He has just promoted his latest album „Sex” and now is recording his new LP. In the meantime he has played in Cracow on Halloween and couple of weeks later two solo sets in Poznań and Warsaw. But the polish audience can’t get enough of him and TJ – as he says so often – he just loves to play for us.
Fot. MARIE MAGNIN
Your last gig in Warsaw – it really was something! I’ve heard that that gig in Poznań was also very special. Do you always improvise like that when you play alone?
Yeah, I just love this casual style. Play origin sort of set where I can go on stage and play whatever I want. It’s nice.
So you prefer to go on stage alone? The Energy was completely different. But I thought being on stage alone is more difficult, there’s a lot more pressure.
Both it’s fun. It’s just two different kinds of fun. With the band it’s more rehearsed, there is so many songs my band know and can play. Me – of course I know all my songs – but sometimes I forget. And with the band it’s more like a rock band, there’s a lot more dynamics I can do with a band, we can make a lot of different sounds.
Playing on your own reminds me more of old blues tradition. You get a chance to get really intimate with the audience, it’s quieter. I think people respects more somebody who get on a stage alone. They are more quiet, more respectful. Audience seems to be different when I play by myself. But I love both, I really do.
When we’ve talked in Warsaw, you’ve said you you are living in Sweden now.
I came here in October. But I’m only living here part time, this is my girlfriends place.
Sweden is a very specific place, very inaccessible. Wasn’t it a little bit of a culture shock for you?
I like it. Obviously I love my girlfriend and she’s Swedish. In general people just leave each other alone. I really like that. I don’t think they mean to be rude, and I never received is as rude. They just live more apart from each other in a dark, cold place. So of course you’re not going to be warm and friendly to people on the street, you’re going to mind your own business. But I like it. I actually prefer that. It’s a nice break from living in America.
Yes. You guys are masters in small talks. Very polite and friendly, but unconvincing in some way.
Yeah, it’s all fake. You’ve met someone in a grocery store and they ask you „hi, how are you” and you go on „I’m fine, I’m a little tired” and so on… we call it chit-chat. I’m really tired with these small talks, so it’s nice to be here and just be in my own heaven working on my new album and not have the whole outside influence. Actually I didn’t leave my home for 3 days and it’s really nice you know. And I’ve been just working on my music.
For me, your music is very “American”. You can feel the heat, sweat and darkness in it. Obviously Sweden is also a very dark place, but in another, more threatening way. Will this influence your music in any way?
Oh, I think anyone would be influenced by this surroundings. Small bit at least. The „American style” you’ve talked about comes from me, so it doesn’t matter where I’m at, my influence is 30 years being an American so it’s not going to change for being in Sweden for 3 months. Even if I would live here for the rest of my life I don’t think my music would change for a Swedish sounding or European sounding. I’m American English and I will be till I’m dead, so there’s no separating that from me. I do like that it’s night time here already (3pm) and it’s pitch black outside. Also I like how cold it is. It is really nice environment for me to make an album. But honestly it’s done inside of a building, I don’t go outside to write my songs, I could be anywhere, it comes from the inside.
A lot of people – when hearing your music for the first time – says that it sounds like a True Detective soundtrack. Does this comparison annoys you?
Not at all. That’s great. The Handsome Family did song for the first season and Leonard Cohen was in the second season, right? Being compared to those bands it’s amazing, so I can’t complain. Leonard Cohen for me he’s more of an inspiration than The Handsome Family. Actually I’ve never really heard them until I saw that tv show but I do like that song. The way that girl sings – she’s a little out of key but it’s perfect, it just works.
You know… It’s not like I’m sitting there with my guitar and trying this Americana – western – sounding stuff, it’s just the way it comes out. I mean if anything I’ve got tons of different influences that don’t come from America. When I write a song I don’t intent to sound Americana. I guess It’s just like an American trying to do country blues stuff. It just comes organically.
Either way, I was surprised when I’ve first heard that you are from Seattle. For me It’s still a very grunge city.
It used to be. But it’s not anymore. Obviously grunge had influence on me when I was a kid, like knowing that band could be from Seattle, made me want to play music. I was 11 years old when Nirvana was on MTV and stuff like that. So I think It was quite influential even if I didn’t wanna play grunge music. But it was just that idea, that a band could be from Seattle made me realized that.
There’s not a lot of stuff like that, that comes from the north west other than a Nico Case… I don’t know. We have a rock’n’roll tradition that it’s older than the grunge stuff, like The Sonics and The Ventures. And there’s a Dead Moon that comes from the Oregon. So there’s a lot of other music to be inspired by.
But lately I don’t really have any connections there with any others bands or musicians. I mean, I have connections with my bandmates but I don’t have any friends who make music there. There’s not like a bunch of people that do what I do.
Obviously there are people like Mark Lanegan, but little guys like me – not. There are not a lot of singers-songwriters. I feel like I was trying to do some new wave-pop-ironic band I would be on Sub POP right now. That’s what popular right now in that town. It doesn’t make any sense to me. I don’t understand youth that much. I think what they are doing, it’s great, probably they are doing it right. They should do what they do, I will do what I do.
But you’ve toured with Drab Majesty and it is quite different music.
Yes, but I’ve met Deb from Drab Majesty in Los Angeles a long time ago. And you see – he comes from LA and that’s a place where strange musicians come from more often. I think there are a lot more creative musicians in LA. When I’ve met his band… I think it was before this whole new wave-80’s-post-punk-synth-pop thing happened. I mean I don’t listen a lot to this kind of music, but I know Deb really well and I really appreciate writing songs with him and working on music with him. And I think he’s an incredibly creative guy and also a magical person. Music he’s making it’s not just about making music, there’s a lot more to it. And that is what I kind of miss from other bands. That they don’t put a soul from writing a song to the way it sounds, it looks, the album looks, like it should be all consuming. That should be something that has rules and something that possess you. At least it’s what I think what makes a good band.
When I spoke to Deb, I’ve named bands like yourself, Drab Majesty, Cold Cave or even Youth Code a some kind of new wave in alternative music… I call it hipster goth.
I’ve been called worse.
I didn’t mean that as an insult!
I know what you mean. There’s obviously things that are common about all of those bands you’ve just mentioned. All those bands come from maybe a different tradition, than the goth tradition, of being like the coolest goth people before they started their bands, and in a way all those bands you’ve mentioned come from maybe punk and hard core, outsider people coming to play something that is maybe more traditionally considered goth… although I don’t feel I did that, I definitely don’t mind being lumped in with that, at all, it’s fine… because I think that the audience, you know goth, hipster goth or traditional goths, as they come to my show, I’m happy because they’re usually nice people.
Bands that we are talking about, are breaking through very conservative subculture. In the same time they are showing that the alternative music is an ocean of genres.
Exactly. I always thought that If I was born in the 50’s, before goth, I would be consider more country or blues or whatever. So you know it just a matter of perspective. That genre like goth exists it’s just makes me fall into it even if I don’t intent to be in it, you know what I mean? It’s all perception. I don’t think about making goth music, I just want to make music that is interesting to me and other people, I don’t really think about the genres that much. But you have to a little bit, I suppose. Because when you put your album out and they want to know for iTunes what the genre is I always put Luciferian or Rock and Roll because I don’t know what else I could choose. If I put „goth“, that wouldn’t be exactly right, if I put country it wouldn’t be exactly right. What I know for sure is that I don’t want to be called goth country. That sounds terrible!
Ok, just to close the “goth” topic. What was the most goth thing you’ve ever done?
Probably cried because the song was sad… I don’t think you can get more goth than that.
That’s true! So…when we can finally hear your new album?
Probably in the middle of the next year, maybe summer or fall? It depends of how everything will be done. It’s called „Music to make war to” and I think it will be very good. It’s shaping up to be pretty good so far.
Sounds amazing. Thank you for the interview!
Thank you and see you soon!