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The Forest Passage #35: The “Desolate Hour” – An Interview with Thomas “TJ” Cowgill (King Dude) and Richard Leviathan (Ostara)

On this episode Malachy O’Brien talks to Thomas “TJ” Cowgill of King Dude along with Richard Leviathan of Ostara during King Dude’s recent tour through Australia. Discussion includes true crime, esoteric religion, pranks, the meaning of “King Dude”, meeting Timothy Wyllie of The Process Church, and much more.

The following is an introduction by Malachy O’Brien, to whom I give many thanks for conducting this interview.

Living in the “Great Southern Land” it’s hard enough to lure acts due to our geographical disposition, let alone the fact we are the harbingers of so many deadly creatures. So what brings Neofolk royalty to South Australia, let alone our heavily populated east coast? A promoter with more guts than a bull ant! I’ll let Wikipedia fill you in on the latter.

King Dude has been playing on my personal rotation for a while. His records are frequent, similar in tone, inflection and theme but always playing to his strengths; Song writing and that voice reminiscent of a young Waits/Leonard Cohen. Call it persistent or reliable, there is certainly scope to look beyond and get to the roots of this artist. Forget the moniker “King Dude” and it’s chance association with the lead character of a cult film, because the interview that followed pulled more layers of the onion that I could have ever imagined.

We meet at 8:30pm in the lobby of his hotel across the street from the venue, just after sound-check. With his highly recognisable attire, black shirt buttoned to the neck, heavy black jeans, coat and shoes, he can’t be missed. Although only three minutes late, he apologises, walks over and shakes my hand. Immediately the conversation steers toward where we can get a drink. He pauses and says he’ll be back. He returns with a bottle of Jack Daniels and San Pellegrino water. Steals three glasses from a help-yourself water dispensary and we make small talk.

Did I just say three glasses? Well, any journalist that wants to get to core of the subject matter does his/her homework. Having listened to and read the majority of what I could find on the world-wide-wank, I realise a shortfall. His luciferian roots get explored to the limitations of most wanting to understand the basic tenements of his eclectic faith. Whilst I think I have a hand on this, enter Richard Leviathan (Ostara) a Neofolker who in addition to Douglas P. plays host to this small part of the big country. Richard and I make up fifty precent of the known Post Industrial fan base in Adelaide. The other two were named on the door but didn’t make it. To converse with Richard is no mean feat and our catch-ups occur only after my head has cleared from the last. In other words – Very infrequently! I brought along an intellectual heavy.

The interview that follows, was not what I had planned, but to the discerning listener will illuminate not only what I didn’t know about these guys, but what we should all aspire to respect in music: Intelligence behind the creativity that has never pandered to a social dogma, zeitgeist or genre!

It quickly became what I noticed as an observer, two artists looking in a mirror and smiling at themselves. As we changed tables to avoid a drunken rabble, Thomas stops and shakes Richard’s hand again firmly; expressing the honour it was to have the chance to meet him. We talk some more; close the interview and head over to the gig. TJ plays a solid set of favourites to a modest crowd. I leave with my head in that aforementioned spin, listening to the interview that had just happened, without any loss of ego that I hadn’t conducted it by myself.