Since releasing debut album, Out Of The Silent Planet, in 1988, Doug “dUg” Pinnick, Ty Tabor and Jerry Gaskill have continued to ply their trade—a signature brew of progressive metal, soul and blues, led by top-notch musicianship and airtight vocal harmonies.
The band has a legion of fans and is widely respected by critics. Despite the countless changes the music industry has weathered since the group’s inception, there is still no band that sounds quite like King’s X.
And they’re survivors not just literally, but physically.
In 2012, drummer Gaskill suffered a massive heart attack and spent several weeks in an induced coma. He later recovered and King’s X returned to the stage, where the group is still going strong. Gaskill had been plotting a solo record at the time of his heart attack—the project was delayed but could soon see the light of day.
I had the pleasure of chatting with Gaskill as King’s X prepared for a trio of shows in the New Jersey area. The veteran drummer discussed his health issues, upcoming solo album and the chances of seeing the first King’s X studio album since 2008, in addition to other topics.
King’s X have only three upcoming tour dates scheduled—is there any significance to doing these local shows? Will you be playing any other U.S. gigs?
After my heart attack, we came back and finally did some touring. The first shows we played were with the band Kansas. And what Kansas was doing was, they’d do these brief weekend tours. They would pretty much play shows on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and then fly home. And we thought, “Hmmm…that’s a nice little idea!” So, King’s X decided to try that and, personally, I love it. And that’s what we’ve been doing recently. We’re playing two shows in New Jersey and one in Pennsylvania. We recently finished three gigs in California on another weekend, and in July, we’re planning some shows in North Carolina and Virginia.
That seems like a pretty nice system, to do a quick little tour and then come right home. You’re not spending a grueling time on the road.
Exactly. We can do some nice venues and then be right home. It really works for me. I don’t think [we] need to be on the bus for six weeks at a time these days.
For fans who are coming out to these shows, can they expect a career-spanning setlist?
We’re doing all the songs that are easy to play and sing! (Laughs) Really, these should be great shows. Actually, my son’s band Recovery Room will be opening for us at the shows in Sellersville, Pennsylvania, and Newton, New Jersey. My son is the drummer and also the lead singer. I think they’re a band that people should check out. Not just because it’s my son, but I think their music is great. It combines a lot of different elements.
And for the Starland Ballroom show, we’re playing with TT Quick, Atomic Bitchwax and Black Reign, so that’s a great lineup.
I heard rumors that you guys are considering playing all of Gretchen Goes To Nebraska in the future.
Man, we have talked about that for years. We talked about it before it even became popular for bands to play albums in their entirety. But we’ve just never done it. It still might happen, or it might not. I’d like to think it will someday. It would be fun to actually sit down and learn all those songs again. I think there are some tracks on that record that we’ve never played live before.
King’s X have been fairly active doing tours in the past few years, but haven’t released a studio album in a long time. I know fans have been eagerly awaiting one. Are there any plans at this time to make another King’s X album?
Well, right now, it seems like we’re too busy doing our other projects (laughs). I’m sure there will be another King’s X record someday, but it has to be the right time. It has to feel right. I don’t want to throw one out there just for the sake of doing it. I want us to give it everything we have, or else I don’t want to do it. We can’t force it; that wouldn’t make sense.
What’s the status of your solo album, Jerry? I understand it’s coming out pretty soon?
Yes, it is coming. I don’t have an actual release date yet, unfortunately. But it should be fairly soon. I’m very excited about it, and I really do believe that it’ll be worth the wait. I’ve got some guest stars on there. I’ve been working on it with a friend of mine, D.A. Karkos. We’ve been writing together, and he’s been mixing and producing. I’m just very excited.
What’s the title of the album?
Well, we don’t have an exact title, but we have an idea of what it’s going to be. I don’t know if I’ve even told this to anyone in the press yet, but a title I came up with is King Of Hearts.
It’s certainly appropriate, given what you’ve been through.
Yeah, I think it’s a cool title. But anything is subject to change.
What guest musicians will appear on it?
I’ve got Earl Smith playing on a couple of songs. Billy Sheehan is playing some bass on there. John DeServio from Black Label Society appears on it. Andee Blacksugar, who isn’t well known, but is an amazing guitar player. Phil Keaggy plays on it too.
