That reminds me of your songs from Fear, which is one of my personal favorites, “Watching Over You,” which has the refrain, “know that a demon’s watching over you.” It also gets at the dichotomy that I think runs through that album, which is ‘this thing scares me, but it also can liberate me.’
TJ: It is true, though. Everyone has a guardian angel, or demon, or whatever, that guards them against the thing they are most afraid of. It’s just whether or not you realize that thing works for you, and you manifest it so that it’s a part of you. If you look at it as something external and try to kill it, you will find it everywhere, because It’s in you, it is you, and it’s protecting you from the thing you are most afraid of by scaring the shit out of you about it.
If you say, ‘not now demon, step aside, I’m walking through that doorway’ in your mind, through meditation, then you are less afraid and you transcend both fear and desire. It’s this huge thing everyone should do, and constantly do, because fears manifest themselves constantly. I’m not talking about the primal fears, like being cautious in traffic, so you don’t step out into traffic and die, I’m talking about the grander fears, the existential fears. They manifest themselves over and over again in new ways as the world is changing, so you always have to be checking in. If you feel your demon say, ‘you should hate gay people,’ or you’re a Christian and you hate Satanists, then you should look at that really close, because it’s probably not what you think it is. You have to check that out because you might have those traits yourself — because that’s what your demon is telling you to be afraid of inside yourself. You can either stay afraid, or you can work through that and process what’s really underneath those kinds of biases that the fear is pointing to, and work that out.
When I wrote Fear I had to write that album because it was part of the four albums I was making Love, Fear, Sex, and Death, so I meditated on it, and I realized that the thing that everyone is afraid of collectively is the same fucking thing…dying. We build institutions of both faith and science to help us stave it off, or try to accept it, but that really can’t be the first thing you are afraid of, because when you are born you don’t know about death until you grow older, which ends childhood, and that’s the first real death; the death of childhood. If a child finds out about death too soon, that’s really sad, and they typically have a much harder life because of it.
We all forget about that, which is really strange. As we go through puberty, we have a transformation from a sexless entity to a sexual human – I guess this is all pretty Freudian – but that’s when you go through this process and you begin to realize that you have to die, at the same time it comes with sex. It’s really interesting that these two things go together; you have to make life because you are going to die. That’s biology saying that to you. That’s just how we are, and you don’t get to grieve that. We don’t get a funeral for that. There is no funeral for the child.
Some people mourn it through their adult life in a lot of strange, and mostly unhealthy, ways. It was a huge subject to tackle and that’s probably why the album is so long. Furthermore, “Watching Over You” was kind of like that song for the child self. That’s why it sounds like a kid’s song. When I wrote that song, I wanted a closer for the album that sounded like the end of a Muppets movie.
I’ve actually been thinking about that too, maybe doing some kid’s music in the future. A great insult somebody once gave me was “Lucifers the Light of the World sounds like Raffi for Satanists” I was like “uhhh, yeah, and I’ll quit now, thank you very much.” I actually think it’s a good compliment. Kids like my music, which really does make me happy. King Dude concerts are much different than the metal band I was in before. Sometimes you see kids come and fans that were as young as four or five and see them grow up over the years. It’s bizarre, but so cool.
To me, Fear is a transcendent record, because in the end, it’s about facing one’s fears and going through that door to become a whole person, because you cannot be whole unless you assimilate everything that is in you, including the fear, which that album gets at in a way I’ve never heard another piece of music do.
TJ: Thanks, in a nutshell, the album is about confronting your inner demons and getting them to work for you, and accepting them. That’s why I included the mirror ritual with the album, with the purpose of confronting yourself. Did you do that?
No, I did the mirror ritual unbeknownst to me on acid a long time ago, so I think I’ve conquered the mirror ritual.
TJ: (laughs) yeah, it’s never a good idea to look in the mirror on acid. But that’s an example of doing the ritual without knowing you’re doing the ritual.
