The Hang Man's Song...
"I guess when my metal band was winding down, because people were on too much drugs, I had to do something. So I picked up an acoustic guitar, because it’s harder to be a one man metal band because that is just overall a pain in the ass."
America, from the dessert to the valleys; it creeks, while death thrives. Religion calls us to repent, whilst others ravish in the light of the dark temples. TJ Cowgill has had acts of different shapes and sizes; though with King Dude, he is a sleek cut vocalist that breeds his death through charm of cigarettes and whisky, as he sings his melancholy creations upon his audience.
Seattle is where the devil came from; where he chose to turn to create a one-man folk band, due to a single band member metal act has greater tribulations to go through. ‘Fear’, was where I first encountered him. An album of lost America, in a filthy energy of complete rage.
‘Songs of the flesh and blood’ released this year gives a more reconciliatory feel to the TJ’s dark light. Looking at previous albums, such as ‘Love’, there is a move away from traditional Folk, to a more southern country style.
Currently on his European tour, tonight is in Vienna. Over a cigarette and a good volume of bourbon, myself and my neo-folk guru Matthias Hollerer ask the Luciferian on his act of King Dude and where he is driving to next.
Intravenous Magazine: When you came to Austria last year, did you expect such a welcoming turnout?
TJ Cowgill: No I was completely surprised, but I am always surprised when I go to a new place and there are people there to see me. Because you could end up going to a new area and seeing ten people; so no I was very surprised there with the turnout I had last year.
IVM: Do you see a big difference between the Neo-folk scenes here in Europe in comparison to the US?
TJC: It’s not the same, though the US is much bigger. So there are a lot more areas which have never heard this type of music before. You use the term neo-folk; I don’t technically play this, however I believe there a lot of people in that scene, who have found out about my work by my affiliations with some of those artists. It’s hands down better here than in the US in general. If I had the choice to choose where to tour more often, it would be in Europe and you see that in my touring schedule, as I am three times more here, than there, because the scene is better.
IVM: Many music artists in the scene find it difficult sometimes to get the right permissions to travel to the US, do you have any difficulties with that in Europe?
TJC: Oh no, it’s really no problem.
IVM: To put your music in a nutshell for me it’s a combination of an evangelical folk mixture, with a bit of Gospel creeping in and a dash of neofolk. So it sounds like the story of an angel having an affair with the devil. Are you try to be the angel or the devil, or is that part of you that ends up trying to describe it?
TJC: I’m not sure actually, that’s a good question. I don’t end up applying genres to my music. As one may be soul, another neo-folk; though I am neither. I am not a country, nor rock and roll, though I end up in those genres. My conflict between the angels and devils, is mainly there as I find it interesting to write about. Love & Hate, revenge and redemption; all these things are great to write about. Though no song is pure love, or pure hate, they will have both or more.
I love using Christian allegories, because they are super fun and a really relevant in my life and upbringing, as well as less-Christian references because they are also very relevant in my upbringing. My mother is a practicing witch, and my father is an evangelical born again Christian. While I am neither of those, I grew up in those two separate households with those two separate influences.
I really reconciled any differences I had with either faith I had, and came to my own faith which is Luciferin and in my Luciferin principle, there is a balance between good and evil, and reconciliation between both, which I lean more to the narcissistic side of things.
IVM: Are you a vegetarian?
TJC: I was ten years ago, I was a vegetarian from the age of 16-26, and I am now 37.
IVM: Because my next question is do you grill or fry your steak?
TJC: Depends what’s there. I have a cast iron skillet for that, that’s more of an American thing, I don’t know if that’s popular over here. I live in the pike place market in Seattle, where I can get fresh food, which means I eat very well at home and it’s pretty cheap also.
IVM: Do you see yourself as American or from Seattle?
TJC: Well it’s pretty much the same thing, like there are mini factions like southerners and Texans; as you wouldn’t call a Texan a southerner, as they mean two different things. There are really only people who are from New York. You really wouldn’t define Seattle, as it is a rather boring place in comparison to maybe Copenhagen, in the way it’s clean and grey… not really much of a personality.
IVM: You have this 21st century Johnny cash resurrection going on with the imagery, is that something that accidentally occurred?
TJC: No I think Johnny cash was definitely an influence on me, because who doesn’t like Johnny Cash. Though I didn’t say in any press release that I am trying to be Johnny cash; I studied more Roy Orbison, as he is more relevant I believe than to what Johnny did. But I think the first thing people think is him, because he was a bigger personality.
IVM: How did you become entwined with this project King Dude, because you have several other projects?
TJC: I started out playing punk and metal music because I was a kid and wanted to be loud. But I always liked country music, British folk music for example bands from the like Richard Thompson. I guess when my metal band was winding down, because people were on too much drugs, I had to do something. So I picked up an acoustic guitar, because it’s harder to be a one man metal band because that is just overall a pain in the ass.
IVM: How did teen Cutulu get into all of this?
TJC: I toured a lot back then and from that I learned how to tour.
IVM: Is the record label not just religious music yours?
TJC: Yes that’s mine, I usually use it to put out my own records and also some of my friends, if they get there shit together, then I’ll be there shitty label for them.
IVM: Is there anything, other than music that has been a big part of your life?
TJC: I have been artist most of my life. I own a clothing company called ‘Actual Pain’. I wanted to be a painter, but that didn’t work out, so I started making shirts and that went really well, and that’s what I have done for ten years now.
IVM: Being the owner of your own record label, what are the big advantages?
