Interviews

Sean A. Garrison (Kinghorse)

I won't lie to you. The reason I first picked up Kinghorse's eponymous 1990 album was solely based on its eye-catching Pushead cover art. Well, what I didn't expect was to fall head over heels in love with the musical content within the record's sleeve. With a sound that had elements of punk, hard rock, heavy metal, and hardcore, Kinghorse wasn't an easy band to categorize, and that might be why the Louisville-based combo went over most people's heads at the time. 

Kinghorse was fronted by Sean A. Garrison, a vocalist with a delivery style that goes from buttery smooth to hostile and acidic without hesitation. I was instantly drawn to the album, and a huge part of that was due to Sean's performance. While they broke up back in the '90s, Kinghorse's sparse discography always found its way on my playlists.

In this new interview, I chat with Sean about his life in and outside of Kinghorse. As you'll read below, the guy doesn't pull punches in his answers, and you have to respect that about the guy.

I would love to start off with getting a bit about your childhood. Where were you born and raised, and what kind of home did you grow up in? 

I spent my entire childhood and adolescence in a tiny, ranch-style shoebox that was located in a white-flight suburb of a neighborhood called Pleasure Ridge Park. PRP was not incorporated into the City of Louisville until 2003, and when I was a kid it would take the police or an ambulance at least 30 minutes to show up, so when things got crazy a situation could spiral out of control and play itself out in really scary ways long before the authorities got there. This gave the whole area a sort of Wild West vibe that churned out demented assholes for generations, and things have not improved since I left there when I was 18. In 1970 PRP was filled with families flush with union-wage cash; now it’s a very, very unhappy place rife with drug addiction and lethargic redneck desperation.

My parents were both raised in the West End of Louisville and knew each other as children, my father joining the Marines at age 17 (probably lying about his age) and my mother was married with her first child by the time she was 16. As my mother’s first marriage began to unravel, I suppose my father heard about it and suggested she move to Los Angeles where he was stationed and they were married there. She did not want to leave Louisville and move her children to Los Angeles, so he got his discharge (he was a drill sergeant for eight years) and they moved back here and he got a job as a union ironworker like all of my mother’s family had been doing for generations. Staying in Louisville was the last thing my father wanted, but Mom would not relent and they fought about it until the day he died (in 1974). I was an accident that they produced fairly late, they being born in 1932 and 1934, respectively.

They were both combative assholes who considered themselves more urbane and sophisticated than everyone they knew. My father was a Marine all the way to the marrow of his bones, and was a violent and terrifying person to deal with—he regularly beat my mother and was very cruel and abusive to my older brother, but because he was convinced I was smarter than the rest of the family he treated me extremely well. They were the type of people who mistook dysfunction for authenticity, and it fed their own romantic views about their relationship. I grew up in a strict patriarchy that was controlled by men who did extremely dangerous work (my grandfather and father both died on the job), and they had complete contempt for any other vocation except the military or the clergy. 

A young Sean smiles for the camera.

Were you an outgoing kind of kid? 

I was a natural-born snob with a very violent temper. My parents constantly made allusions to a style of culture that didn’t seem to have anything to do with the world we actually lived in. They name-dropped at a frightening pace: writers, classical and jazz figures, artists and philosophers; which was really confusing because their record collection was outrageously pedestrian and there was no literature in the house to speak of.  I am not really sure what the fuck that was all about—they seemed to know who everyone was, but did not seem the least bit interested in anything except proving that they knew who these people were. I was deeply influenced by this pretentious crap, and it really backfired on them because I turned out a know-it-all loudmouth who devoted all of my energy to taking the concept as far as I possibly could.  

