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NewCityNet One Less Virgin

Royal Trux dump major-label life

By Dave Chamberlain

OCTOBER 12, 1998:  They are the king and queen of heroin haze, the progenitors of music so gritty, so simultaneously dirty and sexy that you can nearly taste the music and smell the electricity.

After riding the sound to a major-label deal, Royal Truxsters Jennifer Herrema and Neil Hagerty have driven full circle back to Drag City. The Trux are the victims, as well as the victors, of a situation that's common in this age of corporate music fortresses. After putting out four records on Chicago's Drag City, beginning with the damaged-insanity of "Twin Infinitives," ending with "Cats and Dogs" and including a re-release of the band's first, self-titled record, Hagerty and Herrema made the leap to Virgin Records, inking a three-disc deal. The Trux recorded two full-lengths, "Thank You" and "Sweet 16," but before the third even went to the studio, the Trux were out of the contract and back to Drag City.

"When we called up Virgin," says Herrema, speaking on the phone from Portland, Oregon, "and told them we were ready to do the new record, they were like, 'What's it about?' When we told them, they weren't into recording it." The record Virgin didn't want, "Accelerator," was released on Drag City earlier this summer.

It was the end of a relationship that was decidedly lukewarm, the exact opposite of the Trux relationship with Drag City and label owner Dan Koretzky. "All I know," says Herrema, "is after 'Thank You' and 'Sweet 16,' we never really talked to [Virgin]. The guy who signed us was gone, the president got fired and there was all this other legal crap. And with the nature of the contract, there never was a real relationship.

"On occasion," she continues, "people we work with, whether other musicians or people we tour with or whatever, I consider part of the band. That was never the case with Virgin."

Coming back to Drag City, however, was as easy as making a phone call. "Even when we were on Virgin, we talked to Dan [Koretzky] every day," says Herrema. "And he always said if things didn't work out with Virgin, we could come back."

In addition to "Accelerator," the Trux just released a three-song EP (titled "3-song EP") of psychedelic music. The second and third songs, "The United States vs. One 1974 Cadillac El Dorado Sedan" and "Run, Shaker Life," update some of the harder-edged efforts of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. "Accelerator" and "3-Song EP" are neither departures nor carbon copies of past Trux efforts. Each record sounds different, though each is mystically tied together via an atmosphere of the underground. "Nothing really ever changed all that much, you know, except for the large infusion of cash," Herrema says of the Virgin experience.

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