Interview: Neil Hagerty

Neil Hagerty is a guitarist and songwriter who got his start in the uncompromising underground band Pussy Galore, which released albums including Groovy Hate F*ck and Dial ‘M’ For Motherf*cker. When that band broke up, Hagerty and girlfriend Jennifer Herrema turned their attention to Royal Trux, which recorded multiple albums during the 1990’s including Cats & Dogs and Thank You. Royal Trux’s best-known song is “The Inside Game”, which is on the soundtrack for the movie High Fidelity. After Royal Trux broke up, Hagerty released a couple of solo albums, and also recorded with The Howling Hex.

In 1997, Hagerty’s book Victory Chimp was published. An audiobook version of Victory Chimp was released by Drag City on 6/21/11, which is the day that the answers to the following questions were received by email.

(Garilee Ogden photo)

Jeff Moehlis: Could you give a quick plot synopsis for Victory Chimp?

Neil Hagerty: A chimpanzee escapes sideways across time intersecting the path of various Earths that resemble our own.

JM: What was the impetus for recording this as an audio book?

NH: The book itself is very difficult to read, takes too much of an investment of personal time by the reader. With the audiobook you can listen while you do other things.

JM: Could you describe the process of recording this audio book?

NH: Segments of the text I gave to some voiceover artists and they recorded that. Other parts were done either like a radio show or a musical. Then the band blended everything together with more music.

JM: If it’s ok, I have some questions about your old bands. First, how do you view the legacy of Pussy Galore?

NH: Seems like we were right on time with what we did.

JM: Could you reflect on Pussy Galore’s recording of the Exile on Main Street album?

NH: All there is to that is Sonic Youth were talking about recording “The White Album” by The Beatles, for some reason, and I suggested that we record “Exile on Main Street” instead cuz we’d rather be the Stones than The Beatles. And then we actually did it which was good publicity.

JM: I’m a big fan of Royal Trux. How would you characterize what you and Jennifer each brought to the music?

NH: Basically we both were agreed on what being in band was really about, other than that we just made stuff based on whatever music each of us liked.

JM: Is there any truth to the story that Royal Trux once blew an entire album advance on drugs?

NH: Yes, and that’s one of the nicest stories about us that was floating around.

JM: It seems that every Royal Trux album has its own style, even its own personality. Could you describe, in your view, how the music evolved from album to album?

NH: We wanted each record to be its own thing, to make it more interesting. So we forced ourselves to change all the time.

JM: What is your favorite Royal Trux album, and why?

NH: Aside from all the EPs (which are really my faves) I do like Pound For Pound the best. I think it has a bit of the best of everything we did over the years compressed into a set that is also enjoyable to people who don’t like to think.

JM: Could you describe your experience with major labels in Royal Trux?

NH: We got a lot of money from them and that, unfortunately or not, was the reason we had a band at all.

JM: What was it like working with producer David Briggs on the album Thank You?

NH: That was great, not only to learn a million things from him but also to get some validation from a guy like that who had worked with so many great people back in the day.

JM On the Radio Video EP, there is a live track called “Victory Chimp: Episode 3”. What is the story behind this?

NH: We were doing some in-store appearances during a tour where I’d read Victory Chimp and the band would jam on acoustic instruments, so we put a snip of it on there.

JM: Your best known song is probably “The Inside Game”, which was on the soundtrack for the movie High Fidelity. Did you have a critical or financial windfall from that?

NH: It’s like the one thing that I was involved with that people might recognize if they ask me: “what have you done?”

JM: Of your post-Royal Trux recordings, which are you most fond of?

NH: Don’t know, really, whatever people like best or what sells best.

JM: A few years ago you produced Bill Callahan’s album Woke on a Whaleheart. What was that experience like?

NH: It was great, Bill is so confident with his songwriting that he doesn’t mind turning things loose with a producer. I was primarily the arranger for everything and it worked great, I think.

JM: You also did some production for Palace Brothers. What was that like?

NH: Trux did a thing with him [Will Oldham] a long time ago and we actually went in the studio with him and built a track up from just his guitar and voice. Later on I mixed a live record for him, too. Seemed to work out fine.

JM: What advice would you give to an aspiring songwriter / musician?

NH: You just better know what it is you really want.

JM: What are your plans, musical or otherwise, for the near future?

NH: I just work, work, work.

JM: Do you want to set the record straight on anything about your music, career, or life?

NH: No.

JM: Where are you responding from?

NH: I live in southern New Mexico.


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