If by “outgoing” do you mean was I incapable of shutting my fucking mouth? Yes—I was outgoing. I also lived in a neighborhood where hazing and violent bullying was the entire basis of our culture, so the kids I saw every day who were closer to my age were in a constant state of war with older kids and teenagers, with the exception of my brother, who was always nice and didn’t get off on cruelty. I started taking martial arts classes when I was eight, and fought in a few tournaments before my brother lost interest for whatever reason. By the time I was 11 I was developing an adversarial relationship with the redneck world I lived in, and by age 14 it was open fucking warfare. Punk rock saved my life.  The shit I did from age 12-14 would make a terrific film—I was devoted to full-time absurdist terrorism. On a typical Friday night I would patrol the entire region and do things like draw giant swastikas on selected lawns using weed killer. If I didn’t like some jock asshole at school, I would sneak into his yard and paint the family dog bright pink while feeding it a steak with my other hand.

SEE ALSO: 2017 interview with Aaron Stauffer (Seaweed, Ghost Work).

What kind of music did you gravitate towards at a young age?

I liked most of what I heard on the radio and TV, with the possible exception of Lawrence Welk or contemporary pop-crooners like Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck, both of whom just gave me the fucking creeps. My brother likes to tell a bizarre story of my reaction to seeing Humperdinck on some variety show in 1969— apparently the guy sent me into a violent rage of superhuman disgust where I ranted and raved and threw things around. My family thought that was the funniest shit ever. I mean, I was 2-years-old and I had a very hard time pronouncing his name but apparently that type of schlocky pickle-in-the-pants type of singer really pissed me off. I also remember hating Frank Sinatra from the moment I first saw his smug fucking face.

I had a stack of 7” records as a kid that I could play on my Close-and-Play, which included songs for very small children as well as some Chuck Berry and Beatles records that I inherited from my older siblings from my mother’s first marriage. I remember being a big fan of the soundtrack album from the Disney film The Sword and the Stone, but that seems to be the only Disney stuff I was into— I loved the character Mad Madam Mim. 

As far as rock and roll that I “discovered” on my own via the radio, the first songs I remember really liking were by Sweet and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, and I really dug alot of country-rock crossover stuff that was popular at the time like Freddy Fender. Once I was old enough to go to the local skating rink I heard all kinds of stuff.

Did you have any older musical mentors?

My musical mentor was my older brother, Lance, and we were very lucky in two very cool ways— less than a half-mile away from our house was a small convenience store that regularly carried all the major rock magazines of the time, and about five miles further up the road was the most progressive and cutting-edge record store in the state, Phoenix Records. The magazine that would make the biggest impact on me was called New York Rock Scene (later just Rock Scene) because they covered bands that were not on the radio or ever seen on the TV, so if I saw something that looked totally insane and the spiritual/aesthetic opposite of Led Zeppelin, the people at Phoenix Records would either have it, or make sure I got a chance to hear it. But I’m getting ahead of myself— my first favorite bands were Queen, KISS, and the Electric Light Orchestra.

Sean sneaks a middle finger in a high school portrait.

Doing my research for this, I read that you were a regional Fiend Club president. 

Since horrific and unrelenting Major Depressive Disorder runs in both sides of my family, my parents were really tuned-in to the fuzzy spot that separates Tragedy and Comedy. They both found people reacting in a mysteriously inappropriate way to a situation both unspeakably funny and romantic, and it was this combination of aesthetic factors that led me to Misfits fandom. If you heard Walk Among Us during the era it came out, it was such a strange combination of brilliance and incompetence that it was completely mysterious and disturbing. It was pretty obvious that you were looking at people who were completely and cluelessly insane who also believed they were unspeakably cool and that was both inspiring, tragic and exactly reflected how most suburban punk rockers actually felt about themselves. If you walked around looking like that you truly did not give a fuck about mainstream society anymore, and that was, well, adorable. 

As far as the “regional Fiend Club President” that was an inside joke because I was the first guy within about a 200 mile radius of my town who was an actual Misfits fan. Julian Bevan from Cincinnati was probably the only kid around in the whole region who liked the band as much as I did. I sent Glenn [Danzig] cool toys and skulls and he sent me incredibly rare items because he was very, very generous to people who sent him things that he could add to his collections.

Who were some of the bands you saw during your teen years that had a big impact on you? 

