King's X still serves it up hot
By Naughty Mickie
Photos Courtesy of KingsX.net
The mainstream has remained elusive for rockers King's X, which is a pity as much as a statement. It often pains me to be made aware of the ignorance of music fans who stick with the trends and never venture out to find true talent, their numbers are many. I hope that by spending hours researching, interviewing and writing somehow I can open up at least a few minds to some of the secret jewels in the music world.
I have appreciated King's X's efforts for years and was more than charmed when bassist Doug Pinnick cornered me after one of their shows earlier this year to discuss music history. That night he planted the seed, the tiny idea that perhaps I could get an opportunity to interview the band at just the right moment. OK, perhaps, it's not exactly the prime time, "Black Like Sunday" (Metal Blade Records) has been out since May and the tour has trekked most of the globe, but here ya go.
King's X consists of Pinnick, drummer Jerry Gaskill and guitarist Ty Tabor, all three share the vocals. It was Tabor's turn to make my day.
"We three are three of what were four people that started the band," starts Tabor. "We had another guy named Dam McColum, who originally, we four, were the first four members of the band and that was in 1980. Then Dan decided it wasn't what he wanted to do and plus he was about to get married. We hired another friend, who was a friend of mine from Mississippi, and he was with us for a couple of years and then he left. So around 1983 from then on, it was just us three, so it's been the same band all along and everything. And I'm not sure if that really answers your question.
"The way that I met Jerry was, actually I was playing in a band whose drummer quit right before a gig one night and it was kind of a big gig for the band. I just said don't cancel the gig, I'll play drums. So everybody said ok. We show up at the gig and we're supposed to be opening for the Phil Keaggy Band and there's like a few thousand people, it's a big show. Jerry was playing drums for Phil Keaggy back then and that's how I met Jerry, just by walking up to him and asking him if I could use his drums," Tabor laughs. "'Cause I didn't even have a set of drums and our guy just quit, so he said no problem. That's how I met Jerry originally.
"The way I met Doug was I was going to college in '80 and I was playing in something called the 'Spring Fling,' which was a talent show kind of thing at the college," Tabor goes on. "Somebody had asked me to play a song with them and at the time I wasn't playing guitar with anyone or even caring to. I got up and did this stupid little song with this girl and it had a guitar break in it so I just sort of made up something on the spot and then left. Apparently Doug was in the audience and was really impressed with it so he kept asking around until he found out who I was and gave me a call."
Tabor continues, "Doug and Jerry were playing together in the Phil Keaggy Band for a while and then when they stopped touring, me and Jerry were playing together in another band and me and Doug at the same time were jamming around his house and my house. We were just friends all connected one way or another. Then one day, Doug said, 'Why don't we just make this our band and go from here?' And we were all like, 'Yeah, let's do.'"
"How did you get into music?" I venture.
"I think I started bluegrass when I was eight or nine years old. We were doing shows by the time I was 12, 11 and 12, we were out playing. I remember when I was 13, we did our first show without our parents, us the kids," Tabor says.
I inquire about how he came to play bluegrass.
"My dad was into it pretty big. It's through him that I became educated," responds Tabor. "He played a little of everything, from piano to whatever, but mostly guitar. He also had his ukulele that he played pretty mean. In the band, the bluegrass band, he played an upright tub bass, which is a string on a stick on a big drum thing and he actually played it."
I ask him about his education.
"I left college when the band started getting really busy doing a lot of shows and I decided to go for it. That was in the end of 1980 when I finally went full into it with this bass guy," says Tabor. "I was sort of a communications major, but I wasn't really sure if that was what I wanted to do. There was nothing in college I wanted to do, truthfully. There wasn't anything in college that had anything to do with what I wanted to do for a living or could prepare me for it in any way.
"Unfortunately, in the entertainment business, college is a waste of time." Tabor explains, "It doesn't really have anything to do with that world at all as far as the entertainment side of it. Your schooling comes from the school of hard knocks and getting out there and doing it. The reason it wasn't school, you can't go to a classroom and learn that. College was, for me, a waste of time, it was just a safety measure to get a job, but it had nothing to do with what I wanted to do."
Tabor hasn't held a "day job," as he has been working full-time with the band since 1980. When he gets some free time, he is a man of action.
"I used to race (motorcycles) quite a bit in my off-time, but these days there's no such thing as off-time, also there's no such thing as racing. You have to have plenty of time to train for that, be shape or you get hurt. Even if you are in shape, you can get hurt and I have been. I was riding 250s and 125 dirt bikes, race bikes, supercross, motorcross. Doing the big jumps in the air and stuff." Tabor tells me he rode Kawasakis and Hondas, "I've got a Honda street bike, a Honda Shadow, that I ride around on these days and it's pretty much the only motorcycling I'm doing right now because, like I said, I don't have time to train for motorcross any more."
