Thursday, 15 February 2018

King's X - Tale of the tape (Interview from 1998)

When going through my old archives of interviews and articles I've done for magazines like Hard Roxx, Fuzz, Sweden Rock Magazine etc, I stumbled across this one I did with dUg Pinnick and Ty Tabor of King's X back in 1998. Here goes:

I’m not gonna lie to you. King’s X is one of my all-time favorite bands. I have all the albums, I have loads of live tapes, demos and videos and I’ve even played covers of their songs. I am a fan. The band has now, after evil rumors of a split, proved what productive boys they are by releasing 4 albums in one year. Ty’s solo-album ”Moonflower Lane”, Doug’s Poundhound project, Ty’s collaboration with members from Dream Theater and Dregs in Platypus and not least the new and amazing King’s X record, ”Tape Head”. I though I’d guide you through all the little youth-secrets, ups and downs, highs and lows with the aid of bass-player/singer Doug Pinnick and guitarist/singer Ty Tabor.

It all started out in the late 70’s, when young Doug Pinnick moved to Springfield, Missouri to join a band, the same band as a certain Jerry Gaskill had just joined. The first time they laid their eyes (and ears) on Ty, was when they all participated at the Springfield Collage ”Springfling” concert. After some enquiries they found out his name was Ty Tabor. Ty, who was born in Jackson, Mississippi (on September 17, 1961) had move to Missouri to go to collage. His first band was a family blue grass band, but in 1980 he became a member of The Tracy St Band, sort of by mistake. One night there was a big 10 band concert and The Tracy St Band was playing just before headliner Keaggy. A week before the gig Tracy’s drummer left and Ty, who wasn’t really a drummer but was probably the only one that dared, was asked to take on the task as drummer for the show. He however didn’t have a drum-kit, so he ended up asking Jerry if he could please borrow his kit. Ty was after this asked to help the band out in the studio, then as a guitarist and then became a firm member of the Tracy St Band, a gig that lasted for 8 months. Doug and Jerry thought this dude was a pretty interested player but didn’t dare to contact him. Jerry’s wife looked him in the collage directory, found his phone-number and called him just to pass the phone over to Doug, who had not dared to call. Now at least the first step was taken, which at the time didn’t really lead to anything.

In 1979 Doug had recorded a demo with the band Servant. -I don’t even think my tape works anymore. It’s not that good. It was progressive and I was more into Yes, Genesis and ELP, so it was very complicated. We had a keyboard-player, too and the songs had lots of time-changes and bizarre things. I also listened to Gentle Giant a lot then so it was a strange combination, says Doug. Now Jerry also joined Tracy St Band for a studio-recording and live shows for a couple of months and at the same time he was still together with Doug in Keaggy’s band, with whom they never recorded anything, besides some live-stuff that was never released. -We actually wrote a song for ”Play Through Me” called ”Just A Moment Away”. We sat down and wrote it the night Phil’s daughter was born, remembers Doug. Ty and Jerry then played with the Greg Boals Band, while Doug was was playing with Carl Hershaw’s Band, where he used to sing ”My Scrotum”, originally written by The Knack. -I feel so stupid! I didn’t know what it meant, I just kept on singing it, he says with a laugh. -Nobody’s ever brought this up before, he says seemingly embarrassed. (I presume you guessed what he was supposed to sing was ”My Sharona”). In 1980 Doug finally came up with the bright idea that the three should team up in the same band. With the additional guitarist Den Mcullem The Edge was now born. To really get the team-feeling the band plus crew, except for Jerry, who was married and had a son, they all moved in to Dougs house. -It was crazy. It was a kitchen, living room and two bedrooms and there were 7 of us living there. Some stayed up all night and some all day while the night-people slept. It was very rough. We lived like that for a year and a half. Then I just said to everyone to go find their own places as I couldn’t take it anymore, he laughs. After the first live-show, the highly memorable Twilight Zone-gig, a small garage-size place, Den quit. -He moved back to Illinois to be with his girlfriend. The later got married, he says. Ty was however intimidated by the though of being the only guitarist in the band, so they got Kirk Henderson, who without a shred of doubt moved down from Missouri.

