Sad News

Frank Swider
Kirk Rundstrom at SXSW
As my colleague Jason Harper at the Pitch just reported, Kirk Rundstrom of Split Lip Rayfield and Scroatbelly passed away this morning. While originally given a few months to live last spring after being diagnosed with esophageal cancer, Rundstrom exceeded expectations and passed through St. Louis clubs several times in the meantime.

When Roy Kasten talked to Rundstrom last August, the latter was realistic about his prognosis, but still hell-bent on playing until the end. (And indeed, SLR was supposed to open for Yonder Mountain String Band this weekend at the Pageant, up until a few days ago.) After the jump, here's the text from the interview, which is found here.

B-Sides: I've been dreading this [interview] more than Terri Gross would dread a chat with Gene Simmons.

Kirk Rundstrom: Why?

I've never interviewed someone living under a death sentence.

I'm still alive. If you think about it, we're all living under a death sentence.

Do you have a history of cancer in your family?

I was adopted, so I don't really know. My mother died of cancer at 56 years of age. I saw what chemo did for her.

The disease hit you very hard and very fast.

I had symptoms before I was diagnosed. I was rotating in and out of tours. I'd just done 58 shows in a row. I thought it was because I was singing every night, and the pain in my back was from the road. I was healthy. No drugs, no fast food, no alcohol.

Were you a smoker?

I used to do drugs, drink and smoke. But for the last few years, I've been clean and sober. I know all that stuff had an effect. You are what you put into your body. I'm a firm believer of that.

What alternative therapies are you trying?

I get Vitamin C intravenously, acupuncture, very strict diet, no sugar. I am planning on living and not dying. For the majority of cancer patients, you get diagnosed, it's such a scary thing. The doctor says they're going to do chemo, which is a little bit of hope, and you jump at it. I think chemo is America's form of euthanasia, for the most part.

It can be brutal.

They can't find a cure for cancer. It's ridiculous. One woman with breast cancer can walk into a hospital, and she gets chemo, and it clears it. Another woman gets the same treatment and it spreads through her body. The doctors don't change the course. They give her the same chemo. I don't know if that's because drug companies took doctors out on a Caribbean cruise and said, "This is the drug we're pushing this year." But if something doesn't work, you have to try something different.

Do you feel strong enough to tour?

I haven't left home since January. I'm a human pincushion. Every day I am off the chemo, the more I get the drugs out of my body, the better I feel. I'm just now getting the strength to form the chords. But if for some reason I only have a little time left, I don't want to spend it in a bed.

-Annie Zaleski

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