Monday, June 24, 2013

Now I Feel Like A Wolf - The Journey Through King Tuff's Feral Wilderness - Interview By Jarrett Koral

King Tuff's Was Dead Burger Records reissue
Last month, I had the unique opportunity to talk to Kyle Thomas (aka King Tuff) about his music, Burger Records, and more. Kyle was previously involved in bands like Witch and Happy Birthday, with the latter’s debut album appearing on Sub Pop Records.  The first King Tuff album, Mindblow, was released in 2006 on Spirit Of Orr records, and the CD version is still available for order In 2008, Thomas released his undisputed masterpiece, Was Dead, on The Colonel Records. Most recently, in 2012, the self titled King Tuff album was released on Sub Pop Records to great acclaim. Was Dead was also resurrected and reissued by California based indie label, Burger Records, on vinyl, cassette, and CD. (That can be bought at

King Tuff's Self Titled Album
Jarrett Koral: How’s it over in LA?
Kyle Thomas: It’s really hot over here.

JK: Isn’t Burger over at their label market right now? I heard Lee talking about it at The GO/Redd Kross show.
KT: Yeah. I think so. Don’t know where that is though.

JK: It’s supposed to be in a big outside tent there, I think. Tons of people went out there.
KT: Yeah! I saw a picture! Lee and Sean are out there and I saw a picture of them sitting at their table selling their stickers and stuff. On the ground there were bottles of water with Burger stickers on  them, cause’ it’s been Lee’s dream to have ‘Burger Water’ for years.

JK: Burger Water?
KT: Yeah…he wants their own water because he’s upset with drinking water. He’s always carrying around a jug of water with him. Whenever you see him, he always has the jug of water.

JK:  Yeah. Burger definitely has the ‘hands on’ aspect of the label on. You can just call them and talk whenever you want. Some labels like Third Man Records aren’t as hands on; you can’t just call up Jack White and talk to him. As much as I like them, they don’t have that much fan interaction.
KT: Yeah, Burger’s a lot more personal. I can’t think of any other labels that are like that.

JK: They reissued Redd Kross’s first album, Born Innocent, on cassette and only made 150 of them. It’s exceptionally cool because Burger doesn’t really care about making money. They could be selling hundreds of those!
KT:  Yeah, it’s just like a wheel they spin. Whatever cool stuff they’re into, they pull it together.

JK:  This morning, I saw an episode of the Gorburger Show and you were on it. Your hand also got whacked repeatedly with a hammer. What happened there?
KT: Yes! It was a prop hand! It’s voiced by a comedian named T.J. Miller and it’s part of the Funny Or Die website. They’ve been doing a lot of cool people. It was at 7 in the morning, and we were all sort of out of it. It was really strange talking to a giant monster early in the morning.
King Tuff on The Gorburger Show

JK:  About your last album, the self-titled King Tuff album, it was recorded at an abandoned school in Detroit.
KT: The guy who engineered it, Adam Cox, played synth in Conspiracy Of Owls, had a studio there. I guess some guy bought the school and wanted to rent it out to musicians. But at that time, Adam was the only guy in there, and it definitely had an eerie feeling. But it was cool, and it was a really interesting place to record. The guy who owns it looks like a wild old man! I just remembered the first thing he said when we walked in there he goes ‘Two things… don’t go upstairs, and if you kill someone, there’s an incinerator in the basement”.

JK: Haha, what?
KT: Yeah, and we were actually really scared.

JK: Did you guys go upstairs?
KT: Oh yeah, of course! Me and Bobby kept going up there and getting freaked out then ran down the hallway screaming.

JK: Why? What was up there?
KT: Well, we walked into this one room and Bobby felt like he was sinking into the floor…

JK: What was going on up there? Any dead bodies?
KT: Nope, there were just empty classrooms but some of them had really weird burn marks on the walls.

JK: Weird.
KT: Yeah, but there was that one room and we had a really eerie feeling in it and Bobby felt like he was sinking into the floor. Then we just ran screaming.

JK: I’m beginning to think the owner is a murderer.
KT: Definitely.

