King's X is an American rock band that combines progressive metal, funk and soul with vocal arrangements influenced by gospel, blues, and British Invasion rock groups. The band's lyrics are largely based on the members' struggles with religion and self-acceptance. King's X was ranked No. 83 on VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock.
Since being signed to Megaforce Records in 1987, King's X has released twelve studio albums, one official live album, and several independent releases. The band's most recent release, XV (album), was released on the InsideOut Music label. Early in their major label career saw the band on several opening slots on arena tours, including opening for AC/DC and the Woodstock '94 festival.
Since leaving Atlantic records following the release of Ear Candy King's X have released albums through Metal Blade Records, InsideOut Music and independently, and as of January 2014 continue to tour and perform live. Each member of the group has recorded solo albums and has made numerous guest appearances on other artists' albums and compilation projects. Doug Pinnick and Ty Tabor also have albums released with side bands in which they participate.
The spiritual nature of the band's lyrics, particularly on their first three albums, has often led to them being labeled a Christian rock band, a label the members have rejected.
Early years (1980 - 1984)
The group traces its beginnings to 1979 in Springfield, Missouri, when bassist Doug Pinnick and drummer Jerry Gaskill were brought together to take part in a musical project coordinated by Greg X. Volz of the Christian rock band Petra. Within a month of Pinnick's arrival from Illinois, the project folded and he and Gaskill were left without a band. They soon landed a job as rhythm section for guitarist Phil Keaggy's live band. The two toured the country for several months in support of Keaggy's album Ph'lip Side. During the group's show in Springfield, Gaskill was approached by Ty Tabor who was a member of the opening band that night. The drummer for Tabor's band had quit the night before the show and Tabor had volunteered to take over on drums for the gig. However, seeing as he had no drums, he was forced to ask Gaskill if he could borrow his kit for the show. Gaskill obliged and the show went on.
When the tour ended, Pinnick and Gaskill returned to Springfield and set about looking for more work. Gaskill landed a job doing demo work for the Tracy Zinn Band that happened to include Ty Tabor on guitar. The two became friends and were involved off and on together in different musical projects.
In the spring of 1980, Pinnick attended a music show at Evangel College and watched a set by another of Tabor's bands. Pinnick was impressed with Tabor's skills and the two soon began collaborating musically.
Eventually Gaskill, Pinnick, and Tabor decided to pool their talents into a single outlet. Calling themselves The Edge, they initially were a four piece with the inclusion of Dan McCollam on rhythm guitar. McCollam quit after only a brief time and was replaced by Kirk Henderson, who was a friend of Tabor's from Jackson, Mississippi. The group performed extensively on the Springfield bar and club circuit specializing in classic rock and Top 40 covers at the time.
By 1983, Henderson had quit the band and Pinnick, Tabor, and Gaskill decided to continue on as a trio. They also decided to change the name of the band, and settled on calling themselves Sneak Preview.
The group had been writing and recording many original songs up to this point. They chose ten of these songs to record for an independently released self-titled LP in 1983. After the album's release, the band continued to tour and hone their songwriting skills.
Move to Houston (1985 - 1987)
By 1985, the group had made connections at Star Song Records based in Houston, Texas and were encouraged to move the band there. The first order of business for the three was to become part of a touring band for CCM artist Morgan Cryar. Tabor and Pinnick are also credited for co-writing several songs on Cryar's second album Fuel on the Fire in 1986. Tabor also performed some guitar parts on the album and both he and Pinnick are credited with background vocals.
However, when it came to signing Sneak Preview to a recording contract with Star Song, negotiations broke down and the deal came to a halt.
While in Houston, the group met Sam Taylor, then vice president of ZZ Top's production company. Taylor quickly became interested in the trio and convinced them to change their name to King's X. He also supported and nurtured the group's transition from radio friendly, rock originals to a more experimental and complex songwriting style. Taylor would soon become the group's manager, producer, mentor, and according to some, the fourth member of the group. He was instrumental in helping the group secure a contract with Megaforce Records in 1987.
Megaforce era (1988 - 1989)
The group released its first album as King's X, entitled Out of the Silent Planet, in 1988. Despite being hailed by music critics, the album did not fare well commercially, peaking at No. 144 on the Billboard album charts. The songs "King" and "Shot of Love" were released as singles, but failed to garner much attention. The album derives its name from the C. S. Lewis novel Out of the Silent Planet. This appears to be the band's first of multiple references to the British author.
