KYLE THOMAS is the bastard child of pop culture, just as his alias King Tuff has bastardized garage rock, metal, and glam over the course of three full-lengths. It's been years in the making, going back to Thomas' numerous early projects like Witch, his stoner metal band with Dinosaur Jr.'s J. Mascis.
Thomas' father collected psych and punk records, as well as underground comics from the '60s and '70s featuring the work of R. Crumb. That fascination carried into Thomas' formative years. "My taste was Pee-wee's Playhouse and Garbage Pail Kids," he says. "Putrid art and crazy weirdo art that made its way into the mainstream in the '80s—that's all lodged in there."
Later, weed and Slayer cassettes seeped into King Tuff's DNA. (He also claims to be a fan of the Holy Modal Rounders). His latest, Black Moon Spell, grows Thomas' self-made legend, stringing together sordid tales over distorted riffs—of which the most killer is the title track, a fuzzy and slithery beast straight out of a Frank Frazetta painting.
Black Moon Spell is an unholy trinity of T. Rex, KISS and Maiden, with Thomas giving extra attention to hooks and the almighty riff. "I don't think people really do that anymore," he says. "It's more about the sound, not catchiness or the song."
The line between Kyle Thomas and King Tuff, sort of a cartoon character himself, is blurry, but not contrived. Thomas is a weirdo in the best sense of the word. And the characters and stories on Black Moon Spell are the stuff of fantasy and male teenage urges. "Headbanger"—a tale of unrequited love over metal records—shares a smoke with songs like "Magic Mirror" and "Black Holes in Stereo."
Thomas says bands have gotten too serious over the years, even though King Tuff's appetite for the absurd is a time-honored tradition in rock. "I like rock 'n' roll to be ridiculous... It's a chance to be a superhero, to live a fantasy life," he says, before turning serious. "But you still gotta have great songs."