By Noah Lopez
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Long time denizens of the New York underground blues/slop/junkie scene, Royal Trux abandoned the lo-fi confines of Drag City Records to join the glitz and glamor of Virgin Records. In doing so, charter members Neil Haggerty and Jennifer Herrema surprised everyone by releasing a polished Rolling Stones-influenced blues/rock album that would more likely be heard on classic rock station KLPX rather than KXCI's "Gimme Indie Rock" hour. Now touring in support of the new album, Thank You, one-time Pussy Galore guitarist cum major-label rock star had a chance to bestow his wisdom upon our humble Wildcat reporter.
Wildcat: It seems like all those associated with Pussy Galore have continued making music, and with a pretty good commercial response. Did you ever think you'd still be making an impact on the national music scene?
Neil Haggerty: Well for me Äthis is like the main focus. We started this before Pussy Galore was conceived. To me, Pussy Galore is like a blip on the screen. I'm amazed people still ask me about that shit.
WC: Your latest album, Thank You, is a lot cleaner and more focused than the Drag City releases. What happened?
NH: Well, we're now working with a major label, so we know [the album is] going to be in places where it's never been before. Things are different these days in the music industry. People don't listen to the record and decide what to do with it. They want to be able to go to radio with singles, you know. When we started out to make the album, we started extrapolating with what was going to come out of it. We knew that [Virgin] had signed us more for credibility purposes, and probably never anticipated that we would be able to pull off a commercial product. So we tried to surprise them. We wanted to go in and provide them with the product they needed to sell. We tricked them.
WC: What you've done isn't really an "alternative" album. It's more like a '70s rock release.
NH: Yeah. I just don't feel like there are a lot of bands with the quality to pull off the "alternative" thing. The President of A&R at Virgin was actually the one who signed us. His actual vision of what we would be like on Virgin was like that of The Clash. So that was cool. He was really open to us doing what we wanted to do. It's just a rock 'n' roll band.
WC: What else have you done for Virgin that you haven't done before in your past? I mean, have you shot a video, that kind of thing?
NH: Yeah, we just finished the video. We went over to Europe to shoot it. We tried to make it pretty cheap. I have a friend with a Bolex [camera] who came and shot it. We just worked out a little story around this one song. I really despise videos as a marketing tool, though.
WC: You've probably caught a lot of shit for jumping to the major label, I'm guessing.
NH: That's just to be expected. We did it for the money, yeah. But people who get caught up in that crap Äthey're not into the music for the music. They're into it for other reasons. They want to own the music. We catered to that mentality on Drag City. But we took what we learned at Drag City and try not to make the same mistakes twice. On an indie label, you would take the tapes [after you've recorded them] and screw around with them to get that idiosyncratic sound. But with our album, we wanted a more consistent tone, so we got a producer. We don't mind losing those fans though. With those people its really capricious. One minute they like you, the next they don't.
What we told all the labels we talked to, they're not signing one record for us to do over and over again. They're signing Jennifer and myself. We're executive consultants. We write the songs, we pick the image for whatever album we're doing. They didn't want us to wallow in the same old thing, either.
WC: So you're like the Jam and Lewis of alternative rock, then?
NH: Becker and Fagen, actually. That's what we're going for. Seriously though, this album is a transition for us to do whatever we want.
WC: I've read where you've called your previous albums "demo tapes" and that Thank You is like your first album. Is that what you mean by transition album?
NH: Not necessarily demo tapes. Hmmm, it's like a tipsheet for heading towards commercial success. Now we have a contract to fulfill with our fans. The guarantees are there.
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