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King Tuff Likes the Sweet Stuff

King Tuff mastermind Kyle Thomas talks sugar addiction, paradise and side project fun

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    King Tuff headlines Casbah on May 3.

    “What did I have for lunch? A cookie. Salted chocolate chip, baby," psych-garage-rock deviant Kyle Thomas -- the mastermind behind King Tuff -- said over the phone prior to his May 3 show at the Casbah in support of his latest album, “The Other."

    Despite what people might think, Thomas doesn’t do drugs or drink alcohol. So what is his vice (if the cookie lunch wasn't indication enough)?

    “Well, sometimes I’ll go to the batting cages with my friend Kevin. The driving range -- I like to hit balls apparently. I drive around a lot, looking at stuff. I buy a lot of records; I’m a big record collector. Lately, lots of weird, kind of international music. Um, Japanese temple music. I do feel like record collecting is kind of an addiction and kind of unhealthy. Not physically, but monetarily. But yeah, I’m mostly just down to the coffee -- that’s my thing, but you know, you gotta have something. Ice cream -- that's a big one too: my demon. The sugar! I definitely have a sugar problem. I f------ mow it,” he said.

    I called him a liar about the Japanese temple records.

    “[Laughs] I swear! I’ve just been gettin’ far out, man,” Thomas responded.

    Speaking of being far out, Thomas is a transplant from Brattleboro, Vermont -- a completely different world from his new home in Los Angeles.

    When I asked if he missed his roots, he responded, “Oh, all the time. I actually miss the snow. Never thought I would, but I do. I miss the seasons, I miss the kind of cycle, it’s more a cycle of time -- time is more apparent there. Here, it’s much more, undefined.”

    It's the bubble of paradise to which we San Diegans can relate. Our first-world problems of constant beautiful weather can be routine and mundane.

    “It’s a pretty strange feeling. It’s like, once you get to paradise, then what?” he said.

    So Thomas has been playing shows for nearly 20 years and has accomplished what a majority of musicians and bands would only dream of doing -- a musical paradise, so to speak. I asked the 35-year-old if he missed the teenage years of playing shitty dive-bars.

    “I feel like I still end up playing shitty dive-bars [laughs]. But no, no, it’s different for sure. I miss parts of it. I miss the part of actually writing the music and not feeling any pressure. Now, I know that a certain amount of people will pay attention, and that just adds a layer of pressure that I didn’t used to have. You just find yourself thinking of other people when you’re being creative. When really, you should just be thinking about what you want to do,” Thomas said.

    I brought up his collaborative side-projects. Besides King Tuff, he’s the frontman of sludge metal quartet Witch, and he's played in Ty Segall’s backing band the Muggers, to name a couple. Maybe those cause less pressure?

    “I mean, I love doing that kind of stuff. I really get to step outside of myself and play music for fun and not have to be the boss, but you know, when I do stuff myself, it’s the most fulfilling creatively for me, because it’s my pure expression. It’s really who I truly am, so that’s always going to be the most fulfilling to me, but it is also the most stressful [laughs],” Thomas said.

    The fulfillment seems to heavily outweigh the stress. On the topic of King Tuff’s future, Thomas is optimistic.

    “Well, I have a lot of musical ideas and keep experimenting in my studio. It’s a little hard for me to do that while I’m doing the touring. Yeah, I’m also going to be touring throughout the rest of this year. It’s good though, I feel rejuvenated and I have a lot of ideas I still want to explore. I think I’ll always be an artist of some sort. Whether it’s music or visual art. I kind of just can’t not do that stuff. Whether people are paying attention or not,” he said.

    King Tuff headlines Casbah on May 3. Get tickets here.

    Musician, people-pleaser, lover, fighter and writer Matthew Craig Burke has been spewing musical words of wisdom since never. He lives off of peanut butter sandwiches, beer and Beck Hansen. Follow his updates on Facebook or contact him directly.