I was a roadie for Malignant Growth, a hardcore band whose members were all from Southwest Jefferson County, an area of two neighborhoods called PRP and Shively. The band was formed by Chris and Mark Abromavage, and those two guys were the link between “south end” redneck/blue collar culture and the art-school, white collar culture that most punk rockers in Louisville came from when the band formed in 1979. The Abromavages were terminally grim, muscular, highly-intelligent and what is now called “unapproachable”—they both exuded a vibe that made it very, very obvious that they would abide ZERO shit. Their second singer, Brett Ralph, went to my high-school and I started tagging along with him whenever possible, and it was through my association with that band that I met everyone else in the Louisville music scene. 

I saw Malignant Growth either blow-away (or fight to a standstill) a lot of the major national punk rock acts of the early 1980s, but their unrelenting nihilism won them zero fans outside of our town. A big part of the problem was the guys that hung around the band, many of whom were conservative rednecks who liked punk rock as opposed to progressive lefty-types who were pretending to be tough and streetwise. The thing about Malignant Growth that was totally different from any other punk band (except maybe Flipper) was every waking moment was based upon relentless ball-busting and the use of confusing intimidation tactics designed to alienate, confuse and bum-out anyone who tried to project ego. If they were around actual rednecks, they would employ punk-rock nonsense, but if they were talking to other punk rockers they would pull a whole other batch of alienating behaviors out of the tactic-bag. They just never relented, ever. They did not network, attempt to form alliances with other bands, or even speak to the members of other bands if they could avoid it because inevitably they would encounter ego bullshit, and they knew that hardcore punk rock was for losers, and if you acted like you were important at one of those shows you were obviously a moron.

Louisville has a reputation of having a great music scene, especially in the ‘90s, but what was it like in the early to mid-‘80s? 

There was no agreement on what the independent/original music scene was supposed to be. The crowds were small and filled with terminal losers, sociopaths, slumming rich-kid douchebags, art-school dropouts, and other pretentious jackfucks like yours truly. Those people saved my life and allowed me to find a way to continue living during many periods where I had absolutely no hope of ever getting better or finding any happiness or satisfaction in this world. Without those arty malcontents I would have never met my wife, done any music  or painted any pictures—I would most certainly be dead or in prison.

SEE ALSO: 2017 interview with Ashli State (Ink & Dagger, Guilt).

Tell me a bit about Maurice, the band you were in before Kinghorse formed. I know the group also featured Britt Walford and Brian McMahan, who would go on to form Slint. How did you guys all know each other? 

I met those guys through Brett Ralph—they were in a band called Languid and Flaccid. They were the smartest kids I have ever met. That band started out playing totally typical hardcore punk, and ended playing bizarre jazz-metal with time signatures that I could not possibly put vocals to unless I started doing only improvisational techniques. For the last year we were playing shows I was in the grips of a horrific psychotic depression complete with scary religiosity and very elaborate delusions—it was not fun and it was tiresome for intelligent people (like Britt, Brian, and Dave Pajo) to deal with.

Listen to the Maurice stuff here.

Maurice did dates with Samhain. Did that initially happen because of your connection with the Fiend Club? Also, why didn’t the band last? 

Yeah—we wanted access to actual crowds but nobody liked what we were doing at all. The band didn’t last for two specific reasons; the first was that I was totally tiresome, crazy and combative. Not only was I constantly at war with my depression, I was born with obstructive sleep apnea due to malformed sinuses and a malformed trachea, so I was in a continual state of extreme sleep deprivation that wasn’t successfully diagnosed until about five years ago, so according to my doctors I didn’t sleep for more than 90 seconds at a time for over forty years. This made me by turns loopy, entertaining and cartoonish or explosive, exhausting and exasperating. Throw in all of my PTSD and my Methodist upbringing and I was not somebody that anyone would really want to deal with, especially when you are trying to make connections with the Chicago indie-music crowd, who were not into psychiatric mythology or playing with Jungian archetypes at all.

How did Kinghorse come to be? Did Kinghorse connect on a big level in Louisville right off the bat, or did it take a little time?

