For over a decade as Royal Trux the duo of Neil Hagerty and Jennifer Herrema played rock and roll to their own rules and vision. They were locked into their own musical consciousness ignoring all others and taking their own route, as one of their song titles proudly maintains it was: The United States vs One 1974 Cadillac El Dorado Sedan Neil Hagerty played guitar in the final line up of Pussy Galore; whilst his long hair and Gibson SG helped codify PG's ambitions to properly rock, Royal Trux were set from lift off to not only take their own musical path but create their own personalised orbit as they did so.
Their first album the self released Royal Trux (1998) had a space-clatter that took the garage / blues template for a walk across a desert; it prompted its distributor clerks to start a new record company, Drag City, and sign the band. Their next album was a double. Twin Infinitives (1990) is regularly listed amongst other double albums (Trout Mask Replica, The White Album, Metallic KO, Selected Ambient Works 2) as a sprawling, semi-penetrable masterpiece. Only immersion in the record - hey it's a double album - and a familiarity with its disjointed pulse can begin to describe it. Songs and band dynamics are replaced with disembodied voices and screaming laments. The Wailing Wall is under construction to the sound of a slow melting synapse. As a contemporary review in Forced Exposure had it: "If you can go so far as to make contact with this disc, I think you'll have a real, real good feel for their personal space. It's wide, wonderfully incoherent, totally baffling, and mystically engulfing."
The band followed up with 1992's Untitled. A spare folk and country tinged record that showcased Hagerty's virtuoso guitar playing and the duo's ability to write affecting songs. The album's standout track Junkie Nurse became a live favourite in its myriad interpretations and seemed to be coming from the inside track. Just as they were gaining a fast growing audience as a live draw and on the tip of every hipsters' tongue Royal Trux released Cats & Dogs (1993). The album in many ways defines the Royal Trux sound. Hagerty was regularly discussing Ornette Coleman's theory of harmolodics in interviews. A three dimensional intervention of melody and rhythm, harmolodic just about describes the juxtaposition of American Rock, sci-fi mysticism, sub-equatorial drumming and vocal interplay that defines the Royal Trux sound. While their beat science contemporaries were dropping the name Sun Ra like so many bags of paranoid weed, Royal Trux were the true progeny of his Solar Myth Approach.
By now every single major label was courting the Trux. Having witnessed the post-Nirvana gold rush first hand Hagerty and Herrema played it their own way, holding out for the right deal. (Rumour has it they managed to negotiate a deal that meant they would be just as well off getting dropped). Their major label debut Thank You (1995) was released worldwide on Virgin and saw long term Neil Young producer add clarity to the Trux sound and hone their Classic Rock leanings whilst taking away nothing of the band?s character. A worldwide tour, exposure on TV and increased sales all followed. Sweet Sixteen (1996) quickly followed and was recorded on the band's Virginia ranch, which they had kitted out as a studio on Virgin's proceeds. A return to the density of Cats & Dogs it contained the anthem Morphic Resident surely a drivetime staple on Mars and Jupiter.
The box set and self-explanatory Singles Live & Unreleased (1997) was a coda to the mid-period of the band and revealed the true depth of ideas and creativity not to say the stand-alone individuality of Royal Trux. Released on Domino / Drag City Accelerator (1998) was the Trux at their most high-octane rock and roll direct. Garnering renewed critical acclaim its primitive riffing (and Herrema's increased profile in the style and attitude media) proved highly influential and helped clear the ground for the turn of the century Rock renaissance. Energised by their access to the independent mainstream the Trux kept up a phenomenal work rate.
Veterans of Disorder (1999) rocked hard and contained Blue Is The Frequency, which became the astonishing Trux live show closer. A harmolodic guitar excursion that took band and audience wherever the group mind decided leaving crowds drained and ecstatic. Pound For Pound (2000) took Royal Trux into the new millennium but signalled that the Trux course had run. For the first time in their history there were other bands around who were starting to sound like Royal Trux; for reasons that only add to the Trux myth they split up. Few bands have ever carved out so singular an identity and defined their own space so eloquently as Royal Trux. In the ironic 90s they re-defined rock and roll and went to places their contemporaries dared not go.
Perpetually ahead of their time their influence lingers in countless bands- guitar sound, attitude, image, and dress sense. But no one else can ever get close to the inner workings of Hagerty and Herrema.
ON THE SITE
This artist is a member of Neil Michael Hagerty.