Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Jebus presents ... Neil Hagerty Royal Trux Howling Hex

"I wish I had a thousand bucks/I wish I was the Royal Trux" - from "Death of an Heir of Sorrow" by the Silver Jews

As a teenager in the 90s, Royal Trux were kind of my Velvet Underground. They had a similar kind of cool underground feel with surface hints of the avant-garde, a we're going to do whatever we want and it's going to be artsy and self-conscious in a rock context. The Velvet Underground went on to influence pretty much every decent rock band to come out after them, and, eventually, were inducted into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame. Neil Haggerty, the god behind the Royal Trux, hasn't had that problem.

The first time I heard Royal Trux was on a mix tape a friend made me, which must have been 1995. The song was "Map of the City" from the album Thank You. The song stood out because it didn't seem to fit in any particular category that I was used to, and the lyrics, although melodic and even catchy in places, were sometimes sinister too: "I knew right then I could love her forever even when her breasts were all rotted with cancer," and sometimes absurd: "A sailor has to masturbate until the ship lands/a lot of things happen out on the open sea/I'm gonna sell Arizona to Japan," and even kind of ethereal: "I'm drawing up a plan for the city with ten thousand crooked stairs/some lead up to heaven, some look through you like you're not even there." So I went and bought their albums.

Short History:

Royal Trux released their first album in 1988, with Hagerty as guitar player/ singer/ multi- instrumentalist and then girlfriend Jennifer Herrenna as singer/multi-instrumentalist. Their second album, 1990's Twin Infinitives, was straight up avant-garde, discordant experimentation - tape loops, spoken word, noise, etc. On their third album (Untitled, 1992) they had begun to develop more of what would become their sound via a low-fi approach. The album has a stripped-down dirty country-rock feel (kind of), via crackly acoustic guitars drenched here and there in distorted guitar fuzz and melodic rambling vocals. Their fourth album, Cats and Dogs, is where they started to really sound like a band. They hired a drummer, guitarist and bass player, and a lot fans consider it to be their best album. The songs on Cats and Dogs are far from polished, but they are a little more cohesive, and Hagerty had begun to delve into an ongoing exploration of 70s rock, albeit from a distance, that would mark the rest of their albums. Songs like "Turn of the Century" and "Teeth" are really awesome. They were subsequently signed to Virgin Records for a short stint (the record company was looking for some hip credibility) and they moved to a farmhouse in Virginia. Their next nine albums would continue to explore 70s rock aesthetic, going deep into guitar-riff based songs on some, jam-type stuff on others, arty collage stuff here and there, always with a distance and enough discordant noise to keep it conceptual enough to retain a cool art factor.

By the time Cats and Dogs had come out (1993) Royal Trux had started to gain a reputation as a semi-underground cool band. Their coolness came partially from their unique sound, a blend of 70s rock and the low-fi indie stuff that was happening in the early 90s. It didn't hurt that the latter was becoming popular, through bands like Smog, Palace, Sebedoh, Pavement, Guided by Voices, The Silver Jews, etc. However, the Royal Trux didn't quite fit in with those bands' sound, mostly because of their 70s rock thing: a "Sticky Fingers"/"Exile on Main Street"-era Stones/Joe Walsh aesthetic filtered through the low-fi indie mode. Grunge had recently "broke" a few years earlier, and it also embraced a 70s guitar rock-type aesthetic (mostly via Black Sabbath, Led Zepplin, Cheap Trick, NY and London 70s punk, etc), but Royal Trux did not fit in there either - even less so, actually. This added to their outsider factor. Also, they openly talked about their heroin use in interviews, which I guess made them seem kind of snarky and rebellious. They looked pretty cool too, indifferent: Hagerty with his shallow pale face, brooding, spaced-out look, Jennifer Herrenna with her sexy, rock god fuck-you look. Haggerty was one of the few indie guitarists at the time (along with J Mascis, for one), who could get away with occasional guitar- god style rhythms and solos, this at a time when overt displays of chops were seen as kind of passé - but it worked because it made his stuff seem like he either didn't give a shit about what other bands were doing or like he was smart enough not to emulate them.