But yeah, conquering fear…It’s good to have life goals, it’s good to have ten-year plans, it’s good to not listen to people who tell you that you can’t do something, it’s good to change and not become complacent and that’s all rooted in conquering your fear and getting your demon to work for you. If I listened to everybody that told me I couldn’t do King Dude or that it was stupid, I wouldn’t have met my wife and I wouldn’t be as happy as I am now. All of the great things in my life wouldn’t have happened.
If you listen to pessimistic views and let them seep in, you won’t ever take chances. You have to keep a check on pessimism seeping in and manifest the thoughts that you can do this thing you want to do. Nothing is really that difficult, the reason it seems so difficult and impossible is that you haven’t done them yet. After you do them, you see that. You have to do it. You have to create the world you want to be in, and you can.
That’s a deeply Luciferian approach.
Another esoteric element I’d like to ask you about is your use of the nauthiz rune. I’ve actually come to equate the nauthiz rune with you, which is funny because my practice lead me eventually to Nordic paganism.
TJ: Nordic paganism, yeah, well you look Norwegian. You look like every Norwegian friend I have ever had. Have you done the 23 & Me?
Yeah, it says exactly what you think – Danish, Norwegian, some Swedish, and Scottish.
TJ: I could have done your 23 & Me for you for free, I would have just held up a mirror to you and said ‘there, you’re Norwegian, just look in the mirror’ (laughs), but I guess it’s good to know
What’s funny about that rune though is that it’s grown to have two meanings for me, one as the King Dude rune and one as the actual nauthiz rune, which to me means necessary conflict or transformation.
TJ: Yes, exactly. It definitely represents fire, chaos, but like kinetic chaos that is created through change. It’s about growth. When I think of the nauthiz, I think of a journey of spiritual growth. Not the end of the thing, but the journey itself. I picked that rune blindly, by the way. I knew what it meant, but I didn’t know how much it would mean for what King Dude is. It sort of has informed a lot of the process, because King Dude has almost solely been about process, about the process of becoming something else through transformation. Usually, things have a goal, and I definitely had a goal, which was death, but we all know we are going to die, but we don’t live our lives in accordance with that knowledge really. We live our lives about the journey that we are on, we live our lives with hopes and dreams, and expectations of life, not of death. King Dude is about that journey. Death is the end of it, but the journey is there encapsulated in the nauthiz rune. And there was a great deal of conflict along the way, a lot of strange things happened because of this band, but I don’t even know who I would be if it didn’t happen, and that’s the point I guess.
It revealed itself to me after I picked it over time.
Well, and that’s the way the runes work.
TJ: Yes, that’s so true.
The rune itself has caused me some conflict. I’ve been dealing with the whole cultural moral panic thing for a while because I’ve used runes. Going way back and touring in Europe, for some reason the German antifa are more sated, they are more based in reality, and they don’t have as many fantasies about shadows in the dark, so to speak.
Because they’ve had to deal with real ones, and not perceived transgressions.
TJ: Right and they are very German about it, they are just “are you a Nazi or are you not?” So, when I first started touring there, I would get messages from antifa about shows they were going to cancel because of the runes, so I had to make a statement about the runes. This was like 2011-2. I actually went back in my emails to see what I said recently because of all the stuff that is coming about now with this moral panic. I said what I still feel about it today, which is that the runes are very old, very very old and my mother has taught me this tradition, along with other traditions as part of our religion, in a way, so you can’t really take that from people.
Now, other people can take it and do whatever they want with it, like what the Nazis did, but what you can’t do is throw the baby out with the bathwater. I’m not saying we have to prevent people from doing that, I’m saying we cannot do that. These shapes and images are revelatory, they reveal themselves over and over again and they are oooooolllllllddddd as fuck. That’s the thing that people should get. It goes waaaaaay back, like older than Christianity, and it’s crazy that we still fight about this shit today.
