“One Both Makes A Decision And Undergoes A Decision Being Made”: How To Dress Well On Mallarmè, Mourning, and Magic

“One Both Makes A Decision And Undergoes A Decision Being Made”: How To Dress Well On Mallarmè, Mourning, and Magic
Photograph by Jo Livingstone.

Today, The Stopgap is proud to offer you our first in-depth interview with a musician. This particular musician is Tom Krell, probably already known to you as How to Dress Well. He is a longtime worker in the mine of ripping out what is inside of you to present to the other human beings and for this we admire him deeply.

Our recommendation is to put the album on, because it's a stunner, and to read the interview alongside it.

I Am Toward You, by How To Dress Well
11 track album

The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Jo Livingstone:  Hi. Hello. How are you?

Tom Krell: Okay. It’s been a brutal couple weeks since my brother passed away. 

JL: I'm so sorry.

TK: Thank you, I appreciate that. 

JL: Death is one of those things that really makes you believe that time is real. When you have to experience things through the literal moment to moment, it’s like—I can't believe this shit.

TK: That's been my experience sometimes. 

JL: I’m excited to discuss this new record, I Am Toward You with you, although I’m sure it’s a little painful. So it’s up to you what we talk about.

TK: It’s not too bad. It's a separate thing in a really decisive way. And it's also something that has had a multi-year arc of development. So it's got its own place.

I was just thinking, like, I'm kind of surprised that we've never chatted before. 

J: Me too! I mean, I guess it's possible that we could have been in person in the same place in the past? I think it’s also possible that I wrote to someone on your label about lyrics permissions years ago, in my intern days. 

TK: Right, something like that. But where are you now? 

JL: Brooklyn, in New York. You're in LA? 

TK: That's right. 

JL: So, I’ve been an enthusiast of your work for a really long time. In particular I've always really admired how emotionally direct your music is while also feeling very like, um. . . reaching towards people? Not like, let's make a place for me to be alone

I was struck reading your notes for the record about how you have moved away from the industry, because I have too, from mine, and it changes your art to have fewer or more human beings in your life. This might be a little crazy direct, but—for me music has been a place to kind of cultivate denial and to not face things. But what does it mean to face something? It is the medium that requires the least conscious direction of emotion for me. I get to pretend to be a nonverbal animal.

TK: As a listener, or a creator?

JL: Creator.

TK: Like, jamming?

JL: I guess so, yes.

TK: I have a lot of thoughts. My first thought is, I think that jamming in music can be conservative. People are always like, “Tipper Gore was at the Grateful Dead show at the Sphere! What the fuck, she's a narc?"

But I think jam music and its logic of escapism and entrancement has a tendency to be very conservative.

JL: Like boomer prog? That is very common in London, all the Yes fans—everyone's got a weakness for it. It always seemed like sometimes the one way white people of that generation got to access the incantatory and the rhythmic and repetitive. But only while being guided by a guy they’re personally obsessed with.

TK: Of course. Who's like technically proficient, virtuosic, et cetera. 

My second thought was that the most interesting thing about music has always been that it feels like I have a secret portal between the verbal and the non verbal in song. So the way I write music is primarily, first, by singing non-verbally. And just feeling melody in my body.

And the interesting thing about that is that I've often felt melody in my body as something that didn't come from my ego and often felt suggestive to me—excuse me, kombucha—of other ways of being, like singing as a woman or singing as, you know, a different person. And not narratively, but in an embodied way, like singing really high, singing in a voice that's not my own.

I sing in a kind of semi-British accent on one of the songs on the record. There's also a medieval musicality to some of those songs, like the nothing prayer. 

But then the second thing is it's not just a portal to the non-verbal. It's a portal between the non-verbal and the discursive.

So, one of the most interesting things to me that I started to do, in maybe 2009, was I would make some kind of minimal structure, whether it's a beat or a guitar strum or keys or something, and I'd listen to it and I would have the feeling of hearing a melody that wasn't yet there.

