Hello all – my name is Sarai Nissan and I just started as an employee as Goldyn. I’m a photography student with a penchant for all things spooky. My first post on the Goldyn blog is an interview with the prolific Thomas (TJ) Cowgill, the body behind King Dude and one half of the clothing line Actual Pain. Here we chat about dying young, the occult, his artistic influence and other eerie dearies such as the jeweler JL Schnabel of Bloodmilk, the fashion brand Ovate and Flying Coffin, musicians like Grave Babies and Denver’s own Munly as well as Slim Cessna’s Auto Club and much, much more.
Thomas (TJ) Cowgill: Do you have a predisposition that makes you think you might die?
Sarai Nissan: Honestly, I think it’s because I have no interest in getting so old to the point that I can’t do what I like to do, I think that’s mostly why I don’t intentionally plan on living to be very old but that’s kind of morbid.
TC: Well, I know what you mean, but part of it is though, as you get older your interests change so vastly and you take on a different archetype of the same person.
SN: I agree, do you think you are going to keep doing King Dude and Actual Pain when you’re eighty?
TC: No, all things must come to an end. Those things will end in due time I suppose. I would like to think that Actual Pain can continue on with somebody else but it’s hard to find someone who shares my vision exactly. King Dude is a different thing and that will end. The whole thing about King Dude too is that it’s about creating an image and creating an aesthetic. But there is definitely a very religious aspect to King Dude and I am definitely a very spiritual person who believes in a lot more than what is here.
SN: What brought you into that aesthetic of the dark and occult in King Dude and Actual Pain?
TC: Nothing that I do is intentionally dark, I don’t think of it as dark but I do realize that is appears to be dark. What I tend to talk about is regular life stuff that is changed up a bit. I have had a fascination with the esoteric worlds and the hidden meaning of all religion and cults and anything that reveals the higher truth.
SN: Have there been any specific influences, not just musically, within King Dude or Actual pain that struck you in other mediums?
TC: Yeah! For example the Psychic Recovery Institute line that I designed, I was really into Dione Fortune’s book Psychic Self Defense. In my music you can draw really quick parallels from other artists and I don’t mind at all.
SN: How is it working with Emily Denton (of Stickers) on Actual Pain as opposed to King Dude being primarily your project?
TC: It’s great. She encourages me to do King Dude and I encourage her to pursue what she wants to become. She is also a seer and knows what people want. It was her idea to do leggings for example and I was like “I don’t think people want leggings.” Sure enough they did. In regards to King Dude it has always been my thing but I have had great help from a great many people who believe in us.
SN: Denver is considered an “up and coming” city in regards to music and art, how is that “scene” in Seattle comparatively or just in general?
TC: Denver has some really great bands that have stayed for a really long time. Seattle is more transient; bands tend to leave or people that are very talented. [In regards to Denver] Wovenhand. Sixteen-Horse Power, and there is Munly who does that other group Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. Slim’s son plays in The Sterling Sisters.
SN: Yeah! With Scout [Pare-Phillips]
TC: Yeah, with Scout. There is just a vast array of talent in a place like that, but you guys I think [Denver] are weirder than Seattle. I absolutely love my city and my friends that play in bands there, like Grave Babies and Stickers, Emily’s band, are amazing bands.
SN: For anybody who is interested in Actual Pain or King Dude what are some other groups or brands that you think they would also enjoy?
TC: I think the people I will be releasing records for [Not Just Religious Music] and working with Chelsea Wolfe has been a great pleasure. I’m doing a record for Foie Gras out of San Francisco, this band from Philadelphia called Dreadlords, a seven-inch for this band Bain Wolfkind.
TC: I like brands like Black Scale from Oakland also Flying Coffin from Seattle, he was very helpful the coaching needed to do my own clothing line. And I love Ovate from Montreal, it’s very high fashion but her aesthetic and her ability to craft what she makes is really incredible. Also Jess, who makes Bloodmilk..
SN: Yes, Jess is so lovely.
TC: Yeah, her stuff is just incredible, and if you see how she makes it, I guess I like people who are very hands on in their process; all of these people that I have mentioned are very hands on and care a very great deal about what they’re doing. I don’t know too much about any other newer brands but I guess that would be it. I’m sure there’s more, I’m sure I’m missing someone. [Laughs] I could regret that later.
SN: [Laughs] I’m sure it’ll be fine. Thank you so much for talking with me, it was nice chatting!
TC: Of course! It was nice to meet you.
Be sure to check out King Dude‘s show this Wednesday, October 1st, 2014, at Larimer Lounge: 2721 Larimer Street, Denver, CO 80205