I recently had the opportunity to interview the legendary Jennifer Herrema while her band, RTX was performing at The Funhouse in Seattle. Aside from her talents as rock vocalist/song-smith/frontwoman, Herrema is also an accomplished writer/journalist (VICE, Dazed & Confused, Raygun), visual artist, producer (Palace Brothers, the Kills, etc), and fashion icon [she was one of the original “heroin chic” poster girls photographed by Steven Meisel for Calvin Klein in the mid-nineties]. Jennifer was also one half of Royal Trux, the highly influential rock group formed with her ex, Neil Michael Hagerty (Howling Hex) in the late 80s. After 13 years of playing together, the band split up in 2001.
A few years later, Herrema resurfaced -sans Hagerty– and a new band known as RTX (“Rad Times Xpress”) was born. Still fronted by Herrema, the new incarnation features members Nadav Eisenman, Kurt Midness, Brian Mckinley, and Jaimo Welch. The Seattle show was part of a two-week West Coast tour with newcomers Heavy Cream (Nashville, TN). RTX‘s long-awaited full-length “RAD TIMES IV” is due out in January 2012 on Drag City Records.
Just before dusk, I waited for RTX in front of the empty venue. The long, gray monorail loomed overhead, sliding itself inside the metallic EMP glob that represents what “rock ‘n’ roll” might have looked like. As the sun set behind the strange scene, RTX‘s van pulled up and I was taken aboard. “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins was playing on the radio.
“How’d you know it was me you were meeting with?” I asked the woman in front of me, recognizing Jennifer from photos that I had seen. “Well, Brian seemed to know you,” she replied. “He doesn’t usually talk to people otherwise.“ I had met Brian two days previous while night swimming with friends on Lake Washington. Kurt and Brian had come into my bar the next day and downed some tequilas, as well. Seattle is a small place in that way.
The van drove to the back alley, where the gear is loaded onto the stage. We walked down the street to a spot with remaining daylight and I took a few photos of the band. Afterward, Jennifer found a new Miata roadster for us to lean on while we talked. She lit her cigarette, balancing a plastic cup of white wine on her knee while I set up the recorder…
Can you tell us what you’ve been up to lately?
We just finished up this album that’s gonna come out in January. [RTX] just finished tracking this song [“Killer Weed”] that’s on the 7″. It’s this 7″ that’s a split with these girls [Heavy Cream] from Nashville that we’re touring with.
I’ve been designing collections for Volcom denim. Pamela Love, the jewelry designer, we’re doing a jewelry line with them and I’m trying to get it USA manufactured. I did get my denim manufactured USA… and like, we’re just gonna do shit like that. We’re gonna do the jewelry line and do the t-shirt line and then next Fall, I got some more denim and some more leather and shit like that. It actually doesn’t really take up that much of my time. Thinking about the designs is actually really easy. Like, ‘Yeah, I wanna wear this‘.
I saw those [Volcom] Road Tests. Those looked pretty sweet.
Oh! We were fucked up the whole time. And actually, we’re meeting the same videographer, the Volcom dude. He’s flying out and we’re gonna do more. I was like, ‘Oh, we’re gonna get fucked up and party!‘ and he’s like, ‘That’s right, whatever‘. I mean, we go ON. He’ll spend the night with us for days and be filmin’ like coo coo shit. Too hot for YouTube! No, like I’m just saying…just shit like, what purpose is that gonna serve, other than to freak people out?
You guys were supposed to be in Canada this week, right?
*Sigh* Yes…Um well, the thing is, it was a whole bunch of circumstances. Like one being, you know, I had a DUI. But I’ve been in Canada and toured many times and I had a DUI seven years ago. So I don’t think it was really just that. Cause like the guy called me up and was like ‘Yeah, so you’ve been arrested‘ and I’m like ‘Da da da…what do you want me to do?” and he’s like, ‘Don’t worry about it. Just sit down. I don’t think ya’ll are getting in because your paperwork’s fucked and da da da da da…“
And it’s ok. It was nice to be just hangin’ out at Will [Klintberg of Wildildlife/Tit Pig]‘s on the couch for a minute, anyway. I left the house for the first time today. I have just been on that fucking couch listening to music, like smoking weed, and sleeping, and then watching movies, and sleeping, and the deck and then sleeping. I contemplated a shower, but no…
Well last night, [the band] came in. They all did a bunch of fucking acid. Brian was ok, he just forgot he had arms. I was like, ‘What are you talking about? You have arms.‘ I wasn’t even talking to him about the arms. And then Kurt just did a faceplant dive into the white carpet. I was like, ‘Oh, shit!‘ and made sure he was fine. Will thought he was fucked. I was like, ‘Ah no, he’s fine. He’s fine.‘ Kurt kept rolling around like a beached whale. I don’t know if they [Will & opening band Broken Nobles] we’re trippin’ but [RTX] were super fuckin’ trippin’ their asses off.
