If you’re reading this and have never heard of King’s X before, what can I say except you’re welcome. You now have an opportunity to familiarize yourself with one of the most criminally overlooked bands of the last 35 years and I’m honored to be your guide.
Founded by singer/bassist dUg Pinnick, guitarist Ty Tabor, and drummer Jerry Gaskill, King’s X is a trio that has consistently defied ordinary genre classification. They released 12 studio albums between 1988 and 2008, and their latest gem, “Three Sides of One,” ends a 14-year hiatus from the studio to put the discography at a cool baker’s dozen. They’ve been cited as an influence by everyone from Alice in Chains to Pantera yet never broke through enough to become the household name that they deserve to be, so hopefully the urgency and soulful radiance behind this new collection gives them a chance to rectify that.
Elements of prog, metal, hard rock, funk, and gospel are all here as usual, but this is not an example of an older band putting something out halfheartedly. Every song has a purpose and all three guys converge to make a statement worthy of their legacy.
I spoke with dUg recently about the album and the humble confidence with which he presented himself makes his journey all the more easy to root for.
MNOD: It’s hard to believe that 14 years have passed since we heard something new from King’s X, but “Three Sides of One” couldn’t come at a better time. Tell me how the project came together.
Pinnick: The long break just kind of happened that way. Nobody wanted it. We’ve consistently played shows this whole time, but we weren’t going to make a new album unless it was exactly how we wanted it to be. We wanted every song to sound like a single. The only way that Jerry and Ty would do it is if it was better than everything else we’ve ever done, so there was a real focus on getting to that level both musically and sonically. I brought 27 songs to the table for this and we even talked about doing a double album at one point, but that would have been too much. We’re in a whole new world now compared to 2008, because the Internet wasn’t as crazy then as it is now. With Facebook and Twitter, people are now putting out reviews of stuff immediately. Sometimes I’m like ‘Dang,’ because we never got that before. We used to have to wait for magazines to be printed before seeing reviews, but now you get instant love or hate. The response to this new album has been overwhelming so far, though, so we can’t wait to play it live. We’ve always played entire albums live when they come out and we’re going to do that with this one. The setlist will finally change after 14 years.
MNOD: The title of the album feels like a nod to the chemistry that you guys have always had with each other. How was it getting back into the studio dynamic after such a long hiatus?
Pinnick: It was easy, actually. It was like being back with old friends and I think we all appreciated that. We never stopped touring, but working on an album together is a different animal. It was a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways. I’ve heard Jerry and Ty say that it was the best recording experience they’ve ever had, and I feel the same way. We got along great and just went for it.
MNOD: “Let it Rain” is a fierce opener that deals with serious subject matter in a way that still feels uplifting and hopeful, which is the case throughout much of the album. What was the idea behind that?
Pinnick: All my songs are serious conversations yet some things can still be tongue-in-cheek. The line from ‘Flood Pt. 1’ that goes ‘I used to say that all we needed was love, Now I’m thinking that what we need is a flood’ is one that we cracked up laughing at, but it’s just a joke. A lot of people are saying that the themes of this album sound as if they were developed in response to the pandemic, but we finished it before that. We’re still dealing with the same issues we always have. The pandemic just made a lot of them worse.
MNOD: “Give It Up” grapples with mortality in a way that feels quite poignant. Is that something you think about more often as you’ve gotten older?
Pinnick: I’m 72 now, which is kind of eye opening. As you get older, you realize that you’re not immortal and reality hits. You start to see that you have more of a past than a future, so I want to ride it out until it’s done. When I say that this could be our last album, I just mean that anything can happen. This is what I do and I have no plans of stopping anytime soon.
MNOD: You’re 72, but your voice throughout this album sounds as strong and impassioned as ever. “Nothing But the Truth” is a prime example.
Pinnick: You’re not the first person to say that, but it’s gotten worse as far as I’m concerned. I can’t do certain things or push my voice the way I used to. I appreciate your compliments on that, though, because I put everything I had into this record.
MNOD: Having all three of you singing on this album is another cool angle. How did that come about?
Pinnick: Well, we had everyone sing the songs that they wrote for the album. I used to sing everything and just interpret each song my own way, but doing it this way allows the other guys to sing their songs the way they want to. I’m excited about Jerry singing, because he’s got a voice like Don Henley that I think is great. I think that the fans enjoy the idea of all three of us singing, as well.
MNOD: You recently gave an interview in which you talked about how you never got rich from being in King’s X, which is crazy given how esteemed the catalog is. What are your thoughts on the band’s legacy?
Pinnick: Being in this band is one of the greatest adventures you can have. It has its ups and downs, but the rewards are plentiful. This is what I do and how I live, so none of that other stuff really matters to me. I always say that we’re not members of the country club, but we can gain entry with people who are. Everyone knows who we are and the list of famous musicians who have talked about us through the years is long. We spent four months opening for AC/DC, which is about as big as it gets. That’s like being in the Rolls Royce. We also played in front of 300,000 people at Woodstock ’94, which was a terror and a joy at the same time. I don’t listen to all that bullshit from the press, because we’ve achieved things that not many other bands have. Plus, we have multiple generations of people coming to the shows. We had young people in the beginning, but now they’re bringing their kids. We do meet-and-greets before the show and I remember there was a 14-year-old kid who came up to me and said that he had been listening to King’s X since he was two-years-old in the back of his dad’s car, which is an awesome feeling.
MNOD: I’ve already seen fans making updated album rankings now that “Three Sides of One” has been out for a while.
Pinnick: Fans love that stuff, but I don’t really think about that. I look at them all like they’re my kids. Each album is like an old yearbook in that it was a part of your life that you can look back on and say ‘That was me,’ but I love them all in their own way.
MNOD: You’ve been labeled as a Christian band in the past, but that doesn’t appear to be something that has continued. How do you feel about that label today?
Pinnick: We’ve always written about religion or politics, because there’s a lot of conflict going on in the world and in our heads. People can say what they want to say. When we address religion in a song, we’re not getting down on people for their beliefs. We’re just writing about what we feel.
MNOD: You mentioned that the new album was written before the pandemic began, so I was wondering what the early days of the lockdown were like for you as someone whose life revolves around music.
Pinnick: Nothing really changed for me too much. Thankfully, I had savings, which I went through, but music was still my main focus. It was a sensitive time and I just remember there being a fear and calmness to everything in the early days.
MNOD: With streaming taking over, vinyl making a comeback, and CDs not being as prevalent as they once were, do you have a preference as to how fans should consume the new album?
Pinnick: Everybody’s different, so it doesn’t matter to me. We listened to The Beatles back in the day on a little speaker and loved it. I know we spend so much time on the sonic quality of albums, but, in the end, it just comes down to whether the song moves you or not.
“Three Sides of One” is available now wherever music is disseminated, but do us all a favor and pay for a physical copy.