things, but it doesn’t have any -- we can’t connect to it until we start
playing our actual songs, and then we feel like we’re in there. We used to
mock that in Royal Trux, you know, but the audience turned it around on us,
made us be responsible for it.
So you feel like you were doing it with irony and they were taking it as
Oh yeah. I think mostly, yeah. It’s weird. I was thinking about that today. We
were so completely method about everything -- at least I was -- and the way
we did things was, we’d have a plan, and we’d do a Marlon Brando method
performance of it. And then we’d stop and come up with something else. But
I think -- well, nobody cares about that, you know what I mean? People don’t
have the time to really dig into it and see that’s what was behind it. So to
keep going, I had to have that way of looking at it. And then when we got to
a certain point, we would have had to stop doing that, and just been straight
up, to keep making money with it, and I wasn’t comfortable with that. So
that’s why in the aughts I kind of cleared things up. Just for me, the point is to
keep playing, and I don’t want to be trapped in any kind of thing. And now it’s
like the opposite, you know? Things are just like, a field of light coloring that
it’s not even noticeable that I’m doing anything at all. Now I get mad because
people are like -- there’s no advertising budget behind things.
Neil Michael Hagerty long ago established himself as one of the
greatest living guitarists with his work with Royal Trux, Pussy Galore,
and his current project, the Howling Hex. A few years ago he emerged
from rural New Mexico, where he’d been living from ten years, and
established himself in Denver. He recently spoke with us there before a
Howling Hex set.
The Howling Hex has a new record coming out soon, right? Is that going to
be in line with the Tejano influence of your recent records?
Yeah, I mean, that’s what it is.
Is that pretty much what you’re into now?
Yeah, I only feel good about playing that style right now. The other kinds of
music that white people steal from, it bothers me now. I used to think of it as
like a blending of cultures, or sharing, but now I realize that it’s just -- I’m
just not comfortable with it.
Do you feel that way about the music that you played for most of your
Uh, no, I don’t. But then, I wasn’t conscious of it -- it was more ironic, and I
thought people realized where we were coming from, but they didn’t. When
Royal Trux broke up, one of the reasons it broke up was that people didn’t get
it, you know? They wanted more of the external things that were part of the
satirical element of it, and I just wasn’t comfortable with that. So this -- it’s
not really known, you know? Everyone thinks that Tejano music just all sounds
the same. I can’t even speak Spanish that well. But when you really get into it,
the nuances are so fine, but yet it has a uniformity that’s really cool. So I feel
comfortable submerging myself in that, because it’s more of a unity
cooperation, and anonymity superficially. Lots of times the bands wear
matching suits, and obviously there’s breakout people who have come out, like
the stars, but the mid-level is all pretty anonymous. So I don’t like, repudiate
anything before, but it just kind of shocked -- it just made me feel
uncomfortable, so I can’t really do that anymore. Like, at practice we’ll start
breaking out old rock and blues songs, and we all kind of half-remember
So if you’re not interested in revisiting the sort of thing that Royal Trux did,
can I ask how it fits in what you did a couple years ago, when you played
Twin Infinitives with three other people, and it was billed as Royal Trux,
Well, I’m just doing the same thing that I’ve always done. It just doesn’t have
the… This is what I was thinking about today, because there’s no -- there’s a
lot of ‘90s nostalgia coming up, you know? And then there were those bands,
Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, that you could hide behind. Go, like, “Oh
yeah, we’re kind of like them, we’re like on the lower tier of that.”
Did you feel a kinship with those bands at all?
Oh, definitely, and just by accident. Pussy Galore played with them. And I knew
Mark from Mudhoney, we were pretty good friends, and we’d open up for them.
But not Soundgarden or them. But Nirvana opened up for Sonic Youth, and we
had done that a couple years prior, so it was all kind of in the same vibe. And
you could get away with that. “Yeah, we’re like that!” I read something a long
time ago, Debbie Harry talking about how whatever the New York Dolls did,
they’d try to do. Like “As long as we can be as big as them, we’ll be so happy.”
So I always had that in the back of my head. That way you can do more things,
and not get sucked in. You just take whoever’s the big band, you just kind of
imitate them. Like the way that the Beatles spawned all those things. So I was
like, “That’d be a great little niche to get into, and we can experiment with the
music.” So now, from moving away and just being so out of touch with everything, and with the way the music stuff, everything’s changed -- the digital
marketplace is totally transforming the way things are done -- all I have left
is that I make this kind of music. But that’s kind of like, “Eh, you know…”
That’s it! I do