Around 2000, Hagerty and Herrenna broke up, thus ending the Royal Trux. Since then, Hagerty recorded some with Ian Svenonius on his project Weird War, he did a few solo things, but mostly he has been recording and playing under the moniker The Howling Hex with various people. I love the Howling Hex.

In retrospect, Hagerty via Royal Trux was important to me because he filled a certain hole that other low-fi indie artists weren't at the time. I was all about that stuff. LIke a lot of kids, I craved something that seemed new and authentic. Before this, the closest I came was gangster rap, bands like NWA, the Ghetto Boys, Too Short, etc. I think Smog was the first indie lo-fi thing I heard. I really loved Smog, and Callahan's stuff was gritty, smart, minimalist, idiosyncratic and artsy enough to come close to what I craved, but Hagerty had all of that and rocked too, and his playing off of Herrenna added something that a solo artist would miss. Also, he seemed kind of arrogant and egotistical, or at least indifferent (I don't know if he was - he actually probably wasn't), which I liked as a young dude.

Last I'd read, Hagerty had moved to New Mexico, which added to his outsider persona. I hadn't thought about Hagerty for a while and then, last July, I thought of him. I googled his name and read that he now lives in Denver Colorado (where I live) and that his current incarnation of the Howling Hex was playing every Thursday that month at a dive bar a mile from my house. This was completely random and a big surprise. The next night I went to see them.

I didn't recognize Hagerty at first because I was used to seeing pics of him grimacing behind long hair hanging in his face and I expected him to look kind of middle-aged and haggard at this point in his life. But he was sitting in a booth talking energetically to some guys (his two bandmates), clean-cut and looking about 25-years-old. He was skinnier than I imagined, for some reason, even though he was always skinny in pics I had seen of him. I probably could have talked to him, since the place was pretty empty, but whenever I'm around people I admire I never know what to say. So I just drank a beer and waited for them to play.

It was me and about five other guys my age, alone, watching Howling Hex. It was amazing. Here is a pic I took on my phone of Hagerty playing):

There is tons more to know about Hagerty - e.g., he's written and published a book, his work with Pussy Galore, producer, his current obsession with noterna music, etc. The above stuff is just my personal, and limited, experience with his work. Here are some good interviews that go more into depth:

Here are some of my favorite Royal Trux, Hagerty and Howling Hex songs that I was able to find on youtube:


