Monday, February 18, 2019

Rock Poet Thax Douglas

Posted by teibs On November - 6 - 2009

thax@ZackTeibloom If you go to concerts regularly in Chicago or Austin, you know Thax Douglas. The only rock n’ roll poet around. Strands of hair from his gray beard have shed onto his inside-out 3XL sweatshirt we meet at an IHOP 6 blocks from the art gallery Thax works and lives in. He sleeps on the floor. He likes it that way. He’s slept on the floor for years. He just feels more comfortable there.

Thax had trouble getting comfortable at IHOP, as we moved booths due to a draft and switched sides because the sunlight bouncing off car windshields in the parking lot reflected into his visibly smudged bifocals. He seems comfortable in Austin though. He hasn’t worked in 12 years, he doesn’t own anything and doesn’t travel, but he’s happy to be in Austin reading his poetry before bands take the stage on an almost daily basis.

Just look at his schedule of his readings in a sample week in the first month he’d been here: Oct. 25th: Disco Doom, Built to Spill, Oct. 26th: Underground Railroad to Candyland, Oct. 27th Givers, Dirty Projectors, Oct. 28th: Sea Wolf, Oct. 30th: Rachel Goodrich, Oct. 31st: The Black Angels. The 52 year-old estimates he reads 25 nights a month and has to remind himself to take a night off. Did I mention he doesn’t even get paid for any of these gigs?

Thax moved to Austin 5 weeks ago from Chicago in time for ACL, though he doesn’t much care for festivals saying he’d rather have a night at one show and doesn’t read more than two poems a day at a fest. He’s gotten right into the music scene thanks to connections at C3 (the company who puts on Lollapalooza, ACL and most big shows in Austin.) “C3 has been really cool. They’ve opened a lot of doors,” Thax said.

He started reading poetry for bands in June of 1997 in Chicago, but says he doesn’t feel he got momentum until 2001, when he started getting recognized. It was also the year he read for The White Stripes, just before they became huge. He says Jack White* played two songs before realizing he forgot to have Thax read and brought him out, killing the momentum.

Other than the slight misstep with The White Stripes, Thax says “nothing ever goes wrong” with the process. One time he mixed up a band’s name and almost read for the wrong band, but somehow everything worked out.

ezrathaxHe’s written five Ezra Furman poems, describing Ezra’s voice as having a “jagged, passionate quality to it, while still being melodic.” “I feel like I’ve known Ezra forever” he says, even though he’s only been seeing him play for two years.

I ask him to explain how lines from his Ezra poems like “Tendernesses lie in their cartons like lovingly polished golden eggs waiting to hatch” and “gnomes are tickled by the planet like bullies turned inside out” and he said it’s like asking a beautiful woman to tell you why she’s attractive. Fair enough.

Thax feels one with the band he’s reading for, saying “When I do a poem for a band, it’s like I’m an honorary member of that band for a night.” He’s not delusional though. “Just because I read for these bands, doesn’t mean I’m close friends with them. Going back stage can be like going to the office. It can be really dull.” He did love being on stage for Girl Talk, however.**

He’s read for a thousand bands, but won’t read poems for ones he doesn’t like, even if makes it awkward to run into Grizzly Bear after turning them down. Here’s a sampling of 50 of the 1,000 bands he’s read poems before:

The White Stripes, The Flaming Lips, Girl Talk, Animal Collective, Andrew Bird, Bon Iver, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Bright Eyes, Built to Spill, Neko Case, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Cold War Kids, Cursive, Death Cab for Cutie, Dr. Dog, Fall Out Boy, Ezra Furman & the Harpoons, Jimmy Eat World, Ted Leo/Pharmacists, Maps & Atlases, Margot & the Nuclear So-and-So’s, Meat Puppets, Modest Mouse, Of Montreal, OK GO, Okkervil River, Passion Pit, Elvis Perkins in Dearland, Silver Jews, Spoon, The Dandy Warhols, The Dirty Projectors, The Hush Sound, The Kills, The Magnetic Fields, The National, The New Pornographers, The Polyphonic Spree, The Redwalls, The Shins, Them, Tortoise, Vampire Weekend, M. Ward, Wilco, Yeasayer, Yo La Tengo, Zwan

Guster asked him to write a poem four years ago, but something has always come up. His wish list of bands he’d like to write for isn’t that big. He’ll write for bands even if he doesn’t get a chance to meet them. He was so impressed with Radiohead’s Lollapalooza set in 2008 that he wrote a poem for them several days after their set, when the band was long gone.

Here’s Thax’s poem from Dirty Projectors the other night that I attended:

pouncing on that half of the universe left uncreated you chew it into life more satisfied than when you have to gnaw on the freshly killed half just behind you but you forget about that chewing what appears to be a savannah. -10/26/09 Antone’s

Thax wrote. “this show was a dirty projection of what music in heaven must sound like” underneath the poem on his MySpace pag He was a lot more poetic than my take on that night at Dirty Projectors.

In July of this year, someone hijacked his Facebook account and wrote that he had passed away. The Chicago Sun Times, Onion AV club and Chicagoist among others hopped on the news. Thax’s father didn’t believe it, calling his son to leave a message saying “Just calling to make sure you’re not dead.” Tortoise even dedicated their Pitchfork set to him, thinking he was really gone.

The discussion of death leads to a discussion of poets getting famous after they die and he says it’s “better than nothing, but you’re not around to enjoy it. It’s fucking stupid.”

wayneThankfully Thax is alive and, though he admits he lives a life of poverty in Austin, he thoroughly enjoys becoming a part of a different band every night. He says, “I’d like to think I solved Syd Barrett’s Aesthetic problem,” explaining that “Syd would only be happy with a new band doing different songs every night and he’s “in a band” doing that.

“I want the poems published and preserved, being remembered later on. Ideally people will be reading the poems long after they remember the bands they were written for.”

Check out Thax’s MySpace page and bring $20 extra next time you go to a show in Austin so you can buy The Good Life, his book of poems, from him. He’ll be carrying them around in a white tote bag.

*Probably the only time I will ever take someone else’s side against Jack White, but Jack really set him up to fail.

**I completely remember seeing him there on the side of the stage at Girl Talk almost a year ago today to the date.

1 Response

  1. Festival Crashers » Blog Archive » Festival Crashers 1,000th Post Said,

    […] Rock Poet Thax Douglas […]

    Posted on March 10th, 2010 at 11:14 am

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