You’ve played The Comet, too.
Yeah, that was actually my favorite club here. Like when I was a teenager growing up, we used to play the Crocodile and different places like that. I didn’t come this way for a long time and, when I started RTX and we started touring, we played the Comet. We played Neumos first. I love Neumos, I love the stage, I love the sound, I love the whole setup of it. But even though they had a great dressing room and everything like that, you just didn’t feel the people. You didn’t feel like you were in Seattle hanging out, shit like that. So at the Comet, that’s exactly what we felt like. People were just rollin’ in, like locals drinkin’, sitting up there. I always had a great time there, every time.
How long you been surfing?
Nine years. Dude, I was a lifeguard growing up. I swam swim team. But it is hard. The paddle out, like, it’s super- it’s upper body strength. It’s like doing the butterfly. It’s not like anything else. It’s very upper body oriented.
What’s your favorite surfing spot?
I live right on PCH, Pacific Coast Highway. So, we just walk over and we just go there. It’s literally “Surf City, USA“. That’s what it’s called, so it’s the shit. We live in Sunset Beach, Huntington Harbor, and then there’s the Bulsa Chica Wetlands and the Indian Burial Grounds. You pass by that two miles and you’re at the Huntington Pier where we just had the whole fuckin’ US Open of Surf and every fuckin’ thing. It was just this huge thing.
But actually, I was really looking forward to a little bit of East coast, chill flavor up here. Coming North, you might even, you know, put on a sweatshirt or something.
You interviewed Keith Richards. What was that like?
It was awesome, but what was really weird was that my ex-husband, Neil [Hagerty] at the time… Neil, you know, he’s an amazing guitar player and I think he does rival Keith Richards, other than that I think he has social skill problems and he’s got personal, you know, he can’t… um, anyway, he was gonna be a big part of that interview. Then he got in the door and introduced himself and was like, ‘Yeah, you know. I really just can’t do this. I’ll see you later.” and just walked. And I called him, ‘Are you kidding me?‘ He was rude. “You’re gonna be fucking rude to Keith? And Bobby Keith’s standing there and you leave me!‘. So we just sat there and I picked up a cigarette and Keith lit it for me. He’s like, ‘Aw, It’s good, young love, young love.‘ and I was like ‘Yeah, whatever dude. I don’t know.‘ We talked for like three, four hours. Actually, we got fucked up. But he’s very charming, very funny.
British people are naturally charming…
Actually, I find it quite the opposite. No, no, I’m not trying to be “opposite girl” but I’ve been over there so many times when I hear that accent, I’m like, ‘Oh, oh…” They are bummer time and their education system, like, we could kill them. It’s crazy! It’s terrible to say. We’re the new country. It’s centuries and centuries of supposed functionality and progressive movement. Yet, last time I went there, the electricity went out in our friend’s house and I had to put a coin in the goddamn ‘thing’ on the corner.
There’s a ‘thing’?
Oh yeah! And there was no showers, it’s all baths. It just a fuckin’ ass, they’re just old school. And you know what? They probably think that’s really cool. I don’t. I’m all about progress. Like, keep your old school shit in tact. Keep it historically preserved, but are you kidding me? You can’t even get a shower? And you have to run to the corner to put a coin in for your fuckin’ electricity in this day and age?
Lil’ Wayne has this new song out and it samples Harry Belefonte‘s, you know, the “banana song“. This band will no longer be called RTX as of January. We changed our name to “Black Bananas” and we already copywrit it. Then Lil’ Wayne came out with a song that sounds exactly like one of ours called “Black Bananas“.
Are you guys gonna collaborate with Lil’ Wayne?
I think he wants to. He did get in touch with our manager. But It’s very strange.
Wait, is it like, ‘Daylight comin’ and I want to go home.‘?
Yeah, yeah! ‘Hot banana…‘ I love it. I think it’s great. Because it sounds like us, but not as great.
*At this point, the owner of the bright blue Miata asked us to get off the bumper.*
“This is my parked car…“
Oh dude! We were thinking about it, but we were very careful… Sorry.
*to me* It’s a fuckin’ Miata. I’ll smash it, whatever.
The RTX/Heavy Cream “Killer Weed”/“Deadbeat” split 7″
is available now through Volcom.
Look for the new RTX album “RAD TIMES IV” in Januray of 2012 on Drag City.
peep out the following Jennifer Herrema-related links…
Text and photography (images 1 & 3) by Marielle of WT DVL.
More of her work can be found at WTDVL.Tumblr.com