If You Only Listen To One Luciferian Neo-Folk Band Influenced By Black Metal, Make It King Dude
As frontman of the incongruously named Seattle neo-folk trio King Dude, T.J. Cowgill crafts bleak ballads exploring the grand dichotomy of good and evil. His compelling imagery and narrative is informed by experience as a self-described Luciferian and acolyte of the occult. King Dude transposes much of black metal's aesthetic qualities to a music that is informed as much by prominent neo-folk acts like Death in June or Sol Invictus as by the drama of early American blues. We caught up with Cowgill shortly before his current tour with Los Angeles chanteuse Chelsea Wolfe to discuss embedding messages in songs like alchemist poetry, transcending darkness and the alternate history of a Luciferian 1950's that Cowgill will explore on his forthcoming album, Fear.
King Dude performs Saturday, Jan. 26th with Chelsea Wolfe at the Music Hall of Williamsburg.
Have you deliberately shifted from black metal to the more accessible music of King Dude to expand the audience for your message?
I can't say it's that cold or calculated. I see how our band benefits from bringing our message to a base that has no experience with it, but it's a coincidence. It's not like I need to change the world. I feel like it will change itself and I'm glad to be part of that process. I've gotten in line with my true nature and my role in this big thing. I know what I believe in and I can talk about my message all day long, from a point of view that's not of hatred or conversion. It's what I've come to know as spirituality. It feels very natural.
Listening to Burning Daylight, your last full-length, I feel like a lot of listeners will be captivated by just the narrative and imagery, without actually absorbing the message.
They should. That's good art. Thank you for saying that. Every song has at least two levels of entertainment value. You listen to the lyrics and accept them at face value, you have one song. You read between the lines and understand esoterism and occultism, you might have another. I don't hide the fact that I hide things in my songs. I intentionally make one song for two audiences. That is the nature of esoterism and alchemical texts that go back hundreds of years. They used to write alchemy poems that people like Elias Ashmole would compile into books like Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum. Poets layered true knowledge in their poems about alchemy because they had to. If the Catholic Church knew the true meaning of their poems they would be murdered. So, what modern people interested in esoterism do is extract knowledge from these poems.
How do you characterize the difference between writing Burning Daylight and your next album, Fear?
I've learned more about songwriting. I'm obsessed with people who are really good at writing songs. I've tried to extract what they're doing, much to the chagrin of my wife who has to listen to me listen to the White Album over and over again. When Fear comes out, that's going to be the one. I play it for people and I break into tears. All the things you like about Burning Daylight are focused in on so much more.
It feels like it's not even under my control. It feels like a lot of automatic writing, which is basically when someone else writes for you, or possessive writing. When I write lyrics I can write three pages in ten minutes and it doesn't feel like me. This has never happened to me before in my life and I've been making music my whole life. Technically, the guy I am should not be outputting these songs.
Why do you think it's taken this long to transcend the songwriting process?
I think it's been serving the song. I've been very selfless in trying to understand what the song is trying to do and not have my ego play into it. It's even in how we present ourselves to the crowd; we all wear the same black outfit, I'm not in the center of the stage. We obviously care a great deal about aesthetics, but it's important to remove myself from the process.