Jennifer Herrema proves she is the real deal in an extract from the latest issue of AnOther Man
Rock'n'Roll hellcat, Playboy stylist, denim designer, one-time model, sometime artist, racoon tail fanatic and born again beach bum, Jennifer Herrema turns heads even among those unfamiliar with a résumé that reads like an A-Z of cool. At 42 she is still instantly recognisable as one half of Royal Trux, the band she formed at 15 with guitarist/boyfriend Neil Hagerty in Washington DC. Like a real life Sister Morphine – all whisky-rasp vocals, peroxide bouffant and bee-stung lips – she both transfixed and terrorised audiences in the 90s, acting as the perfect visual foil for Trux’s musical Molotov cocktail of trailer trash chic, sludge rock riffs and bad-ass attitude.
"Herrema is considered rock royalty and remains utterly unique"
Over a decade on from the demise of Royal Trux – in which time, Herrema continued with her off-shoot band RTX, later renamed Black Bananas – she is considered rock royalty and remains utterly unique: a genuine star who somehow makes the very idea of rock’n’roll seem tangible. Fully recovered from the addictions which at one point saw her living in a homeless shelter, in the flesh she is a towering presence. Six feet tall in her scuffed snakeskin boots, hooded eyes shielded behind gold aviators, she shoots from the hip on instinct. Forthright views are delivered in a lazy nicotine drawl, laced with a warmth reflected by her current lifestyle, living on the beach in California.
“What do you want to know?” she says, cracking open a lunchtime beer as nearby hipsters nervously sip cappuccinos. “If I can remember it, I’ll tell you.”
Who was your first style icon?
A lady called Carol White. She was the mum of one of my friends. When I was five or six we would go to her house after school and she would be sunbathing on a fur coat next to a white Corvette. She seemed so glamorous. The living room had a black marble floor, and there were copies of Playboy magazine all over the house. They were young parents, with quite a bit of money. I’m sure they were also doing tons of coke…
When did you first realise music would take over your life?
From a very early age. My mum and dad always had the radio on or were playing records. I remember as a kid getting Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk as a gift and thinking it was really cool. The real turning point was seeing The Stones on the Tattoo You tour when I was eight with my dad. It was the most spectacular thing I’d ever seen. The next day I had a tantrum, I didn’t want to go to school. It changed everything.
When did you start going to gigs?
By the time I was 12 I was going to see hardcore bands like Iron Cross and Bad Brains because I had a friend who was six years older than me. I was tall so they let me in too. It taught me that you didn’t have to think or dress in a conventional way. I started reading the British music press and shopping at thrift stores. I’d wear men’s brogues, men’s pants – not pyjamas, but really baggy, and I had bright pink hair. I’d listen to The Damned and Tom Waits. People thought I was kind of strange.
"Some bands may look like they’re living the rock’n’roll lifestyle, but it’s all an act"
What were early Royal Trux gigs like?
They were pretty chaotic. We never rehearsed, and we’d both be pretty out of it. I’d turn up at gigs at CBGB’s with my tiny amp strapped to my skateboard and get these horrified looks. We would freak people out, but it wasn’t on purpose. They were just square. I was shocked by how organised the New York scene was. Even bands like Swans and Sonic Youth were like businesses, with managers. I thought that was terrible.
Do you think rock’n’roll has become too sanitised?
Yes, it totally has. It’s become pure entertainment. Some bands we go on tour with, I’m like, ‘Really?’ They’re so choreographed. Some bands may look like they’re living the rock’n’roll lifestyle, but it’s all an act.
How do you spend an average day?
I live on Sunset Beach in California. The ocean is five blocks away. In the morning I’ll go downstairs and put the TV on – I like having it on in the background as white noise. I’ll do some yoga, paint and maybe some computer shit. Then I’ll go to the pool or the ocean. I usually end up driving to the studio to see the guys and drink some beers, smoke some weed and wait for something to happen.
As well as making music, you’re also a designer and artist. Which do you prefer?
They’re equally enjoyable. I see everything as part of the whole. I like the idea of things melting into each other and becoming something new. I’ve always made collages for the Royal Trux artwork, and the jeans I’ve designed for Volcom are the same, just with denim. The limited edition jeans I did with them were the best – they all came with genuine fox tails. The others were massproduced. I didn’t give a shit about that, so long as I had the cool ones.
Words by Paul Moody