Mike Bucayu was also in Maurice, and like myself a fanatical devotee of the Trickster God, and while we were both taking classes at the local junior college we just decided that we were tired of trying to go straight and get edumacated, so we took a chance and asked Mark Abromavage and Kevin Brownstein, who was the best drummer that had played with Malignant Growth (after they changed their name to Fading Out) if they wanted to waste a few more years of life engaging in self-sabotage and crushing other bands into almond butter. To our great shock and delight, they said yes. The problem was that Mark was not into constantly making an annoying fool of himself, and at first Kevin was inclined to also take music really seriously, when Bucayu and I were utterly incapable of being businesslike unless we were playing onstage or recording a song. To Bucayu and I shows and recording were for crushing people and utterly destroying the crowd and other bands, but all other moments were for saying and doing fucked up shit that you could laugh about later. Of course, within a year Kevin also reverted to his 7th grade self, so poor Mark was pretty much in hell all the time. 

Did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to do musically, or did that develop once you started jamming/writing with each other?

Musically we were going to be satisfied with whatever Mark wrote, and for the first couple of years he was coming up with stuff at a fairly steady clip. We all liked Black Sabbath and punk rock, and the idea was to mix what is now called doom metal with punk rock and thrash-metal style drumming. It was called crossover thrash or crossover for a short period of time, but in the war against Indie rock, rap, and grunge we just got fucking demolished and buried. 

SEE ALSO: Louisville Hardcore Outfit Miracle Drug

Did Kinghorse connect on a big level in Louisville right off the bat, or did it take a little time? I ask that since the band’s sound was perhaps a bit too eclectic to be claimed by one scene.

We can only be classified as a "crossover thrash" band from a historical perspective— we neither claimed that label or felt any particular affinity with any band that claimed it. At the time, I suppose the bands I would think we had the most in common musically with would be the Bad Brains and Suicidal Tendencies, but we considered all movements, genres and labels the stuff of weak posers who wanted to latch on to an audience that somebody else created. This, of course, was pretty hypocritical because we were totally aiming for the people who liked Black Flag before Black Flag started to seriously suck. The SST Records concept of “individuality and originality first” was the central influence on what Bucayu and I wanted to do. Caroline Records had the Bad Brains, and that was enough for us. 

The Brother Doubt/Freeze 7” was the first Kinghorse release in 1988. What do you remember about recording that record? Also, who was behind the label that released it, Self-Destruct Records?

Self-Destruct is Bucayu’s label. The only thing I remember about recording it is Mike constantly telling me to roughen my voice and make it more “raw” and growly.

Once the record was out there, did bigger labels begin to reach out to you guys? How did the deal with Caroline Records happen? Who at the label signed you?

No, there was no label interest at first because I approached Glenn with the idea of producing for Caroline as soon as we had a decent demo. I was already aware that unsolicited tapes went straight into the trash, and they did. Sending out a tape was not really a viable way of getting label interest during any period that I’m aware of.

Kinghorse band photo taken from their debut album's sleeve.

The Misfits/Samhain connection continues on the Kinghorse album. How did Glenn Danzig end up producing the album?

That was all my idea. It was the only option we had to avoid putting out a record ourselves. If we could scam our way onto Caroline I thought we could jump to an actual indie label or to another major label once the right people saw how good the band was. Of course, I was 20 and did not understand how unmarketable the band really was. I was supremely confident in our abilities, but that does not mean there was a larger audience out there for us— there wasn’t.

The album was recorded at Chung King, a studio in NYC many No Echo readers are familiar with. What are some memories that stand out from the recording sessions? What was it like collaborating with Mr. Danzig? He’s obviously used to doing things his way with his bands, so I’m curious about his process with an outside band.

I did not know anything about the studio when we loaded in— people told me about the bands that had recorded there and I didn’t like any of those bands or even remotely care about its history, although I am sure we tried to pretend like we cared in order to get through the process. 

