30 October 2008

Interview with Jennifer Herrema, Part 1


I recently conductd my first ever interview last week. I had the privilege of chatting to Jennifer Herrema of RTX, and formerly of Royal Trux. A chopped up version of this will go in FACT Magazine, while a larger version will be on the website. Here, though, is pretty much the whole thing. It gets very strange in places, and I am a total mark for RTX, but it's all good. Here it is!

***

So, you mentioned a tour. Is this the one I heard about with Primal Scream, perhaps?

Yeah, we’re going over right now. I just approved the tour, and then the booking agent wrote me. She’s like ‘on big tours over here, oftentimes you have to rent your own monitors and your own P.A.’ and stuff and I was like ‘fuck no, dude!’ that’s a deal breaker, you gotta be kidding me! We just approved the tour, we got al the funds together and then she laid that on me and I was like ‘well if they can’t provide the monitors and stuff then they just don’t want us bad enough. I’ve never heard of that, but I guess it goes on over there. It doesn’t go on over here.

Well it’s certainly a weird surprise to spring on someone.

Yeah, right after I approved it too! I was like: wait a minute. If we have to, like, rent our own monitors and our own P.A. to take into these huge theatres, you gotta be kidding me. That’s just not gonna happen (laughs). So she said no, she’ll make it happen, and I was like OK, make it happen and then the tour’s on! (laughs)

Cool. Well I reckon Primal Scream could afford your kit anyway.

I figure they probably could.

Well the tour is definitely good news, because I’ve been waiting for RTX to come over. Have you played here in the past actually?

RTX did once. Early 2005? But we just played two London dates and then Europe and that’s it. We played a party for iD, and then we played some old, big-ass rave warehouse… but they were both only London shows.

I’m looking forward to this because obviously there are now three albums of material to get into.

Yeah, yeah, definitely. We just did a U.S. tour, like two months ago. On the new album there are so many songs that are, like, so much fun to play, so we’re definitely doing the majority of the new stuff. We’ve toured a lot over here (America) actually… we’ll see what the set list will be.

When I first heard about the new album (J.J. Got Live RaTX), and I saw the title, I did assume ‘oh right, live album’, but it’s not. And it was just recorded live.

Yes, it is confusing, it’s just not confusing to me, because I know what it means! (laughs) So forgot about that. And also the pronunciation of 'RaTX'. It’s just like when you say ‘xylophone’, it’s [pronounced as] a ‘z’, and it starts with an ‘x’. So I just assumed that everybody would figure out that it’s supposed to say ‘Ratz’. But, you know, using the ‘x’ in there because it provided an ‘r’, a ‘t’ and an ‘x’. yeah, it’ kinda goofy, but it all made sense to me, so I was quite certain it would make sense to everybody else, but I just forgot that I would probably need to explain it.

Well maybe I’m a bit slow on the uptake.

No, no, no! you’re not the only one.

Well I’ll explain it when I write [this interview] up, so then it’s clear for everybody.

Yeah. It’s just, it was recorded live in the studio. It wasn’t done, you know, track by track. It wasn’t done separated, like the past two records.

I do like the energy as well.

Yeah, and that’s a product of, you know, us playing simultaneously, you know, as opposed to just tracking in headphones. It provides a lot more energy when you’re all in the same room…

…you feed off each other…

Yeah.

So going back to the RaTX name for a moment. Was that a direct response to the whole Western Xterminator thing?

It’s not any one thing in particular. With RaTX, we had the imagery of the Pied Piper and we had the different rats and stuff on the Western Xterminator album. And then, having to re-title that album, I titled it RaTX, because of the imagery and because it also had to do with extermination. And then, on this one… we got the live… it’s basically, all the rats that were depicted in the illustration on Western Xterminator, and they were going, you know, towards the ocean? We didn’t lead them out into the ocean to drown. We have them, they’re live. (laughs) No, it’s totally twisted in my head, I just have this picture, like, they didn’t get drowned in the ocean, all the rats. And then we’re also the rats, so we’re all like in a cage together, and we have to, like, I don’t know. It’s just a big painting in my head, it all makes sense… to me.

I like it. In fact, I like all the artwork for the RTX albums. I noticed the little Ultimate Warrior plush doll on the new one.

Oh yeah, that’s my baby, yeah! (laughs) I actually got another one. I got a Sting wrestling buddy on the last tour. I’m getting quite a collection over here.

Excellent, excellent. I was chatting with someone just before phoning you up, who’s also heavily into the Royal Trux and the RTX and stuff. And he mentioned that he’s kinda reminded of the band RATT, by your music. now, is that an intentional thing?

The band RATT? No. I mean, we all love RATT. You gotta love RATT. I don’t know if… but there’s nothing intentional with the RaTX. The actual RaTX thing is twofold. I get to have the word ‘rats’ spelled totally weirdly, like r-a-t-x, but if you pronounce the ‘x’ as a ‘z’ it’s ‘ratz’. But we still get to have the r-t-x in it? Because I was gonna change the fucking name of the band to RaTX and everybody at Drag City (RTX’s label), they were all, like ‘no, no, you can’t do that! You can’t do that!’ But I get so sick of saying ‘RTX’, I just want it to be called RaTX. Not RATT, but RaTX. And then all the imagery, the Pied Piper imagery and stuff, I just kinda go on a tangent and a path and I don’t know if anybody else in the band even knows what the fuck I’m doing. But RATT the band, we love RATT. RATT is in our subconscious, you know, from early teenage years, somewhere in there. So there’s gonna be an influence, but it’s definitely by no means the only thing up in the noggin, you know.