TJC: 1. You don’t have to answer to anyone
2. You don’t have to tour with any band you don’t want tour with.
3. You don’t have to put out a record, when you don’t want to.
4. You get all the money from it.
You don’t have to rely on anyone for money to make your own record. If you are capable, like I am, I couldn’t see any reason to be on somebody else’s record label. Because I have a serious problem with being associated with other artists on the same label. I would never want to be on the label of a band I didn’t like, because that draws the same attention in people’s minds and see a parallel. Dais records was the only record label I have ever liked to be on, but I still won’t do a release with them. I am on Vaughn records for Europe, but Sven is like my brother and I trust him.
IVM: Is it lucrative to come over here?
TJC: Definitely, we make a lot of money touring. It is very important to me, because it employees me, my band, my driver, my booking agent and the people at home, who ship my records. There are a lot of people who I have to look after, not just myself. So I am very serious about this kind of stuff.
IVM: If we are looking at a pie chart, where do the sales come from music wise?
TJC: Digital and records are basically split down the middle, though digital is extra, I base myself around being a physical release, primarily vinyl and I only produce cds, because people want them. Digital music to me doesn’t really count, its just an extra thing with ones and zeros. If people steal my music online, so be it, but if people stole my records, I would be pretty upset.
IVM: Do you think that musical greed has taken over, because of file sharing? For myself when I download something, overall I believe I have less connection and concentration than I would have if I had bought the CD
TJC: I can’t blame people for downloading, because there’s so much shitty music out there and so much more, because you don’t need to go to a studio anymore to record, you can do it at home. Since the rise of synthesizers etc. so there’s so much shit out there, how are you going to know if you like it, if you don’t give it a try and the days are gone where you had to go to the record label and you would look at the album artwork to decide if it was a good release and maybe they would let you play it in the store, and then you’re stuck with it.
IVM: Is there any music you have picked up on tour that you have taken a liking to?
TJC: We did a few show with ‘Dllch’, we did some shows with gold and zene shrek whos an idol to me.
Has there been a moment on tour you will remember?
TJC: Well I drink so much whisky it’s hard to remember. My whisky preference is bourbon, I don’t like Scotch.
(Silence at the TJ’s loathe for scotch)
IVM: Is King Dude currently possessing you at the moment for the future or does it have an end date?
TJC: No it has an end date and it’s relatively soon, and it’s all planned.
IVM: Is there anything about King Dude you don’t like?
TJC: There are definitely times I don’t like anything about it, not a single a thing. But I think that is overexposure to King Dude from touring for so long. I think anyone who tours too long, starts losing inspiration in their music and what they’re doing. So yes it can be difficult at times, though I am always going back to it and trying to improve on it, from the last time.
The monotony of touring can be a drag at times, but that’s my job, that’s what I chose to do. I will be on tour another four months this year and plan on finishing another record next month. So its full steam ahead and I can get consumed, more obsessed with it; that’s the way I am. I guess I don’t like music sometimes.
Matthias Hollerer: Are there any songs you don’t want played live anymore?
TJC: There are songs I never play live, because they don’t work or they are too difficult for me to play live. But I like playing the songs that people expect me to play, because they’re fun.
There’re a lot of dicks on the wall in here, there must be a lot of girls who come to this venue and draw penises, that’s what I think.
(After a bit of debauchery and swearing we somehow came to finding out the King’s family tree)
TJC: My sister took a swab of her gums and sent it this place called 23 and they do your genetic background, to determine where you’re from, and it turns out that I am 99.6% where you’re from (Ireland), so my family tree probably doesn’t have as many branches as it should have. I would like to be from the Doggerlands, it’s a place that is between UK and Europe that doesn’t exist, as it is underwater. It sounds cool.
IVM: Have you played in the UK?
TJC: Yes, I like playing for people in London, but I find London terrible because it is hard to get around, very expensive, very grey; it’s not a fun city for me, but I have a lot of friends there. I had a private party and played for my friend Simon, who tattooed me when I was there and that was a lot of fun, but that doesn’t change my thoughts about the city.
IVM: This is going to be a shite question, but describe your perfect Morning?
TJC: Well I probably get up, I feed these crows outside my window that live in the tree. I walk my dog and I work from home and eventually get dinner with my girlfriend and go to sleep. I prefer a peaceful day, with no sound, maybe see some animals… like some crows, and my dog and just chill. No driving a car, as I don’t like driving around and not taking a plane, because that’s my fucking job. I think last year I took fifty flights in 3 months. I ended the tour in Tasmania at a festival called dark Mofo which is a cool/weird/Avant-garde festival, which was a lot of fun, with a lot of mullet haircuts.
IVM: Would you be interested in touring North Korea and what do you think of Kim in June?
TJC: Sure if they asked me to, I haven’t heard it yet, but it sounds funny. But I love Death in Rome.
IVM: Is there anything that you would like to speak about with ‘the songs of the flesh and blood?
TJC: It was a tough record to make for sure. As it was a trying time of my life, where I broke up with my girlfriend for two years. It was one of the first records I approached from a personal point of view, not that the other records are lies, just more narratives. There is more truth about me on this record. It’s not what I set out to do, but it’s what ended up happening, as I felt really fucking depressed and the only thing that made me better was writing those songs. You can hear on the record how miserable I am in some of those songs, because you can’t fake that stuff.
IVM: Do you think sometimes your music career was like making a deal with the devil?
TJC: Absolutely not; if anything it brought me away from what I consider to be the devil. Artists are a fucked up group of people, who have to tell people how they feel all the time.
IVM: Is there anything you would like to say as an endnote?
TJC: No, but thank you very much for the interview and meeting you both.
IVM: It was my pleasure.
Interviewed by: Dominic Lynch aka DJ LX-E
Interviewed by: Dominic Lynch aka DJ LX-E