In 1989, the band released Gretchen Goes to Nebraska. Considered by many fans to be their landmark album and most creative period, the album fared only slightly better from a commercial standpoint than Out of the Silent Planet. The album contains many fan favorites such as "Summerland", "Mission", and "The Burning Down". The song "The Difference (In the Garden of St. Anne's-on-the-Hill)" appears to be another C.S. Lewis reference, this time to a scene in the book That Hideous Strength, third and final installment of the "science-fiction" trilogy begun by Out of the Silent Planet. The song "Pleiades" is credited by Ty Tabor as being the genesis of the King's X sound when he presented the demo to the other band members a few years earlier. Significantly, the song "Over My Head" received moderate airplay on MTV and radio. The increase in exposure would prove beneficial when the band released their third album, Faith, Hope, Love, in the fall of 1990.
Faith Hope Love was the group's first album to crack the US Top 100, with the help of the successful single "It's Love". Another track, the funk-rock "We Were Born to Be Loved", has enjoyed a long life on Late Show with David Letterman as a commercial bumper instrumental favorite of Paul Shaffer's CBS Orchestra. Still, with major mainstream success continuously eluding them, King's X began questioning Sam Taylor's commitment to the group.
The band landed the opening slot for AC/DC in the U.S. and Europe for the first half of 1991. They also toured with Living Colour, themselves near the peak of their popularity. That summer, their song "Junior's Gone Wild" appeared on the soundtrack to the movie Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey.
Atlantic era (1990 - 1997)
The band was moved up to Megaforce's parent label Atlantic Records for the release of their fourth album, King's X, in the spring of 1992. But rising tensions with Taylor led the band to eschew the upbeat approach of previous albums and turn out a darker, more introspective effort. Unfortunately, despite critical praise, their new style did not translate well among the record-buying public, thus garnering fewer sales than Faith, Hope, Love. "Black Flag," the album's lone single, received only moderate airplay on MTV and radio. Not long after the release of King's X, the band parted ways with Taylor. The details of the split were not made public, but it was believed to be rather bitter. Taylor would admit in 1996 that his company Wilde Silas MusicWorks was growing and, as a result, he was no longer giving King's X, whom he considered "the top dogs," the attention they deserved. In the aftermath, King's X took over a year off to consider their collective future together. The band members followed other, non-musical pursuits; most notably, guitarist Ty Tabor took up semi-professional motocross motorcycle racing.
With grunge at the peak of its popularity, and Pearl Jam's bassist Jeff Ament declaring that "King's X invented grunge" (despite the group's trademark sound being very different from that of the commercially successful grunge acts), the band went looking for a new sound upon their return. They enlisted veteran producer Brendan O'Brien, who had recently produced albums for the Stone Temple Pilots and Pearl Jam. The resulting album, 1994's Dogman, showcased a much more muscular and heavy sound from the group, along with less abstract and spiritual lyrics. The record received a heavier promotional push from Atlantic including a compilation promotional CD entitled: Building Blox, as King's X enjoyed a successful tour, capped by an appearance at the Woodstock 94 festival in August. But despite a return to the Top 100 for the group, the album failed to sell as well as Atlantic had hoped, and the label's support for the group quickly faded.
The band's third release under Atlantic, 1996's Ear Candy, would also be their last for the label (not including a subsequent Best of King's X compilation). Although it sold to the band's sizeable core following, it lacked the relative mainstream success of previous efforts. The record was soon out of print, and it seemed that the group's chance for commercial success had come and gone.
Metal Blade era (1998 - 2004)
The group moved to Metal Blade Records in 1998. Their first album under the label, Tape Head, signaled a new era for the band. They modified their creative methods by writing and recording the album together in the studio, rather than coming together to record songs that the individual members had written separately. They also elected not to hire an outside producer and recorded the album at Pinnick's Hound Pound and Tabor's Alien Beans Studios, thus cutting production costs. Their next two albums, Please Come Home... Mr. Bulbous (2000) and Manic Moonlight (2001), were more or less created in the same way.
Manic Moonlight featured the band experimenting with electronic drum loops and other sounds for the first time on a record. The new direction, along with the relatively short length of the album, was generally not well received by longtime fans, but did get some positive critical reviews.
For their next album, 2003's Black Like Sunday, the group arranged and recorded an album of original songs that the band had regularly performed during The Edge and Sneak Preview days of the early 1980s. The cover art for this album was selected from artwork submitted by fans in an online contest.
The double-disc set Live All Over The Place (2004) was the band's final album for Metal Blade Records, and their first official live release.
InsideOut era (2005 - present)
In 2005, King's X signed to InsideOut Music, the label that had previously released some of Tabor's side projects. The album Ogre Tones was released in September 2005 and was described by many as a return to a more "classic" King's X sound. It was produced by famed rock producer Michael Wagener (Dokken, Extreme, Stryper, White Lion, Skid Row) and recorded at Wageners Wire-World Studios in Nashville, Tennessee. The tour for Ogre Tones featured the band playing every song from the album during shows.