p.s. Hey. Today we get a really beautiful and, if you're not already familiar with the Trux/Hex genius of Neil Hagerty, downright humanitarian guest-post from d.l. Jebus. It's a thrill and a couple of million, so please take advantage and enjoy. Thank you so very kindly, Jebus. ** Misanthrope, You call that ass of yours lazy? ** David Ehrenstein, It was exquisite, David. 'TTT', that is. Is NPH's involvement enough to get you in that spooky house? I guess I don't see you a spooky house kind of guy, but it's not really so unlike The Living Theater with more mascara and without the seats. ** Alan, Hey. Thanks for that option tip. That precisely fixed most of the problems. Why would anyone want to work with that tiresome *br* thing anyway? ** xTx, Maybe it's the Halloween season that's making it creep. I'm in LA from Nov. 3 to Nov. 21. After the usual first few days of zombie-fying jetlag, I should start to be raring to go. Save me some hours. Wow, you'd never seen 'TCSM' before? Is it not a DIY masterpiece of a little thing? ** Steevee, That's interesting. I definitely would have thought it'd be mostly all Connery all the time. But I don't get the Daniel Craig appeal at all. He just seems like he's there and not much else. After reading that near-perfect review of the Kendrick Lamar, I'm definitely going to check that out. That plus your positive add makes it sound quite amazing. I'll give Sinister Servant a listen too. Thank you so much! ** Wolf, Hey. Well, I don't know. I think the idea was they were protecting me from them, so I don't know if that was for my sake or for theirs. Hunh, self-protective ... Yeah, I guess so. Feels much less so these days, at least in some respects. I was kind of looking to break that protection down with the Tarot thing, but c'est la. Certainly the reading was interesting because it was very pragmatic like I am. Can't say that I wasn't desperately hoping the cards would magically form George's name or something, but it was basically saying George is in the work now and not elsewhere. Big if very, very painful duh right there. Your pendulum really intrigues me. Bring to Paree next time. SPD + Wolf = victoire! ** Robert-nyc, Mega-niceness about the poeming. I was kind of hoping so, obviously. Hunh, why is the party called Cheryl. It's nice: Cherylween. There's a grace in its kind of dumbness or something. Grace Jones! That has to be really something. I've never seen her live, but a bunch of my buddies saw her on tour last year or whenever and were very satisfied. My novel proceeds. No Halloween in Paris that I know of, just the no doubt blah EuroDisneyland makeover. I haven't given up searching though. But I might just have to go see 'Looper', which opens that day, and pretend. ** ASH, Hi, man. Oh, I read about that Tully's spooky house thing when I was making the post yesterday. It didn't make the cut, obviously. That system does sound annoying. Wtf?! No Halloween plans yet, but not for a lack of wanting plans. London was quick, but quite nice. I just got the new Pinback yesterday. Yeah, it's a fucking dream. I want to 'strangle' that lazy-brained bore who wrote the Pitchfork review. ** Pascal, Hey! Shit, two things that I am slugging myself on the head with a mallet to be missing. Everyone, and more exactly those of you in London and its accessible environs, d.l. Pascal has two excellent, excellent event tips for you. Here he is to tell you all about them: 'I’d like to share two things that might be of interest to your London people: Firstly a poetry reading I’ve organized with poets Sarah Crewe and Tommy peeps. It’s 16 poets reading new work inspired by Sonic Youth. It’s this Friday 26th October in Stoke Newington and here’s the link. Secondly the Poetry Library Poetic Censorship Open Day at the Royal Festival Hall in Southbank Centre on Nov 18th will have a special section on New Narrative including your very own Little Caesar magazine and other great and rare stuff worth perusing. Here’s the link.' Actually, your second link was broken, so I found a replacement, but I don't know it's the same one or as good as yours. Novel is very tough, but I'm okay all in all, thank you. Very good luck getting through the friends' and family crises. Hugs. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Oh, opth, eyes, duh, I should have gotten that. 'The science of eyes' is a cool word/idea combo, or maybe that's just me. I'm very glad you flew through it. Nice flyer, ha ha. Everyone, if you click this, you can both see the lovely Yuck n Yum flyer designed by our own _B_A and, just as importantly, learn the deadline for submissions to the next issue of that finest of the fine zines of the world. Hit it. ** Sypha, Well, yeah, vomiting gives much more personal information about him, and it creates empathy, which I can't say I feel all so very often towards him. Never have read the 'Illuminatus' trilogy. Have always meant to. I had a boyfriend who read it in bed with me, and I looked over his shoulder at it a bit, that's as close as I've gotten. ** Postitbreakup, Fuck tomes. Long tomes, at least. I go there, but only when I have to. I did sneak a twink or three through my bedroom window, although they were called ... hm, they didn't really have a name back then. One of them fell off the lattice/ladder while leaving and twisted his ankle. Served him right. ** 5STRINGS, No allergies at all?Wow, your genes are the genetic equivalent of skinny jeans. Stockton, ha ha, really? Not sure what the 'stay away' thing was about. It seems like the cards were being nice to me by saying that, but you know me. I think almost everybody and everything is nice. Thank you about my book, man. God knows, but I'm chasing the best possible outcome. ** Frank Jaffe, Hey Frank! Great about you guys and the SPD! Oh, Sereen, I know (of) him. He's hilarious. And he's been saying he's 19 for about eight years now. The election is scaring me almost totally to death. I'm going to LA to vote and to either celebrate or join the mass suicide event afterwards. Vichyssoise is a magic word. Oh, wow, that photo of me on 'Safe'. That was taken during the four days of my post-childhood life when I parted my hair on the side. The front cover photo featuring my lovely ex- Rob is much better. Luke's coming over here! Why? Is he going to give me the great pleasure of meeting and hanging out with him? Cool, if so, and, well, I guess if not too, for him at least, but cooler if so. ** Bollo, Hi, J! Okay, yeah, I'll get my head back into eBook suggesting mode. Give me a day. I saw those show pix on FB. They looked great! I mean your stuff looked great, and they did their job! Oh, ugh, on the social welfare, man. At least you're one of the jet-settiest social welfare guys out there. Paris is nippy, but it's a nice nippy, I think. ** Okay, go back upstairs and hang out with Neil Hagerty and Jebus now, yes? Here's your daily 'Send me Halloween SPD entries' nudge. See you tomorrow.