The members of King’s X have always been very involved with numerous side-projects. How does working with various projects and musicians allow different sides of your musical tastes to come out?
Well, I think we do it because we want to keep producing music. If a project comes along and other artists say they want to work with us, if it feels right we’ll do it. It’s helpful for all of us to have that outlet and be free to do whatever we want to do. That’s really what it’s all about. We make music that we feel inspired by. I don’t know how to do it any other way.
After your health scare two years ago, how are you feeling these days? Everything OK?
Actually, I think I’m better than I’ve ever been in my life. I think I’m healthier than ever, and I feel better than ever. In many ways, I think my heart attack was a blessing in disguise, because it made me focus on certain things in my life.
It must have been a really frightening experience. How would you say it changed you?
Well, fortunately for me, I have no recollection of any of it. I don’t remember going down, or being in any pain. It was harder on my wife than anyone, because she had to watch it all happen. She saw me go down, and was the one who had to revive me. And I didn’t know anything that had happened. It wasn’t until I woke up in the hospital that I realized something had happened. But it did change me. I’m more aware of my body now, and I’ve learned how to eat better. I take better care of myself now, which is clearly a good thing.
What was it like getting back behind the drum kit for your first show after your heart attack? Were you nervous at all, or concerned that you wouldn’t be able to play like you used to?
When I was in the hospital recovering, I told myself that I would never get on the stage again unless I could be at 100 percent. I didn’t want people to look at me and say, “Wow, that guy used to be so good,” or, “He’s a trooper just for trying.” I could never do that. Yeah, I was nervous for a bit. I committed to the Kansas tour about three months after the heart attack, which might have been a little crazy, but I thought if I wanted to go through with it, I’ve got to just go for it. And after the first show, I thought, “Hey, I can do this.”
Do you feel that your commitment to do the tour actually helped in your recovery, because you had a specific date set where you knew you were supposed to play again?
In some ways I think it did, yeah. If I committed to do the shows, I felt I couldn’t back down. It ended up becoming a goal to work toward, being ready for those concerts. I don’t think I even thought of it that way at the time, but now that you bring it up, I think it did play a part.
Speaking of health issues, Doug Pinnick had hernia surgery last year. You guys have definitely had your share of medical issues, but you keep coming back strong.
Yeah, we’ve had some pretty big ones! (Laughs) But so far we’re still here.
I recently read comments from Andy Summers of The Police, where he praised King’s X and called them fantastic. I found that interesting—I wouldn’t have taken him for a metal fan.
Yeah, I saw that too. I had heard before that he was a King’s X fan. I was at the NAMM convention one year and someone from his crew was telling me how Andy is such a huge King’s X fan and that he would make everyone on his crew listen to us. I didn’t believe it at the time, but after reading his comments, I guess it’s true.
Summers also mentioned how he thinks King’s X are one of the most underappreciated bands. Looking back on your career, do you feel your band got the proper recognition?
Oh, I don’t know. That’s a difficult question to answer. I think we definitely have recognition from other musicians, our peers. We’ve had accolades there, and from some people in the music industry. Somehow, we just never translated to mainstream success. I’m very thankful for what we have though.
King’s X music always sounds like it’s made with great care, and features some complex arrangements in terms of music and vocals. How does your songwriting process work?
It happened many different ways. Most often, we each write stuff on our own and then present it to the rest of the band. Then we all get into it together, and through that process it becomes a King’s X song. But there were a few albums where we just did everything from scratch in the studio. We had no songs already written or demos completed prior to entering the studio. We just made up all the songs in the studio as a trio. Whatever seems to work at the time is what we do.
Which drummers do you consider to be your biggest influences?
I’d say my biggest influence is definitely John Bonham. He is the epitome of rock and roll drumming. Also, Buddy Rich is a big influence. Not that I necessarily sound like him, but he’s truly an inspiration. You put those two guys together, and they represent perfect drumming. Carmine Appice is also a big hero of mine, as are Ringo Starr and Don Brewer. I take influences from all different kinds of drummers. The beauty of it is, I take elements from all those people, but in the end it still sounds like me.
King’s X will perform at the Sellersville Theater in Sellersville, PA on May 1, The Newton Theater in Newton, NJ on May 2, and Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ on May 3. For more information, visit kingsxrocks.com.