music writer.
Waxing Nostalgic: Joe Shanahan, Chris Connelly and former store employee Sean Joyce reflect on the impact of Wax Trax!
“Wax Trax! was responsible for bringing together many disparate and isolated artists and people from all over the world. I think nowadays [as] the music business has morphed into something harder to recognize, people need to be reminded and introduced to the idea that at one point, much of it was about community and the sharing of ideas and collaboration. I was very fortunate upon entering into the whole Wax Trax! universe to be enabled, encouraged and allowed to thrive in a very non-traditional situation; to put it in simpler terms, ‘the weirder the better.’” – Chris Connelly
“To really understand the ’80s and the massive impact of ‘new wave’ and ‘punk rock’ and the birth of industrial music, you have to look no further than Wax Trax! There would have been no Smartbar and no Metro without Jim and Dannie and all the creative energy Wax Trax! brought to Chicago. I bought all the original club’s records there and Wax Trax! was Metro’s first off-site box office. The feeling of excitement between the store, the label and the club was undeniable as bands and DJs felt the chemistry.” – Joe Shanahan
“It’s a true do-it-yourself story in an age just before the Internet. But behind the famous music and legendary store there were just these two incredible [guys] with ideas that became so important to so many people. People visited from around the world to shop and it was a total meetup spot to find other creatives who were just into the same music as yourself. I remember a couple of visits from director John Hughes, who used to get records from the store to help him build what would be the soundtracks to films.” – Sean Joyce