Misanthrope said...

Jebus, I'm liking what I'm hearing.

Dennis, Well, yeah, it just lays there, even when it's being pummeled and sat on and pummeled and all other horrible things.

Man, I'm gonna be busy today. But that's okay. It'll make the day go faster.

I need better time management.

Alter Clef Records said...

Hey Dennis,

Just mailed you a bunch of stuff for the Halloween post - enjoy.

How are you? How's the novel progressing? 'Letters...' is now all done and with the label, being mastered for vinyl etc; should have the CDs back by early November.

And the film is nearing completion ready for the premiere this Sunday. And rehearsals are well-underway for the launch concert on November 5th - replete with a veil of smoke, crows, strobes, projections and general occult intensity. Heehee.

(Oh yeah, if anyone in Brighton/London wants to come along to either/both of these - here's the details -

This crazy momentum-gaining arc as a project two-years-in-the-making nears fruition - it's adrenalizing as hell, but I sure am knackered. Haha.

So, a really, really odd story emerged last week - I've been researching Pasolini pretty intensively, and posted something about him on Facebook - a friend, Fiona, responded, 'fessing up that she was living in Italy in the seventies, and that she unknowingly bought Pasolini's car - the one that was used to run him over post-murder. She later learned it had been resprayed to try and distance it from the incident. She's gonna try and acquire photos, which I will of course share at some point. She knew little of Pasolini at the time, and it's only in the last few years that she's come to understand the history of the car a little better.

So, um, yeah.

Anyway, have wicked day and speak soon,


lee said...

jebus, dc, love that this is here. pre-haircut n.m.h. was ultimate indie rock sex. when he screams and his voice breaks and crackles - oh my. between him, justin trosper and jason lowenstein, my hormones were kept pretty busy for most of the 90's.

dennis, my friend in paris got back to me, and all the dates we talked about are good for her. so whenever you've straightened things out with giselle and your other commitments, let me know and i can book trains etc.

ima go listen to weird war now. hope all's good xx

DavidEhrenstein said...

Thanks for the introduction to Royla Trux, Jebus.

Haunted Houses interest me in theory but nt enough to get me to leave the house and go to one. I'm far too spoiled by 60's era "Happenings" and such.

5STRINGS said...

Haha it's all bullshit, no allergies, but I can feel my insides rotting daily LOL! Find a nice Mexican boy, settle down… j/k I am seeking warmer weather. Hm don't know, cards can be weird. I used to know the Crowley deck and the Golden Dawn deck, I think there's probably like 5 decks in my house of various types. Ok, so you got me in a card mood. And ok, I have this ghost friend, he claims his name is Dennis. So, no offense, serious cards, not too serious though, more curious, we did some cards together, here's the scientifically tested results:

Dennis? Aces high.
Where/how is George? He's okay, he's enslaved? He's one with the universe?
What about the book? Heady, decadent, generally well received.

Good luck. I've almost all but skipped out on Halloween reading time this year, I think I may just sneak some TMS. Have a rocked out day

Bollo said...

Hi Dennis

i was just thinking that this is the year ive traveled most and had the least money, about 5 months so far with no income just living on savings which have now dwindled.
thanks for liking, the whole show is pretty great, glad to be a part of it.

