By Nicholas Jason Lopez
You press “play” and suddenly are welcomed by pounding drums, distorted fuzz and tangy vocals.
It’s grungy, but no, it’s not a Spotify “90’s Throwback” playlist — it’s Tadgh Billy King’s latest single “breathe out.”
True to the name, the Irish alt-rocker (pronounced like “Tiger” without the “er”) claimed he penned the tune to pose introspective questions on the difficulties of letting go and “allow yourself to move on and enjoy the beauty of life.”
Being a classically trained vocalist and theatre performer, King strives to bring his knowledge of performance and drama to his own music, in which you can hear his influences derived from the likes of Bauhaus and Drive Like Jehu to Fugazi and Joy Division.
The Music Bugle was able to chat with King about his new music and much more, which you can check out below.
Music Bugle – What was the moment that inspired you to become a musician?
Tadgh Billy King – I’ve been learning about music and taking lessons from a very young age. I don’t think there was ever a moment where I decided to become a musician because I’ve always been studying it since childhood. My dad is also a musician, so music creation has always been around me. I do remember finding the urge to start writing my own material when I was about 13 or 14. I was learning a cover for a band I was trying to put together. I don’t think being in a band at that point for me was anything more than just something that seemed fun and made you a little cooler. It was also something I’d seen my dad do and talk about, so I thought I should try it too. I was learning “You Really Got Me” by The Kinks. I made a mistake on the guitar and thought, “Oh, that actually sounds pretty interesting” and it just sort’ve snowballed from there.
Music Bugle – What has been your overall mindset behind the creation of your latest material?
Tadgh Billy King – A lot of the creation of the material that I’m releasing now came during and after Covid-19. Only after I graduated from college did I really have the time to finish what I had started. I think the general mindset has been, “Let’s get this music out there finally. Let’s use this cool, weird, wild music to start off a career of trying my best to make interesting, captivating and different sounding music and art.”
Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your style of music?
Tadgh Billy King – I think that my style is going to change a lot over the course of my career and life. I’ve never liked the idea of being stuck in a specific genre or style and I think that if you’re a musician in this day and age trying to make it, you need to be able to appreciate and gain an understanding of as many styles and genres of music as you can. The stuff that I’m writing right now is not necessarily in the same style as the stuff that I’m releasing right now on “raw.” What excites me most about the style of music on “raw” is that, underneath the labels of goth or post-punk or alternative, it’s rooted in guitar-driven rock. It has distortion, winding guitar lines, big guitar solos, brash sounds and intense vocals. I love the way some songs have really dense harmonic content and close, some might even say strange, harmonies. I like the way it plays with the form of what a rock song is. I like how it has extreme dynamic shifts and walls of sounds and textures. It’s all the music that I grew up loving as a kid that was then filtered through me as I figured out who I was in college. It’s a kind of record that I’ve always wanted to make and I’m so excited to be releasing it now. The record I made after “raw” could go in a different direction, but I’m still figuring that out and that’s also really exciting.
Music Bugle – What makes you the most proud about where you come from?
Tadgh Billy King – I was born in Dublin, Ireland. My family goes back many generations in different parts of the area and I’ve lived here for most of my life, bar a few years when I was a kid in New York. I have family there too, but Dublin has been my home for the majority of my life. Ireland is a relatively small nation of – at the time of this writing – just over 5 million people – and yet, for such a small nation, we produce so much amazing art. Bands and musicians like U2, Thin Lizzy, Sinéad O’Connor, Fontaines D.C., My Bloody Valentine, The Cranberries, Just Mustard, or actors like Paul Mescal, Ruth Negga, Barry Keoghan, Maureen O’Hara, Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farrell, Cillian Murphy, or artists like Francis Bacon and Charles Lamb, or writers like Marina Carr, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, etc.. Not to mention the countless young artists that are just starting their careers now. These lists could go on forever and there are people I haven’t mentioned that friends of mine would kill me for. For such a small nation with a history that can be very sad, we continue to produce such a high caliber of art.
Music Bugle – Does social media help or hurt musicians?
Tadgh Billy King – I think it depends. Your song might pop off on TikTok and be the next sensation. Can you follow up on that virality to positively capitalize on it for your career or could you be a one-hit wonder, always chasing that view count? Social media lets you have a direct connection with your fans and they can see exactly who you are if you let them, but is that something you want and where do you draw the line? I think social media can help and I think it does help musicians today, because it gets you and your music “out there” no matter how many followers you start off with. Your music now has the ability to find its audience by posting on Instagram and using the right hashtags. However, you can’t be a musician trying to get heard now without a presence on Instagram and that’s not a good thing. Are you going to spend all of your time trying to figure out making a viral TikTok or Reel and potentially lose out on time spent writing or practicing the craft you wanted to do in the first place? How do you strike that balance? Because, you need to strike it, it seems, if you want to do well. I’m still figuring it out. Most musicians that I like and talk to seem to want to get to a point in their career where they don’t “need” to post regularly on social media everyday. They want to just post cool stuff when they feel like it or when they want to interact with their fans and I think that says a lot.
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Tadgh Billy King – Right now, I’ve been listening to Grian Chatten’s new record, “Chaos For The Fly.” I’ve also recently revisited Black Country, New Road’s “Ants From Up There.”
Music Bugle – You certainly do wear a lot of hats in the entertainment industry – how do you manage to balance it all without going crazy?
Tadgh Billy King – It’s all stuff that I really, really want to do. I want to make records and release them because I love it, but I also love acting, film and theatre. I have to accept things like if I’m working on a character for a play right now, then I need to give that the time and attention it needs. That doesn’t mean that I’m no longer a musician and won’t be working on music again soon. It works vice versa as well. You just gotta try and be nice to yourself, I think – and I try my best to be as thankful as possible that I can do any of it at all in the first place.
Music Bugle – What show are you currently binging on?
Tadgh Billy King – I’m in-between shows at the minute! The last one that I really enjoyed was “Beef” on Netflix. If you haven’t watched that, then you need to.
Music Bugle – What’s your stance on the use of AI in music?
Tadgh Billy King – If musicians can use it as a tool to help further the creation of their own original work, then I think it can be a good thing. However, if it is used to take away from the work that musicians do in any way at all, then it is a bad thing. I like to think that people care to know that the song they’re listening to was made by a real person, but I don’t know what the future holds.
Music Bugle – How would you sum up 2023 so far?
Tadgh Billy King – The phrase, “What’s next?” with all of its potential meanings and connotations comes to mind.