K.A.R.L. (Kill All Remaining Life) is an electronic/industrial band that formed in 2007. Since then, they have released an untitled debut EP (2009), their self-titled record in 2010, the Rapture EP (2020), and earlier this year, a second full-length album, Tractus. I recently had the opportunity to talk to vocalist/engineer TJ Breedlove about the new album, the band’s beginnings, and what the future holds for K.A.R.L.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to me, and congrats on the release of Tractus! Can you tell me a little bit about the album? What was the writing/recording process, and where did you draw your inspiration for the writing of the album?
TJ: Thank you so much for this interview! The writing process for Tractus started in 2021 and was, at first, largely built around internal struggle with mental health and negative outlooks on the world. Gradually, as the world kept diving further into chaos, I kept gathering more to write about. Though not all tracks are negative. I wrote a track that’s on there for my wife, who has been so loving and supportive throughout this process. The album, which was initially supposed to be 8 -10 tracks, evolved into 13 tracks over time.
For my own personal curiosity, what’s the story behind “Beg Me”? (That was one of my favorite tracks, so I’m interested in the creation of it.)
TJ: “Beg Me” is about internal anger. Built and kept inside for so long, and the violent fantasy of unleashing it. The song itself doesn’t promote violence, but as humans, we often face something that internally drives us to that level of anger and frustration. Some carry that anger for way too long and have no healthy way to release it. That song, though, was the last one recorded for the album. I had a very difficult time writing it for various reasons.
So, getting onto the subject of you, in particular: What made you want to pursue a career in music?
TJ: I’ve always wanted to be in a band since I was very young. I grew up listening to all types of music, like metal (black, thrash, death, and nu), grunge rock, and classic rock, but industrial has always been my favorite genre, particularly Darkwave. As I grew into my teens, I gathered quite the collection of CDs from different artists. Everywhere I went, I had a portable CD player and a stack of CDs from different genres with me. I couldn’t function without it.
Who are your biggest influences?
TJ: For me personally, I have so many. Project Pitchfork, Skinny Puppy, Spahn Ranch, Front 242, Chiasm, Jonathan Davis (KoRn and his solo stuff too).
Is there any artist or band you listen to that you think would surprise most people?
TJ: I have a very weird and random collection of music. Often when I randomize a playlist, people around will hear a lot of industrial or some form of metal, then all of the sudden, Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man” will play. Sometimes, I get on a 70s kick and can’t stop listening to Zeppelin or Boston or Blue Oyster Cult. I don’t understand why some find that weird. Those bands kick ass!
I’m a big 70s fan myself. I grew up with those bands because of my parents. How did the formation of K.A.R.L. come about? And where did the name come from?
TJ: K.A.R.L. was initially formed in 2007 by me and my friend Josh [Johnson, drums/synth] as a very short-lived experimental black metal project. It soon after evolved into an industrial band.
Josh is very talented, and I truly am lucky to have him as both a friend and fellow musician. He taught me a lot of what I know on the keys, and we both created the monster that is K.A.R.L.
The band has other members come and go. At one point, in 2011, the band split apart due to disagreements and other personal reasons. Then, in 2018, Josh and I rebooted the project and released our EP Rapture.
The name was given to me when a friend from our school named Ivy came up to me and introduced herself. She said “Hi, my name is Ivy. Who are you?” I responded “TJ” and she said “Hmmmmm. No, no, don’t like that. I’m gonna call you Karl, with a K.” It was one of the strangest conversations I’ve ever had, but the name stuck with me. Josh and I later turned it into “K.A.R.L. ( Kill All Remaining Life)”. Some have often referenced it meaning “all who sin pay with death” or something biblical along those lines.
Wow, you guys have been around for a while! How do you stay motivated to keep writing, and how do you feel your approach has changed over the years?
TJ: Lyrically, we have always been inspired by world events and the overall mood it puts us all in. For example, “God Is Watching” was written about various things that made us angry at the world and what we see on TV (school shootings, war, mass casualty events, and other things of that nature), things that even though they’re always addressed, never seem to have a solution to them. Unfortunately, the world we live in keeps churning up more horrors for us (and other artists) to keep writing about.
Songs like “S/M Goddess” and “Shameless,” both from previous releases, dive into sexual desire and pursuing things outside the norm, while songs like “Shutting Down” and “Severed” dive into depression and the seemingly endless cycles of battling memories we can’t let go of.
In 2007-2010, we were also transitioning from those angry teenage years into our twenties, which had moments of chaos. That definitely fueled a lot when it came to writing. Now, when it comes to our songs, a lot of the same themes remain, but we approach them at a different, more mature angle. We’ve always used music
as a way to help us vent and truly express certain views. But all songs written are not negative or violent; some are written about forgiveness and that not all our mistakes are a life sentence.
Well, there’s definitely no shortage of world happenings to fuel y’all. And on that subject, what are the plans for 2023? More new music, or maybe some shows promoting Tractus?
TJ: I am currently writing another EP that I’m aiming to release in late 2023 or early to mid 2024. I’m actually more than halfway done. I do plan on doing some shows in the near future. I just have to tighten up a few things first.
Speaking of shows, what would be your dream lineup? K.A.R.L. with special guests…?
TJ: I’d love the opportunity to open up for Project Pitchfork, Leæther Strip, and Decoded Feedback. I’ve also found some other bands on FB, like SinThya, who I’d like to do a show with as well.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans, new and old?
TJ: I want to say thank you to all our fans, new and old, who have supported us throughout the years. You are truly the best part of all this.
And last but not least, where can my readers get their hands on K.A.R.L.’s music?
TJ: Our main page for merch is our Bandcamp page. We are also on all major streaming platforms such as Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, Pandora, and many more.
K.A.R.L. has a lot in the works, and I think 2023 and 2024 are going to be big for them! You can check them out on your favorite streaming service and follow their various socials to stay up-to-date with what’s happening in the world of K.A.R.L.