And then I would give rise to it and then I would realize, listening back, that I had started to say things. And so I could read what my nonverbal body was saying and it'd be like, Okay. Oh, weird. Like, why do I keep saying this phrase? Like, you left, I was left alone. I had this weird nonverbal obsession with this book, A Tomb for Anatole by Mallarmé.

Jo. I've never read that. 

TK: It's a very uncharacteristic book for him because he's just writing in grief. It’s an amazing book, but it's not a great work of poetry. It's just an amazing work of mourning. So, I started to notice and think, that's weird, I keep singing these phrases involuntarily. I sing this phrase involuntarily I sing this phrase—oh crazy, I didn't even remember that dream until I involuntarily sang about it and now I can remember the dream. I started having these experiences with what would come out through free association with the non verbal. 

JL: What I'm hearing you say is something that I kind of recognize, which is recognizing things in listening that appear over time, through concentration.

TK. You hear things, you respond, and then you hear more and it's like, it was always there! But you're coaxing it out. 

Jo: And yet it's so strange to think about, like, how do we recognize things? Is it from the culture, you know, is it from like everything we've ever heard up until that moment in our lives? Is it pattern recognition? Is it the influence of other people? I interviewed Glenn Copeland a few years ago, who described working in the woods, totally alone, with computers, and receiving visions of frequencies, wavelengths, that had no geographical limit to where they came from. And he was equally connected to them in solitude than anywhere else. Maybe you don't have to name the entity. Or maybe it's just yourself that recognizes yourself. 

TK: I take the thing that I generate self-consciously and I treat it as like a hieroglyph or a prism or like some kind of divine message. And I say, okay, if I said that, then this other thing that I can't quite make out must be this.

JL: Like you’re your own reader?

TK: Yeah, exactly. So I start to like, to treat my messages as divine and, and that's like this mixture of like paranoia and insight, where it's like, there's some secret there that I've got to find out that I actually know, and I'm not telling myself, and then on the other side someone's trying to send me a message.

JL: Apophenia, apophasis.

TK: Apophenia, apophasis. Precisely. There’s this song on the record where I sing, “My maiden name, I'd love to change my maiden name.” I just thought, like, that's a cheeky thing. And then I was thinking about my mom, because her maiden name, you know, she has a name that's not mine, even though she's my mother.

And then I remembered being in my car during the pandemic, and having this really brutal encounter with a homeless person, and not knowing what to do to help them, and then getting in my car and sitting there in silence and then Waze all of a sudden goes, like, turn right or whatever, and it shocked me because I thought it was my mom's voice. And so now I'm like—maiden name, my mother, this Waze experience, what's next? The smell of kasha reminds me of my mom, but it actually more than my mom it takes me to this place under the kitchen table in my childhood home, this little yellow house on 6th Street. We moved away from there when I finished first grade. Then I thought, okay, maybe that chain's done now. What's another chain? 

And I start to get all these chains of meaning and then try to let them like auto-interweave and mutually amplify and implicate one another. And that develops into this, like, extremely dense meaning/emotion/object, a poem-type thing.

JL: But in music, density doesn't always translate to, like, heaviness in the same way that, it does in writing, kind of inevitably. Your music feels light to me. There's a CS Lewis essay about the word “sad,” about how in English it's weirdly linked to the idea of physical weight, because the idea of something as heavy is gravis, so someone who has gravitas and the idea of a heavy heart is what's sad. He’s saying that this is all attached to the idea of picking up something heavy and moving it somewhere. And that is something important that people do. But there are all kinds of other words and languages and concepts that don't relate to physical weight in the same way. Counterpoint is never about just loading on more and more and more, right? It's about ever more detailed explorations. How do you feel about layering and density and the palimpsest, or? 

TK: I do think that, you know, sound is one click of the dial more ephemeral than text. Sound is maybe the most ephemeral medium. Well, language is natural as well, but written language is one click away. Speech, both speech and written language are going to be heavier than sound. 

JL: But language has existed for as long as human beings have existed and writing is only 5,000 years old. Like we do not understand language, right? Linguistics was sort of invented to try to even describe it. But text, sometimes, I think is a trick that we play on ourselves. To try and be able to get back in time to it. To the utterance. I think we can't get outside of the literate. 

