Before their marriage imploded in 2011, Sonic Youth royalty Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon were the archetypical art-rock power couple — wholesome but edgy and the über-hip avant-gardist parents every cool kid wished they had. Existing in a parallel universe — yet the antithesis of Moore and Gordon — stood (barely) the drug-addled, skuzzy, noise-mongers and stoned architects of legendary downtown New York City dirtbag blues Royal Trux, Neil Hagerty and Jennifer Herrema.
Royal Trux’s trajectory could be divided into two scene-defining halves: Its early years (1988-93) were the epitome of filthy lo-fi experimentalism; the latter years (1995-2002) personified its Stones-licked, epic-crud blooze arena rock. Ultimately, substance abuse spelled Royal Trux’s demise; Hagerty first went solo and later formed the Howling Hex while Herrema birthed RTX (a.k.a. Rad Times Express) before reinventing her band as Black Bananas.
Hagerty and Herrema have barely spoken since the dissolution of Royal Trux and the requisite reunion talk has been bandied about, but nothing has come to fruition. Until now. In a surprising twist, Hagerty has resurrected the Royal Trux moniker (sans Herrema, but with her blessing), assembled a cast of unknowns (he’s dubbed the project “Royal Trux 1988”) where one girl will “play” the role of Herrema in a performance of 1990’s monumental junk-infested, no-fi damaged maelstrom Twin Infinitives in its entirety. It promises to be one bizarre scene. Hive caught up with Hagerty to talk about resurrecting Royal Trux.
“The drugs just made everything take forever; they didn’t really define the sound — our brains were bad enough.”
After Royal Trux ended in 2002, you haven’t looked back. Why are you suddenly reviving the band, at least for one night?
It was a combination of meeting the right people and becoming fascinated by the music on Twin Infinitives again at the same time. The Howling Hex is about to have a Best of album come out, so I was on pause and the idea came up.
What made you decide on performing Twin Infinitives?
The work involved with bringing that music to the stage really interested me, beyond the fact the music was suddenly intriguing me after so many years had passed.
Were there other Royal Trux albums you considered first?
No, Twin Infinitives was my first thought.
Do you look at Twin Infinitives as yours and Jennifer’s most important or groundbreaking record?
I don’t consider it groundbreaking or important myself since it came out of my brain. The record I think is most important would be the one people like the best — just because of the way I work, when something does connect with people it is pretty amazing to me.
How did you cross paths with the band members who will be involved in performing the record with you?
The other band members in “Royal Trux ’88” are the singer, stoner dude, and electronics nerd. I met two of them in the beginning of the summer and then at the end of August, the singer — who I’d known for a couple years — told me she was living in her car in Los Angeles. So right then I said: “Why don’t you come out to Denver and we’ll put this show together.” She was a big fan of Twin Infinitives.
Your substance abuse has been well documented during that early period and Twin Infinitives, in particular, is arguably Royal Trux’s trippiest record. Was that yours and Jennifer’s most abusive period? What role did drugs play in making that record?
This was the peak for drugs for both of us at the same time — that’s why it took so long to finish. Luckily, we already had the tapes from New York or we wouldn’t have done anything. The drugs just made everything take forever; they didn’t really define the sound — our brains were bad enough. But it did isolate us more and more so we really only had the recording to focus on. We probably played two shows in three years max, and we just hung out. But I got to say some of the later records, especially Sweet Sixteen and Pound for Pound were done with more band members being much higher more often — just not me.
“I don’t see how it could have happened with both of us; it would have gone in a different direction and not have been what I wanted to do.”
I assume you have been going through rehearsals for Twin Infinitives. What memories has it been stirring up?
A lot of memories, but mostly good musical ones. It has been nice to leave all the thinking to the 22-year-old me and just play the songs as they are. And above that, I get to go back into the past and change it by having the original Royal Trux lineup re-exist. And when weird memories arise, whatever regrets I feel I get to work through in a sort of role-playing therapy.
There’s been rumors generated that you arbitrarily made the decision to play again under the Royal Trux name. If Jennifer had wanted to be involved in this upcoming performance and beyond, would you be open to joining the reunion bandwagon?
I don’t know, we’ve turned down a lot of offers so far. Jennifer has been very supportive of this whole thing and I know she understands, it’s like I need to do it just for the music on this record and that’s what I am about with this. With the amount of work that has gone into this, I don’t see how it could have happened with both of us; it would have gone in a different direction and not have been what I wanted to do. So I wouldn’t have done it. But after this, who knows? I have no idea how it will go down.
Have you been offered shows beyond the December 8th gig with this new version of Royal Trux?
No offers yet, and I really don’t know where my heart will be after this. I just need to get through it without going insane.
Royal Trux ‘88 plays Twin Infinitives at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn, New York on December 8th. Get tickets at www.saintvitusbar.com.