The shadows aren’t a world that TJ Cowgill (a.k.a. King Dude) merely resides in: He was “born tapped into [them],” as he puts it. With his most recent LP, Fear, Cowgill groans and barrels through nightmarish scenes that would make even the most damning of characters tremble in fear. He’s even found a kindred spirit in the entrancingly sullen Chelsea Wolfe, with whom he recorded two dolefully enchanting 7-inches, “…Sing Songs Together” and “…Sing More Songs Together.”
Beyond the smog of poetic hellfire and haze of Lucifer’s light, though, is a modern-day renaissance man. Between managing his own record label, Not Just Religious Music, recording and feverishly touring as King Dude and running the clothing house Actual Pain, it’s difficult to understand how Cowgill finds time to sleep, breathe and sail across the gloomy undercurrents about which he so vividly writes.
Cowgill may seem like the most intrepid of overachievers, but he’s more a victim of ambition than of the need to succeed and exceed. Most of his projects seem to adopt lives of their own. Even Actual Pain, his morosely tongue-in-cheek clothing line, flourished from a seemingly benign idea. “Randomly a friend of mine who owned a clothing company asked me to draw a logo for his [project], and the next thing I know I had started my own thing,” he says of the endeavor.
Whether he’s writing folk songs more suited for damnation and hellfire than political protests and coffeeshops or designing clothing for those who would rather lurk in the shadows than traipse on runways, Cowgill strives to create a world all his own. The aesthetics, the sounds and the fury driving it all presides in a world all Cowgill’s own, and it’s surely darker than the ones he sings about. In a recent interview with Boxx Magazine, Cowgill opens up about his album, a recent injury and touring with Ms. Wolfe.
Do you feel your albums have taken on new personal meaning after performing them on an extensive tour?
“The songs always change and develop in sound, especially with a live band. But as far as taking on a new meaning, I’d say no. They all are set in the things that they are about when I write them, so it’s impossible for them to take on a new meaning in my mind.”
We read news of your recent hand injury. How has that affected you as a musician or otherwise?
“It’s been very depressing to say the least. I severed two flexor tendons and nerves in my middle finger on my right hand rendering me immobile. I then had surgery in the middle of the tour, having to cancel two dates. I then went back out and continued to perform the rest of the shows. Now it looks like one of the tendons hasn’t healed properly, and I’ll need even more surgery. I just hope someday I can move my hand again like I used to.”
Who are your most prominent female musical influences?
“I really like Nico. Always have. Her and Sybille Baier. And my friends I suppose. Chelsea Wolfe, Scout Paré-Phillips, Foie Gras, Pharmakon. I could go on.”
What were your personal highlights of touring with Chelsea Wolfe?
“Probably all the time we got to spend together. There was a lot of good memories from that tour. Nicholas Friesen was playing drums and guitar with me on that trip. Some of the greatest memories came from those dates. Although the snow was a little too intense. I would’ve rather not had to deal with all that. But in hindsight it made for some wild times.”
Are there any female musicians that are currently on your radar?
“I like Scout Paré-Phillips from New York and Foie Gras from San Francisco. I will be putting records out for both of them on my label Not Just Religious Music.”
What female artist—living or dead—would you love to collaborate with?
“Easy. Zeena Schreck.”
Photo by Nick Fancher