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By: Chris Ball
Much taken with King Dude’s latest album Sex our own Chris Ball was delighted to accept the chance to interview King Dude main man TJ Cowgill. Naturally the conversation covers Sex, death and religion, and also takes in ‘deeply anti-social’ metal fans, ‘dangerous amounts of acid’, living forever and Charles Manson.
(((o))): Hi TJ , thanks for taking time to answer our questions. Would it be fair to say King Dude is your number one priority – you have a fair few strings to your bow?
TJ: I don’t know that it’s my number one priority or if it’s one of many very important things in my life. I think my family and my loved ones come before it. But it would be alright to say that I take it seriously which makes it important, yes.
(((o))): What prompted you to start experimenting with bass guitar since the last album?
TJ: When you set out to write a record called Sex you have to think of what kind of sounds conjure up more a sensual tone. When I thought of that I was led to genres like soul and funk music, which led me to disco and pop music – And what do all those have in common? Bass. Although I don’t play really any of those genres I knew it would that the bass instrument would be an important element on this album. Working it in has been fun actually. It’s always nice to have a new instrument in my hands.
(((o))): Sex is a much more diverse set of songs musically I feel, is this a permanent branching out, or did these songs specifically call for it?
TJ: I think that it’s just sort of where my mind went. Although I am writing a heavily thematic album, I don’t think I wanted it to sound the same. Also working with two other producers on just two of the songs will contribute to that as well.
(((o))): How much of a concept is the Sex album actually?
TJ: I would consider a themed album and not a concept album. Concept albums typically follow the same narrative and the same characters through all the songs in order to tell one story. Sex doesn’t exactly do that. Although there are reoccurring themes, I would not say that it is one complete concept.
(((o))): There are a lot of strongly character driven songs on the album, what came first, the ideas for characters and stories or do you come up with the music first?
TJ: It all depends. It can come so many different ways really, sometimes it will just be one line or one idea, other times it will be a bass line or piano chord that gets it going. The best thing to have is just an open mind to any idea, big or small as it comes in. What you don’t want to do is go looking for those ideas, that can make them really hard to find. You have to let them come to you and to be truly creative, you have to maintain constant interest in the entire world around you. That can be difficult for some people, but the result is worthy regardless of getting a song out of it or not.
(((o))): Some of the songs are very film-ic, in a David Lynch-type way. I’m guessing cinema is an influence on your music, and of course your videos?
TJ: I love movies. I used to work in a video store when I was kid so you kind of have to. That’s a job nobody in America really has anymore… Anyways, have you seen Sicario? The soundtrack for that is brilliant, it’s by Johan Johansson. It’s not really influential on me per se, but it’s something I saw recently and enjoyed a great deal. I love David Lynch too, I feel like that was so influential to me that I probably don’t even know when it is creeping into my work. This likely has something to do the fact that when I discovered his movies it was around the same time that I started using LSD quite regularly. For example, the first time I saw Fire Walk With Me I was on a dangerous amount of acid and I’m sure that if that experience hasn’t left me permanently altered, nothing will
(((o))): Can you tell me about how ‘The Girls’ came together- it’s such an unusual cocktail of corruption!? You seem to be channelling Bowie in the vocals?
TJ: Nice call, I thought the chorus sounded a bit like Bowie too… I started by tracking the drums first with no scratch tracks recorded, meaning no bass or guitar, which is really weird actually. I had the most bare boned idea for a song and set my drummer to task on recording basically the same drum beat for a few minutes or really how long I thought the song would be. Then I took that drum track and started to write the rest of the material on top of it. So when it ends out of nowhere is when he just stopped playing the drums and then that’s how the song will be now forever. Also it’s pretty loose at times but I like that. Lot’s of first takes on that song. There is a really old version I recorded when the song was just an idea and not what is now, but it was a million miles away from what it ended up as.
(((o))): There’s always a strong vein of anti-church sentiment in your lyrics – are you rebelling against a religious upbringing or is just your basic rock anti establishment and anti-Christianity stance?
TJ: I love churches I’m not sure what you mean? I visit churches often on tour, it’s one of my favourite things to do actually. For the record I don’t have an “anti-Christian” bone in my body. Both my father and Step-Mother are Christians and fantastic people. Some of my very good friends are Christians as well. Perhaps you can explain more?
(((o))): You are right, anti-church may be too strong, but there is a lot of religious imagery and language in your lyrics, often in the service of songs which are dealing with quite subversive subject matter, like the choral start to ‘Holy Christos’ the first track on Sex. Can you tell me what that track is about?
TJ: I put that piece of Christos Anesti in that song because I love it, not to mock it. Those words translated from Greek mean, “Christ is risen from the dead, by death trampling down upon death”. It fits well with one of the themes of that song which compares Christ or Christianity to vampirism. You know, with the whole blood drinking, eternal life elements of their faith. I felt that using something from the Orthodox for that song would be great to use for the imagery there is so bloody. Furthermore, Holy Christos uses Christ as a metaphor for drugs like speed in the sense that Charles Manson, who is a reoccurring theme on the album, compared himself to Jesus (among many other people) and who used sex and drugs in order to persuade his followers to believe that his ramblings and lifestyle was that of one of a prophet’s .
(((o))): Also on your previous album on ‘Death Won’t Take Me’ there is is the line “I sure as hell don’t need no priest” – it all seems to come as an act of defiance and provocation?
TJ: ‘Death Won’t Take Me’ is a song written from the point of view of Raymond Kurzweil, not myself. He is a real person who seeks to cure death, he doesn’t believe it should happen to people and that it can be “cured”. To me death is one of the most important parts of life and learning to transcend the fear of it is in part why we are here. Speaking from his point of view, which I am not quoting or even paraphrasing, of course “I (he) don’t need no doctor, I (he) sure as hell don’t need no priest” means he has cured death and thus left certain aspects of society behind, mainly that of medicine and religion. In the song he laments the loss of death so it’s a bit of a funeral song for death itself. That’s why death, as in Death the grim reaper, doesn’t love him anymore, won’t knock on his door, won’t take him from the hell in which he himself has invariably created. Like what is Kurzweil’s plan for sharing this life extending technology that will keep people alive forever? He is an inventor and capitalist, do you think he is just going to give it to everyone? All it takes is a quick peek into the Iliad or Odyssey to see how the Gods of old treated the mortals. Do we want a return to that age? I doubt you or I would be on the nice end of the God’s wrath.
(((o))): You have been in a couple of metal bands – what made you move away from that genre – did you always love this dark rock n’ roll vibe or is it something you gravitated towards as you got older?
TJ: It was the heavy amps, they are too heavy to move all the time. And the greenrooms at metal clubs smell like broken dreams and have walls covered with crudely drawn penises. That’s why I left metal behind.
(((o))): What sort of crowds do your live shows attract – is it still a metal crowd in the main?
TJ: Yes for sure metal heads come to our shows, but they are the ones that smell good and usually talk to other people and are generally speaking, “happy”. They aren’t the deeply anti-social types that bum everyone out all the time. Sorry if that offends anyone that comes to our shows and is an anti-social prick, but you probably like this kind of talk anyways so let’s just let that one lay.
(((o))): Do you plan to tour Europe with this album? (Hint, hint)
TJ: Hell yes. Just you wait!
(((o))): Well thank you for talking to us, I hope the album does well.
TJ: Thanks to you Chris! With the Light of Lucifer!
Read more on Raymond Kurzweil here.