Neil Michael Hagerty

by Jim Hayes

20 March 2001


Neil Michael Hagerty

21 Mar 2001: Vincent's Ear — Asheville, North Carolina

Look Homeward, Avenger

It was dark and windy. My best friend John and I were sitting upstairs at Vincent’s Ear in Asheville NC near three video games discussing how across the board Federal tax cuts led to higher local taxes. Directly to my left was a video game with bright orange plastic guns, the player would point at the screen and shoot, creating some type of computer directed mayhem. Soon I realized one of the pistols was pointed at my head, it was Mr. Hagerty. “You don’t say ‘hi’ or nuthin?”

—I was giving ya space I was just being polite. We discussed how his new record was mastered in Phoenix, did you fly out for the mastering, oh that’s right you don’t fly.

“Oh that’s not true, I just said that to get the record company to pay for the boat.” We laughed and he mentioned that former drummer Chris Pyle was in a band with his brother and bassist Dan Brown was recording an LP. Drummer Ken Nasta was nowhere in sight. Mr. Hagerty’s old lady was out of rehab and was at home working on a graphic novel. I didn’t ask what the future of Royal Trux was cos it didn’t seem to matter, Mr. Hagerty was doing his solo thing and it was very important to him. It’s what he’s doing now and I asked about the Avengers T-shirt he was wearing, “It’s important to me, a religious thing.” I noticed that the gigs were close to the Vernal Equinox and the start of another new year, another symbolic rebirth indicating that while officially Trux were over the days of extreme personal symbolism still reigned supreme. Thomas Wolfe and his vast personal catalog of stories and intricate tales mid-wifed in Asheville 75 years ago. We discussed his new solo LP (Drag City) and asked if the minimal percussion was in response to the drum-laden previous Trux LPs.

“Naah, I used the presets on my drum machine.” (Actually Mr. Hagerty went into a long jargon related explanation and this is a paraphrase). In response to my questions about the recording process itself he explained that he worked on the songs one at a time up his place in Virginia. “You have the Mustang right?”

—Yeah it’s outside.

“I got an 86 Monte Carlo.”

Mr. Hagerty was playing guitar in the center of the stage. On the left was a bushy haired drummer named Tim pounding out rolls and on the right was a peaked cap drummer also named Tim playing fills, a guy named Dave in a sweater had his back to the crowd of about 75-80 people as he played bass. The sound was swirling, Mr. Hagerty was extending every song on his solo album with a layer upon layer of his patented guitar work outs. The finger picking frenzy, his hands a blur on the flat, his eyes closed as he worked out whatever demons. He bent the strings and he waved off detractors by opening with the country standard “Lonesome, Ornery & Mean” before slamming into most of the solo album, pausing for a screechy “Hellhound on My Trail” and ending the set with an Arthur Lee song. The plan is to play the East Coast in June, then Europe then the West Coast. It was a real joy to see Mr. Hagerty play his guitar.

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