Sunday, February 25, 2007

Wax Audio

Wax Audio

Tom Compagnoni has been serving up Wax Audio from his home in Australia, since 2003. I think his was one of those rare projects, these days, which I had to actually go out and find on my own. In the old days, you'd type "sound collage" into the search engines and get maybe a dozen responses, some of which would be somewhat along the lines of what you'd been looking for. These days it's a landslide of information, so you have to take more time to sift through all the data. Wax Audio found itself at the top of the pile one afternoon, and provided downloads. I've been playing it ever since.

The project is overtly political in focus, appropriating sound bytes from the news and political figures in order to manipulate and recontextualize them in ways which Wax Audio feels will help the listener come to a better understanding of just how manipulative the worlds of politics and the news media can be. When it comes to presenting an "objective" point of view, most news outlets will claim they are unbiased and fair in their news reports. Wax Audio aims to force the listener "to confront the bias, contradiction and sensationalism inherent in their daily intake of media information."

The work is often dead serious, as a result of its subject matter, but rarely goes on too long without coming up for air. Perhaps the best example of this is their cover of John Lennon's Imagine, as sung by a meticulously placed series of cut and pasted soundbytes of George W. Bush. That's just one track from the two albums currently available at the Wax Audio website.

Without further ado, here's the SAR Q&A with Wax Audio...

*Name: Wax Audio

*Are there any additional names used to describe this project: Mashed Media: Appropriated, Re-Mixed, Sexed up and Uranium Enriched.

*Do you use a pseudonym? "Wax Audio" is a kind've pseudonym but I don't hide the fact that I'm nobody else other than Tom Compagnoni.

Just me, but you could describe some of the unwitting participants heard on several of my tracks as band members. I used to play guitar in a three piece prog-rock (for the '90s) outfit called AnD and a substantial amount of the musical backing tracks are taken from the old two-inch multi-track tapes we recorded (originally intended for our debut album but shelved and only now seeing the light of day - albeit in greatly altered form). Like I said, Wax Audio is just me - but you can hear alot of Hamish Ford on drums and Benson Graham on bass. There are also numerous "guest" vocalists of which George W Bush is the most prominently featured.

*Tape manipulations, digital deconstructions or turntable creations: "digital deconstructions" is perfectly apt for what I do as it's 100% assembled on computer. I haven't spliced a tape in over a decade and have never even owned a turntable. I used to play my trashy old '80s albums on my dad's record player back home. If I need a "scratch" I just sample one.

*Another genre descriptor: I kinda like "mashed media."

*Why you use this descriptor: "Mashing" and "Mash-up" are now pretty well recognized terms for any kind of DIY media blending. "Mashed Media" is simply a play on the term "mass-media" which is the field I am exploring and appropriating in my audio work.

*Location: Sydney, Australia

*Original Location: I grew up in Canberra, a little known urban backwater that also happens to be the capital city of Australia.

*What is your creative/artistic background: I had formal classical guitar tuition from age nine and played drums in the school brass band at around the same time. I vainly pursued rock-god superstardom from ages 13 to 24 as guitarist in several rock/metal/prog bands but never moved beyond playing pubs. I immediately joined the digital revolution in 2001 and have never looked back (though I still noodle on my strat when I'm waiting for something to download or process on the computer).

*History: Wax Audio started the minute the bombs started dropping in Baghdad on March 20th 2003.

*Born: I was born in Sydney, Australia in 1973.

*Motivations: Creative self expression is my way of keeping sane in an insane world and my method of communicating particular concerns, frustrations and opinions of mine to others in a way that is (I hope) entertaining rather than obtrusive. A lot of energy is generated (inside me) when I see or hear things (on the news, around the dinner table, anywhere) that I passionately object to. I think with the two on-line EPs I have put out, I have harnessed that energy creatively and at the same time given other despondent people out there a little galvanizing shot in the arm. Clever political satirists have always helped me in this regard, so when I get an email from some stranger in Latvia saying "thank you, that's exactly what I needed to hear" I am inspired to continue.

*Philosophy: The fact that my stuff is very much centered on the post 9/11 culture as represented by the mass media goes hand in hand with the fact that the media I am involved in (DIY mashing, self distribution on the web, MP3s etc) is a phenomenon of exactly the same era. I believe that all acts of appropriation (mashers, DJ's and other artists) are inherently political by virtue of the fact that they are illegal. Artists are refusing to be complicit with laws they believe are restricting their creative impulses. Negativland's TENETS OF FREE APPROPRIATION (I had to put that in capitals as it really is the bible of this issue) is the definitive statement on this subject and there's nothing more I need to add to it. As for my work, I think it's wholly appropriate that I use the very media I am criticizing as the voice/source-material of the actual critique (rather than my own voice). And one more thing - the fact that so many artists are doing this stuff quite happily for free (and free of the constraints that commercial realities place on genuine self expression - like having to obey copyright law) represents an artistic revolution happening right now in it's own right.

*How would you like to be remembered: I don't think about those kind of things. I'm focused on the present and not planning any memorial statues of myself at this stage!

*Web address:

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