King’s X: Turning Tragedy into Something Special

King’s X are one of the most celebrated and lauded bands of the last 30 years… by musicians and critics. Yet, the level of success first predicted for them has alluded them. A rollercoaster story of ups and downs, successes and failures, and once touted as America’s U2, they’ve been victimized by bad management, bad luck, bad timing, tragic events, and poor categorization. Because they have been on a succession of heavy metal labels, they’ve been referred to as “Thinking Man’s Metal” or “Smart Metal.” But they have always been at their core a melodic hard rock trio with a soulful, bluesy singer, Beatles-influenced harmonies, catchy songs, and stellar musicianship. Nearly 40 years after forming, drummer Jerry Gaskill, guitarist Ty Tabor and bassist/vocalist Doug Pinnick persist. And, after completing their upcoming tour, which has area stops in New Jersey, New York City, and Hudson Valley, New York, they’re heading back into the studio to put the finishing touches on their first studio album in over a decade.

The highlight of the tour is the Tail Winds Music Fest, which takes place on Saturday, June 29 at the Hudson Valley Airport in Wappinger Falls, New York. The show benefits the Miles of Hope Breast Cancer Foundation that funds support and outreach for people affected by breast cancer within Hudson Valley, New York’s nine counties.

Calling from his Red Bank, New Jersey home, Jerry Gaskill is soft spoken with a killer sense of humor. He is optimistic about the future of King’s X, despite his band’s ups and downs and his two near-fatal heart attacks.

I have one complaint. Whether it is live, on record, or on Blu-ray, I hate that Doug Pinnick no longer sings “Goldilox” (Out of a Distant Planet (Megaforce), 1988). He has such an amazing, soulful voice, but the audience always sings over the band’s instrumental performances.

[Laughing] That is just the way it is now.

But I’m paying to hear Doug and not the audience.

You will probably never hear Doug sing that song again. For many people who come to our shows, singing “Goldilox” is a highlight.

King’s X created a buzz with its debut music video for “King.” Today, music video is no longer a requirement.

Unless you want to throw something up on social media to tell fans, “Hey, this is what we are doing.”

Touring is a necessity if an artist wants to survive in the current music climate.

Yeah. We are starting a new one on June 28th at the Starland Ballroom.

You relocated from Houston to New Jersey.

I moved to the state in 2004 to be with my now-wife. We lived in Highland and then Sandy Hook. When Hurricane Sandy hit, we were wiped out. We were homeless for a few months and stayed with my sister-in-law, before we were able to buy a great home in Red Bank.

It’s a beautiful area.

We love our town. It’s another case of tragedy turning into something better than we could have imagined.

Is turning tragedy into something special the story of King’s X?

Let’s hope so. We’ll see when we release our new record.

What is the status of the new King’s X record?

It is being made.

Where is it being recorded?

In Pasadena, California at Black Sound Studios with Michael Parnin. It is the perfect situation. We wouldn’t want to be working with anyone but Michael.

It will be King’s X’s first studio album in more than a decade.

Yes. It’s been 11 years since XV (InsideOut Records, 2008).

King’s X were once prolific. Why has it taken so long to create new music?

A lot of things happened during the last decade. I died a couple of times, which delayed things. For me, I just want us to be on the same page and make the best record we can make. I don’t just want to put out another King’s X record just to put out another King’s X record. If we did, I’m sure it would be a good record, but I want this to be that one record. And I am starting to believe it is.

Given the band’s legacy of classic recordings, that is saying something.

It just might be the best record we’ve ever recorded.

Why ruin the momentum by leaving the studio with an unfinished record and heading off on tour?

We all discussed it and agreed that a break from the studio is a good thing. We’ve gotten a lot of the record done and we are very encouraged. After the tour, we’ll return to the studio fresh and we don’t have to start from scratch. We’ll get back in there and put the final touches on it.

Is there a title, tentative release date, or any additional information to share yet?

No. I can only say that it will be worth the wait. And it will be done when it’s done.

How is your health?

I feel good. But we have to take care ourselves. We need to do what our doctors tell us to do, eat right and exercise. Our bodies were made to move.

Playing the drums is a hard cardio workout. What have you been doing to prepare for the tour?

I work out six days a week, otherwise I don’t do anything specific to prepare for a tour other than learn the set list [laughs]. I work out with a trainer who has taught me how to take care of my body. He has helped set me up with different machines at my home. I can wake up, go down to my basement, and do what I have to do. I’m very fortunate.

When Out of a Silent Planet was released, critics were referring to the band as America’s U2. Why hasn’t King’s X lived up to that expectation, despite the legacy of classic albums the band has recorded?

If I knew the answer, you wouldn’t be asking that question [laughs].

Bankruptcies, bad management: there seems to be this black cloud over the band.

I wish I had the answer.

I find it amazing that despite the obstacles you, Ty, and Doug never considered splitting up.

Oh, I wouldn’t say that. There were times when we have all thought, ‘Let’s not do this anymore.’ But at the same time, why should we break up? We just don’t have to do anything [for a while].

There have been extended hiatuses?

No. We have worked consistently throughout the years. The only time we’ve taken any real hiatuses is when I died.

You say you “died.” Your heart actually stopped?

I went into cardiac arrest and was technically dead. That is all there is to it.

You’re a thin, healthy-looking person.

My doctor said, ‘It’s genetics. Blame it on your parents.’ So that is what I do [laughs].

Veteran music journalist Greg Prato recently published King’s X: The Oral History, which is getting great reviews.

It’s a good book. It’s a good read and it’s a good story. It has all the elements of what a good story is. It will make you laugh; it will make you cry; and it will make you think.

The band was involved in its creation?

Yes, it’s authorized. All sorts of people were interviewed for the book, including Paul Shaffer (David Letterman), Andy Summer (The Police), Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins), Kip Winger (Winger), and Jeff Ament (Pearl Jam).

Ament credits King’s X with creating grunge.

I have heard that.

Do you find that ironic? Wasn’t grunge one of the obstacles that held King’s X back?

In what way?

The band was incorrectly roped in with the metal movement of the late eighties.

That’s always been the case. Our first record was released by a heavy metal label. Megaforce was the only label that believed in us and wanted to put out our record. They introduced us to the world, which was great. From there, we headed to Atlantic Records, who did everything they could. It just didn’t translate to the general public.

You’re being nice. Atlantic Records dropped the ball. They could have promoted the band much better.

I will not comment. From there, we headed to Metal Blade, another heavy metal-oriented label. Then we were signed to Inside Out Records, which is a progressive rock label. We are none of those things. We’ve always been put into these categories that did not represent us at all.

History will eventually correct that but being original can be a double-edged sword.

That’s a major reason why we didn’t get as big as predicted. No one knew how to brand or categorize us.

In that regard, King’s X have been their own worst enemy.

[Laughs] I guess, but I am okay with the way things are. I am thankful for the career I have had, and it is not over yet.

Catch King’s X at the Starland Ballroom on June 28, the Tail Winds Music Festival on June 29, and the Gramercy Theatre on June 30!