What Is Royal Trux?
A decaying VHS “Frockumentary” from the early ‘90s begged this question, and almost 33 and a 1/3 years later, the question is still being asked.
Well, for a moment let’s ponder…
The film of that name shows the duo of Neil Hagerty and Jennifer Herrema touring across the USA as teenage drugged out delinquents on a mission to change minds, reveal truths, and christen a record label (Drag City) with one of their many “outside the box” uncompromising projects. Effortlessly and prolifically releasing movies, novels, comic books, rings, TV commercials, and fortune cookies way ahead of the current all-inclusive “Branding” game that is now so ubiquitous, Royal Trux were pioneers and influencers, before the latter term had been coined.
Royal Trux have long been misunderstood by many yet attempts to tap into the duo’s rare essence was endeavoured by many more. Being the real deal was their magic, and magic being elusive kept them “Ahead of the Pack and Against the Grain” to this day, as their old recordings are still as fresh as anything currently being released. The band’s sound summons tectonic shifts from one moment to the next, infamously getting their “obtuse experimental sixth album” out of the way second, in Twin Infinitives; refining and reducing their sonic for the acoustic guitar-wielding country-blues and Purple Hearts n’ Bones of their untitled third; Thanking You with all their post lo-fi Virgin records money and ragged glory in the mid-90s, before shoving your expectations down the toilet bowl, with career highlight and misunderstood masterpiece Sweet Sixteen in 1997. A year later, their foot was heavy on the Accelerator, and the band found further success with their most headphone-decapitating ultra-compressed party-starting riot of a record yet, finally acknowledging their mantle of Veterans of Disorder, come 1999; the undisputed masters of the Radio Video, Pound For Pound our greatest surviving experimental boogie band.
If you want to go Back To School to learn about music, how to engineer it, write it, record it and tear it all apart in masterful deconstruction at the same time, to hear the best production duo Inside the Game bar-none, to Cut You(rself) Loose and wipe away a tear in the process too, you really need look (and listen, that’s key) no further than Royal Trux.
Whilst their iconic look-book of debauchery is the thing many a poor imitator band Steals in Yr Faces, the sounds have always been pioneering and truly inspiring, just much, much harder for anyone else to reach towards, as those very sounds belong to the unique and beautiful brains of Jennifer Herrema and Neil Hagerty.
Having worked in the studio with Neil I have seen someone who knows EXACTLY what record he is making, what all the parts will be and NEED to be, from the moment he steps in the room (and before this of course – from the moment of the music’s conception). I have also had the privilege of working on two completely different recordings with Jennifer, one where she went as far out-electronic experimental as she could have done, beyond my own twin infinitives of expectation, and another where she sang so sweetly and tenderly the lyrics of Royal Trux-forebearers Funkadelic’s ‘I Bet You’ and really brought the whole thing together with the permanent glue the track needed.
It will be your listening pleasure and a truly exciting moment for all, to hear remasters of these wonderful, weird, and unbeatable classic records. If you are very lucky, it’s your first time, or if you are already a convert, for the thousandth time. Either way, I urge and encourage you to enter the harmolodic multiverse of their music. Never mind the legend of Royal Trux, it will tell you what it is, what it is!
Alexis Taylor (Hot Chip), 2024