“This is kind of like a Happy Gilmore story... it just came out of nowhere. But it's more of a story about following what you want, and giving things your best shot."
"Is it a bird or a plane? Nah man, that's Mustang! Guess who's back to let his nuts hang." Those are the opening words on Wax Mustang’s track ‘Monica’. The quick-witted rapper cheekily commands attention, boasting his larger than life personality over lively beats dipped in nostalgia. Wax Mustang has hit off 2020 with full intentions of it being a big year, kicking off the decade by playing every major summer festival, as well as playing three shows in one day across three different regions, and topping off his run of concerts by selling out his first headline tour. It is an understatement to say that Wax Mustang has exploded onto the scene, and won’t be slowing down. Once a carpet salesman, now rising kiwi kingpin of hip hop – Wax Mustang was born and raised in Dunedin, New Zealand. When we meet for our shoot, it is a sunny summer’s day nearing the beginning of December – a perfect day to be by the sea. Originally, the idea for the shoot was something similar to the Macklemore music video for ‘Thrift Shop’… but after a phone call with his manager, this changed to “maybe something with more dad vibes… a wharf? a fishing rod…?” I hand Wax the rod, asking if he actually can fish... “God no, I don’t know how to fish.” What you see is what you get with Wax. The happy-go-lucky character is exactly what I was expecting. “I started off with some really weird, more ‘trappy’ influence I guess you could say… literally just using ‘type beats’ off YouTube and trying to figure it out.” Wax tells me. If you know Mustang’s music – it is unimaginable to even think of him rapping over a Trap Beat. “Luckily I was very blessed that that music never came out and saw the light of day.” Wax says with a laugh. “You gotta’ make the rough stuff at first, it was pretty bad. It was probably like a 7 month period of making that stuff… and then a period of a few months when I thought music wasn’t for me. Then having that moment where I looked back and was like, wow I’m incredibly happy I didn’t go through with it. Then the Mustang stuff popped up.” His raps are unrestrained, presenting a totally new style of music to the kiwi scene. Quite frankly, there is nobody like him.
What were you like as a kid?
I was competitive, very into sports. Golfing and just anything I could get into really. I had a huge head of hair, almost pretty similar to an afro. And I used to wear incredibly short shorts.
How have you found it starting out as a musician in Dunedin?
I’ve had great experiences, the best way playing live is to just put yourself out there in front of as many people as you can, at the beginning anyway. So going and playing at these student parties, you get every sort of person you can imagine, and it’s a really good way of getting comfortable out there. And in terms of making the actual music, there’s no difference to anywhere else I don’t think… I think it’s more about the people that you’re around.
Where did the name Wax Mustang come from?
I just remember just walking through the front door of the flat to go have a dart, and going “just call me Wax Mustang from now on.” But it was just a complete joke. Then I sort of had the idea of doing a podcast sort of thing, or comedy show, and it was going to be the Wax Mustang show - and it wasn’t until the music that I’m making now sounded a bit more like it does, and I was like oh that’s a perfect name. No deeper meaning to it really, it just had a ring to it.
How does it feel going from performing at house parties to now performing at the biggest summer festivals here in NZ?
It’s amazing, at the same time though playing some of those student crowds in the early days were much harder than playing summer festivals. Both feel great though. I would love to get back into it, playing at parties here is just as good. A couple weeks ago we played one and it was packed… there were around 150 odd people, it was very intimate.
Was there anything in particular that pushed you to turning music into a career?
Yeah - just hating a 40 hour week. I just can’t do it. Sitting in a sales room just drove me insane. Probably what pushed me towards it was knowing that if it didn’t work out, it wasn’t the end of the world. So I was like oh well, I’ll give this a try, and we’ll see how it goes. But also keeping in mind that even at the very start there was no intention or pressure of having to make it, it was, and still is for the enjoyment factor. That helped with the transition I think, the fact that I did enjoy it so much.
Did you mention music in your resignation letter?
It was actually not so much a resignation or getting fired – right at the end when I left that job was when I started playing more and more gigs – I think it was somewhere around O-week? I can’t even remember. Anyway - I remember having a couple of gigs booked that weren’t going to work with my work shifts, and I had to call up and say “look, I can’t work these days” which maybe wasn’t the best thing to do, as I was looking after most of the south island and it was just me… so they were like, “you can’t just do that.” I said, “well… I kinda have to”. So it wasn’t so much a resignation, but more of a mutual agreement that I’d have to put carpet on the backburner. That dropped me onto a casual contract, and the hours got less and less and less… which I was fine with.
How did your parents respond to you following your passions for music?
I think every parent at first is like… you gotta pay your way in this world. But they were supportive, probably Big Tony more at first. That’s what we call my dad. Now they’re all in, they’re very, very supportive. I’m very thankful for them.
Tell me a little about the music you listened to growing up.
I had a brother who is seven years older than me, so when I was around 8, 9 or 10 he was fully into rap music; Ludacris, Eminem and Fifty… and just having his iTunes library to go through… well back then it was Limewire, so he had a vast array. And it was pretty much just rap, there was some weird techno in there which I didn’t like. I remember burning CDs from his iTunes while he was away, putting them into the Xbox and just having it all on there. At the same time though, I remember various parties my mother had at the house was just full of ABBA or the Bee Gees, so I like that kind of thing too. So it was a very weird mix of music... but I think that comes through in mine.
So that mix has definitely influenced your sound then.
Yeah for sure, that’s the whole idea of it. When I make a song that’s all I can hope for. What comes out of my mouth is mostly rapping, but I hope that instrumental-wise and personality-wise, it brings out the golden era of ‘70s and ‘80s music, where it was probably the best pop music of all time.
What do you want someone to take away from a Wax Mustang track the first time they hear one?
I hope they’re surprised. Hmmm… what to take away from it? I’m not sure, I’ve never really thought about that… I hope that they’re impressed, and I hope they’re happy with it… what to take away from it… shit, I don’t know!
What can we be expecting next from Wax Mustang?
Everything! More music - an album at some stage. I grew up listening to albums, I love sitting and listening to a full project, so I would love to put one out. Maybe even a nude calendar…
Listen to Wax Mustang's latest release, 'BRIEFCASE TALK' on Spotify below:
Words by Oli Spencer
Photography by Oli Spencer
Wax Mustang is the second cover star for Tenner Magazine Volume One.
Order your copy of Tenner at www.tennermag.com/shop