Finding a new addiction
Tom Goyen goes from drugs to jazz
There’s something intense about Tom Goyen. At first, I thought it was his tattoos, which cover his arms, legs and neck. But really, it’s his eyes. The local musician stares at me as he talks and pauses after making a point. He doesn’t break eye contact.
Goyen says he creates music to honestly reflect his life. He wrote the song “Shining Star” in prison and still plays it to this day.
“I’ve overdosed three times—two of them I flatlined. I should be dead,” he tells me. He’s also lived under a bridge.
He’s been sober since February of 2016 and works selling and advocating for the herbal drug kratom through his company Kreative Kratom.
Music’s given Goyen a reason to live, he says. The older he’s gotten, the more he sees everything else as a roadblock between him and his passion.
“My relationship is with music,” he tells me. “It’s almost unhealthy. It’s an addiction.”
A couple of years ago, Goyen was attending a cousin’s high school graduation and was suddenly struck by the cliché graduation speeches about “potential” and “following your dreams.”
“Shit, I’ve been graduated for seven years at the time. Look at how much potential I had at one time before I started doing all these drugs,” Goyen says. “That day I asked God to give me a sign if I should pursue my passion in music or stay with my girlfriend.”
He broke up with her that night after she got drunk and “did some stupid things,” he says.
Now, we sit in his room, where he’s shot a handful of music videos. He plans to bring in other artists and make these clips into a series called Kreative Lounge. In late October, he released the single “Broke” under a new project Pair Acidic Twins. In December, he plans to release “Nicotine,” produced by R&B artist The Philharmonik.
The couple of videos Goyen has released online are a sneak peek into his solo EP coming out soon. He builds songs with guitar loops, beatboxing and grunge-era vocals. It’s tattered and soulful. He weaves in loungey guitar chords, jazzy solos and pained, poetic lyrics. A quiet ferocity builds.
Years ago, Goyen started a Queens of the Stone Age-style band—now back in the works—called Beautiful Strangers. He also played guitar in a live hip-hop band in Southern California, which he declined to name. He claims it was nominated as breakthrough artist of Los Angeles in 2010 at the “official pre-party of the MTV Video Music Awards.”
Goyen was kicked out a few weeks after that. His drug problem went from bad to worse. He started playing solo, but couldn’t sing well—people would tell him that he couldn’t sing for shit. He persisted, even during homeless stretches and time spent in jail.
“I might just be really difficult to work with,” Goyen says. “That’s not a bad thing. It just means I’m so attached to my vision that anybody else adding or changing it leaves me in dissatisfaction. Kind of like a painter.”
Since Goyen was kicked out of the band, he tells me, he’s written 59 songs. His solo looping project is coming along well. He’s really excited about his group Beautiful Strangers, but that seems to be going a little slower, as working with others is more challenging.
“It’s a strange place to be, that you’re so attached to something that you’re scared of allowing anybody in there,” Goyen says. “You can wonder why I can’t even start a band. Shit, I couldn’t even date the girl of my dreams. That’s how independent I have to be about this whole thing. I don’t want anybody messing with it.”