Royal Trux = Awesome in my book. if anyone wants the magic guitar sound you can get a Harmonic Percolator here at an ok price its on my list along with many others : )

been listening and enjoying Julia Holter's Tragedy. which is making up for the piddley rain here.
gonna email you my SPD now
see you on the otherside.

Wolf said...

Royal Trux, Niiiiiice.... Some sweet stuff there. Thanks Jebus!

Dennster, The, ok yeah i'll bring the pendulum with me next i see you. I've got it right here, actually.
I shall try to chose between my two Halloween Costume Contenders and send you the result. Or maybe i'll send both. Two more days right? Ok. Are you gonna enter something too? Please?
Hey, i was wondering, have you voted yet? Can you vote from the US Embassy or something? Postal ballot - absentee? Or is someone voting for you? Or are you flying back for that? ...or another option i missed?

Nick! Little Bro!! XXXXX

Casey McKinney said...

Good day Jebus. I really liked your narrative here about discovering RT and later finding Neil living in your hometown playing weekly gigs. I got turned on to them when I lived with an artist friend in Atlanta in the early 90s. Matt Greene. He was still in school then and used to work on sculptures and paintings until he'd almost (sometimes did) destroy them in the back yard, burning the materials, making all kinds of toxic fumes. It was great. We smoked lots of cigs, drank forties and listened to Royal Trux. The soundtrack was fitting.

Dennis you remember those days from Home Park in Atlanta? I still feel guilty about you having to stay at that shitty hotel across the highway (and me getting pulled over the night I was supposed to pick you up at the airport....aghh). Anyway just thought I'd check in 'cause I often don't, feeling guilty about that too, but I have been following.

Glad to see The Weaklings book will be alive again, XL now. Was very proud to have done the first limited edition version of that with Fanzine. I'm trying to think of something to send for Halloween day. I always forget to do costumes and then throw together like 5 different things at the last minute.

love and respect man,

cobaltfram said...

Heya D

Sorry I missed you yesterday -- I had to be at work at 5 am yesterday, and once I got home that afternoon, Chad and I just played X-Com until unceremoniously falling asleep at 5 pm and sleeping the night through. But anyway, here I am, sort of lightheaded from sleeping close to eleven hours and missing both lunch and dinner yesterday. It's not my favorite feeling in the world.

I really like fashion. Have you seen THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE? I know most of the clothes in it are probably pretty establishment, but I find something really brilliant between the combination of extreme arrogance and exquisite talent that goes into that part of the fashion world. What is Yury's fashion like? Is he the one that showed you the sartorial light?

Your Tarot is really fascinating to me. I would definitely avoid a seance, and I say that as a devout atheist. Like I think I've said, I have a deep fear of trying to contact the dead, or be contacted by them, and etc. The novel I have planned for after this memoir thing is a ghost story, I think. I suspect that after I'm done with this book, I'm going to want to write something completely separated, at least superficially, from everything I've written about up til this point. But anyway, it sounds like your Tarot was satisfactory, in some way, or at least showed you something.

I'll catch you tomorrow; my brain is fried today

Much love


xTx said...

Yeah, I guess I THOUGHT i had seen TCM but upon actual viewing I realized that maybe I had just seen parts of it and not the whole thing. Funny.

Noted on the LA dates. I would love to meet you and have you sign my The Sluts! OMG! But I think I am too nervous to really meet you. I will have to man up I guess!


steevee said...

I find Daniel Craig really handsome and can see his appeal on that level, but I suspect the reason most Bond slash fiction focuses on the past few Bond films, starring him, is just laziness and an aversion among many young people to digging into the past. Anyway, I'm seeing SKYFALL tonight.

steevee said...

My article on FEAR AND DESIRE for the Atlantic is out.

Pascal said...

Thanks for fixing that link. The link I had used had actually mentioned the New Narrative stuff but this is fine. Meanwhile, have a good day. P

DavidEhrenstein said...