The Edge now started getting a pretty good local following, even though they did mostly original tunes. A gig that the boys will probably never forget took place at The Wine Cellar in Little Rock, Arkansas. -Oh, you know about that place. That’s Hell! We played six 45 minute sets a day for… nobody, he says. -There were times when we would come on to play and the club-owner said, -Play!, but there was literally nobody there. He told us to play anyway. We hated it, Oh God! Well, we made more money there than anywhere else and back then we were very hungry, he explains. After a year and a half it was time for Kirk to leave. -He felt like he didn’t fit in. It seems like anyone who comes into the King’s X camp to make music with us always feel like they don’t fit in with us. There’s this chemistry that Ty, Jerry and I have, that’s unspoken. We don’t mean to not allow them to be part of it, but they somehow don’t, Doug explains, which is about the same explanation as I got from Geddy Lee regarding Rush’s trio-format. The Edge recorded a bunch of demos, of which I have some. Besides originals they also did some Beatles-tunes, such as ”Here Comes The Sun”. In January 1983, at The Hanger in Springfield they did their first set as a 3-piece and after a drum-roll from Jerry they unveiled their new name - Sneak Preview. -The worst name in the world, comments Doug. The live show was recorded and supposed to be released, but never was. The band however released an LP, which is now a collector’s item. One of the songs, entitled ”The Door”, actually appears on ”Ear Candy”, re-arranged and with new lyrics, re-named ”Picture”. The style was now more in the late 70’s melodic new wave/pop/hard rock-style. At a gig in Springfield they now announced the band was moving to Houston. -Someone down there owned a record company and asked us to come down and work with one of their solo-artists (Morgan Cryer). We were very broke, so we went down there to continue paying bills and stayed there. It lasted for about a year, but they went for studio-musicians and nothing happened, he explains. Morgan Cryer released the album ”Fuel The Fire”, which the band was meant to play on, but ultimately Ty only re-did some guitar-parts they were dissatisfied with. -I did sing a little bit on it, too, but we weren’t allowed to do much for some reason, he says describing Morgan’s music as ”Christian middle of the road top 40 crap”. One thing I guess not to many people know is that Jerry and Doug was also in Christian melodic rockers Petra. -Yes, but we never recorded or even rehearse with them. They broke up about a month after we joined them, he laughs. -The Petra that exists today has only got two of those members left.

The year is 1986 and now Ty writes the song that marks the musical turning-point of the band. The title is ”Pleiades”. The song had a heavier, more psychadelic feel than the band’s other material and there was one thing that did the trick. -That’s when Ty tuned down the E-string to D. He actually wrote it for himself and didn’t think we would like it. That song gave us a new sound and we’ve been writing in that vein since, says Doug. Now it was time for a fourth player to join, manager Sam Taylor. -He came to our rehearsal and decided he wanted to work with us and we said OK. That was in 1987. The band now felt it was time to get rid of the hedious name and after several suggestions Sam came up with King’s X. -We didn’t really like it, but it was different from anything else we’d though of so we kept it. Names are very hard after you’ve been a band for so long. Noone likes anything, he determines. Doug then recorded a tape with some old demos, plus he added the new King’s X-recordings for a friend who ran into another friend who suggested the band should send it to the Megaforce label. Sam took the ball and sent the tape. When Marsha Zazula received the package she thought it was from her friend Sam Taylor so she instead of ”filing” the tape with the zillion other unlistened ones, she actually put it on and found out she liked it. -If it wasn’t for his name being on there we never would have got signed. The invited us to play The Cat Club in New York and we litterally were not allowed to leave until we had signed, Doug reveals. The band’s first release was entitled ”Out Of The Silent Planet” and features classics like ”Power Of Love”, ”Sometimes”, ”Goldilox”, ”Shot Of Love” and the song ”King” that I have on a live-tape recorded in Houston February 26, 1987, in a totally different version. -Yes, I was listening to Bow Wow Wow a lot at the time, so that version sounds a lot like them. When we decided to work on it for the album, I told everyone to forget about the whole sound and take the idea and do what they wanted with it, so I started a new bassline and Ty and Jerry sort of joined in and built the song up again, he says. In that show King’s X did 16 songs that has never appeared on record (including a cover of ”Mercury Blues”), some of them really good, too. -It’s hard to go back and do older songs as we have so many new ones we wanna do. We’ve written sooo many songs, he says. Well, not entirely true as I’ve actually found some musical re-cycling. The song ”It’s Time” from the band’s 1986-demo, appears in a new version on the band’s latest album as ”World” and another unreleased song, ”Quality Control” is also found on ”Tape Head”, now entitled ”Happy”. Well, as they are great songs, far too good to be buried, I don’t mind. -Actually ”It’s Time”, we know more as ”Come On Over”, as it was around much longer with those lyrics. ”Quality Control” was more like therapy for Doug when we recorded it. It was just something he had to say at the time, but now he didn’t feel those words were truthfully anymore so he changed them, explains Ty.