Glenn tried to make us sound sexy and appealing in a sort of way that we found embarrassing and stupid, but it was from a desire to help us. Our typical fan was a kid so alienated and depressed that they were considering blowing up the local shopping mall, so trying to get us to appeal to the typical female metal fan was hysterical to us. When Caroline brought a box of flannel shirts to a photo shoot we refused to wear them, laughed our asses off and I pulled my underwear way up out of my pants and over my shirt— rendering the entire roll of film useless. Of course, I knew that truly alienated skater bros and their girlfriends would get the point, but there was no getting through to those idiots. I knew who our audience actually was, and they didn’t. Only one guy at Caroline knew who we were trying to reach, but he only had so much power with the marketing process. 

We were not trying to reach Danzig fans; we were trying to reach purse snatchers, pyromaniacs, skaters, bmx guys, and skate bettys.

The cover art for the album was done by Pushead. How did you guys land him, and were you involved with the concept, or did he send you several options? Did you end up meeting with him in person?

I have never met Brian [Schroeder]/Pushead and he did a great job interpreting the picture that Caroline sent him— they just sent him a different picture from the one I wanted to base the album art on. I was horrified by the album cover, but had to convince myself I wasn’t. I would have rather been kicked in the dick by a large, flightless bird than have skulls and zombie imagery associated with our band; Kinghorse was about extreme alienation and the mental illness it creates— not horror fandom or the worship of death. It was a truly horrible experience seeing my whole concept completely ignored. We were about psychic survival and the power of the individual to survive the horror of a shitty family life and being surrounded by both stupid rednecks and leftist posers who only paid lip service to the social ills they obsessively talked about. 

The label did not see the coming of “Jackass” skater culture— we did.

Wow! I figured you would have loved the Pushead cover!

Hated it.

The Pushead cover in question.

Kinghorse came out in 1990. What was the critical consensus once it was being reviewed? Also, what was the reaction like to the album back home?

The song "Caged" was wildly and consistently misunderstood, as apparently I should have titled it “A Song About the Similarities Between My Life and Ken Kesey’s Novel One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest” for people to understand that some women are very much like Nurse Ratched. 

The changes Glenn made to the songs brought nothing but bitching, moaning, and complaining from most of our original fans. It was fucking delightful. People eventually got used to the changes, but not before punishing me for being a sellout and traitor for weeks and weeks. Combine that shit with the size of G-Dawg’s name on the back of the album and you can imagine how much fun I was having. Woo-hoo! Rock and roll!

Were you happy with the way Caroline Records handled the marketing/publicity aspect of the project? Did you have allies at the label?

No. Yes. We had Chris “Woody” MacDermott.

What kind of touring did the band do in support of the album? Were you playing on mostly metal bills at that point?

We asked to be brought to a major booking agency, but Caroline quickly realized how annoying and childish 3/4 of the band was, and since we were a tax write-off project in the first place, their desire for us to just go away started with their refusal to help in that regard. We responded by having our local booking agent book shows for us a few weeks at a time in total shitholes all over the South, where we could be relatively close to the Gulf beaches. Our main desire was to jump to another major label because [former A&R executive] Michael Alago was a big fan of ours, but Alago is not even remotely stupid and knew that our antics and tomfoolery spelled nothing but trouble and potential lawsuits. We didn’t want to play 200+ shows a year, anyway. Three weeks away from Louisville and we would actually start to become unglued. These small tours were nightmarish for me because I could not sleep.

Flyer found here.

Thinking back to the era when the album was just out, do you think the band made any bad business decisions? Did you pass up on any opportunities that in retrospect you should have taken?

We were prepared to hire lawyers, sign with a real booking agency, get real management, and act like professionals when we first signed the contract with Caroline, but since I did not get to make the record I wanted to make, I made sure that nothing businesslike was ever done again— the rest of the band’s career was based upon acts of absurdist revenge, from us prank calling the head of the label at his home at 3am, to acting like idiots during every radio interview to being total raging dickheads to any magazine that asked us about G-Dawg. I kept thinking that the strength of our shows would lead us to somebody who would market us to our true demographic, but we were totally blacklisted and cockblocked in the music industry by the time the record had been out a year, and with good reason. 