It’s great when people are interested in the past, but it’s not so great when people molest it into something that turns it into hate, because now I have to live in this realm, in this existence where I have to explain that runes are magic for everybody, and they will always be here forever. Deal. Just deal with it.
Right because after all that time they’ve been in existence, someone in the 1930s in Germany decided to jump on them, and so now they are unusable. That’s absolutely ridiculous.
TJ: Or having a clean haircut and then the runes, they go ‘there’s dog whistles.’ I’m not making music for dogs, I mean I would love to do that, but what are you even talking about? I think it’s like a bingo, a Nazi bingo that they are playing. ‘I got the B, it’s the haircut, ope, he’s got the runes, there’s the i, and he played a show with Death in June. That’s it: canceled.’ It doesn’t work that way though, that’s conspiratorial thought. You can’t sit there and string these unrelated events together to correlate them into something it’s not. Some of these people assume I’m a Nazi and I just don’t know it. How is that even fucking possible? I’m not even registered with any political party, I fucking hate it. It’s a very strange time. It’s the new Satanic Panic, the new moral panic.
I’m not so worried about it here in Australia. It’s mainly in America. In Germany even, going back to my interactions with their antifa, they would ask me, and I would answer, and they would listen and be like ‘oh, alright.’ In America it seems that certain people will never listen, so you can’t reason with them, and there is no reason to explain yourself in any way, shape, or form.
The funny thing is too is that I have spoken out personally in articles and on my social media against the white supremacists coming into Nordic paganism just to say, hey this isn’t for you, don’t follow me I don’t want you around.
TJ: Because it is there. To say it doesn’t exist would be absurd. It is used by white supremacists and Nazis, but it’s wrong, they are not doing it right, to say it plainly. I’m with you 100% on that.
Right and I just want it made clear I don’t want those types of people following me.
TJ: Right, here is the door.
Exactly, but now people confuse me for some antifa guy, and I disagree with what antifa is here in America, at least the online community that plays six degrees to Hitler and acts like the Witchfinder General.
TJ: That’s a thing I’ve gotten, too, for years. I’ve got a transgendered Jewish bass player in my band, so now I’m a Pride spokesperson to these people or something. But these are people who are trying to split us up. It’s all identity bullshit people. After the Taake thing, I lost this faction of sketchier fans that I had. The hate I got was fucking great. The online haters, the shit they would say like “I’m going to rape your Jewish mother and cum on her face.” I was just like, ‘what the fuuuuck are you talking about?’ Like how do you get all those hate words in a sentence? I mean, it was funny to me, it was sort of amazing. I mean it was amazing because it was like a gnat that made a bunch of noise, but you could just close your computer and ignore it. Then I went and made a record then came back three days later like Jesus Christ resurrected and got online and said, “hey I haven’t read the news, anything going on?” and then the hate storm started up again, finally someone was like ‘stop everyone, he’s trolling us,’ then it finally was gone. There were like three of them that hung around for like two years. Big respect for those fucking guys. Fucking virgins. I mean there’s not much to do if you are not having sex, so that makes sense. I mean I’m sure they’re not all incels, I’m sure they are just top-tier marriageable material.
The thing is you couldn’t win. There was antifa on one side and these real dickheads on the other.
TJ: They deserve each other, and I was in the middle of them. And I don’t want to subject my fans to that stuff. I don’t like fights at shows, I don’t like violence at my shows, I don’t like it when people get sick at shows. We do try and make it a little church for Lucifer at my shows, so it’s really important that people can feel that kind of quality and it not being a battleground.
This brings me to another point of contention: The Satanic Temple.
TJ: Oh god yeah.
Let’s talk about it.
TJ: Let’s fucking talk about it. I mean I’ve quit. King Dude is done, I can fucking say whatever I want.
First of all, that’s one of the catchiest songs
TJ: I was hoping they would hear it and be like ‘cool, he wrote a song about us.’
And also, it’s a big “fuck you.”
