What do you get when you take a bit of Sly And The Family Stone, a dash of early Metallica, and a smidgen of Beatles vocal harmony? A three-headed monster of a band called King's X! This extremely hard working trio has been slogging it out for 18 years, releasing many LPs of tight, heavy, and melodic rock-n-roll that is, as their last release states, pure Ear Candy. After a long spell on Atlantic Records, they left for greener pastures and more creative freedom, finding a home on the label that defines heavy music, Metal Blade. Now, with the release of their new opus, Tapehead, they can rest assured they will be promoted correctly and actually taken as a priority, partly because Metal Blade president Brian Slagel is one of their biggest fans.
I sat down with drummer Jerry Gaskill recently at a tour warm up show at Slim's in San Francisco, just prior to their soundcheck. I asked him when and where they were formed, the usual question, and Jerry replied "Well, we got together in 1980 in Springfield, Missouri, moving there for different reasons, got together and said let's start a band." Right at that moment vocalist/bassist Doug Pinnick walked in to grab something, and noticed a CD I gave Jerry of my old band, New Idol Son, entitled Reach. Doug said "I've had this thing for how long, did someone give it to me or did I order it?" I told him it was available from the BMG Music Club for pennies on the dollar, proof on why I became a writer instead of staying with a band. He added "I liked you guys, good stuff." Thanks Doug!
With that I asked Jerry about their influences as a band, and he replied "We were all into different things, we liked heavy things, we liked soft things, we liked things with melody. That was one common thing." He added, "We're just a bunch of old guys -- Doug likes Sly and gospel stuff, and Ty (Tabor, guitarist) and I were both big into the Beatles. Doug was never into the Beatles, which is weird because some of his vocal harmonies are so Beatles, but he thought they were a bunch of white guys trying to be black guys."
I reminded Jerry of a show they played here in San Francisco back in the early '90s, a Lollapalooza-like festival called "Gathering of The Tribes," with Fishbone, Primus and a few others. Jerry's most vivid memory of that tour? "There was this guy in the front row," he says "just reading the newspaper. Doug actually stopped and told the guy to pay attention. We're up here playing man!"
I asked him about the switch from Atlantic to Metal Blade, and he replied, "So far it's been great. I think they're doing everything they can. Hopefully it will turn out to be a good thing. With Atlantic, we were just one of the millions, and if we're not making millions, they really have no use for us." He adds, "With Metal Blade, if we don't sell a million records, it's not the end of our career."
Just released this October 20th, Tapehead will be followed early next year by a huge tour. This stop was part of a small warm up trek, featuring lots of old material and some new stuff thrown in for good measure. I asked Jerry if the new record had any new ideas or styles, and he replied, "This time we went into the studio with basically nothing, starting from scratch, and for the first time, we wrote songs together, as a band." He added, "It's the truest King's X record, as opposed to just doing each other's songs."
I asked if they plan to hit Europe and abroad for this record, and he said, "That's the plan, hit Europe and Japan. The whole thing!" So how is the reception for King's X around the globe? "In the U.K. it's always been tremendous. We did a tour with AC/DC in Europe, and some shows were great, Paris and such, but all throughout Germany they just hated us!" Any need for chicken wire, a la The Blues Brothers at Bob's Country Bunker? "They would throw stuff at us, give us the finger. They (the audience) would turn their backs at us and chant 'ANGUS! ANGUS!'" Jerry added, "It could have been anybody up there and they wouldn't have liked them."
Being a drummer myself, I had to ask Jerry what he's playing these days. He responded, "I'm playing a Pearl Master Studio (who he's endorsed by), and it's a really nice kit. Pearl has been real good to me. We were in L.A. doing the Ear Candy record, and we weren't getting a good kick drum sound. So we went to Guitar Center, and the kit that I'm using right now was sitting in there. After hearing the kick, I said 'This is it!' I wanted it, the whole thing. So our tour manager went back to the studio and called Pearl, and they said we could have them. So I like Pearl!" I told him of my affection for vintage kits, having just purchased a 1972 Rogers three-piece. He said, "Speaking of Rogers drums, when I was about twelve years old, this guy asked me what kind of drums I had, and they were actually this cheap set called Temp-Pro, so I lied to him and told him I had a set of Rogers!" Retro baby!
So with a new LP out and a new home, the time is right for King's X to become a household name, proving that a band doesn't need gimmicks and a fake image to become successful. I only hope the rest of the world can open their minds and witness what is truly one of America's greatest and most diverse bands!