I asked Doug to do a short run-though of the albums.
 ”Out Of The Silent Planet” (Megaforce/Atlantic 1988). -I think it was very very different and a new inspiration to rock music. At that time there wasn’t anything happening that sounded like that, so I think we introduced something new. I also think a lot of people incorporated it into their music. As this was the end of the 80’s and everyone was looking for something new, the musicians really jumped on it and then the grunge came along.
”Gretchen Goes To Nebraska” (Megaforce/Atlantic 1989). It was probably most people’s favourite. I’m not crazy about the record, but I do understand people really like it.
”Faith Hope Love” (Megaforce 1990) was a very diffcult record to make because of a lot of pressure we were going through with Sam and the record company. So I don’t care for that album too much. It was our biggest selling record though.
”King’s X” (Atlantic 1991). That was sort of the end of the Sam Taylor period. He quit right after the album was done. That was another record under pressure trying to make that hit-record for Atlantic. The European version contains ”Junior’s Gone Wild” (Soundtrack from ”Bill And Tom’s Bogus Journey”), which we didn’t even know they were going to put on. We weren’t told until later and we were really angry with that.
”Dogman” (Atlantic 1994). We needed a change and we wanted a producer that was raw and could make it sound like we did live. That is the way we sound live and we never felt any of the other records captured that. Brent O’Brien really captured that feeling and made it a very heavy bass-album. I love that as I’m a bass-player. I thought it was a good record. We were very angry at the time. I had been going through a lot of things so we vented a lot on that record. ”Go To Hell” was actually written already in 1981 and it was another one Ty wanted us to put on. Someone in the studio suggested we’d do a Hendrix-tune, so I said OK and went out and bough a record. We played it upstairs and just went in and did it (”Manic Depression”). It was fun. We did it to kind of break the boredom.
On ”Earcandy” (Atlantic 1996), we kind of decided to have an organic sounding record. Ty started playing Marshalls instead of his Mesa Boogie Rectifiers that he’d used on ”Dogman” and he went for a softer, kinda earthy sound on that record, which I think we accomplished. That was a record we wanted to produce ourselves, but the record company didn’t allowe us, so we got Arnold Lanni to come in and do it with us. As a result it has that attitude. It was a good record to make, but it didn’t come out exactly the way we wanted it to and not too many people bought it either. Atlantic dropped us right after that one, he says admitting it was a relief. To me ”Earcandy” feels closer to Ty’s solo-albums. -Actually I wrote most of the songs on it, but yes, it has that sort of soft vibe. My favourites are ”Picture”, ”Train” and ”67”, which I wish I could have put on my Poundhound-album, he laughs. ”Picture” is another re-cycler, previously found on the Sneak Preview-album, as ”The Door”.
”Best Of” (Atlantic 1997) features 3 unreleased songs and a live-version of ”Over My Head”. -We wrote those songs around the time we put them on that record. They were demos we just did in the dressingroom.

The band’s new and fresh album ”Tape Head” has just hit the streets and if you read my review, comments are unnecessary. It’s a killer! They have also changed label to Metal Blade (where Ty’s solo-album ”Moonflower Lane” and Doug’s Poundhound-record is also released). -I think it was a relief  to leave Atlantic as we knew they were always more concerned with a hit-singel than anything else and we knew we could never give it to them. So they finally let us go and we’re happy. We joined up with Metal Blade and now we have freedom. Good things are happening. We can just make music and have fun now, says Doug.

Ty on Platypus:
-John Myung gave me a call and asked me if I was interested. He said Rod (Morgenstien) was already on and Derek (Sherinian) said he’d do it. It just sounded like something that would be a whole lot of fun. It would be a more musician-type project than what I’m used to be doing with King’s X and although Doug and Jerry are tremendous players we’re more of a rock ‘n roll song oriented band. I though this would be a chance to bransch out a little bit in different directions, maybe even touch on the heavy jazz-fusion-rock type stuff we don’t normaly do in King’s X. I couldn’t pass up the chance. We had such a fantastic time doing the record, so we plan on touring with it and do more records. We plan to do a Platypus/Liquid Tension/instrumental Dream Theater-tour in January, Ty reveals. When it comes to the writing bit all four had pretty equal input in each song. They made a reharsal-studio in Rod’s basement, stayed there for a few days and wrote music, then went to Millbrook Studios in New York to write some more and record the album. -We did most of the basic tracks in New York, then we mailed the tapes down to me at my studio and I did all the vocals, some more guitars and percussions. Then I did the mixing and mastering in my studio (Alien Beans).