TJ: I’m glad you got that. I feel like some people don’t. They just look at the window dressing, but you are smart (laughs) so I’m glad someone gets it. They asked me to play an event for one of their chapters and I was like ‘no, are you out of your fucking mind? I hate you guys.’ First of all, they are not contributing anything good to the problem. They are the perfect example of a group that is making it worse. You don’t like Christians, so you make a Baphomet to piss them off. Don’t do that, it’s stupid. It’s stupid on its face because when they went to put the kids next to it to really stick it to the Christians, they themselves realized they had to take the breasts off the Baphomet and play right into this weird sexist, western concept of public nudity. I was like ‘you are so not committed, actually you are overly committed to making a giant bronze statue wrong.’ Get the fuck out of here.
I think they are basically activists, and they remind me of the Church of Satan and all the bad shit the Church of Satan started because they were not theistic. When I see a bunch of people start a church that they themselves don’t buy into I don’t like that. Church of Satan splintered, right? The Temple of Set was formed by Michael Aquino, and they did very theistic work around the God of the Underworld and Egyptian mythology around the god Set. LaVey’s was more of a Sunday Satanic, dress-up cosplay. I don’t want to completely discount him as a magician, but that’s what it was ultimately, and then this splinter happened because of that, and it led to something much darker and more unbridled. If the Satanic Temple doesn’t see that coming, then they are idiots.
It’s a club of nerds who don’t know what they are talking about, and I think they should do more research. And that woman…
TJ: I guess. She gave a talk and basically just plagiarized LaVey’s “The Satanic Witch” and called it “Satanic Feminism.” It was the same thing though. It’s been said before, by a man, unfortunately. I’m just so sick of it.
My stepmother, who was deeply an evangelical Christian, used to call people she didn’t think were real Christians “Sunday Christians.” I feel like I am doing that to them right now, basically going ‘they are just Sunday Satanists,’ and that is inherently wrong of me to kind of lord over it, but I’m going to take shots when I’m angry or annoyed at people.
I’d say that putting themselves in that gross materialist, anti-theist box, they rightfully draw that sort of criticism upon themselves. They draw this hardline themselves, so that if there is any idea of magick or transcendentalism or anything like that they are out. My thought is then call yourselves something else.
TJ: Exactly, it’s not a very cool thing to do. It would be fucking amazing if they pretended to be Christians instead of Satanists. I think that would be a funnier troll for them if they are just trying to troll Christians. Also, this indoctrination within it of social justice is just so transparent. I mean how are you going to be this practitioner of black magic in this crazy dark way and then also be this person who is so concerned about others’ feelings? It’s oil and water. So you are lying to me. One is true, and one isn’t true. Which is it? Are you doing blood rituals? Are invoking demons in your private time? What are you doing? So there’s hypocrisy. Pretty much like evangelical Christians, and the world needs more of that.
My only hope of writing that was that like the leader of it, I don’t even know who that is, was just sitting at their desk and was like ‘oh, the new King Dude record,’ and then they put it on and slowly realize ‘he doesn’t like us.’
I was being cheeky during that whole Full Virgo Moon album. “Forty Fives Say Six Six Six” is along the same lines. I was inspired after touring with Twin Temple, which was because we shared the same booking agent. It’s all in the song. I mean it’s all sort of catty, I don’t like to do that too much, but I was having fun. I made that album in two weeks, and it came out in like two months. I felt like Kanye West or something, like I had no filter. I had been on tour forever and I had all these songs in my head, and I just wanted to vomit an album out.
I like it a lot because it goes back to your earlier stripped-down work.
TJ: Yeah, and it also broke my ten-year plan. I was supposed to do an album between the four Love, Sex, Fear & Death albums, but now I have two between Sex & Death, which is kind of a little annoying to me, but I don’t care, some things are bound to change in your ten-year plan.
Getting back to your ten-year plan, let’s talk about Sex, your next themed album, and I’d like to touch upon your clothing company Actual Pain, which occasionally includes some BDSM imagery, including one of my favorites with the two wolves where one is biting down on the other’s neck that says, “the true power of submission creates the illusion of dominance.”
