King’s X continues to cross boundaries

by Jeff Sykes @jeffreysykes

Just a few minutes spent listening to King’s X tracks on YouTube will give you a feel for how much the band means to its fans.

“The best power trio in America,” one viewer writes.

“Criminally underrated,” opines another. The band released its first album, Out of the Silent Planet, in 1988. Its members had spent most of the previous decade working together on various projects and honing their skills as touring musicians for larger acts. Twenty-seven years later, King’s X rocks as hard as ever thanks to the energy behind front man and bassist Doug Pinnick’s songwriting.

Pinnick said during a phone interview last week from his home in Los Angeles that the band, which includes Ty Tabor on guitar and Jerry Gaskill on drums, remains thankful for their career in rock, even if whimsical tastes and pop trends meant that King’s X never quite realized mainstream success.

“I like to tell people that it’s an adventure,” Pinnick said. “At first, we wanted to be super rock stars “¦ through our journey we saw another thing happen. We became the legendary band that never got its due. But people really love us and that’s what I appreciate. I think we’ve come full circle. You get to a place where you find reality in life: this is where we are now, we can still work and make a living and still have fun so it’s all good.”

King’s X followed its 1988 debut with a second album, Gretchen Goes to Nebraska, released the next year. Combining deep groves and crunchy riffs with at times Beatles-esque layered lyrics, the album is considered one of the band’s best. Songs like “Over My Head” and “Summerland” separated the band from the hair-metal glam that dominated rock at the time. Appearances on MTV’s seminal “Head Bangers Ball” should have given the band the exposure needed to take the world by storm. The band opened for major acts like AC/DC and Living Colour after the release of 1990’s Faith Hope Love, but the emergence of grunge left the band in a void despite Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ahment declaring that “King’s X invented grunge.”

Anyone who paid attention to the band during that time remains a committed fan.

Pinnick said the band is thrilled with the crowd response at its recent tour stops.

“The shows are going great. We are filling them up and having a lot of fun,” he said. “We do what we want to do, mainly, but we try to do what the people love. Our fans know the deep cuts, so we like to do the things that you would hear normally.”

And yes, Pinnick said in response to a question from a YES! Weekly reader submitted via Facebook, he does still hear music “over his head.”

“I hear music all the time, just like any musician does,” Pinnick said.

Pinnick has said in previous interviews that he got his start in music singing in church with his mother and grandmother. A cousin taught him how to harmonize. That was when he was about six. Instrumentally, Pinnick said that he’s always been obsessed with the bass, picking out the bass lines in most popular songs. It wasn’t until he was 23 that he picked it up and began playing.

“It was so natural to me because it was something I’ve wanted to do all my life,” he said. “I love playing bass more than singing.”

Pinnick said it’s not hard for the band to pick back up together after being separated and working on side projects. Drummer Gaskill has released one solo album, with guitarist Tabor being prolific with solo albums and guest appearances. Pinnick himself is a fount of productivity, evidenced by recent projects Pinnick Gales Pridgen, KXM, and most recently, Grinder Blues.

A KXM track “Gun Fight” is featured on Pinnick’s personal website. In the video, he appears dressed as the president speaking from the White House about rising tension in society. KXM formed in early 2013 when Pinnick got together with guitarist George Lynch (Lynch Mob/Dokken) and drummer Ray Luzier of KORN. Pinnick said the song was in response to political arguments about guns and gun control and the creeping feeling many in the United States have that the government is infringing on civil liberties. Pinnick said he took inspiration, or expressed frustration, with the state of civil discourse on the topic.

“I think people are getting really frustrated with the US and I was just hypothetically looking at what would happen if there was martial law because people aren’t going to put up with that stuff,” Pinnick said.

Like many successful artists, Pinnick has an ability to weave together threads from a variety of pop culture and socio-political influences. He tries to keep in mind a piece of advice an early music teacher gave him, that all rules are made to be broken, and to continually stretch his “outside the box” writing style.

“I took that to heart,” he said. “Lyrically, I like to sing about things that I’m going through that people can relate to.”

It’s not effortless, however. “It’s work, but it’s something that I can do and I’ve never had a lack for inspiration,” Pinnick said.

Themes of love and spirituality remain evident in albums released by King’s X, as does the lower alternate tunings the band is known for. Pinnick said guitarist Tabor brought that to the table early on, having played bluegrass in his youth. Tabor brought some tunes in that were composed in drop D (low E string tuned down to D). The band plays mostly in drop C now. One thing that hasn’t changed is Pinnick’s ability to write songs that resonate with listeners.

He said that often what a person doesn’t get in childhood, they remain obsessed with over time. Pinnick said he was sort of abandoned by his parents early on.

“The love thing was always an issue with me so I sing about love a lot because I’m obsessed with it,” he said. “The masses might not be able to, but there are a group of people that absolutely understand what I’m singing. They get some kind of relief, or don’t feel alone. They can relate.”!

Want to go? King’s X will play The Blind Tiger on Saturday, Sept. 12 in Greensboro. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 day of the show. Doors open at 6 p.m. Kings of Spade, Chemical Youth and The Pretty Ugly are scheduled to perform. For more info visit