King's X again worked with Michael Wagener on its second album for InsideOut Music titled XV, released in May 2008. They spent the summer of 2008 touring with the band Extreme as part of a travelling version of the Rock 'n Roll Fantasy Camp. Live dates in the U.S. in December 2008 were followed by the band's first European tour in several years in early 2009.
Molken Music, an independent label started by Wally Farkas (ex- Galactic Cowboys) in 2005, has released several titles by King's X and its members. Live & Live Some More, a live concert recorded during the Dogman tour, is available there as well as demo compilations, rehearsal tapes, and other items. The label released the band's first live DVD, Gretchen Goes to London in November 2008. It was a live concert filmed in London in 1990. On January 22, 2009, their concert at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, London, was filmed and released as a live DVD and CD entitled "Live Love in London".
On February 26, 2012, Jerry Gaskill suffered a heart attack temporarily stopping the band's touring schedule, and was on a ventilator for several days, also suffering from pneumonia. Later, King's X compiled an exclusive live release from their archives entitled, Burning Down Boston: Live at The Channel 6.12.91. The proceeds from the release are scheduled to go directly to Gaskill in helping him to offset mounting medical expenses. Gaskill posted a video message on Facebook on April 4, 2012, thanking everyone who had supported him during his illness.
Solo and side projects
The members of King's X have been musically prolific since the separation from Atlantic in 1997, releasing a number of solo albums and participating in side bands.
Doug Pinnick recorded two solo albums under the name of Poundhound, Massive Grooves... (1997) and Pineappleskunk (2001), while the subsequent releases Emotional Animal (2005) and Strum Sum Up (2007) were credited as dUg Pinnick.
Ty Tabor has released seven solo albums: Naomi's Solar Pumpkin (1997), Moonflower Lane (1998), Safety (2002), Rock Garden (2006), Balance (2008), Something's Coming , Trip Magnet (2010) , and Nobody Wins When Nobody Plays (2013)
Jerry Gaskill released a solo album in 2004 titled Come Somewhere and also played drums in "The Sale" video (a band called Black-N-Blues, featuring multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, producer D.A. Karkos, and his brother Andre Virus Karkos from the band Dope).
Jerry Gaskill is currently working on his second solo release with D A Karkos at Karkos's Underdog Studio, and is scheduled to release on EMMJAM records in 2014. The sessions began in January as Gaskill and Karkos tracked the drums with legendary producer, Michael Wagener, at Wagener's WireWorld Studio in Nashville.
Tabor has additionally played with several bands other than King's X, releasing two albums with Platypus, one album with Jughead, and three albums with The Jelly Jam. He also has an electronica style project with Wally Farkas called Xenuphobe with two albums released through Molken Music. In 2008, Tabor also recorded vocal parts for the song "Connect the Dots" off the Ayreon album 01011001.
Doug Pinnick released one album with Trouble guitarist Bruce Franklin called Supershine in 2000 as well as one album with The Mob featuring Reb Beach and Kelly Keaggy in 2005.
Pinnick has recorded several cover songs for various tribute albums including the Jimi Hendrix tribute In From The Storm performing lead vocals on the song "Burning Of The Midnight Lamp" as well as tributes to Van Halen, Pink Floyd, Kiss, Metallica and others. There is a demo recording of Doug with Dimebag Darrell of Pantera performing a cover of Cream's "Born Under A Bad Sign".
Pinnick stood in for lead singer Corey Glover on Living Colour's August 2006 European tour.
Whether the band's name was intended as a Christian reference or not, the band members themselves have resisted being identified as a Christian metal or Christian rock band. Although many of their early lyrics have a clear spiritual influence, generally this came from the individual faith of the members rather than an explicit attempt to tap into the contemporary Christian music market in the way groups such as Petra did. The fact that King's X signed to Christian labels early in their career and that the Faith Hope Love CD insert contained an entire chapter of the Bible, likely further fueled their association as a Christian band. What's more, some of their albums were marketed through Christian book stores, but most removed King's X records after Pinnick's announcement in 1998 of his homosexuality. A former Protestant, Pinnick has since openly discussed his agnosticism and his belief that Jesus Christ was not truly the Son of God. Bandmates Tabor and Gaskill, however, have a background in Christian rock and self-identify as Christians.
Doug Pinnick – bass guitar, lead & backing vocals (1980–present)
Ty Tabor – lead guitar, backing & lead vocals (1980–present)
Jerry Gaskill – drums, percussion, backing & lead vocals (1980–present)
Dan McCollam – rhythm guitar, backing vocals (1980)
Kirk Henderson – rhythm guitar, backing vocals (1980–1983)