Latest FaBlog: Rapes is a Gift From God

Thomas Moronic said...

Jebus - Oh cool, I love Royal Trux and actually haven't listened to them for a looooong time. So this day has hit the spot. I'm gonna blast out Twin Infinitives tomorrow at a stupid volume. Thanks. Oh, and with good timing, this appeared on Pitchfork today, dunno if you've seen it yet:

Dennis - Hope you're good, man. The last week has been a bit of a gig-o-rama over here. I saw Liars at the end of last week, who were great. The new stuff sounds really spectacular live - completely the right side of creepy. Then at the weekend it was Supersonic Festival where I saw/heard a bunch of good stuff, and had fun times with friends and the like. And last night I had the pleasure of seeing Sparks on their Two Hands One Mouth tour, where as the name suggests, they are touring just as a duo for the first time in years, with no backing band or anything. They were brilliant of course.

Gonna have a sit down and put together a Halloweed SPD entry tomorrow.

Big love,
Thomas x

cobaltfram said...

Hey D

Sent in my very short SPD thing, but hopefully it (and the image) will work.

Feeling really self-pitying right now. Had an entire day to myself and feel like I squandered it. I retyped a good ten pages of material but I felt like I was just transcribing. It was pretty miserable, torturous, and frittered away a lot of it with porn and sort of generally hating the fact I want to write rather than be, say, a well-paid lawyer or something. Fuck. Sorry to make a second post just to bitch, but I feel really frustrated today.

jebus said...

Thomes Moronic: Thanks for the Pitchfork interview link. It was weird seeing Hagerty and Herrenna in the same interview. I didn't know they still spoke to each other, but I'm not sure why. Maybe interview was done over phones.

Casey McKinney: pretty amazing story: drinking 40s, hanging with Matt Greene, toxic fumes, Royal Trux - seems perfect. Actually, Matt Greene's paintings kind of remind me of Royal Trux music, now that you mention him in that context…

Bollo - that pedal looks super rad, and I'm all about vintage fuzz (or even synthetic-sounding, digital fuzz, actually), drooling.

Lee - like the 90's indie rock boys, I could see that - I tried to emulate them, but just looked like a stoner rather than a brooding artist

Thanks for enjoying RT: Wolf, David Ehrenstein, Misanthrope!

Sypha said...

Dennis, I know some people think of "Illuminatus" as Pynchon-lite but I really dig it. I like how it takes a lot of different literary genres (such as Lovecraftian horror, the Bond novels, and so on) and tosses them all into the blender. I like how it doesn't take itself too seriously, and the occult subject matter is right up my alley, as you can imagine. My main motivation for reading it right now is to see if it influences my "Confusion" revision.

steevee, I think Daniel Craig has a nice body, but his face... doesn't do much for me. The only Bond films I've seen are the two Timothy Dalton ones, the first two Pierce Brosnan ones ("Goldeneye" was the first Bond film I ever saw, actually), and the first Daniel Craig one. But I've never really seen any of the classics. I'll have to catch up on them one day.

Chris Cochrane said...

first night off in awhile - restless and restful, been so busy lately, next thing, recording noise trio November 5 - listening to a huge cross section off good and bad. Flamenco is good at the moment - what's on your list of things you are listening to lately? How long you going to be LA for?

l@rstonovich said...

Sweet Jebus! I'll never forget the night I first heard Cats and Dogs. It's etched onto my brain.

Hey D!

math said...

oh dennis wow im in l.a. the 4th to the 10th

postitbreakup said...

dennis everything is fucking shit and no one actually gives a fuck--

did you know that while i was in the mental hospital 10 days i imagined people being on here like "where's postitbreakup" lololol

--but out of courtesy to you since even though you don't want me as a mentee like fake jt leroy you've still done far righter by me than most internet assholes, i'd like to tell you that i need someone else to take over the weaklings library thing instead of just deleting it in the pain and rage i'm feeling right now

sorry to yet again be a letdown but hey what else could be expected from me and no i'm not drunk or otherwise fucked up right now