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  • RTX
    Wednesday, March 21, 2007

    RTX's new album, Western Xterminator, left me asking the question "Neil who?!?!" After the split of Royal Trux, Jennifer Herrema's take on balls-out rock and roll might be seen as a carrying-on of the Trux tradition, but nope--it's better. That's the way I feel about their new album, which is a blast of no-frills rock and roll, with a tight band, killer guitar solos, and some of Herrema's best singing in her long, storied career.

    I'm slightly embarrassed to admit this, but it's totally true. When I received Western Xterminator, I put it in my car stereo. I dug the first track; it was mellow and a bit different from what I was expecting. But let me tell ya--when the opening drums of "Balls to Pass" came in, and those guitars started to wail--man, I was blown away! I was totally playing air drums and air guitar all the way home. It's been years since I've done that!

    (Excited) Really? (Laughs) Wow, that's AWESOME! That's it, man--that's the best thing I could ever hear! That's exactly the way I want it to be received. When we were making it, I could tell. I'd stepped away from it for a little bit, and when I went back and listened to it, I just thought, "Yeah…!"

    Did you spend a lot of time working on it?

    Well, we've got our own studio, and we can work on music whenever. Yeah, it's not like we have to go into somebody else's studio and play for a little bit and pay for blocked-out dates, and then have to go in on a certain day and mix it and finish it all by a deadline. It wasn't like that at all, because we do it ourselves. Over the year, we'd produce records for other bands, and we were working on our own stuff, too. We decided to take our time. We had that luxury. We weren't pressured to write it and play it out real quick.

    Some bands that have their own studio can get caught up on working and working, and things can get really self-indulgent.

    Yeah, it's true. It's important to walk away--that's what we did. We'd take a song, we'd go in there, and we'd come out with a song. We'd do basic tracks, and then I'd go in and do something, and then we'd leave it alone. We didn't spend a year working on this one at all. We'd just let it sit. We'd record the basic song, leave it alone for a time, and then come back fresh and make it better. You can totally get obsessed in the studio; you get caught up and don't know when to end it. I sort of have a lot of experience in that, so I have a good bit of discipline when I'm in the studio.

    I went back and listened to RTX's debut, and it's still excellent, but in comparison to the new album, it's a bit different. The new album sounds a lot fuller. At the time of the debut, RTX wasn't the full band it is now?

    At the time of Transmaniacon, there were three. It's interesting. Nadav was a member, but he doesn't play or write. He does engineering and production. He's like RTX's overseer, in a way. When we did the debut, we had a different drummer and a couple of guys. It wasn't really a very cohesive band. But now we've got guitars, drums, bass, and vocals. It's not like Jaimo and I are doing most of it like we did before.

    To me, it sounds like it's a much more collaborative work.

    Yeah, it totally is! Before, it was Jaimo, me and Nadav the facilitator. There are a lot more people involved now. Before--and not to knock the others--but it was something of a fantasy; we weren't quite getting our ideas across the way we thought best.

    Where did you find your amazing new guitarist, Brian McKinley?

    He found me. A few years ago, I heard from a few people about him and his band. So some friends of mine and I went to check him out, and we thought he was great, and we became friends, but he didn't join up until later. He's a totally different kind of guitar player than from what I've worked with, and he's totally amazing.

    It sounds like he comes from a traditional heavy metal background.

    Yeah, he does. But he's really wide open with what he does; he's got an amazing range. He's really good with his style, too--it's what he's played since he began.

    Did finding him change the songwriting scope and the vision of RTX?

    Well, no...hmmm, well…I dunno. When he joined, I felt like now I had more room to move. There are a few songs on Western Xterminator that were written before he came into it, and I kind of wish I'd had him around. My band had an idea of what I wanted, but I didn't have the people to execute it. Once he was in the mix, I could completely let my imagination go, because he was there, and what he had was good.

    You didn't do much touring for Transmaniacon, did you?

    No, not really. We did an American tour. Transmaniacon, when Jaimo, Nadav, and I put it together, we hadn't gone to the task of finding different players who could execute it. I found Brian--on Transmaniacon there are lots of double guitar, so I had Jaimo and Brian both playing guitars live. We had a struggle getting a live band together that could translate those songs live. We had the two guitar players and we found a bass player and a drummer, and we put the band together. We did an American tour, and it was all right, but it didn't feel right. I didn't feel like it was connecting; our chemistry wasn't right. So I moved on, put the bass player out of the picture, put Jaimo on bass, and did a European tour that way. That was cool, but when we got back from Europe I knew that I had to work on the band, as far as getting in some good live players. That's where we are at now. So we didn't do a lot of touring, no. When we started writing this one, we had all the players, and our chemistry was so much better.

    Has the new lineup played many shows yet?

    We played two shows in LA, and we're still getting the whole live scenario down, but it was fun as hell!

    How have people reacted to the new material and the new line-up?

    I think people liked it! (Laughs) I know I liked it. When I looked out, I could see people having a good time. There were a lot of people at the last show. I dunno, though. I can't really read their minds, but I think they were having a good time.

    To me, Western Xterminator seems more geared to just rocking out and having a good time, both for the audience and for RTX.

    Yeah! That's totally what we're working towards. When we played our last show, we were headlining with two other bands opening up--they were these Hollywood hard-rock bands. I realized something, man--we're a weird band! I watched the opening band, and it was totally by-the-book. It's like a metronome on stage! (Laughs) I found myself bored as shit. So, when we went on the stage, I just wanted to fuckin' tear it up. I don't know if the sound was great or anything, but I thought it was incredible. RTX, we're a weird fuckin' band.

    You just want to kick those heavy metal pussy-boys in the ass.

    (Laughs) Something like that! I dunno, I get reactionary. I want there to be something real about music. I want it to be tight. I want it to represent.

    So many of these bands today, they have the ability to sound good, but they lack soul.

    Precisely! That's right on, man, that's how it is. RTX, we've got nothin' if we ain't got soul.

    RTX's Western Xterminator is out now on Drag City

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 9:47 AM  
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