TK: I think that speech and writing are coeval. I don't think that writing is 5,000 years old. 

JL: Mark-making isn't for sure. Mark-making has existed for way longer than like text as we recognize it has. But you're also a philosopher. So I'm sure you have a position on it. 

TK: Yeah. My view on it is that there's a temptation to place naturalized speech over or against writing. And I was talking about this in an interview yesterday, because somebody asked me what it's like to talk for the first time after a long, silent meditation. And part of what I said is that when you come out of the long silent meditation, you realize really clearly that the physical apparatus of speech is a total technology. Speech does not have a tool appropriate to itself. Like, seeing has the eye. And speech does not have that relationship with the tongue and the palate.

Like you come out of the silent retreat and you go to talk and you're like, I have a big fat fucking tongue in my mouth. Like, what am I, how am I supposed to talk? 

JL: It makes a little more sense, thinking about that, how the church ended up freaking out about women singing and castrati: That idea that your neck is a cervix in Latin and it could connect to the cervix of your uterus and oh shit, be careful. Sounds can come out of it and hit people's ears and do things to them. And sometimes it can make them believe in God. But if the person's too sexy, then it can bring the devil. So I guess the thing that we agree on is that I also don’t believe in a primeval natural speech over or against writing.

TK: And then even further, it's not the case that there's a primeval thought that then gets expressed through the technology imperfectly. I think that I've been reading that view a lot on Twitter. You'll see people say that speech is a lossy form of thought or whatever. No, it’s actually much weirder than that, because thought, speech, writing, the spirit, consciousness, the body—these things are all in this weird dialectical state of mutual determination.

JL: And then hearing comes in, to cue recognition. I think I get it: The moment of seeing the constellation, an immediate divining of intelligibility, which makes you almost have, like, a guttural hiccup.

TK: If you were to say, paint me a picture of the origin of sensemaking, it might look like: I look out and I see a flower. And I want to say something which I can't say for about 25,000 years, which is that's it’s beautiful. It's arrayed with an almost purposive structure, but obviously there's no God. So it must be purposiveness without a purpose. So I see that I have that divine feeling, but all I can do is go on, and then slowly over about 25,000 years, that becomes the history of philosophy, the history of biology, et cetera. And then I can pronounce on the existing immediate value that I perceived in this like elaborated way.

But it's the, the elaborated conceptual determination and the immediate divine thing are like. . . The divine form without the banal discursive articulation is empty. 

JL: But you can get between them. Or like, flicker between them? I think.

TK: Yeah, I do too. That's part of what my philosophical work is on. In a really corny nutshell, my PhD dissertation is about how the first word of The Science of Logic by Hegel, when he says, “Being, pure being.” Then he writes, you know, 840 pages to try and describe what's vacant in that first pronouncement.

And my claim is that at the end, when you have the full picture in view, you finally got the full picture of the first word.  

JL: So you have to loop all the way back around through it for it to make sense?

TK: Yes, and only through this monumental process of recollection, you could call it, can you then engage with that first naïveté in an appropriate way, which is to say as a second naïveté.

JL: You work with tapes that were made a long time ago, right?  

TK: This record, I have samples from like 2012, '13. I mean, this is also this recollection thing. It's interesting that you brought this up. This sixth record of mine is the first one where I'm really making a record with a prehistory. Obviously when I made record two, I had record one, but everything was so fast.

It was like 2010, ‘12, ‘14, ‘16, ‘18. And then I took time off. This is something that's happening a lot in my life. I was just talking about this yesterday. I think about Freud all the time. And about two years ago, I realized a lot of these things that I think about every single day, I haven't read since 2006.

That's what it means to get old! To realize that you have a past. And so for me, it's a matter of realizing that I need to read it again. I'm not interested in resting on my laurels. I need to find time to read the work again, refresh my mind, and re-engage with it. And so this record is the first time where the samples I'm working with are more than a couple of years old.

It feels like: Oh, I remember that apartment. I remember that relationship. I remember that whole different life. That is now indexed, if you like, in this sound. 

JL: But I don't think it's like a straightforward project of integration of the many past selves into the one self, right? I'm not sure why I thought that you were saying that. 

TK: [laughs]

JL: I guess I do. There's time and the self in the past, but I suppose sometimes I think that processing things from the past can push us towards this therapeutic recuperation that often, especially in grief, forces us to find the ending of the story that makes the beginning also be a part of the story. 

TK: And the totality of what can change from moment to moment. That's what the album's about. Like the song “Contingency/Necessity (Modality of Fate)” describes this pretty directly. It's not the case that at the end, now looking back, I can see the necessity of everything. That would be a recuperative project.

That would be, in a lot of ways, banal or totalizing. 

JL: Well, it'd also be apocalyptic, because like, “everything happens for a reason” is the logic that everything will end one day and everyone will go to heaven. 

TK: Did you see my tweet about this?!

JL: No.

TK: Someone was like, You should make a diss track, it'll make your album go off. And I was like, “Contingency/Necessity…” is a diss track against people who say everything happens for a reason.

JL: Yeah, fuck those guys. 

TK: What's interesting is that nothing happens for a reason! And reason is what happens in the wake of all of that. 

JL: Well, this is what the medieval encyclopedists were trying to do. Describe everything visible and hope that God's logic will emerge through the gracious interaction of all of the things he created. So for them, they were like, everything happens for a reason, but said in the voice of somebody who's terrified and desperate to stave off the disaster. Like what if “everything happens for a reason” was a horror movie tagline?

TK:  I think there is a horror movie about this, called “It Follows.”

JL: Oh my God. That movie is so good. It’s so scary. 

TK: My reading of that movie is it's playing on the notion of like, it follows that, X, Y, and Z. 

JL: Like, sequential? Sequence, sequential . . . that would be good idea for a movie. I guess I always thought it was about like, it was about sex and trauma and what you involuntarily drag that feels like it's chasing you.  

TK: Yeah, both. Definitely both. Back to, back to the “Contingency/Necessity…” thing. I sing in this song, “Doing blank drugs in the shrine room in the Buddhist monastery, I wonder if I've ever made a single wrong decision.”

And then I sing in the second verse, “Crying in the bathroom of Masonic lodges to see Mount Eerie and I wonder if I've ever made a single right decision.”

It’s incalculable to me whether everything happens for a reason and that's a good one or a bad one. Or if nothing happens for a reason and that's a liberating feature or a damning feature. And then I sing a list of words that came into circulation in 1984, the year I was born, and it's like: VPN, genetic fingerprinting, bi-curious, death metal, open carry.

JL: That’s what was written in the book of time along with your birth. 

TK: Exactly. And so then you have the feeling that there's a death stunt, like a destiny happening here. A fatedness. Everything happens for a reason. But then I think that it's equally the case that I'm just a consequence of a meshwork of decisions made by fearful creatures. 

JL: Isn’t that what Mallarmé was trying to do with the whole aleatory practice thing? He's like, if I make works where there's an element of chance, when it's executed, then I'm bringing in the whole, right?

If the world is an axiomatic extension of principles that could be calculated from the beginning, like in Hermann Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game, then everything can be played. But if you control the circumstances of the aleatory, then you can maybe spectate in a way that is magic.

TK: I don't necessarily think that spectating is the path to the magic. I think you have to engage in an act of a super torturous translation and interpretation.

The Mallarmé and Hesse thing of the roll of the dice and just like sitting back and like watching the dominoes fall—it doesn't implicate you enough in the texture of what's happening.

JL: It's very empiricist.

TK: The ego is stable through that process. So, I throw the dice and then I'm sitting back, and I see everything happening. It's just very classically spectatorial, that kind of remove that we've spent so much time criticizing in the philosophical 20th century. I try to start from the thought that if anything were different, everything would be different.

It's not like I can roll the dice on one thing and see how I feel and then wager and play and so forth. It's like, no: Life is transpiring. People are all around you and they have skin in the game.

JL: You’ve talked about needing to remake your process. To make art that gets to other people, you have to make decisions. And sometimes you make decisions in the moment and then you step back and you think, “Oh, I'm actually in control of things.” Was it out of necessity?

TK: Yeah. There were several species of necessity and several species of contingency or accident at play. It was necessary because I was really unwell mentally. And it was necessary because I was not making enough money to live, which was contributing to the first necessity. It was necessary because I was feeling my relationship to the work strained in a way that was causing me further grief. These were compounding things that eventually led to a decision point and inflection point.

Then also, there were contingent things that happened that were really brutal. I was touring by myself for a long time at that point, totally solo, with way too much gear, and I had a sequence of experiences where I was booked on a train that meant I had to finish a show in Bucharest, pack up as fast as possible to get to a train where I was supposed to have a bed for an overnight travel to the next show the next day, but I didn't have a bed and there was an old Polish man in my room in his underwear smoking cigarettes. And then I played the last show of that tour in Transylvania, the most beautiful show in my life, and I was supposed to fly home the next day from Cluj Napoca to Moscow to Barcelona to New York to LA. I got to Barcelona late and had to stay in Barcelona and the flights for the next couple days were so expensive that it was cheaper to get an Airbnb and stay in Barcelona for a few days. I was just so spiritually cooked that I didn't know if I would make it home at that point. And then I got home and then a show came up that was like, going to save me financially. So I ended up going to Brazil and that travel was so exhausting, and I didn't know where my puppy could stay. 

At the end of that sequence, I remember being on a call with my brother—he was a janitor—and he was expressing intense jealousy towards me about my lifestyle and in a kind of aggressive way. And I was like, dude, you have no fucking idea. I want to die. I literally want to die right now. And it was like, I was like, “Oh my God, all of the glamor is gone. This is so hard.”

I can't do it. Like I literally can't do it anymore. In the paradoxical way that we know well, one both makes a decision and undergoes a decision being made. It’s very rarely the case that you have 20 options and get to weigh them out.

JL: That’s choice, not decision. Decision is different. I've been astonished as an adult by the extent to which I feel as though my life is happening to me. Like, getting a big award and then getting laid off in such quick succession . . . That feeling of being on the other side of the wall or like on the other side of experience, then coming to feel the loneliness or isolation and alienation that you’ve read about before. It’s like—fuck, why do I have to personally feel this, why do I have to learn all of these things directly? Why can't I just believe somebody when they tell me, you know? 

On a slightly, well, same note, I guess, I got pulled back into making music because of grief, just like losing someone and being unable to be around people in that I constantly felt the inferiority of the present to the past.

And because music is a medium that takes place in time, right? Uh, you have to exploit the milliseconds and the way they connect to each other. It was just like a way to exist and feel like I was not doing nothing. And that I wasn't, I was not talking to myself. It was an alternative to talking to myself. 

The verbal is so much of a part of your process. Grief and music have a relationship that . . . I don't know if it's possible to understand it with one lifespan.

TK: My whole second record was like a work of mourning in this way. I didn't listen to that record for a while, and then I did again this year, and I was like, this record is so good. Definitely, it was a way for me to not face what I was feeling.

I think that it has to do with the sound resonating in the body more than time. I don't think that the temporality, the time of music is that much different than the time of speech. 

JL: But do you believe in the resonant frequencies and that that's the natural form of music?

TK: No, it's in my body. It's like using my body as a sound. You talk about like the temporality of music, and obviously you don't know what the melody means until it ends. But likewise, as I start this sentence, you don't really know the implications of the words that I began the sentence with until I finished the sentence.

Lastly, I think that the temporality of music versus the temporality of speech are not that different. I think the main difference is that because of the preponderance of the symbol and the written word over the sonoric, the sonorousness of speaking, which is connected with singing, I think that people forget that speech is like song.

And song reminds you of your body. Like when you sing a song, it reminds you of your body in a very decisive way that's different than a lot of other, experiences. But I also think that once you understand what song does to a body, then speaking likewise, like, unassailably is a kind of song. I think the reason that you have singing at a funeral is so that the speaking at the funeral feels like song.

JL:  The quiet, too. I've been working on a profile of a conductor. We’ve been talking about the various types of convention inside the concert hall, and she sees the silence as a collaborative, active moment of the creation of shared group concentration.

TK: For sure. It’s something that's always been really painful for me as a performing artist, that people don't understand the assignment of being an audience member, as it were. 

JL: I was struck by that. I always thought that you have to create silence by keeping sounds out, but she explained that you can have a kind of silence when it's noisy. It’s about people doing it on purpose together. It’s something like, the absence speech is really meaningful when it's communal.

TK:  Moments of silence are really interesting. Like the ceremonious, like now a moment of silence type beat. 

JL: Yeah, and the gap between songs is what says one track has ended.

TK: This is why I'm really interested in silent meditation, too. Because I think that people don't really realize how much chatter goes on in their mind. Until you stop talking, until you interrupt the equilibrium, like the flow, the outward flow. You stop that and then you realize, oh my God, it's just so cacophonous and noisy in my head all the time. Like, how have I been living like this? This is crazy. 

JL: You know, I definitely, I'm still in the cacophony stage. I’m a compulsive worker. I’m just hoping I’ll figure it out eventually.

TK: I think silence is cool. I'm not that interested in silence in music, ultimately. That was such a fetish thing in the early 2010. Music journalists love to be like, the way they play with silence is amazing. “James Blake, the way he manipulates silence, it's not the notes, it's the spaces between the notes that grow.”

JL: Oh my god, the liminal spaces in between James Blake’s sounds. 

TK: I also don't believe that silence exists. I believe that the concept of silence performs a deconstruction of itself. This is also the kind of logic of the “nothingprayer.” There is no nothingprayer. There is no silence. Silence is always only the trace of its own disappearance back into sound. And so when people do the moment of silence in time, it has a meaning and it takes a lot more effort than everybody singing the same note.

JL: We use sound as people around death, around life. I don't know, just the way that you talk about it encourages me, I guess, to not that sacred and the profane exist in different musical realms. Or that like silence is magical under some circumstances and not in others. Everything is everything. 

TK: Yeah. If you sit in silence, you immediately become aware of the sounds that your body is making. Whether they're spirit sounds in your mind or the sound of your heart beating or your gut bubbling or your knee cracking or your pulse pulsing. I think most people in the 21st century, when you ask them to think of silence, they see a rotating a cube type thought experiment. Forgive me for this, but I think most people when they think of silence they think of not being around other people.

And so they think, if I want silence, I got to get out of the city. And it's like, okay, you're literally just saying that your concept of silence is not being around the dizziness of life or not having to hear people, not having to be responsible. But then when you're in the woods, actually the woods are quite noisy, you know? There are animals. Every step makes noise. Like if you walk on concrete, it's actually much quieter than walking on pine needles or whatever. My thinking is this, if I were looking for something sacred in silence, in my thinking, the process is I'm actually probably better served to find something that's like what I think I'm looking for in silence in sound.

If I can find a sound that accomplishes the feeling that I'm seeking, it's probably more valuable than silence because silence is non transmissible.

JL:  It makes me want to ask about noise. I think of your sound as being one that's . . . I don't know what the antonym for noise would be! But still interested in texture, for sure. Do you believe in noise?

TK: Noise, like silence, performs a deconstruction just in virtue of being.  

JL: Yeah. You hear pure noise, and then you hear some non-noise, which I guess we call music again. You can't help but hear the noise in the non-noise and vice versa. You know what I mean?

TK: Yes. You listen to a violin being played and all you hear is the hair on the string. One of the unifying things of my music across all the records is a relationship with noise. Noise was totally revelatory for me in college. I couldn't believe it when I discovered noise.  

JL: I remember finding the musique concrète Wikipedia page in high school and learning that there were other people who were interested in taping things making unpalatable but loving contemplations of sound. 

TK: I remember, some of the first times I heard like Wolf Eyes and shit, I was just like, wait!

JL: I think this record is rhythmic, right? It holds itself, internally. But maybe less of . . . I don't really know what the adjective is for the way that like popular music beats in the bodies of the listeners. What the word is for that?

TK:  That's so interesting, because it didn't occur to me how little drumming there is on the record until really late in the process. And that's because so many other things were pulsing, you know what I mean? The first song has this pizzicato harmonic plucking, which is functionally a kind of drumming. And then like the second song has this chopped sample, so it's almost like a drum break from like a drum and bass song or like a hip hop MPC type vibe. 

JL: Looping makes anything into a beat, right?

TK:  Yes, but there's a difference between looping and repetition. There's a mantra like incantation type loop, and then what's happening on my record, which is way more rhythmic and there’s musical measure in a totally conventional way.

JL: Musical rhythm, as opposed to maybe what the boomer prog fans go to try and find at Phish concerts.

TK: I like the way that the record feels like a rock record without being a rock record. The way that I hear the record now, I think it sounds like all of the propulsive, energetic, rhythmic stuff of rock that you mostly attribute to drums and a bass guitar and electric guitar, but all of that's removed, and you realize, like, oh, that's not actually what's been propelling this the whole time.

Like, that's why most rock music's so banal, because they're like, let's make it heavy, let's get the drums really rockin! It's like, oh, that actually doesn't add to the intensity at all. 

I'm working on a new record now, which is at this point only drums and vocals. We'll see how that nets out, but I Am Toward You has a natural rhythm of its own in a way that I've been really surprised by and that makes me really happy. It feels like an accomplishment. I've had it on individual songs in my past, but never a full album where I felt like it had like a really a beating heart in this way. Like The Anteroom, my last record had it, but it was so driven by drum machines, which felt almost easy.

JL: I didn't know your brother, so I don't know what to ask about him, but if I did, what would I ask or what would you say?

TK: I don't know. I mean, one of the things that I always admired about him is that he . . . People tend to think of art for art's sake as a sort of a bourgeois, almost decadent thing, and I think that's wildly mistaken. He was a gruff mountain man, a brutally underpaid and overworked janitor. He didn't go to college, was neurodivergent, disabled in a lot of ways, and he made art for its own sake. He made art because he felt called to, and he received the signals of artwork in such a significant way as a young person, being brutalized and repressed in contemporary cultural situations. He turned to black and death metal and away from the banality of being bullied in high school. Towards the question of the absolute in this work and this music.

Instead of thinking about, you know, who they were going to take to prom or whatever other high schools students are thinking about, he was thinking about the significance of societies. I think that the big part of this retrieving the spiritual value of music for me is about returning art to its original purpose.

He says on the song “Crypt Sustain,” I have a snippet of him saying, "It's still a very long journey." And what he was referring to there was the bringing into harmony of music. The original meaning of our expressive impulses and art. Those two things have gotten really far apart. It's still a very long journey until art is allowed in our world to do what it's intended to do.  

And now that he's gone, I think that phrase, it's still a very long journey, is like . . . I don't know that I believe this, but like, you know, in the Tibetan Book of the Dead practice, there's a thought that, just like the baby gestates for nine months, the dying person has a nine month departure through different realms and states and so forth.

And maybe that's what that phrase means now. Maybe the journey now that he's gone for me is to carry the work and take him as totemic, and heroic, and follow underneath that banner in my own work. So I don't know. That's a long way to say, I don't know.

JL: It is a beautiful act of love to be continuously alive to somebody else's practice and art and to connect to it in your own. It is one of those things that human beings are capable of that never fails to astonish me.

TK: Yeah, I know. I have this lyric on my last record where I sing about how when the earth is like a vacant boat, our love will have lived here, a faraway echo. And when our bodies get carried away by the smoke, you will have had a name and I will have sung it. I will have sung your name as soft as owl feathers.

The future perfect, I think, is that tense. Something in it’s going to be a very long journey is implied in the future perfect. I will have sung it by the time I'm done. I will have sung it. That's what I think. 

JL: That's beautiful. Thank you for making the time. I really appreciate it a lot. Like I said, I enjoyed the record a lot. Having been pulled more towards music in my own work, I guess I’m playing catch up, you know, to understand. Thank you for explaining. And The Stopgap is just our little blog, but we’re very proud to have you.

TK: I love The Stopgap, [Redacted name] and I are always exchanging articles.