JK: Who’s in the band right now?
KT: Right now, it’s Magic Jake on Bass, Gary Goddard on the drums.

JK: Is Craig from the Terrible Twos in the band still?
KT:  Actually, we cut it down to a three piece. It was really heard because everybody lived in different places and it was hard to get everyone together.

JK: How did you meet up with Bobby Harlow (Producer of King Tuff S/T Album)? Was that from Burger?
KT: Yeah, I had the Conspiracy of Owls record back when I lived in Vermont, but I didn’t really know anything about that band. I didn’t know who they were, and I didn’t know anything about The GO!, and when I left Vermont, I made my way to California, and on the way, I stopped at South by Southwest.  I saw the big Burger show there, and that’s where I met Bobby. I was like ‘Hey, you’re the Conspiracy of Owls guy, we should do something together sometime’. I didn’t know he produced that record, I didn’t know he produced any records; I just liked the Owls record. He was kinda like ‘Okay?’, but then a few weeks later he called me out of the blue and told me I should let him produce my next album.

JK: After that he probably looked you up and found Was Dead and Mind Blow
KT: Yeah. It felt like a sort of cosmic connection. I left Vermont knowing I needed to make a new record, and I had all these demos, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with hit. I knew I needed to work with a producer or someone, but I didn’t know who, but then it all came together well.

JK: Bobby’s really hands on with the vinyl too. I remember he put out about 10 different versions of the Conspiracy of Owls record with different covers because they kept selling out!
KT: Yeah, and that’s really cool. I grew up listening to vinyl. CD’s don’t have that magic quality. I recently got back into collecting records again. I was a huge record collector back when I was a teenager, and I worked at a record store. I collected so many that I just slowed down for a while. Then, when I came out to LA, and I had the chance to start a new record collection because I didn’t have any of my stuff with me, and I fell in love with them again. I got an early British pressing of Rubber Soul, which is one of my favorite Beatles records, and it has this crazy quality to it…just the paper it’s printed on, the vinyl itself; it feels like a strange black magic. It’s very strange. It’s a different feeling, and vinyl is definitely one of man’s greatest inventions.

JK: Right after the telephone and the Internet is vinyl.
KT: Yeah, and the hot shower

JK: Hot shower, coffee maker…
KT: The bagel and cream cheese

JK: And then vinyl
KT: Nope…French Crullers

JK: T shirts with pictures of vinyl, cream cheese bagels, paper, pens, guitars, guitar strings, records, and then vinyl
KT: I want my next record to look like a bagel with cream cheese, and it’ll come with a built in shower

JK: For an extra $500 King Tuff will come to your house and shower with you..
KT: Hey, I actually like that idea. You’re on to something.

JK: Don’t you have a bunch of albums of unreleased material from the Mindblow days? What do those sound like?
KT: Before I made Mindblow, there were two King Tuff albums. The first one was called The Dangerous Romantic, and I made that one when I was really into Modern Lovers, and really poppy and dangly stuff. Then, the second one was called Now I Feel Like A Wolf. It has a bit of a Cure vibe sometimes, but that’s still when I was late teens when I was still trying to figure out how to write songs and all that but when I hear it now, it’s kind of embarrassing to me, but I think there’s some good songs on those records. But my friends that I gave those records to, when I first made them, swear by them. They’re like ‘That’s your best stuff’, but I have no perspective on it. I’m sure somebody’ll bootleg it after I’m dead.

JK: Were those recorded at your house or in a studio?
KT: Actually, my parents have a bomb shelter in their basement, and that’s where I did all my first recordings. It’s not really a working bomb shelter; it’s more like a hole in the wall in the basement. The original people who owned the house built it as a bomb shelter, but they forgot to put a bombproof door on it.

JK: Is that where Mindblow was recorded, too?
KT: Yeah, that was recorded down there too. I recorded Was Dead down there by myself too.

JK: So, the new album is the first album with a full band, right?
KT: The new album is my first ‘real’ studio record.

