Who Is…King Dude:
Apocalyptic folk colored with hollow acoustic strumming, low, echoing vocals and embellished at times with mildly distorted guitar, ominous beats and sound effects.
Personae: TJ Cowgill (vocals/guitar), Emily Denton (back-up vocals)
Once the frontman for hardcore and black metal bands Teen Cthulhu and Book of Black Earth, TJ Cowgill started writing raw, stripped-down folk songs under the name King Dude (borrowed from metal hero King Diamond) in 2005. The project started just for kicks one drunken night. Even his stage name came on a whim. “My roommate and I were bored, so I picked up an acoustic guitar and started writing these songs as a joke, and he recorded them on his computer,” Cowgill recalls. “At the end of the night he had to name it something just so he could find it later on his computer, and I said, ‘Call it King Dude.’”
The next day, Cowgill listened back to what they had recorded, expecting a good laugh from some awful music. Instead, he heard a batch of dark, brooding demos that cross-pollinated the earthiness of his favorite country artists with the spine-tingling acoustics of martial folk.
“I realized this has potential and I started taking it more seriously,” Cowgill says. In my metal bands I was used to growling, and when I listened back to one of my takes I went, ‘Holy shit, that’s my real voice.’”
Six years later, King Dude has released three full-length acoustic-based neo-folk albums, including 2011′s critically acclaimed Love, a record of slow, simple jangly acoustic songs. This year sees the release of King Dude’s most expansive release, Burning Daylight, which combines Cowgill’s love for Johnny Cash and Death in June with elements of rockabilly, goth, folk, and even doo-wop.
“It’s a lot darker than Love was, Cowgill says.” I wanted to write a record about murder and desperation at a time in early American history.”
On a rainy Seattle afternoon, Cowgill took some time away from designing shirts for his clothing company Actual Pain, and talked about his new album, his upbringing, Satanism and the current neo-folk scene.
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