INTERVIEW: Peter Ruddell (WAX CHATTELS)
Revered as a "guitarless guitar band", New Zealand noise bandits Wax Chattels are not your average trio. Utterly crawling with brawling darkness and hypnotic frenzy, this scintillating group have steadily cultivated a cult-like following since forming straight outta jazz school and landing a record deal with Captured Tracks and Flying Nun Records off the back of a mere two songs at an Auckland indie festival in 2017.
With a debut full-length already under their belt in the form of 2018's eponymous album, Wax Chattels have continued to stupefy with their irresistibly sinister post-punk/noise rock stylings perfectly capturing and processing a mix of frustration and self-determination finding them in red-hot demand all over the globe (including a significant following in Australia after touring with the iconic Cable Ties twice).
A band never afraid to flout the rules in their complex and cathartic compositions, Wax Chattels now sit poised on the release of their sophomore album Clot tomorrow; a timely and exceedingly powerful release that grapples with vexations and angst, but with a twist of hope and perseverance bubbling away beneath the rioting sonic ruckus. And today in honour of the brand new album, Tiana Speter grabs some time with Wax Chattels keyboardist Peter Ruddell to chat noise complaints, new tunes and the sensational journey for one of New Zealand's most exciting indie exports. Interview below.
TIANA SPETER: Hi, thank you so much for spending some time chatting today! I have to say straight off the bat, it isn’t every day that a band comes through my inbox and completely catches me off guard. In a time when so many people sound like everyone else, it’s really exciting to hear a band like Wax Chattels, and even more so with your impending album ‘Clot’. After a lengthy process of writing and workshopping the album, how does it feel to finally be so close to release?
PETER RUDDELL: Kia ora — glad to catch you off guard! I’m writing this as the album is 3 days away from being released. Considering the amount of work that’s gone into it over the last two years, it all feels a bit surreal, really.
TIANA: And for a guitar-less band, you lot certainly know how to summon an unholy amount of noise, and the new album heightens this to stunning new levels. I’ve read that you guys spent some time experimenting with and finding new sounds for ‘Clot’, can you talk me through this experimentation? I’m picturing some mad professor’s lab with synths plugged into vintage hats and nondescript bubbling mixtures in the background, but what was the reality like?
PETER: Not too far off that. Cranked amps in noise-isolating forts, many many many borrowed boutique pedals (shout out to Pepers Pedals in Dunedin), but mostly just an insane amount of playing, listening and tweaking. Tom does play a paper bag in An Eye though…
TIANA: On the topic of the making of the album, clearly you were onto something special as you were crafting these intriguing tones – and! You picked up some noise complaints from the neighbourhood as an added bonus! Were there any significant differences in the studio this time round compared to making the debut album?
PETER: The space that we recorded in was the same physical space, but when we made the last record it was split up into 4 little rooms, whereas now all the internal walls have been knocked down so it’s this huge open space. We could spread out and not get all up in everyones business — it felt pretty luxurious.
TIANA: And amongst the bone-shattering noises emanating on ‘Clot’, there’s also some huge serves of thought-provoking themes and ideas throughout the album as well. Do these themes drastically impact the end result of the songs, or do you find the musical ideas start first and the narratives evolve from the sonic foundations? Or is this a chicken and egg scenario…?
PETER: Each song has its own theme or idea which inevitably impacted the end result musically — be it through changing form or tones in the writing stage, or just in the delivery of musical ideas. Some of the songs were musically pretty-much fully formed before the lyrics were finalised, but then the vocals came in and changed everything. Each song kind of developed differently.
NO TIES (WAX CHATTELS)
TIANA: As a band existing in the post-punk/noise rock realms of the music universe, how solid was the vision for Wax Chattels back in the really early days? Did you all have a firm and shared idea about what you wanted the band to be?
PETER: At the outset we had a discussion and came to the conclusion we had a shared goal of taking it all seriously, and doing it right. We set ourselves some pretty clear ideas and goals at the beginning, which I think we’ve stayed true to. Booking diverse lineups, remaining democratic as a group, not underselling ourselves etc. But we don’t talk about everything. It wasn’t until we started doing press for this record that Amanda and I discovered that lots of the lyrics we had independently contributed to the record were actually thematically identical. And sonically, I think we are getting closer all the time to the music we envisaged right when we started the band.
TIANA: Wax Chattels are no strangers to performing live, in fact I read it only took two songs for you to snap up signing to Captured Tracks and Flying Nun Records! And the band also has cult-like status in Australia too, I know many over here will be hanging for the day we can have you back on our shores. But in the meantime, is there a particular live show memory that sticks out amongst so many others, whether it’s a particularly good, bad or even hilarious memory?
PETER: Getting food poisoning in Guangzhou — where we played the final night before the venue closed forever, so everything was filmed “for historical reasons”. Definitely a memorable one.
TIANA: And to close us out today, as someone in a band readily associated with all things “noise”: what’s your favourite non-musical noise that always brightens your day?
PETER: The sound my cat Ruth makes when she lands after jumping from a piece of furniture that was, in retrospect, perhaps a little too high.
WAX CHATTELS BRAND NEW ALBUM CLOT WILL OFFICIALLY UNLEASH TOMORROW, SEPTEMBER 25, VIA CAPTURED TRACKS/FLYING NUN. FOR PRE-ORDERS, HEAD HERE.
FOLLOW WAX CHATTELS:
BY TIANA SPETER