JK: Who approached who about the new Was Dead reissue on Burger?
KT: Well, they’ve been doing the cassette of it for years now, and the other label that originally put out the vinyl kind of screwed it over. I know he’s hoarding the records and is probably gonna sell them on eBay when I get famous…haha

JK: So, now it’s in good hands with Burger.
KT: I’m really happy just to put it out there. I’m super happy that Burger has it now and I felt like they should be the ones to reissue it because they really created a lot of my fan base by getting the tape out. The Colonel got it out there and people liked it, which was good, but Burger were really the people who cared about and really liked the record. They were the champions of that record.

JK: How was the Third Man show you did? Did that go well?
KT:  Yeah! That was really early in the day. It was a brunch thing, and I’m a creature of the night so it’s kinda hard for me to conjure my energy that early in the day, but it was really cool.

JK: What’s going on with Happy Birthday? Are you just working on King Tuff stuff now, or is Happy Birthday coming back at some time?
KT: King Tuff has been my main focus recently and it’ll probably remain that way, but I still love working with other people and making recordings. Those are two of my best friends. They’re both musical geniuses, and they both have their own solo material. You should check out Chris Weisman. He’s a maniac, and he’s a great writer. They didn’t really want to go on tour, but I still think it would be cool to do another recording with them.

JK: I know you’re doing the Pickathon festival this year, and you’re playing in the woods. Are you going to do some collaboration with them there? Maybe Ty Segall?
KT: Yeah! That’s what that thing is for. It’s crazy because Ty lives down the street from me. He’s getting a studio together there, so I’ll probably just go over there and jam!

JK: Sounds like a cool festival!
KT: Come on! You should go! It’s in Portland in early August, we can get Spin magazine to fly you out there!

JK: Is there a live album of the Third Man show coming?
KT: Yeah, they’re just working on the mix, so it should be coming really soon. I can’t wait for that to come out. I want to be in the studio recording stuff, but I can’t when I’m on the road. It’s really hard.

JK: But I did hear the new Bobby Harlow mixed King Tuff track called 'She's On Fire' on the Garage Swim compilation, and that was awesome.. (YOU CAN HEAR THAT HERE:
KT: And that was with Gap Dream too. Gabe kind of put his touch on that. It’s mostly synth and drum machine. Gabe’s one of my best friends, and his new record is insane.

JK: Is that the self-titled Gap Dream record?
KT: Nope. It’s not out yet, but it’s called Shine Your Light, and Bobby co-produced it with Gabe. I think it’ll be out in September.

JK: Are you working on a follow up to the King Tuff album on Sub Pop?
KT: I’m working on writing whenever I can, usually between tours. It takes me a while to get into the writing zone, but I’ve gotten a few songs down, but I really need to focus on writing this summer.

JK: Will the next album be done at Burger Studios?
KT: I can’t wait for that. Bobby’s moving out here to LA, and when that actually happens, it’ll be the coolest thing ever. Since Bobby’s running the board, it’s all going to sound wonderful.

JK: Did you hear the new Go album, Fiesta?
KT: There’s a ton of great songs on there. I really love Inside A Hole. All of Johnny’s songs are great on it. I can’t stop playing Fiesta.

JK: How was South By Southwest?
KT: I was hanging out with Gabe and all the guys from The GO!, we rode the mechanical bull, and Roky Erikson played the Burger show. It was amazing, and it was really cool. Roky Erikson playing
Burger is really insane. He’s one of the greatest singers ever.

JK: How did you get into music? Because I know that Vermont is pretty much the epicenter of anything and everything musical. I think The Beatles are from Vermont, too.
KT: Is this sarcasm?

JK: Of course not! I mean, yeah.
KT: My dad is a huge music fan, and ever since I was a little kid, he’s had a huge record collection. He’s really into psychedelic rock, and my parents are really cool. That’s really the simple answer, but I remember staring at the Blue Cheer record cover when I was a little kid and I was mesmerized. And then my Dad bought a Stratocaster when I was in second of third grade and I was messing around with it. I played drums when I was in elementary school, and I was just really drawn into music. I made up songs, and I can’t really remember not writing songs or making music. I just like being creative, that’s what really energizes me. When you write or make something and feel good about it, that’s the best feeling in the world. 

 Come back next week for PART TWO of the King Tuff interview! Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel!