Mixtape No. 27: King Tuff

King Tuff

Mixtape No. 27

King Tuff

Words: Karena Meyer
Photos: Joshua Spencer

The mainstream LA music scene is typically a package deal. You’ve got to have the right sound and the right look to get any attention these days. So it’s refreshing to have artists who still flout the rules by just being themselves, however weird that may be. King Tuff is one of those weirdos.

When most people talk about King Tuff, they tend to think of Rolling Stone’s “mischievous gnome child of rock & roll.” Although that may be true, the real King Tuff or Kyle Thomas is more a modern day Beetlejuice meets man of leisure. Much more than a shredding guitarist, Kyle is also an exceptional painter who enjoys a visit to the local driving range or batting cage.

These days you’ll likely find Kyle resting on his Highland Park throne, aka stoop, enjoying his fourth cup of coffee and listening to a recent arrival on his turntable. Amidst the seclusion, raw nature and hiking trails, King Tuff creates his own world atop the east side Los Angeles hills.

Growing up in the southern Vermont town of Brattleboro will make anyone appreciate a simpler way of life. Although a beautiful place, Kyle will admit that Brattleboro can tend to get boring. But growing up free from the distractions of city life allowed Kyle’s creativity thrive.

King Tuff is a modern day Beetlejuice meets man of leisure.

At seven Kyle picked up his first guitar, a Fender Stratocaster, and quickly developed his own style of playing without the aid of lessons. When he was 27 Kyle made the move to Los Angeles in an effort to escape the ease of the small town life he had known and to challenge himself in a city with a larger outlet for his art.

Los Angeles gave Kyle a platform to share his music with a broader audience. It’s been a little over a year since his third album Black Moon Spell has been released. Although many critics praised the album, Kyle struggled with giving up production control in the studio. “It was really hard and I would not do it again.” On his last two albums Kyle had little to no hand in mixing or producing, a departure from his first album in which he did entirely alone. “If you were a painter it’s like having someone else do your strokes for you or mix your colors.” Although there was much gained from the collaborative experience, Kyle prefers the different kind of satisfaction he gets from working on an album by himself.

This Phil Spector meets Leonard Cohen situation has motivated Kyle to return to making music on his own. For his next album he plans to write, record and produce outside of a traditional studio, instead creating at home, where he feels more creative and free. Currently he’s working on building a home studio, something he’s used to having back home in Vermont. His eyes light up when discussing its progress: “It’s like building a spaceship.”

King Tuff’s next album is sure to be something to look out for – something Kyle is going to make for himself this time, following his own advice that he’s given his fans through his music: be free to express yourself and just be weird.