I do actually think of a lot of stuff when I listen to your music, especially the new album. At times, and I’m always kind of a bit nervous when I mention certain eighties bands, because I don’t know how people are gonna react, but sometimes in some of the chords, I’m slightly reminded of WASP.

WASP! Oh, Blackie Lawless. Well when you look at the picture of the Ultimate Warrior you think of, like, Blackie Lawless, totally. I don’t know. I love WASP, but it’s not a band I listened to a whole lot. I know the bas player listened to WASP a lot. Yeah, that’s what I know. The bass player for sure. And I’ve listened to them, and I like ‘em, so they’re probably in there somewhere! (laughs)

It’s only a small detall, because it was just one of the riffs in ‘Hash’ that kinda reminded me of WASP.

Oh, yeah, well I'm not up on all my WASP. Maybe Brian fuckin’ nicked that from WASP, I don’t know.

I do go off on these strange flights of fancy…

I like that! I like that.

Cool, because I was listening to ‘Cheap Wine Time’ on the bus on the way into work this morning. And I don’t know, again, I don’t know if this is crossing a line or something, but I was thinking of ‘Home Sweet Home’ by Mötley Crüe. You know when it kicks in?

Yeah, yeah. Definitely songs like ‘Home Sweet Home’, all the ballads, like the fuckin’ power ballads? My first try at a power ballad in my own way was on Western Xterminator, and it was that song ‘Knightmare and Mane’. And then, on ‘Cheap Wine Time’, it was that but then the guitar has more of a Mick Taylor style to me. So it was kind of like a combination of the Crüe and the Stones. This is all in retrospect. When we were doing it, we were just doing stuff, and it would sound good, and we were like ‘yeah, that’s it’. But in retrospect you can listen and say yeah, this does have certain sensibilities that completely mesh with things that I love. So yeah, totally into the Crüe.

I grew up listening to the eighties rock as well, and I’ve got it all on vinyl

Rad, dude…

And I just think of all of these really random details! Because you mentioned the bluesy guitar at the start of ‘Cheap Wine Time’ and I was thinking – and maybe it’s because of my age – but I was thinking about… you know Richie Kotzen, who replaced C.C. Deville in Poison at the start of the nineties?

Yeah. I love fuckin’ C.C. Deville. C.C.’s the man. I couldn’t get behind the other dude too much…

It was tough. Especially as he sang too much!

And he wasn’t C.C.!

And you just think ‘let Bret Michaels sing!’

Bret Michaels is a freak, dude. I love Poison, and they got so many great songs, but I’m, like, so not into Bret Michaels right now. Like, his Rock of Love and shit. That’s all good for him and whatever, but I saw too much of him. I would have preferred just to think of him only as Poison and it would have been okay, but he’s a total dork, dude. He’s so not rock. So not rock! (laughs)

That’s the thing, because Flesh & Blood was literally the first rock album I ever got.

(laughs)

I was ten years old, and I got it on tape. And I’ve still got the tape! Except I took it to Iran, and they wanted to have a look at it, and they magnetised it, so it’s all backwards now.

It’s backwards?

Yeah, the tape itself is fine, but it plays like it's underwater. It’s very strange.

That’s pretty cool. I want a copy of that. I would love to hear what that sounds like.

I’ll see what I can do, because I’ve got it somewhere.

I would love that!

But I know what you mean about the Bret Michaels thing, because I didn’t watch that programme at all. I avoided it, because I just thought ‘it’ll ruin it’. Because I’ve got this image in my head of Bret Michaels being awesome…

Yeah, yeah, yeah, totally wrecked it! It wrecked it, dude.

I saw the Flavor Flav stuff and I thought I don’t want to see Bret doing that stuff.

See the Flavor Flav stuff didn’t freak me out. The Flavor Flav stuff actually… I found him more endearing, having watched the Flavor Flav shit. But Bret Michaels, nah dude. He’s so not a rocker. I couldn’t stop watching it, though, because it was just so over the top.

Yeah, it’s like a car crash.

Oh, a total car crash. And now they have one with all the girls in charm school with Sharon Osborne as their headmistress. It’s another car crash. It’s gonna be good. It just started, this one.

She’s another one who my perception totally changed of. I remember in the late nineties, she set up Ozzfest, and her favourite band was Neurosis. And they’re awesome and intense, and really nasty.

Wait, Neurosis was her favourite band? Oh wow, rad.

Apparently, and that’s how they got onto Ozzfest in the first place, because they were on the first two Ozzfests.

Rad, I didn’t know she was behind that.

Well it’s crazy now, because you see her, and she’s totally not about that at all.

She’s still a wild card in my mind. She’s somebody that is pretty close to having it both ways, if you know what I mean. You know what I mean? I love Ozzy. And watching The Osbornes, Ozzy's such a badass. Like, I love him even more.

Yeah, he’s the best…

He’s the best! And she obviously loves him, so there’s obviously something super-rad about her. And you just don’t know about it necessarily. Because, like, Ozzy’s the man.

I know what you mean. Like, she’s really good at putting on this public persona, but she’s still an Osborne deep down. She’s an Osborne anyway.

Yeah, cool.

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