Tabor would like to get a custom chopper from a shop in California-- a one-of-a-kind bike where each piece is manufactured one at a time.
I understand that he enjoyed building and working on computers, so I ask about it.
"I still use computers, I depend on them so much it's ridiculous. I'm building my own whenever I need one." Tabor says, "I just really honest to God have not had any free time in so long that there's really nothing I'm doing because all I'm doing is working lately. Last year I had a little bit of time off a couple of times and what I like to do when I get a chance is go scuba diving."
"Where?" I ask.
"Anywhere," Tabor responds.
"Do you have a preference?" I prod.
"I really like off of the coast of Fort Lauderdale," Tabor offers. "To me, that is one of the best diving areas in the whole U.S. and people don't know about it. I've dove down in the Keys and they sucked compared to diving off the coast of Fort Lauderdale. It was awful. There's much better visibility, much deeper, different kind of life and, if you get away from the top current enough to actually enjoy the dive, get down 70, 80 feet, there's some real cool ships sunken out there you can go dive in and stuff. It's pretty cool."
I return to King's X and ask him about their writing.
"It totally depends on what album and what era of the band because we do it every possible way you can imagine, from one person writing the whole thing to all three of us writing from scratch. We don't really have a rule on how we write, it just comes every way you can imagine," states Tabor.
I decide to find out what he thinks about the music scene.
"I don't know much about today's music scene because I don't really listen to it, to be honest with you. I've never listened to radio. There's so many bands out, every other day it seems these days, with a hit record that I don't even care," Tabor laughs. "Radio is if you have a million and half dollars to give to Clear Channel Radio, it's just that simple. That's all radio is any more."
"What about the Internet?" I brave.
"I use it every day for e-mail and whatever, that's how I do most of my work." Tabor gets brutally honest, "As far as the rip-off factor, I mean my opinion on it doesn't even matter, just look around at the industry, I think the question's been answered. There's about one-tenth of the record sales that there used to be and probably twice as many people have the albums. It's been the biggest thievery in any industry in all of history as far as I know.
"They're too late on stopping it," Tabor continues. "There's nothing you can do now, but create entire new formats which ain't gonna happen. It's a sad state and the main, the saddest part of it is that the mass of humanity when it comes to this one particular industry seems to have no conscience about ripping us off. None at all.
"I think the biggest hit is mainly just the development of computers in general now that everybody has CD burners in every home. So when somebody likes an album, they just ask you to burn a copy, they never have to go buy it any more. If any other product on this Earth were being treated the same way, it would be the most huge uproar, it would be a major deal. People just don't seem to care about it when it comes to music, they just want to steal and don't care." Tabor goes on, "And the fact is those sales that don't happen equal real hundreds of millions of dollars, I mean very real ones, real jobs, real industry. It's cutting down people's choices of music for the future. It's cutting down all what were open doors for making a living in this industry. It's just like put the brakes on everything and, unless you are someone who used to sell millions of records so you can survive by selling still a lot, but not as many as before, you're basically getting hit by this whole technology thing in a huge way."
I take a breath and ask him about the good side of Internet.
"Of course there's a good side of things," acknowledges Tabor. "It's like this, it's like equating, say there's a beautiful museum in downtown Baghdad and the argument is whether or not to keep the doors open even though there are tons of looters because some people might want to appreciate what's in there. I'm sorry, but it's just an insane situation and nobody seems to recognize it."
Tabor's strong opinions reveal the tenacity he and his bandmates share to keep at their craft. I ask him the secret of their staying power.
"By not quitting. I think most bands just can't survive what you've got to survive to be in a band. This is way harder than anybody ever knows without going through it," states Tabor. "It's a difficult life and not everybody can take it. No matter how tough you think you are, not everybody can take it. It's taken me years to get into a groove of being able to handle it.
"It's more the insanity of it than anything." Tabor clarifies, "Because most people take for granted that they can sit down in their own chair each night and it never crosses your mind as to what a comfort that is until suddenly your life is made up of changing thins all the time. Humans aren't really made for that. For long periods of time, it can drive some people just insane. And so we've learned to pace ourselves and come home and take breaks and we don't do any more 11-month-straight-with-no-break tours and things like that."
I have to wonder about Tabor's family.
"I used to spend a lot more time at home than I do now," Tabor admits. "My son lives in California now, he's in the Navy actually. And now that he's out of the house, I just go ahead and do more touring and working because I don't have to be here for him. But when he was home, I was home a lot more than I am now."
Tabor is currently involved in four record deals-- King's X, Jughead, The Jelly Jam and his solo work.
"I do an album with each of those every year to year and a half, so it's pretty much non-stop," says Tabor.
"Wow, you must be really creative," I utter in awe.
"Either that or really stupid. I'm about to kill myself," Tabor chuckles.
Learn more about King's X or, better yet, buy their albums and catch their tour, visit www.kingsxonline.com
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