Cult of Luna
Voivod: Part 2
Voivod: Part 1
Dillinger Escape Plan
The Year In Metal
Dead to Fall
Tapping The Vein
High On Fire
Metal Meltdown IV
Metal/Hardcore Fest 2002
Century Media Records
My Dying Bride
The Year In Metal
Metal Blade Records
Maudlin of the Well
Thrash of the Titans
Dust To Dust
Six Feet Under
Metal/Hardcore Fest 2001
Metal Meltdown III
Pain of Salvation
Children Of Bodom
Cradle Of Filth
Lamb Of God
Garden of Shadows
March Metal Meltdown
Metal/Hardcore Fest 2000
Flotsam and Jetsam
King's X. Hallowed be thy name. This Texas trio has been wowing fans and fellow musicians for well over a decade with their unique meld of melody and crunch. While global domination has eluded the band, Doug, Ty and Jerry have managed to gain the respect of their peers and amass a loyal following that continues to support the group through one genre-defying record after another. After leaving the giant Atlantic label, King's X released a string of sonic gems on Metal Blade, the latest being the experimental 'Manic Moonlight'. The Metal Update caught up with the band on tour in Salt Lake City, Utah, and cornered (literally) drummer Jerry Gaskill for a full interview. Over the din of a busy bar and a loud soundcheck, we preceeded to drill the man on all things King's X: past, present, and future.
METAL UPDATE: How's the tour going so far?
Really, really well. It's been a great tour. I love the set we're doin', and the crowd's been great, so good tour.
MU: Cool. How long have you been on tour so far?
Since around October 10th.
MU: For this album, you guys haven't hit Europe or Japan yet, have you?
MU: I was under the impression you guys haven't toured Europe since the 'Faith, Hope, Love' tour, is that right?
No, that's not true. I think the 'Bulbous' record was the last time we actually toured through Europe.
MU: What's the reaction like in Japan and other countries? What's your popularity like? Are you guys more popular over there than here?
It's a funny thing. I think everywhere we go, it's the same kind of loyal, King's X following. Everywhere we go, whether it be Europe or the United States or Japan or wherever we've been, it's just that thing. It's those few people who are just totally into King's X. So, wherever we go, we have a following.
MU: I saw you guys here last year, and you had the opening band, Podunk, which is another band from Texas, and you have Moke. I'd never heard of them before I read your website, and I heard a few tracks, and they're really good. The bands that you tour with, are you friends with these guys? Do you know who they are?
Well, we didn't know them before the tour, but once they came on tour, yeah, we fell in love with them. We're all friends and pals. . .
MU: Did your record label suggest these bands, or how did that come about?
As a matter of fact, Podunk turned Ty onto Moke, and he just fell in love with it. Their record company thought it'd be a good idea for 'em to come with us, I guess, and we hooked up, and we're doin' a tour and we're all happy about it. I think it's a great combination, Moke / King's X. It's a good tour.
MU: Where did the name King's X come from?
Well, actually, we're all sittin' around a room one day. All of a sudden, this spaceship thing came down out of the sky, right into the room we were sittin' in, and on the side of it it had written "King's X." These alien people came out, and they say, "You will now be called King's X." That's kinda how it happened. Most people don't know that, but that's the truth behind the story.
MU: (chuckle) I've read Sam Taylor, your old manager, came up with that name. Is that true?
That is true. He was in the spaceship. He came out. . . No, we were just sittin' around the room one day, tryin' to come up with a new name, and he threw that out to us. It didn't seem to mean anything to us. Well, as time went on, we just looked at each other and said, "So, are we King's X or what?" And that's how it came about.
MU: So, there's no greater significance or any sort of special meaning behind the name at all?
No. . . other than the fact that it didn't sound like it meant anything to us, so I thought that would be cool. I came to find out later that there was some kinda meaning to it. Like, cross your fingers like this down in Texas or whatever. . . playin' a game and somebody calls. . . do this, and say "King's X" and kinda become exempt from being hit, or whatever. But it doesn't apply to us. It's just the name of our band.
