If You Go:
DERRY, NH – Way before alternative rock was even a thing and heavy metal was still relatively new, there was a band laying down the foundation for the former while putting a creative spin on the latter. They go by the name of King’s X and the trio of vocalist and bassist Doug Pinnick, guitarist Ty Tabor and drummer Jerry Gaskill can definitely bring the emphasis and the amplification.
There’s a good chance that some of your favorite rock bands from the ‘80s onward have been influenced by these guys whether they realize it or not. As part of a small tour they’re doing around New England, King’s X is going to be shredding up Tupelo Music Hall in Derry on October 28. Progressive alt-rock act Trope are going to be kicking the night off at 8 p.m.
Pinnick and I had a chat ahead of the show about how King’s X crafted their unique style, utilizing a specific tuning to write some of the band’s early material, how he’s always had an affinity for the bass and hopefully taking less time than previously to put out a new album.
Rob Duguay: Ever since the band’s start back in 1979, King’s X has been heralded for pioneering an approach to hard rock music that incorporates progressive structures along with vocal arrangements that are inspired by blues, gospel and British rock bands from the ’60s. When you, Jerry and Ty started hashing out ideas for songs together, what inspired this particular sound?
Doug Pinnick: It was more of one thing leading to another. Growing up in Springfield, Missouri, it’s a college town and they have a lot of colleges there. Everybody was into music that wasn’t hip, all the bands were playing jangly guitars while pogoing around and people were into punk rock and new wave. We dabbled in that for a while, we played that kind of stuff but Ty would never turn his guitar down so it always gave this edge and tone we could never get rid of and I’m glad that we didn’t. As we were doing that, we were going through different modes of music because we all love Black Sabbath and U2 so there was this wide variety of ideas that came from us.
Ty grew up playing bluegrass music with his dad. They used to play these bluegrass festivals, so he has a unique way of playing, and Jerry listens to Gene Krupa a lot so that gave him a whole different look at the way he approaches drumming. John Bonham is his favorite drummer so we put all that together with me and my gospel roots. We just started throwing everything together in a pile and what really changed things was in 1985 or ‘86, Ty wrote “Pleiades.” There’s a Drop D tuning that’s usually used in bluegrass and he decided to write a song in that tuning to try to make it similar to “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” by The Beatles.
He said that’s what he was going for and when he Drop D-tuned, I saw how interesting the tuning was and how easy it was to play. I probably wrote seven or eight of the songs on the first album in the Drop D tuning that Ty showed me from bluegrass and from that point I think it opened doors for us to go anywhere we wanted to. That guitar tuning leans towards exploring the guitar in a different way and I think it’s all been explored at this point. It’s been worn out, but it was a really cool thing at the time it happened.
RD: You, Jerry and Ty have been in King’s X together for over 40 years, so what would you say is the main thing that has been you three working on music as a power trio for this long? Is it patience, having mutual creative and musical perspectives or is it something else?
DP: It’s the lack of fame (laughs). If we were rich rock stars, we would have broken up a long time ago. We’re not broke rock stars because we can still make a living at what we do, so we just keep going. It’s sort of like a marriage, this is what we decided to do for the rest of our lives. There’s never been any thought on anything other than making another record for the people who love to hear us, it’s always been that way.
RD: What made you want to start playing bass after you began singing in the choir and playing saxophone while in grade school?
DP: I always wanted to play bass my whole life. The first time I heard the instrument, I’ve told this story a million times, it was while listening to Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers’ “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” and I can still hum that bass line. I was a kid around nine or 10 years old and that bass line stuck out to me so much and it was all I wanted to hear. From that point on, the low end was my obsession because I just loved it. I listened to bass all through high school up until I started playing it when I was 23, all I listened to was the bass on a record.
I now listen to other things, but I still mainly listen to the bass. I don’t realize the other things that are going on at the time because I’m so focused on it. It’s like autism or something, but I really loved it. When I started playing bass, which was pretty late in my youth, everybody made me sing because I was either the better singer in the band or they couldn’t find anybody else so I got stuck singing and it became a part of it.
RD: The upcoming show at Tupelo Music Hall is one of a few shows King’s X has happening around the New England region. Being from the Midwest, what are your thoughts on performing in this part of the country?
DP: We’ve been touring across the United States for 40 years so we’ve played up in New England many times. I live in Los Angeles now, I grew up in Chicago and King’s X was stationed in Texas for about 35 years, so I’ve lived in a lot of different places and I’ve played a lot of places. It’s always said that King’s X fans are rabid, they know all the words, they’re so excited and we just love to play for them. I don’t know how else to put it, but I do love playing around the Northeast, all around there. There’s a lot of people who love rock & roll in that part of the country, it’s a good place to play.
RD: It took over a decade for King’s X to make their latest album Three Sides of One that came out last year, so do you guys have enough music to make another record going into 2024 or do you plan on laying low for a bit after this small tour?
DP: You know, everything we do in this band is when somebody has an idea and we all decide if we should go for it or not. About a month ago, I mentioned that we should think about doing another record. Ty said “Yeah! We gotta do another record!” and Jerry said the same thing. We got a whole bunch of songs, so if it makes sense we’ll make another one but that’s the last we’ve talked about it. If we all find the perfect time and the perfect situation, it’s all business and stuff but we’re always ready to make another record.
The reason why it took so long for us to make the last one was because the guys initially didn’t want to. They felt like we didn’t have something worth giving to people and we didn’t want to come back with just the same old stuff again, but we’ve always got music to go and if we got records then we’ll put them out every week.