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    [ Royal Trux ]


    For those of you unfamiliar with Royal Trux, its time to wake-up and get your daily dose of what rock ?n? roll is really all about. Formed in the mid-80s after the demise of underground, noise-rock pioneers, Pussy Galore, the Trux have been twisting and turning their way through the record business like divine rock ?n? roll royalty yet undiscovered. Imagine early 70s Mick and Keith if Mick had been the woman he always wanted to be. Only in the case of Royal Trux you have the junkie-goddess (now clean) known as Jennifer Herrema prowling the stage with Jagger-like cockiness and her partner Neil Haggerty grinding raunchy guitar riffs from 'sticky Fingers?-era Stones. Without a doubt the Trux are true American originals and their story is one well worth telling. When they were recently in Philly to promote their new record, 'Veterans of Disorder', I got a chance to talk with Jennifer about the early days of the band, the experience of being on a major label, and meeting Keith Richards.

    EM: Tell me about the interview you did with Keith Richards.
    JH: It was in 1995 or 96 down in Memphis. Neil and I were supposed to interview him and do photos and stuff but at the last minute Neil decided he didn't want to meet him. Keith was like the antithesis of his persona. He's very, very short and like wiry, animated-wirey. And he was just very polite. A gentleman. His presence was very animated but it was a small presence. And then when he got on stage it was like fucking huge. It was fucking phenomenal. I talked to him for a couple of hours and we talked about Patti LaBelle and Sara Dash; just mostly about music.
    EM: I also read one time that you met Timothy Leary right before he died.
    JH: We went to his house to watch the Super Bowl. He had to take naps every 20 minutes but he would come out and start spinning tales. The simplest of stories would suddenly turn into psychedelic events.
    EM: Did Leary give you any type of advice?
    JH: Yeah...we talked about our music; he was into it. He didn't really give me any advice. There was a vibe, though...a major vibe.
    EM: How did you meet Neil?
    JH: Neil and I met my senior year in high school. He was playing in a band and I went to go see it. I ?d been to lots of shows, but I'd never seen anything like Neil. It was the way he played his guitar and the way he sang, I'd never seen anything like it. I just remember being very blown away by them. And I was very young so I didn't know how to approach a stranger without being a complete idiot.
    EM: So you immediately had this amazing crush on Neil.
    JH: Yeah...oh yeah. It was like boom...instant. It was just that quick. And then it was a series maneuverings so I could be at the right place at the right time so I could just watch him interact. One night people followed Neil back to this warehouse because he had a sheet of acid. I had gone for the purpose of seeing Neil, but also to do the acid. I ended up staying there for three days tripping my ass off. Me and Neil and my friend Holly ending up sitting on this board and it became a ship. It became a boat. So we could not get off the board or we would drown. We stayed on that board for like a day and a half. And we?ve been together ever since.
    EM: Neil was in Pussy Galore prior to Royal Trux. Is that right?
    JH: No...I finished up high school and he was my boyfriend. Then we moved into an old carriage house together for a year. But the whole year we lived at the carriage house in DC when we were doing a lot of acid and stuff, Neil and I got a couple of radio shows at Maryland University. It was never said that it was Royal Trux. It was just me and Neil. But it was some of the earliest songs we wrote as Royal Trux. We were doing that for a whole year when Pussy Galore called. We had songs written and we gave a couple of them to the band. There's a couple of Royal Trux songs on the album.
    EM: So Royal Trux was a side thing and Neil was making money off Pussy Galore.
    JH: No...Royal Trux was his thing. He considered Pussy Galore his National Service.
    EM: Who were your early influences musically?
    JH: I grew up in southeast DC so I was definitely a minority being white. It was mostly like Parliament, Funkadelic, Chic, Rick James, Mary Jane Girls. It was just a lot of funk and disco stuff. But I made a friend early on in 8th grade who lived uptown and she went to a big public school up there and she was good friends with the guys in Scream and Void, these dischord bands. So I started going to watch them play and started seeing more and more shows like that. Then when I went over to 9th grade all the seniors would have parties on the weekends where all the best weed and acid was, so I would be there all night long listening to the Dead and Led Zeppelin.
    EM: How about writers? Who influenced you?
    JH: My favorite writer in the whole world is Joan Didion. She wrote ?The White Album? which is probably one of my favorite books. The way she writes is like there's no waiting period between her thoughts and the paper.
    EM: There's a movie out now called 'The Source.' Its a very good documentary about the Beat Generation. You guys seem to have a lot of Beat in your approach to music. Did you read any of those writers?
    JH: Yeah I definitely went through the Kerouac thing and William Burroughs. And with Burroughs it was like I read the books and then I never read it again. I couldn't even remember it. Still it meant something. It stood for something in my head and I remember just looking at the words and what they actually meant.
    EM: So you guys signed with a major label in the mid- 90s. How did signing with Virgin Records come about?
    JH: We were with Drag City for our first few records. At some point our booking agent started getting calls from major labels. Virgin was one of them and they were actually the most tactful and tasteful. They weren't really pushing everything but they let it be known on many occasions that if we were ever interested they would like to talk with us. We went to Virgin and walked in and within 30 minutes they let it be known that they had to have us. And it was that genuine. So when we decided to come to the terms of the contract, once Neil and I decided what it was we were gonna ask for and what it was we had to have to make any kind of move like that. We knew we could go all the way because we just had that feeling that they were gonna do it. And they did.
    EM: The first record for Virgin was 'Thank You' which is my personal favorite Royal Trux record.
    JH: Yeah...'Thank You' has a certain kind of energy to it. Its funny because its such a studio album in its cleanness but it is not a studio album at all, its a live album. It was recorded as a live album. I was mic'd up through a PA and we played on a stage. Its a live album.
