Wax Stag is Rob Lee, a musician from St. Albans who makes melodious, pastoral electronica. It's music that's technically very sophisticated and intricately arranged, but it doesn't hammer you round the head with this fact. It's only when you slow down and really get to grips with Lee's music that it really reveals itself to you.
'II' is, as the name suggests, his second album – his first came out as far back as 2008, although in the intervening years he's kept himself busy as a multi-instrumentalist for hire, playing in the live bands of Clark, Friendly Fires, and White Lies.
Lee's Dummy Mix is an extension of his album, showcasing some of the music that informed its measured, instrumental tone, as well as some of the electro rhythms that inspire him. It also feeds into his other life as a touring musician, as some of its songs were discovered through the artists he was playing with.
Stream the mix below, and read our catch up interview with Wax Stag after the jump.
'II' is very good. It sounds as if you've never been away. But, well, obviously you have been away – could you explain just what led to it taking seven years to prep a follow-up to your debut?
Wax Stag: "Well, I travelled the world with Friendly Fires for their first album, and then I travelled the world again, twice, with White Lies, for their second and third albums. All of that took quite a long time. I had all these ideas about taking a laptop with me and writing music while I was on tour, but… Touring, in my experience, is either a series of 5am starts and long-haul flights, or it’s a slightly more relaxed affair which involves trying to make the most of the few hours that we have free in whichever city we’re in that day. That’s obviously a bit of a generalisation, but so far I haven’t found touring to be particularly conducive to writing music. I did, however, write Sparkling River in a windowless dressing room in Madrid."
When did you start working on the new album properly? How did it start to take shape?
Wax Stag: "I can’t remember exactly when it was, but I was at home, looking at a book by Irmgard Lucht called Forest Calendar – it’s an educational children’s book, and it’s full of these utterly charming illustrations of woodland scenes. I just remember looking at it and thinking how it’d be nice to write a piece of instrumental music about walking through a wood. A few days later I was out walking somewhere – I can’t say for sure whether it was in a wood – and a bass riff popped into my head. When I got home, I put the bulk of Woodland Walk together, and it seemed obvious then that there should be an accompanying track that was set in a completely different environment. I didn’t write the whole album like this, but imagining a woodland walk and a valley of ice and then writing some music seemed to work quite well. At first, I just thought it’d be good to put those two tracks out as a 12” or something, but pretty soon after that, I’d written a few more tracks and I realised that this was the second album on its way."
Is there anything you feel that you learnt from playing in different touring/studio bands over the past few years? How has it made you approach your own music differently?
Wax Stag: "The stand-out thing for me is simply having been exposed to a lot of music that I might not have otherwise discovered. Most of the musicians who I’ve toured with have extensive, wide-ranging tastes that have little or nothing to do with the music that they themselves make, and so walking into the dressing room and asking 'What’s this?' becomes a regular thing. 'What the hell is this?' gets a look-in, too."
'II' is a very slow listen, too – not just in the sense that the tempo is lower, but in its more considered sort of vibe and restricted sound palette. It's not this big, maximalist, OTT thing. What's to be said for dropping the pace sometimes?
Wax Stag: "It seemed like the obvious thing to do. In a sense, I was looking at my own music and telling it to calm down. I took loads of stuff away on this record, too – I’d be saying 'No, you don’t need that little snare roll there. You can jolly well get the point across without it.'"
Speaking of which, this Dummy Mix takes a considerably more measured tone than many of the club mixes we usually run. What was your intention behind making it?
Wax Stag: "I just wanted to put together a mix of some of the music that I’ve listened to again and again over the last few years. I don’t think my second album would have turned out how it has without some of these tracks."
So, what are you going to be doing for the next seven years until 'III' comes out?
Wax Stag: "I’m going to make a snare roll that lasts for seven years, and that’ll be 'III'."
Dummy Mix 245 // Wax Stag tracklist:
01. Wally Badarou The Dachstein Angels
02. Mahavishnu Orchestra Hope
03. Photodementia Sporobolus
04. Skúli Sverrisson Volumes
05. Passport Ataraxia Part II
06. Jerry Goodman & Jan Hammer Steppings Tones
07. Harold Fisher Hi-Tech
08. Bruford Feels Good to Me
09. Ceephax Natural Spectrum
10. Brand X Black Moon
11. James McVinnie The Revd Mustard His Installation Prelude
12. Egg Fugue in D Minor
13. Haruomi Hosono Sportsmen
14. Drexciya C to the Power of X + C to the Power of X = MM = Unknown
Old Habits released 'II' on February 16th 2015 (buy).