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Interview Thu Aug 31 2006

Really Quick Interview: Thax Douglas

Thax is a Chicago music institution, whether you like his poetry or not. You knew you were at a "real Chicago show" when, after the lights went down, he stepped quietly out on stage, pulled out a piece of paper and read a poem in honor of the night's entertainment. Most of his live poetry has been brief (read in under 30 seconds) but the impression he left behind lasted much longer (there's even a documentary). Chicago adopted him as "ours", but no longer. In a short while, Thax will pack his poems and head out to New York City. In honor of his legacy, tonight, Chicago musicians will say farewell at a special show at the Hideout featuring Sybris, Tight Phantomz, Dick Prall, and Daniel Knox. I had a chance to ask Thax a few questions about the show and his poems and Chicago music venues, and below are his responses.

ASH: You started reading poems before bands in 1997, what got you to first step on stage?

TD: I'd been stepping on stage since 1987 when I first started reading at the Green Mill open mic on Sundays, so I was used to that. I ran poorly attended variety shows at Lounge Ax that would feature poets, "performance artists", films and curiosities, and a band at the end. I would be introducing the band anyway so I wrote the poem as a curiosty. I had been writing "poetry portraits" of people since 1990, the poem being an abstraction of a person. A band is already an abstraction so my poetry portraits of bands were an abstraction of an abstraction-in other words, pure art, or "white on white" art as St Petersburgers used to say. This with the bonus of getting to read the poem in front of an audience as part of the "abstraction".

ASH: Whose idea was the Farewell Party at the Hideout? How did it come about?

TD: It was my idea, I wanted to go out in style — and Tim Tuten has always been a supporter of mine.

ASH: Are you friends with the bands playing (Sybris, Tight Phantomz, Dick Prall, Daniel Knox)?

TD: Yes. This show booked itself.

ASH: At the party are you reading before each band, what's planned?

TD: I will introduce the bands as always — and a couple of my best friends will perform, John Connors will sing lounge songs and Brian Potrafka, who published [my book] Tragic Faggott Syndrome will do anti-comedy.

ASH: What was your favorite venue in Chicago to hear music in? (least favorite?)

TD: My two favorite venues have been the Double Door and Schubas, as well as the Hideout — I have felt most comfortable and the staff have been the most welcoming over the years at these three places. My final public readings in Chicago, bands willing, will be at Double Door for Mudhoney and Radio Birdman Sept 1-2. I have also been welcomed at the Beat Kitchen, Subterranean, and the old Bottom Lounge and the Metro. The Riviera has always been welcoming and respectful- I've read at every venue in town tho […] I shall not miss the Empty Bottle.

ASH: Are there any music venues/bands you wish you'd seen in Chicago?

TD: Believe it or not there are some bands I have never seen in Chicago even tho they have existed for years. Who knows, I may have liked some of these bands. I had meant to do a poem for Fallout Boy but unlike Van Allen Belt or Welcome to Ashley they got famous before I got a chance to do it. Generally I've read for every band I've wanted to read for in Chicago. And I've read every venue from Allstate Arena to the Big Horse.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »

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