TJ: Right, it’s been observed that when the alpha female does that to the alpha male’s neck when he is in a fight with a beta male for dominance that she’ll come over and bite the preferred mate. She will choose who wins the fight and she’ll bite him. From the outside, it looks like she’s attacking, but she’s actually covering his neck and protecting it from being bitten. There is also a religious meaning to that too, it’s very Christian. I think that’s Christ in a nutshell, who is a submissive godhead.
As to the BDSM thing, there’s always the question of, who’s in control in the BDSM world, is it the dom or the sub? I think it’s the sub, because they are allowing this to happen. You look at the people who are dominated in that world, they are usually like cops, judges, lawyers, and the people who are dominating them – I mean it’s not like this entirely across the board, I don’t want to generalize too much – they are considered lower class people, sex workers. Female sex workers are akin to male musicians. That trope of the rock n roll guy hanging out with the stripper that’s because the rest of society has essentially rejected them, so they find each other, and they are quite normal people. A parent’s worst fear is if their daughter brings home a rock musician, and if you are a male, you don’t bring home a stripper. It’s very tropey, but I explore that dynamic a bit on Sex.
I’m quite traditional, I’m married. I don’t think everyone needs to talk about their own individual sex all the time, or as an identifier. During the time of making that album, like many of my albums that are themed, the theme comes in and works its way in. Maybe because I’m meditating about it and focusing on it. Maybe it was always there and now you are just seeing it. It happened with Burning Daylight, it happened with Fear, it happened with Love and Sex. I was terrified it would happen with Death.
Sorry to get off subject for a minute, but back when I was making Burning Daylight, it was a terrible time. I was writing this album that was a lot about revenge. Not necessarily murder ballads, but revenge songs that had a kind of western vibe and kind of a 1950s feel dealing with murder and revenge. There is this song “Barbara Ann” about this young kid who has to kill a cop that has abused his girlfriend. He’s 12, nobody knows the protagonist of that song is a 12-year-old boy who has to go kill a sheriff’s deputy because that guy raped his girlfriend.
So, I was thinking about just murdering cops and I got arrested during that time, and I was like ‘shit, it’s all coming true.’ I had never been arrested before and I was like ‘Jesus Christ, things are too parallel with this album.’ I got really freaked out. Thinking about all this murder revenge stuff and then getting arrested, there was this correlation. Then I thought, ‘oh shit, I have to make Death eventually, I hope I don’t fucking die.’
How did you handle that with Death?
TJ: This whole time I’ve tried to not get fully immersed in the subject. I mean death doesn’t always mean you are going to die, but still I was aware and conscious of it.
I have this huge tapestry of Death on a horse over my office here, from the Tarot. When I’m working, I’m sitting here and sort of mediating on death for hours and hours and hours, but it really is the most joyous time of my life. It really shows the rebirth elements of death; that once something dies, other things can grow. Why he has the reaper is to raze the field, to clear the table so to speak.
Before we turn entirely to Death, I do want to return to Sex just to ask, how do you view sex in terms of spiritual development?
TJ: That’s a really good question. I think it can be there in spirituality, it can be part of your spiritual practice. We know it works. Sex magick actually does work. You can use that euphoric state purposefully to gain something. It also does just exist at its most base animalistic state. You can be braindead and get an erection, and often most people with erections are sort of braindead at that time. A lot of people who aren’t spiritual view things with a strict dualism of mind and body, so sex for them is all body. In the spiritual realm, you can tie sex to your spirit, because it is tied to your spirit like all physicality is. You do have to get that trinity of mind, body, and spirit living in harmony.
It’s a process to do that, so you can’t have your mind working perfectly and then be a sexual deviant, at least in my imagination, at least how I envision it for myself. I don’t like to tell other people how to do anything, especially around sex, because that’s a hot-button subject. But I think if you want to be better you would do it with more joy and kindness, but of course, there are processes that you might have to go through. Like I said you have to confront demons and fears, so If you do have to go through certain things, experiment or whatever, you do them and go through them.