Doug on Poundhound:
-I needed to put a record out as I write way too much music for King’s X. In the last 2 years I wrote 50 songs, so I needed a way to get it out. I signed to Metal Blade for 4 albums. This is my side-band. I’ve put a live-band together after the record, sort of like with King Diamond and Merciful Fate. Len Sonnier (ex Galactic Cowboys) plays bass, Chad Lyons: drums and I have Fred, another black guy on guitar. I also play guitar, which is fun. I feel I’ve finally found the groove I like to write in and the sound I like and I’m not ashamed of it anymore. I always tried to make the King’s X albums more applicable to people, but I finally realized that what I do best is groove, so that’s what I’m gonna do from now on, he says with a big laugh. Doug’s explanation on the short and simple title ”Massive Grooves From The Electric Church Of Psychofunkadelic Grungelism Rock Music” is, -I just needed a title that would tell everyone what they were gonna get. I think that’s what I concidered that record, massive grooves and psychedelic funkadelic grungelism rock music, I think that’s what it is, he states. Dougs lyrics have always been self-revealing, but even more on this album. -I always write about true stories and things I go through or friends that I’m hanging out with, he explains leading on to my next question, about the song ”Friends” and the boy, Kevin, he sings about who died shortly after the record was done. -He killed himself. He was 15 years old. His family sort of abused him and they didn’t want him, so he moved in and lived with me for 2 years. Then he moved away and went back to his family to try to be a part of it and it didn’t work and he killed himself. It really hurt…

Ty on his solo-album(s):
First there was ”Naomi’s Solar Pumpkin” on Ty’s own label Tabor Tooth, only sold via mail-order, then there was the re-make of it on Metal Blade, entitled ”Moonflower Lane”. It has 4 new songs and a live-drummer. There are also 4 songs on the first one, not on the second, ”Had To Move”, ”That’s All”, ”Boy To Man” and ”Wouldn’t You Like To Be”, which are all excellent. -Why ”Hard To Move” is not on there has two reasons. First we didn’t have the time to work it up. We only an amount of time for Allan (Dross) for the drumtracks and it was a little more complicated, but also if we would stick it on ”Moonflower Lane” it would stick out as a song that doesn’t belong there. It’s something I might do on the next record where I might get into more adventurous stuff like that. I don’t ever throw a song away. As far as the re-mix Metal Blade didn’t require anything. They would have released ”Naomi…” if I had let them, but I didn’t want to release it as the first thing people hear from me, because it has drum-machine and also because it had been selling a coupole thousand on mail-order. It didn’t make much sense.

Doug and Ty on ”Tape Head”
-First off I built the recording studio and did the Poundhound-record there and as soon as I was done, the boys came in to make the ”Tape Head” record. We wanted to do it ourselves as we feel noone knows King’s X like King’s X. We also decided to write as much of the music together rather that playing each other’s demos. There’s four songs I had written earlier, but the rest of the songs were written together, which is something we don’t usually do. I think it added to a new attitude for us to make music and I hope we will continue to do that, says Doug.

-It has a dryer sound. Basically as they let me do whatever I wanted as far as sounds and I was doing all the engineering and everything. I just wanted to get something that sounded very immediately like we do live. I wanted that raw straight energy. Actually it’s harder recording that way, than to cover it up with slick effects and multi over-dubs. It was kind of difficult to record that way, but I was pretty happy with it, even though it has some rough edges. It shows the true way of how we play, explains Ty.

If you wonder what the ultra-weird song ”Wally Bela Farkas” is all about, Ty told me. -We were on tour with the Cowboys (Wally’s band Galactic Cowboys) and Wally does a real good Yoko Ono-impression, which is what it was. It was just really funny to me, so I asked him to come on stage and do it. He put on adress and just came in during the enchore and we just started playing jazz improvisation. We had NO idea what we were gonna play and he started doing Yoko and we happened to get it on tape in New York. I can remember it just baffled the audience, because they didn’t expect King’s X to be goofing around. It was something that was real funny to us and we knew nobody else would get it, which made it even more funny, so we decided to put it on record, he revealed.
Due to the band just going on tour my interview with Ty was cut short, but we’ll make it up someday!

Janne Stark