Which is crazy, because after the band broke up I got multiple offers from various labels to start something new or do a solo album. They must have thought I had potential if they could get me away from my idiotic friends and this horrible town, which is totally ridiculous. Can you imagine me living in Los Angeles actually believing my own pretentious nonsense? Absurd.

Ad taken from Thrasher magazine, Feb. 1991.

What ended up happening with the Caroline Records deal? Was it simply a one-off kind of thing, or was it a bad parting of the ways?

I think if we could have come up with another batch of material within the first year that Caroline may have put out a second album, but we were not helping Mark with the writing process at all during that time. Of course, I may be completely wrong about that— it’s only a guess.

SEE ALSO: '70s Peruvian Psychedelic Rock Primer

In 1992, Kinghorse released the Going Home/Lose It 7”. Were you guys trying to secure a new record deal at that time, or was the record intended to be a stopgap kind of thing?

We were coming to terms with the fact that the only way to put out a product that represented the concept properly was to do it ourselves. I wanted to convince a label somewhere that I knew who our intended audience really was— punks who were bored with hardcore and metalheads who had recently discovered punk. We did not need to be sexy, use tired skull imagery or base our entire artistic output on some lifestyle idea that Ian Mackaye came up with— that is not a knock against Ian, only the legions of people who ran with his concept. 
 
We believed that movements were fundamentally anti-art and that the struggle of individual identity to form and break free from empty social constructs was the primary reason that people like us were chronically frustrated and unhappy; it wasn’t because you did not have a group to belong to— it was because everyone insisted you join a group that was the basis of why American society was so fucking empty and exhausting.  

I don’t want to wear a fucking uniform. People need to know which team you’re on or they can’t deal with you. Once they know which Gods you bow down to they put you into a sub-category according to your attractiveness. American life is a fucking middle school cafeteria and we were against that shit. Still are.

Flyer found here.

When exactly did Kinghorse break up the first time, and what were the circumstances around that decision?

I knew we were wasting our time.

Did you do anything musically in the two years before the Kinghorse reformation?

I stopped buying new rock music in 1984. For 25 years I listened to nothing but old stuff— primarily from the 1920s and 1930s. Blues, early jazz, and country music was pretty-much all I was interested in. In the period between Kinghorse playing shows I taught myself how to play rudimentary guitar so I could play and write more folky material.

What lead to the next Kinghorse run?

Revenge. I was so horrified by emo and ex-punks pretending to be black gang members (a true insult to black gangsters) that I reformed the band just to fuck up the party. I was planning on killing myself almost constantly at that point, and Kevin moving back to Louisville was the only thing I could think of that would possibly make life fun. It was a bad idea, but I could not think of any alternative except hanging myself.

Kinghorse performing at Louisville Gardens, 1992. (Photo: Michael Steiger)

Slamdek Records released the Too Far Gone: Unreleased Recordings 1988-1992 collection in 1994, and the band wrote new material around that time. Were you planning on going full-on once again? Did you play out a lot?

We were only interested in playing shows where we did not belong on the bill at that time— Kevin and I designed the whole thing to cause as much disruption and hilarious conflict as we possibly could, which was not really fair to Jerry and Mark. There was a faint hope that there was a label who could help market us to the skater-criminal types that liked absurdist chaos and violence as much as we did, but it was too late by then. Like I said above— I lived my entire life as an act of revenge during that period because I didn’t see the spirit of art-terror individualism alive anywhere. “Caring” and being part of “something bigger than yourself” was important because those guys were all trying to get laid. Horrifying. It made me want to kill myself even more than usual. I was not sleeping at all and I was in Hell. Hell.

Why didn’t Kinghorse ever release any of that newer material?

Because nobody cared.

What finally lead to the second and final break up of Kinghorse? Were you at peace with the decision?