That album…it was an annoying one to make. Knowing I had decided to make an album called Sex years ago…I tried to get out of that deal with myself so hard (laughs). Like, call it anything else. Call it something else and it has some sex in it, and I was like ‘no, it has to be called Sex.’ Then I was like ‘goddamnit.’
When I was working on it, I thought, ‘what do people listen to that they think is sexy?’ It led me to a lot of groovy bass line stuff, like obviously Isaac Hayes. Huge Isaac Hayes inspiration on that album. I listened to a lot of George Michael.
My original plan for King Dude, because I knew I was going to end it, that I thought would be really clever was to create an alternate history with a band, starting in the 1950s with the concept of what if the world had all discovered Luciferianism in the 1950s and there was a rock band that was a 1950s Luciferian rock band, and then go through the decades. What would a 50s Luciferian act look like? Maybe Roy Orbison. So there you go, there’s that version of King Dude. Then moving on to Burning Daylight, still in the 50s, maybe the end of the 50s. The 60s would have been Fear. My idea was just to keep going, so around the time of Sex it would have been the 80s, so I took 80s references. What would have been the disco album though? I didn’t make one. Songs of Flesh and Blood – In the Key of Light was in between those.
Yeah, there is NO disco on that one.
TJ: Lot of self-indulgence on that (laughs). The album cover was a spoof of Ozzy Osbourne’s Blizzard of Ozz. The photographer knew, and I think the first person I showed it recognized it, so I was like cool, at least someone gets it, but not everyone. It had the most self-indulgent title, too. Geez, was I on cocaine? No, I was sober when I made the longest title…so stupid.
But yeah, so Sex would have been the 80s album, so I was listening to George Michael, Prince, stuff that was sexy and the 80s were kind of a sexy time anyway, so I incorporated those sounds into Sex, but then I just kind of dropped it after that. I mean, think about how bad those records would have been if I had really stuck to genres and instruments of the era. I would have had to use a Yamaha DX7 or a Casio that everybody used on everything. It would have been terrible.
What was the 90s, what was the album I made after that?
Music To Make War To.
TJ: Right, so that would have been a 90s album? C’mon. What am I gonna do, a trip hop song? Oh, wait, there is a trip hop song on there!
Yeah, there is!
TJ: Maybe the 90s did seep into that after all. With Death though, I haven’t thought about that. I mean I don’t think about modern music much. I’m kind of stuck in the 80s, I would say, like 1985 or 86. If it isn’t before that I might not be able to listen to it as much. I don’t know why that is either. I mean I obviously do listen to stuff beyond that, but a lot of stuff I listen to is older, especially that I use in reference to making my own music. I mean I do listen to new music, like I love trap music, but for references in my own music, it’s always older music.
Let’s turn to “Death.” When I was five-years-old I realized that I was going to die, and I’ve been obsessed with it ever since. I studied philosophy and religious studies in college, trying to make sense of it.
TJ: Can I ask, how did you know you were going to die? Were you sick?
This is the craziest, no, it’s kind of fucked up, but funny too. I was watching “The Andy Griffith Show.”
TJ: (laughs) The last place where you would expect to learn a really valuable lesson.
Right, and a skunk died on railroad tracks in the show, and all of a sudden it occurred to me ‘that skunk is dead’
TJ: ‘I’m going to die.’
Exactly, I’m going to die. All of a sudden, this five-year-old sitting on the couch with his mom cooking dinner in the next room not thinking about any of this has the weight of existence itself just dropped on him.
TJ: The dread.
And I became obsessed with it, I became obsessed with death.
TJ: Did you talk to your parents about it? Were you religious?
No, and I know your background and mine is somewhat similar. My dad’s family was Danish who settled in Appalachia and was surrounded by Pentecostals, but ran about as far away from that shit as possible.
