Saturday, April 5, 2014

The esoteric soul | An interview with King Dude

Photo © Darla Teagarden

Who is King Dude? 

I am. TJ Cowgill. And I play with a band too, who are also King Dude.

 How would you describe your music to those who haven't heard it?

Well it sounds like a lot of different stuff I would imagine. I usually just say "Rock N' Roll" when people ask me on the street. It's easier than trying to explain my spiritual perspective on music, which is to say, inwardly I consider my songs to be closer to gospel than anything else. 

© Saul Torres

There's a sort of deathly, low and macabre tone to the music. Where do you draw your inspiration for your lyrics?

My daily life mostly. Walking around the city or a book or article I might've read has been inspirational to me before. Sometimes it feels like the songs occur naturally, as if by automatic writing. I do most of my writing when I wake up, it's my most inspired time of the day.

Photo © Darla Teagarden

For those who may not know King Dude is also TJ, the man behind the brand Actual Pain. How do you juggle having both an international brand and a music career?

Well luckily I don't have to run Actual Pain on my own. I have help from my partner Emily and we have someone who handles the shipping and all that. I don't know how I do it all. I'm often so busy that I feel like I'm losing my mind but if I didn't like it all I suppose I would stop.

© Victoria Holt

Theres a lot of talk of Satan, ghosts, witches, occultism and alike in your songs and the imagery surrounding King Dude. What is it about the dark side that you feel particularly drawn to and how difficult is it to make sure the marriage between the aesthetic and the "folk" genre of your music doesn't stray down the path of cheesy?

I don't know that I am really that drawn to the dark side of life. I think it may outwardly appear so to some, but in my view of life I see a lot of beauty in what others would consider dark. I write music with intention and sincerity, that keeps it from what you call cheesy I suppose. A lot of other bands are content with just writing about whatever, or nothing at all for that matter, where as I cannot. All of my songs have an intended purpose beneath the facade and that is the very definition of the esoteric. It's merely one of the consequences in my approach to song writing.

 © Darla Teagarden

You've worked many times before with your "sister" Chelsea Wolfe and you recently released a new 7" together. What is it like to collaborate with Chelsea and what is the collaboration process like?

I love Chelsea, she's the best. Working with her is easy, we've known each other for awhile and I really respect her talent and voice. She has good ideas and is a great performer so it's a pleasure to work with her. I think for that seven inch we recorded it in two days, and then we just hung out for the last day that she was up here. Our approach to these collaborations is to each bring one song to the session, at least the framework of it, then we work together to get it fleshed the rest of the way out. I wrote Be Free because I really wanted to have a classic style duet with her, like Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra did. I was really pleased with the way it came out, I don't think I could have done it with anyone else.

© Rick Rodney

I've heard it said before that a lot of solo artists often don't listen to the music most like what they sing. Is this true of King Dude?

No, I study a lot of music closely, obsessively really. But it's mostly do figure out why it's good, to try and break it all down. Even the way bands dress matters. It all matters to me.

Are there any are artists/musicians out there at the moment that you are really into? 

I listen to a lot of different kinds of music so this one is gonna be weird. Lately it's been Raime, Bruce Springsteen, King Kobra, and Skinny Puppy. Oh and the new Beastmilk record. That record is unstoppable.

© Christian Faustus

You are touring much more frequently these days. How have you found the audience's reception to King Dude, past and present? 

Well I think there's more of an audience than there used to be for it. But sometimes I still play very small shows, you know to just a handful of people and that's very enjoyable as well. I just love to play, to connect to that great spirit in song, it's a beautiful thing. When it's good it's like church for people who don't go to church, and that's really my goal, I want people to walk away feeling like they have a soul because I believe that we all do.

© Matt Draper

Are we likely to ever see King Dude live in Australia? 

I am just waiting on an invite from a promoter. I would love to go!