I knew we were wasting our time and singing those songs every week was keeping me in a very, very dangerous place; dangerous for others. I was in a sleepless, suicidal haze from age 27-30 where I would go into REM sleep while walking or driving a car. I did not live on Earth, but in a bizarre nightmare world where people were more like talking Jungian totem poles. Flesh-symbols. It’s very hard to describe what I am talking about here— you have to not sleep and have deep, unrelenting clinical depression for a couple of years to grasp what I’m talking about. 

But I wrote some great acoustic songs during that time, too. Some of the Kinghorse material from the Jerry era is fucking ferocious— "Thief" is probably my favorite Kinghorse song of all time and Jerry was an amazing bass player.

SEE ALSO: 2016 interview with Martin Bisi (Producer, Engineer: Sonic Youth, Helmet, Material, Herbie Hancock, Swans).

Let’s talk a bit about some of the other bands you’ve been in since Kinghorse. Driftin' Luke/Sean Garrison and the Five Finger Discount was a departure from the kind of stuff you had been doing in Kinghorse. I’ve read that you went back and really got into older country and folk music.

Like I said before— I stopped buying “new music” in 1984-85 with the exception of new Smiths or Elvis Costello records (ending with Blood and Chocolate). I grew up listening to alot of crossover country music on FM radio during the 1970s, and my father (and stepfather) revered Hank Williams as a God. I also love the early Dylan albums. 

But I love Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charley Patton, The Carter Family, and Hank Williams as much as I love Minor Threat, The Birthday Party, Beatles, or The Clash. I also went through a period where I did nothing but listen to 1960s girl groups for about six months. I like really early jazz records alot too, with Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five and Bix Beiderbecke being my faves. 

I have spent alot of time listening to the early Elton John and Black Sabbath records, too. 

I wrote folky songs because I thought my mother would be impressed and I wrote country songs because I thought my father would be impressed. Of course, they are just ghosts in my own mind, but that is why I did it.

I Have a Knife was a more recent band you fronted, which was more in the tradition of what you were doing with Kinghorse, albeit with a crazier vibe to it all. 

I did IHAK because my friend Greg wanted to do it. I have not been comfortable being onstage since about 1998 or so— I am very embarrassed to say it but once I turned 30 I just lost any and all interest in being gawked at. I think once I started showing signs of aging I just felt stupid being onstage because I could no longer convince myself that time had stopped.

However, I am very proud of the IHAK material and I’m very fond of the other people who were in it. I am particularly proud of the lyrics for the IHAK songs— I can’t think of a single punk rock band with lyrics like those. 

I quit because I was tired of my occasional violent outbursts causing problems for the other members; they have alot of friends who are really, well, nice and I kept causing friction between them and these civilized people who have all these ideas about “professionalism” and “not being an asshole.”

I don’t take shit from motherfuckers in an audience. None. Zero. That is not sustainable in the modern world where everyone is in a competition to “be the bigger person.” Fuck that. I’ll stab you.

Outside of your music work, you’re also a painter. Looking through some of your paintings online, what immediately stood out to me was how vividly colorful everything is, yet, there’s always a subversive undertone to it.

My visual artwork has changed a great deal in recent months, but you are right that most of what I have created in the last 10-15 years is based upon certain core principles that I have employed since I decided I was just done playing nice with normal folks at about age 14. Attack, attack, attack. I only recently decided to create some pieces that are not based upon strategic principles and the concept of total war against any and all forms of control, but of course those concepts keep trying to sneak back in. 

Castration Party by Sean A. Garrison.

The circumstances of my existence have not been nearly as bad as they could have been, but I only know what I know. I’m grateful for my wife and my friends and the support and love they have given me, but I am not sure I’ll ever be able to shake the feeling that established itself in the first 18 years of my life— the feeling that I am surrounded on all sides with people who are trying to make me be part of something I do not believe in and that I will be consumed by; people who want to identify me and put me in the right classroom.

I will not be identified.

Sean and his wife, Kara, 2011.

***

See more of Sean's artwork on his Facebook page.

Tagged: kinghorse

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