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Wednesday, 08 August 2012 08:00

'I'm the thing they're passing through to get that connection' A pre-LouFest interview with King Tuff

'I'm the thing they're passing through to get that connection' A pre-LouFest interview with King Tuff
Written by Blair Stiles

Add up Scooby-Doo antics, fun house skeeviness and one ghoulishly-righteous party, the sum is King Tuff's "Bad Thing" video.

Transitioning from color to black and white, the clip features a pack of young adults tooling around a spooky apartment while Tuff (i.e. Kyle Thomas) and company, dressed as Halloween staples, proceed to follow the 20-somethings with a maniacal glint punctuating their creepy stares.

It's in good fun, the audience soon learns, as King Tuff and his band turn the haunted house into a venue, and rock the horde of formally-petrified guests out. Like Thomas, who is prone to ripping out a crackling giggle at a joke's shadow, the video says, "It's all fun and games."

Kyle Thomas was in Portland for our phone interview. At Mississippi Records, the musician -- whose second album, "King Tuff," is a frenetic jaunt into rainbow colored scuzz rock -- picked up records from Michael Hurley and New Rhythm and Blues Quartet. The 29 year old reasoned, "I never really listened to them until this year. I'm always discovering shit." Once en route to his gig, the artist (who will be in St. Louis for LouFest) talked about growing up punk in Vermont, sharing songs with fans and visiting St. Louis' "adult playground."

Blair Stiles: You live in LA now, but, you were raised in Vermont? Brattleboro, correct?

Kyle Thomas: [laughs] Yes. I grew up there, lived there most of my life.

Brattleboro is championed for its arts community. Were you involved in the arts community there?

Yeah. I was involved in a lot of stuff when I was there. Me and my friends had the whole floor to this building and we put on shows and had art studios and stuff.

What building?

Just a building in the center of downtown [Brattleboro].

Was it vacant?

Yeah. Nobody was renting it out. One of my friends found it and he started asking us if we wanted to have art studios in there. There were these huge rooms. My room had these vaulted ceilings, like a ballroom, with this dome at the top of it. We had skate ramps in there. It was insane.

Why did you ever leave?!

They [city of Brattleboro] sold the building, it was called The Tinderbox. I think the new landlords didn't want a crazy bunch of punks doing whatever they wanted. It was our clubhouse. [laughs] It was a mix of getting kicked out and things ending naturally. That was a great time in my life. That's where I recorded my first album, "King Tuff Was Dead."

The "Bad Thing" video. Who conceived that?

That was directed by my friend Cali Dewitt. It was a lot of fun. That whole crew in the video are all my close friends.

It seems like it would be fun. It looks like a House of Horrors.

It was really weird because the place we shot it in was another friend of mine's place. It was already decorated perfectly for the video. It already looked like that. It already had the candelabras around and all this weird shit everywhere.

I enjoy the lack of vagueness in your lyrics. Your writing style is very point-and-shoot.

I just want people to connect to it. I think stream of consciousness is awesome. I don't want it to sound weird, or like I'm in a dream. I want to talk about real shit. I like simple music.

Music isn't meant to be a selfish.

It's cool to write something and feel like the songs belong to the fans. I just feel like I'm the thing they're passing through to get that connection. I know that sounds kind of weird, saying, "They're not my songs." To have people sing along to your songs -- that's the greatest feeling. It's like something that you create becomes part of someone's life.

Do you live in St. Louis?

Yes. I live in St. Louis.

I wanna go to that goddamn adult playground they have over there!

Are you talking about the City Museum!?

Yeah! I've never been there and I've always heard people talk about it! You gotta take me! It sounds like heaven.

In the "Whale Room" they have a sculpture of a whale that doubles as a slide. The room is covered in broken pieces of mirror covering the floor and the walls. On the ceiling there are these strips of fabric with lights sewn in. The whole room looks like a glittering, prehistoric ballroom.

I wanna go!

King Tuff performs at LouFest, co-sponsored by 88.1 KDHX, on Saturday, August 25.

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