MU: You guys have been around for a long time, but you've managed to avoid mainstream acceptance or success. What do you see as being the major roadblocks to that in your career?
Well, actually, I don't know the answer to that because if I did know the answer, we probably would be in the mainstream. You can't force people to buy records. I think we've done what we could, and whether or not people buy records is a whole different thing. Know what I mean? Does it make sense?
MU: Yeah, it makes sense.
I really don't know the answer. I mean, I have little ideas in my head that I can say throughout our career, but I really don't know what changed.
MU: You guys have been, this is an old issue, but for one reason or another, tagged as a "Christian" rock band. I think that label has kind of worn off now, but do you think that has been part of the reason why, I mean, usually, Christianity does not sell rock music. . .
Well, I have thought before that that may have something to do with it. I know we did a big Rolling Stone article, you know, like a full-color, three-page article, and most of the article was about Christianity, you know? "Doug had grown up in church," and blah, blah, blah, and all these things about Christianity. That was one of the biggest articles ever written about us. So, I have thought before maybe that has something to do with it. You know, people not being as interested, but I really don't know. I talked to Dave Mustaine one day. I went to one of his shows. I went down and said "hi" to him. The first thing he said to me, he said, "Are you guys a Christian band?" I said, "Well, no, we never discuss our background." He said that's what attracted him to us, the fact that he thought that we were a Christian band. So, I don't know.
MU: Was there a certain point in your career when people said, "King's X, the Christian rock band." Did you guys accept that label? Were you happy with that label, or did you at least accept it at some point and later on say, "Hey, no, I don't think so?" At least with interviews with Doug and Ty, they say, "We've never really been about that, exactly." I mean, I read some of your lyrics, even from the earliest records, and even though there's nothing blatantly evangelical about them, there are Christian allusions in the lyrics. I think you guys certainly projected that kind of image in a certain way. Was that something you tried to avoid from the beginning, or did later on you say, "Man, I don't really like that label. I wish we would disassociate ourselves from that?"
All of us have been in the Christian arena, and I think a lot of it is because, being in that, we realized that that's not where we needed to be. So, once we started this band, we never, from the very moment we got together, ever portrayed ourselves as a Christian band. We never were by any stretch of the imagination. That's something that we've never had any desire to portray.
MU: Well, but still, the title of your third record is 'Faith, Hope, Love'. That's taken from the Bible, and there are certain biblical or Christian allusions in the lyrics. Was that just part of. . .
I mean, it was okay to do that. We felt comfortable doin' that. Sam Taylor was about that point, too. Some of that was something that he really wanted to do, and we didn't feel. . .but never were we a Christian band. Never will we be a Christian band.
MU: Were you and Doug members of Petra [a Christian rock band] for a while?
Well, that is a rumor that has been circulating around. Are you like a Christian magazine thing?
MU: Oh, no, we're not. Someone told me Doug tried out for Petra.
Well, here's the deal. Here's the whole story. Back in 1979, I met a guy named Greg Volz. He had worked with Petra, some earlier stuff, and ended up being the lead singer of Petra in their heyday, when they were huge. So, I was working with him, and we did some work together. We did a few shows together, recorded some stuff and he was trying to get Petra back together. They were in like some kinda hiatus or something, he wanted to get Petra back together. He asked me if I wanted to play drums, and he said he knew this bass player from Chicago, and it's Doug, and he asked Doug to join. So, Doug moved down to Springfield, Missouri to join Petra, an' I was joining Petra, but it never came about. It never happened. The whole Petra thing just didn't happen with us, and I think Greg felt bad about that. So, he knew Phil Keaggy [Christian solo artist] and he talked with Phil and tried to get a band together for Phil to go on tour. The band happened to be me and Doug, and him, and Phil, and a keyboard player. So, we actually did form a band with Phil Keaggy and went on tour, but we never were officially in Petra. We toured with Petra later in another band, which is a whole other story, too. It's a long time ago. It's over twenty years ago. