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Rock & Roll Sexperience 

King Tuff’s new album might be inspired by a hardware store or Satan

There’s a lot of rock ‘n’ roll voodoo at work on King Tuff’s Black Moon Spell.

For the latest collection of demented, euphoric, guitar-heavy rock tunes, King Tuff and his band, Magic Jake on bass and Old Gary on drums, felt the guidance of some invisible hand. It might’ve been God, but, let’s be honest here, in the world of King Tuff it was probably the more familiar touch of the Devil.

“There’s always hands everywhere. I can’t keep track of them all,” says King Tuff, aka Kyle Thomas. “Everywhere I go there’s some kind of hands doing something. I like a good hand every now and again, as long as the hand looks good, of a greenish or redish quality, with somewhat pointed fingernails.”

Thomas is speaking by phone from the hardware store, where he’s wandering the aisles, thinking about his life in rock ‘n’ roll – and what else might have been – as he finished last few days of preparation to unleash Black Moon Spell on the world (Sept. 23, Sub Pop) and bring songs like “Demon From Hell,” “Sick Mind” and “Madness” to audiences in the United States, Canada and Europe. King Tuff stops in Tucson on Saturday, Sept. 27, at 191 Toole.

“I just like hanging out at the hardware store. I like to see what new showerheads they have. Maybe I should get a welding helmet for tour. They look pretty cool. Put out some kind of Darth Vader vibes,” he says.

Thomas says nobody was really prepared to make the record, but there was nothing else on the agenda after wrapping up the long cycle of touring for 2012’s King Tuff record, a grimy, glammy triumph of rock ‘n’ roll performed as though it’s the only thing in the world that matters.

“Sometimes you try to hunker, but I don’t like hunkering too much. When you hunker, you’re probably trying too hard,” Thomas says. “I try not to try. The trick is being open to that, how to figure out how to get yourself in that spot. That’s not always easy.”

King Tuff worked again with producer Bobby Harlow, who brings a welcome bit of restraint to the process.

“I’m way crazier than he lets me be,” Thomas says.

But the combination of Thomas’ crazy and Harlow’s focus turns out to be an irresistible force. The devil rock comes with big slabs of hooks and melodies, so that power-pop songs like “Eyes of the Muse” and “Black Holes In Stereo” line up next to headbangers like, well, “Headbanger.”

“You just try different things out over your life and you have different experiences with different people. Everything’s an adventure and you just got to go on as many different adventures as possible,” he says. “Each record is an adventure. There’s torture, there’s excitement… But no matter what, it’s going to sound like me. Whether I like it or not.”

Thomas says he doesn’t know where his lyrics come from – “They just ended up there one day.” But like the disembodied eyes peering over a crystal ball on the album cover, those lyrics are pointing somewhere. They’re all a little spooky, all conjured into existence under the Black Moon Spell, before Thomas even knew what was happening.

“I love the Black Moon Spell. You gotta love the Black Moon Spell,” Thomas says. “That burst out of nowhere, like a fucking shit monkey through the jungle. It wasn’t surprising, but I’m glad that it came. It seemed right.

“It came at the end. It always comes at the end, when you’re at the end of your rope. Just like you’re looking through your records for the one you want to listen to and you look through the entire stack and there it is at the end. That’s the way it always seems to work,” he says.

Thomas says he’s eager to place listeners under the Black Moon Spell, a “heavily weird, heavenly dark, hysterically magical Rock & Roll Sexperience,” according to his Sub Pop album description. But there’s no incantation he expects to work on everyone. Out of 14 songs on the record, there’s bound to be one that can latch on to just about everybody.

“I think everyone is going to have a different favorite song on the record, its one of those records. I feel like all my records are like that. You never really know which one they’re going to gravitate towards,” he says.

“I like to hit as many people as possible, but I’m just doing my thing. What comes out is what comes out and who the fuck knows? Maybe I should just be plumber. They make good money and it’s acceptable for their asses to hang out. I guess that’s acceptable in rock too,” he says. “Rock and toilets, its all interconnected.”

More by Eric Swedlund

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