TJ: Yeah, as one tends to do.
Yeah, and my mom’s family were kind of like Norwegian-Scottish witches. My great-grandmother was a witch. I remember her just sitting with an Ouija board on her lap.
TJ: I have that same dichotomy. Dad was a born-again Christian, my mother was a witch. I think it’s great. I wouldn’t trade it for anyone.
But for my parents, my dad was a self-described deist. My mom wasn’t really religious either, but she kept up her family’s thing, except her biggest fascination was astrology. But in terms of them being someone I could go to and ask about the big question of death, they weren’t really equipped for that, so I had to go searching on my own. Eventually, that lead me to spiritual practices like the occult and things of that nature, and of course, my studies, and even my job now deal with death. It’s something that really has motivated my entire life.
TJ: Of course, it has to, you remember it so vividly. I mean the way you say it, you remember how old you were, where you were. I want to share with you how I first learned about death. I don’t remember how old I was, I know I was younger. I was so little, and I would play in the yard. We lived in Portland, and I wandered into the street. It was a thing I liked to do I guess when I was a kid, which was to play in the literal street. My stepfather caught me trying to go into the street and he grabbed me by the arm and said, “don’t go into traffic, you can’t go there, you will die.” I was like “what’s that?” He got angry because now he had to explain what death was. So, he sits me down and he says, “when you die you go to heaven, and you are not here anymore, and you are there with grandma and grandpa we will be there too.” I just looked at him and go “no.” I remember saying “that’s not true.” Then he goes, like ‘you little fucking suicidal weirdo, probably, (laughs) who now doesn’t believe in god apparently.’ But I knew it wasn’t true and it made me really upset and I was bawling hysterically. The way I remember it I was crying for days, but it was probably for hours, because then I believed him and what I believed before was different.
In my innate child mind, I thought that the world spins round in a circle and we spin around too, and so when I die, I’m a baby again. That’s reincarnation 101, right? Maybe that’s a sort of innate belief that when it goes unchecked it grows into a Vedic thought process. I think I was three or four because I don’t think I was in school.
I asked my mom about it later, like did you ever tell me about reincarnation? She said, “No, you never asked about death, so I never told you about death.” So that was my original thought, and then Raymond, my stepfather, trying to be a good guy, put the fear of god in me and tells me there was a reward at the end. I already had the eastern view in my mind, and then he told me about the western view for the first time, and I didn’t like it.
Death is a shocking terrible thing to learn about as a child, even if it’s a skunk on the Andy Griffith show (laughs).
So weird that it set the stage for my life. Your music touches on it repeatedly, even before this album, and I’ve always felt that you were someone who has clearly thought about death about as much as I have as well.
TJ: Oh god, I have so many thoughts about death.
I’m sure, and it’s rare I get to talk to someone who thinks about it as much as I have.
TJ: It’s such a great unknown and such a great last wild ride that we have to take. Everybody gets a ticket for it at birth; ‘hey, you’re here! You’re going to die!’ That’s a terrifying looming thought that you want to think is waaaaaaay in the distance, but it’s actually there, just looming. Death is a shadow, it’s following you everywhere, you can’t escape it.
I love these fucking new scientists that are trying to fucking cure death (laughs). Raymond Kurzweil, I wrote a song about him. “Death Won’t’ Take Me” is about him. He’s been trying to cure death for years because he’s afraid to die. It’s crazy. If you want to know what a bad idea that is, you can read the Greek Classics about the Immortals, or watch a vampire movie. Are vampires happy? No. They are fucking miserable. Or the Portrait of Dorian Gray. It comes from our imagination when we think about what immortality would be like, and every time someone imagines it, they are like ‘I should put into this story how terrible it is because I’ve thought about it and it’s horrible.’ Eternal life is much, much worse than death. I find it slightly disturbing that they are trying to cure it right now.
