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Premiere- Listen to King Dude’s ‘Desolate Hour’

We chat to the brooding performer about cuddling koalas and his obsession with Twelfth Century heretics.

Image: David Fitt

Many musicians describe their music as dark and brooding but few can claim to be honorary ambassadors to the Greater Church of Lucifer (GCOL). Meet TJ Cowgill, aka King Dude, the Seattle singer songwriter known for his powerful gothic ballads and who, as of last week, represents an organization that embraces Lucifer and the Left Hand Path.

It makes sense. Cowgill wrote the song “Lucifer is the Light of the World” and “Desolate Hour”, a track from his forthcoming album "Songs of Flesh & Blood - In The Key of Light" (that we are premiering), makes reference to the “blood of the devil” and “Lucifer’s son”.

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Ahead of his only Australian performance at Dark Mofo we caught up with King Dude to learn more about the dark themes of his music.

Noisey: Kim gave a good review of your Roadburn appearance. I like the line “(he) bantered with the audience like an old drinking buddy”. Too often at larger festivals you lose the intimacy of smaller shows.
TJ Cowgill: I suppose I enjoy talking to the crowd as much as I enjoy playing songs. Sometimes more. Doesn't matter if there are 6 people there or 600. I also get drunk when I play so I have the tendency to talk to everyone like an old drinking buddy.

Dark Mofo is a different affair to Roadburn. Tasmania has a dark and bloody history. A place that seems suited to the themes in your music.
I've always wanted to go to Australia. Actually I'm most excited about the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. I think they'll let you hold the really small, cute mammals, and feed them and take pictures with them. I also want to meet a kangaroo. I know it sounds dumb, but I really like animals and I've never seen a kangaroo in real life. Your music is often described as neo-folk. Are you familiar with Striborg, the mysterious Tasmanian musician who plays his own dark neo-folk/metal?
Yeah I saw Striborg in that one-man black metal band documentary that Noisey made a few years back. The neo-folk thing is a tough box for me, I am definitely tossed into that category of music but I don't know if I really fit. I'm inspired by some neo-folk bands just as much as bands like the Kinks or Son House but rarely does anyone call my music the blues. I guess it's the runes?

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Your most recent record tells the tale of man who lost his love and how he must make a pact with the Devil to get her back, ultimately risking his life in the process. “The first time I saw her the Angels appeared /I knew what had to be done/ The blood in my veins mixed with MDMA / Jesus Christ told me I was in love”. It has very Cash/Cave themes but you make it your own. Is it based on a true story or just a tale?
It has some truth to it and is probably the first song I wrote the truth about my own personal love for a girl. My ex-girlfriend. She was in Berlin and I was in Seattle when I wrote that and that first line is true, when I met her it was the first time I did MDMA and in way I did fall in love with her then although we didn't start dating for a couple years after that. But we were breaking up when I wrote that song and it was very hard for me, I was trying to figure out how to make her love me again and the rest of the song is allegory obviously. She didn't die. But the first verse is straight up the fucking truth. I wasn't sure if I could talk about something like MDMA in one of my songs, if it would be too fucking stupid, but it's the truth and the truth is what people want to hear. And she's the one who taught me that.

What is the meaning behind your record label Not Just Religious Music?
It's in homage to the record labels of the past, in the 20s, 30s and 40s in America. They're was a lot of spiritual music coming out on vinyl, gospel and Christian music, but people wanted stuff that was secular too. So that was something that may have been printed on a record back then to let the listener know that it wasn't a "spirituals only" sort of label. I think maybe I saw a phrase like that on some old record and thought that would be a good name for my own label, but that was years ago and I have a terrible memory.

Who is the best lyricist ever?
That's a tough one. The best? Fuck man I don't know. I really like Leonard Cohen. Or Bob Dylan. Those guys were good. Son House has to be my all time favorite lyricist though, I reference him constantly. He was so sincere. You have said that you had an obsession with the Cathars, 12th Century heretics and dualist who faced some pretty grim and brutal punishment/treatment. What was the grimmest?
After a city fell during the crusades against the Cathars, the surviving Cathar Knights were lined up and tied to one another with ropes. Their hands were bound but they were still able to walk. Then the Crusaders cut of their upper lips, noses, and cut out their eyes. All but the one Cathar Knight in front, he had only one of his eyes cut out. Then they marched them to the next Cathar city and used them as an example of what would happen to those knights if they didn't surrender. I believe they surrendered.

"Songs of Flesh & Blood - In The Key of Light" is available June 18 through Not Just Religious Music.

King Dude plays Hobart’s Odeon Theatre June 14 as part of Dark Mofo. Tickets are available here.