It’s getting more difficult every day to feign rock ’n’ roll street cred without at least one Neil Hagerty release in your record collection. The singer-songwriter has achieved such status in the underworld as both paramount rock icon and guitar hero that, in order to namedrop, hipsters no longer even need mention his partnership with Jon Spencer in Pussy Galore or the road he and erstwhile gal-pal Jennifer Herrema trudged from heroin-chic major label darlings to indie-rock touchstones in Royal Trux. With the demise of RX, Hagerty has continued to lay waste to critics with his solo project, currently heading to Missoula.
So, Royal Trux is defunct?
Yeah, last year we were doing a tour and the singer [Herrema] was getting high again. She’s been really having trouble with this. I just said, “This sucks.” So, I just quit the band basically. I tried to help her get into rehab, but she didn’t do it, so I was like, “Alright, fuck it, guess I’ll start something else.”
What’s she doing now?
She just got out of another hospital. She seems to be doing OK. It’s rough.
Your imagery is often dark, beaten down, and very street level. Would you say this comes from personal experience, or is it mere storytelling?
Well, it’s both. The thing about it is I’ve been clean, so it gives me more objectivity. It wouldn’t be glorifying [drug use] or exploiting it. So that’s why the band had to break up, because the singer wasn’t staying clean. It makes it all corrupt. Otherwise, glorification is vacuous.
What was your major label experience like for you?
Oh, it was great. We had a really good contract to start with, and we got a lot of money. It was set up so that they couldn’t tell us what to do, and so we did whatever we wanted to. We just tried to do all of these different things that you know of when you think about [signing to a major label], and we wanted to make sure that we did them all so we could really understand it later, to demystify it. It doesn’t really give me a thrill to be famous. I just really want to keep doing what I’m doing. I want to play music and I want to make money, not a lot, just enough. Those are my goals. That’s all I care about. For that, [the major label experience] was great.
It’s been said that an artist’s work is merely an amalgam of his/her influences working through him/her. What would you say are the primary muses working through you?
I don’t know … I don’t know the names of the Muses. Is Sybill a muse?
Uh, I was thinking of “muse” more figuratively. I was wondering if you felt like there was some mojo from the Stones working through you, or …
No, mojo from Walt Whitman.
OK. How do you feel about your distinction as a guitar hero? That’s great. I like that.
Where do you see your music in relation to the history of rock ‘n’ roll?
I think it’s rock ‘n’ roll, roots rock, R&B, country, jazz, and blues all mixed together. All of these different musical cultures combined on a superficial level. That’s what I try to do. It’s not like Lee Morgan jazz, it’s Albert Ayler. It’s not Louis Jordan R&B, it’s like Stax soul. And, then there’s a lot of country influence. It’s not really cultivating tradition, though. New things that arise are just reactions against the culture that people are forced into. I’m more interested in things at large. Every year there’s a new youth movement. It’s happened as long as I’ve been alive. Things change around me, but I’m more interested in solidity.
Do you have any recording plans?
I did a record in June, so it’s going to come out in January. It’s going to be the same people I’m playing with now. The first record was just creating the template for things.
Chunklet magazine named Royal Trux among their top 100 list of the Biggest Assholes in Rock and Roll. Any feelings on this? I don’t really read magazines, so I haven’t seen that. It’s disappointing. We should have been number one!