Duke Special

The Joiners - May 2006
Image: © 2006 courtesy of dukespecial.com

I wasn’t going to mention the support act tonight but, having seen Thomas Truax in action, I can’t help it. The words ‘unique’ and ’entertaining’ are often wrongly used but I'm in no danger of misusing them in association with Mr Truax. He makes his instruments out of wheels, gramophone horns, bells and tumble dryer outlet pipes. He tells stories, makes jokes and asks for help from members of the audience. He unplugs his guitar, jumps off stage and goes and plays a song in the ladies fucking toilet! If you ever have the opportunity to see his show you would be a fool to turn it down. Duke Special makes his music with more orthodox instruments but is no less unique or, indeed, entertaining. “(Duke Special) is like a character that I become as I walk up on stage,” explains Peter Wilson - the off-stage Duke Special. “It’s based on turn of the century Music Hall and Vaudeville Theatre - wind up gramophones, dancing bear routines and travelling dwarfs. Like a circus sort of theme.” There are no bears or dwarfs on stage tonight, though. It's just Duke, his piano, a wind up gramophone and a percussionist with a variety of instruments including a cheese grater and balloon whisk. The music is not as off the wall as you might imagine. The piano is the driving force, moving from delicate to footstomping with ease. The percussion is varied and, strangely, amusing at times. His voice has a great tone that endears you to him and his songs. The ‘turn of the century’ theatre influence was difficult to imagine when he was explaining it to me before the gig, but now I’m watching him I can see what he’s on about. There is a certain theatre to the whole thing and I can tell by looking at him, dreadlocks falling over his eyeliner-rimmed eyes, that I'm not watching Peter Wilson playing his songs on a piano, I’m watching Duke Special perform them. “I didn’t want to be just another person with an acoustic guitar, singing songs about his feelings,” he explains, “I want to be honest and say something from the heart but I also want to entertain.” And entertain he certainly does.