    EM: So how long did it take you to record it?
    JH: One day. We did three months of preproduction and rehearsal. And David Briggs (producer of the record) just hung out and slept on the floor at our house for a month and we just did it.
    EM: How did working with David Briggs influence the music?
    JH: David influenced it by making it such a fucking great experience. Making it such an exciting way to work. He didn't do anything physically; he didn't engineer and he didn't want to change us in any way so basically he was there as a father figure or a cheerleader. I came to call him a vibologist.' It was really quite amazing. And he was an amazing person. And his death happened so quick.
    EM: Do you ever think about bringing in somebody else to produce? Is there anybody you want to work with?
    JH: I don't know...there are tons of producers it would be interesting to be around. But 50 percent of my enjoyment in making records is just fucking around in the studio. Just finding things. And you give up a lot with another producer. Hence, I love producing. Its a cerebral thing.
    EM: You and Neil have produced under the pseudonym of 'Adam & Eve.' Who have you produced for?
    JH: Palace Brothers, The Make-up, Brother JT, Edith Frost.
    EM: After the release of 'Sweet 16' you guys left Virgin. What happened?
    JH: It started basically when David died. Virgin started scrambling to sell us on another producer. And that's when the shit started.
    EM: So they didn't want you to produce your own records.
    JH: Oh no. And they certainly didn't want us to buy and build a studio. That was very against their rules. We had that same manager from LA at that time and he was the liaison between our desires and the labels. He was really on our side but it was his job to carry the party line for the major label. Then there came a time when there was nothing more to talk about. So we fired the manager and did it ourselves. We hired a business manager who was just our accountant basically and we had them call up the record company and say 'cut the checks.'
    EM: So you had total autonomy over everything.
    JH: Total.
    EM: That's pretty ballsy.
    JH: Yeah...we figured, what the fuck? They had no choice. They sent us the checks and we built the studio. We didn't talk to them at all during the production of 'Sweet 16.'
    EM: At that time did you tell the record company about the concept behind your work on the 'Trilogy.'
    JH: No, that was completely beyond them. We came to them with all sorts of marketing angles, 'Exploit this or do that...' But they just didn't get it. There was this college rock thing going on and we're 'townie rock.' We're there for the 'townies.' They definitely were functioning on an elitist level where they wanted to have mass recognition for us. At the same time they wanted to hold us in some precious way so that their investment was not devalued.
    EM: What was the concept behind the 'Trilogy'? From reading about it I think people get the idea that with ?Thank You? you were trying to make a record that sounded like the 60s, or on 'Sweet 16' the 70s, with 'Accelerator' the 80s...
    JH: By no means are those records tributes to specific decades. If you hear the records you immediately know they're not tribute albums. It was fun to take the production techniques of that time and the equipment we chose, and the instrumentation we used. It was not trying to recreate something in a new way. It was more a function of taking what we liked about certain things.
    EM: Are you happy with what came out on the major label?
    JH: Yeah. Its funny man. We make records and then after we're done with them I don't listen to them for awhile. Then when we do the master; generally you have to get things mixed 3 or 4 times to get it right, after that its very infrequently that I listen to anything of ours. The only record that I can say that's not the truth about is 'Sweet 16.' I still listen to that record a lot. I can't put my finger on what it is. I think its this kind of distance to it in my mind.
    EM: Is 'Sweet 16' you favorite Trux record then?
    JH: Well I like them all. But 'Sweet 16' is like another band playing Royal Trux music.
    EM: How did the new record, 'Veterans of Disorder' differ from the past few Trux records?
    JH: Its not all that different really. There's a lot of Royal Trux influences in there. Its just a different cast of people.
    EM: A lot of the songs on 'Veterans' clock in at under three minutes. Was that conscious decision?
    JH: That just happened. On 'Sweet 16' no song was allowed to be under four minutes. That was the rule. On 'Veterans of Disorder' there was no general rule like that. When the first few songs were written they just presented themselves that way. We weren't going to change how we wrote them. All these external variables come into play and define how the song ends up.
    EM: Do you listen to any particular music while you make a record?
    JH: I don't listen to any music while we make a record. I listen to a lot of music before we make a record.
    EM: Do you write your songs in the studio?
    JH: No, we write all the songs before we even go into our own studio. It has to have a special meaning. Its like people that work in their home find it difficult because its all one mind set. We're really cautious about going into the studio. Its in a different wing of the house and you have to go down a long hall to get to the studio. So we write all of our songs prior to plugging in the first guitar. As far as lyrically, we write it all out and then look it over and figure out what the instrumentation is gonna be on it. From there we decide who we want to play. We make all these decisions before we go into the studio because once you're in there's so much that can be done you start second guessing your initial thoughts and game plan. I can go all over the map because its fun. But we like to come up with a plan and stick to it. Stay focused.
    EM: The new record (Veterans of Disorder) seems to come across very playful.
    JH: Yeah...Like when I wrote 'Waterpark' it was literally a day after I'd been to the waterpark for three days in a row.
    EM: Do you read reviews?
    JH: Neil doesn't read reviews. I do, but I shouldn't.
    EM: How have the reviews been for 'Veterans of Disorder'?
    JH: All the ones that I've read have been positive. I know there was one that our press agent told me about. She said it was negative and when she read it to me I thought if I read that review I would want the record because it chastised us for playing serious solos and guitar rock in the modern age of Electronica. I'm like, 'Oh, fuck! I'd buy that record.'

    Written By: Ed