Royal Trux

From Academic Kids

The American indie rock band Royal Trux during their career from 1987 to 2000, was one of the most controversial bands on the underground rock scene, gaining their reputation in equal measures from extreme musical experiments, an outspoken lifestyle based on lots of hard drugs, sometimes outrageous stage performances, and ever-changing musical directions.

Royal Trux can both be seen as the archetypal authentic, highly original rock band, or indie rocks pendant to Spinal Tap, or perhaps a bit of both. In either case, the band was completely aware of their public image and used it purposely throughout their career.

The band was synonymous with Neil Hagerty (vocal, guitar) and Jennifer Herrema (vocal, occasionally other instruments), sweethearts since teenage hood. A number of often uncredited musicians acted as band for the two. Still a teenager, Hagerty became a member of New York's avant garde noise experimentalists Pussy Galore, led by Jon Spencer. In his time in Pussy Galore, Hagerty was among other things responsible for talking his band mates into releasing a cassette-only remake of the Rolling Stones album Exile on Main Street, in whole.

Hagerty and Herrema released their first album in 1987, and with the following album, the highly experimental double-album Twin Infinitives, the band established themselves on the underground scene. Twin Infinities was not so much a deconstruction of rock music, as a heavy-handed splitting and beating of the genre. It remains today as an extreme work on the periphery of rock music, worthy of being compared to albums as Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music and Suicide's debut album. Though most casual listeners will find it utterly unlistenable, many musicians from the scene hold it in high regard.

After Twin Infinitives, Royal Trux released a self-titled album (sometimes referred to as the skulls-record because of the sleeve artwork), and following came the album Cats and Dogs. Both albums were closer tied to a more known sense of rock music than their predecessor, but the songwriting remained highly original and unpredictable. These albums were often compared to the aforementioned Exile on Main Street by the music press. Lyricwise, the album continued the drug / science fiction inspired nonsense style that followed the band to the end of their career.

In the corporate sweep of the underground scene that followed Nirvana, Royal Trux got themselves an unlikely record contract with the major label Virgin. The band was released from the contract after recording two more polished albums, largely inspired by American seventies mainstream rock. According to the band, the release from the contract was accompanied with a huge amount of money from the label.

Back on their original label, Drag City, the band released several albums throughout the remainder of the 90'ies. These albums went through the history of rock music as an inspiration, and this historicist approach was acknowledged by the band themselves.

For health reasons, Hagerty eventually gave up his drug lifestyle, but it was initially rumored that Herrema declined to follow, and the couple broke up, thus ending Royal Trux.Herrema and Hagerty were married just 7 months before the divorce and break-up of the band. This sent shivers down the spines of all true undeground rock and roll patriots and during the Japanese press conference announcing the split a riot was reported to have broken out. Hagerty has since then recorded a number of albums for Drag City, under the name Neil Michael Hagerty, and Jennifer under the name RTX. Also under the name of Adam and Eve, Hagerty and Herrema have produced a number of records for other artists, among them Will Oldham and even a major label pop record.


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