I will die. One thousand percent. I don’t think we should look forward to death, that’s not a good thing, but accepting it is better. Death acceptance is the way. There is a Samurai proverb, I think it comes from Zen Buddhism, that one should meditate on their death daily, and imagine it in the worst way possible. One should prepare themselves for death through meditation. Thinking about getting their head cut off, imagine being tortured. The samurai were attempting to temper themselves to the true horrible ways that a lot of them died. Now I don’t think we need to do that. There is something macabre about that. Unless you are going to be a warrior, or a soldier, or you have a really dangerous job, then that might be the way to meditate on it.
Otherwise, I mean, I’ve thought about death waaaaaaaaay more than the average person. Although Covid came along as I was working on this record, and so maybe everyone got to thinking about it a lot more. In a way, I’ve been trying to exclude a lot of things, like references to what has been happening on the record. Death is part of my legacy, how I live forever, and I need this to not be so influenced by the time it was created.
I don’t want to hear any band’s Covid album. ‘we were locked up so we made a song about Covid.’ No, absolutely not. This isn’t the Vietnam war, and even those songs didn’t really last the further we get away from that event. It has been kind of hard to keep that out of my psyche when making this album, but I did that by moving all the way to Australia and then never hanging out with people really. I work with myself, and I see my wife, the person I hang out with the most. I do talk to my friends and family, but I’m not listening to what people are saying on the news. I do check in at times, on multiple sources, but briefly and then back out, because that stuff can make you sick, mentally ill, binging on the news. It can make me, you know, it’s one of my demons, so I gotta keep an eye on it. It’s ok, to have it, but you can’t fall into it.
Anyway, ask me anything about death!
Well ok, what do you think is there? What do you think is the great adventure?
TJ: That’s one thing that no one can tell you. That’s one thing I figured out. If anyone tries to tell you what’s on the other side, they are lying. If anyone tells you what for sure happens, they are wrong and dumb, or they think you are dumb.
What I think, and this is just me, what I think happens is we leave this mortal coil, and we return to the source of all creation, we are like shattered glass that is restored; a puzzle that is put back together and joined as one in our non-corporeal form. It’s not a fluffy clouds scenario, not an old man, angels aren’t driving around in cars. There was an article that came out that said ‘Christian theologists say that angels drive around cars in heaven.’ That doesn’t happen, or maybe it does — the point is nobody knows. What I’m talking about is what I think happens.
It’s important to have a thought about it, but it’s incredibly personal and it’s hard to identify it as anything other than personal. As far as groupthink, or religion, I don’t really think much of that. It’s a personal belief, you have your own introduction to death at a young age that influenced you and you might have a strange feeling about skunks for example to this day. I seem to have a strange desire to walk into traffic. I brought it up earlier.
You did bring it up earlier.
TJ: I did without even knowing we were going to speak about it later on. So yeah, it does inform us when we do find out about it early on. I mean as far as subject matters go, it’s really great. It’s in every story just about, every ghost story has it. As a focal point for an entire album though…sometimes when I listen back to it, I go ‘geez, this is really fucked up, how is anyone going to want to listen to an entire album about death?’ But then I think there is an entire genre of heavy metal that’s obsessed with death. I mean, Slayer’s Reign in Blood, and I love that album. So I’m like, ‘ok, people do listen to albums obsessed with death.’ We have this permanent fascination for a host of different reasons.
I’m obviously fascinated by death, it’s hard to look away from it, but at the same time I’m pretty tired of it, I’m ready for life. I think through all that meditation and process it’s gotten me to the point where I’m just happier than I’ve ever been. I’m here, I’m starting a family and I feel like my life has finally turned into what it was supposed to be when I made this ten-year plan. I’m finally on the other side, and the light at the end of the tunnel is brighter than it’s ever been, and it feels nice. So, there is life after death, for sure. The other projects I’m working on outside of King Dude are more exciting to me than anything I’ve done in a a long time.
That’s fantastic, and that’s a perfect note to end on.