When I first met Theo Polyzoides, it was in the upstairs of the LCR (who knew it had an upstairs?) and I’d met all the other band members of King Nun on the way in, having spoken to Nathan Gane and Caius Stockley-Young for a few minutes outside while waiting for the interview. It felt a bit like that tracking shot from Goodfellas where Ray Liotta’s character leads his wife down the back of the restaurant, shaking hands with various people, except for me it was the Bassist and Drummer of King Nun leading me round the LCR, shaking hands with guitarist James Upton, and after ducking under a rope (“is this limboing?” Gane proffered), I went in and met Theo.
He instantly wanted to go back outside and asked me if that was okay, then we went back the way I came, with some minor confusion and eventually we settled sitting on the bench outside the Drama studio looking across the fields, as the hustle and bustle of 5pm went on around us. He said he liked being outside and needed some fresh air. I guess this was the first impression, just one of those people who, even when calm, just exude energy.
We spoke a couple of times about university, sometimes less formally like drinking culture or club nights, but one highlight was when Polyzoides spoke about how he liked playing Universities.
“the students are the ones who need the music the best, music is a source of inspiration for everything you do in your whole life, unlike any other media, I think if you watch something visual, you put yourself in that position, in that plot, but music applies itself to your own life, I think music is the cogs that keep shit going, and it’s so important for people who are under as much stress as students are nowadays”.
So much of King Nun’ work is applicable to younger people, but Polyzoides says the “only person” he ever writes for is a younger version of himself when he “got into music initially”, saying that “quite a lot of the things I’m talking about on this album would relate to things I was dealing with back then and kind of things that are happening now”, describing it as “almost like a conversation”. We got back to this concept when we spoke about the R.E.M. song ‘Night Swimming’, how as you get older, you become more confident and the awkwardness is kind of stripped away, but that fragility of youth is so important, how Polyzoides is “envious now of that awkwardness”, because everything is so much more raw, and when you’re older everything numbs a bit – “if things are more painful, they’re easier to write about”.
Later on, we discussed how Polyzoides positions himself as an artist, with him referencing the Neil Gaiman comic book series ‘Sandman’, speaking about the quote the fictionalised version of Shakespeare says “I think I’ve seen my life through someone else’s eyes”, and how it related to how the idea of an artist always watching out, operating with a third eye, watching out for themselves, and that he can’t start enjoying interviews, because he “doesn’t think anyone should enjoy talking about themselves too much”.
One of the key things about King Nun is that the influences are shown right on the cuff, but their music isn’t the same as any one of them. When asked about their influences, Polyzoides can go right to heavy hitters, Lou Reed, Velvet Underground, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, anything that was “untethered”. It’s a big theme of King Nun’s oeuvre, not being able to be defined by anything, and it’s what got Polyzoides into this type of music, “anything that felt free”. It’s the same truth applied to King Nun’s on-stage performance,
“we’ve just got this impression that we’ve just got to get right up to this edge, where it’s either all going to go fucking wrong, just terribly, or we’ll come out heroes, and if we can get on that line, it’s where our music works best”.
Polyzoides says that all he’s trying to do with his music is appeasing himself when he was younger, just trying to surprise himself, and his bandmates surprise himself all the time, because you can only really be moved when something is different – when it’s something you haven’t heard before. It’s the same idea with what makes surrealism so appealing to him, the idea of “taking the latches off of what you’re saying” and telling a story without the needless constraints of reality, just that everything needs some sort of mystery in order to be exciting, and the interpretation doesn’t even matter, “everyone’s interpretation on the entire planet is entirely right or entirely wrong, it keeps it intriguing”.
I think Polyzoides is just one of those people who it isn’t possible to nail down precisely what and who he is, the same way you can’t judge any part of the band through the prism of traditional music, or you can’t understand surrealism without looking at the themes beyond the setting. King Nun aren’t punk, they aren’t alt rock, they aren’t indie rock, they aren’t anything like a dictionary definition of what music is, but that’s what makes them so exciting and interesting to follow. A mystery. Something completely different.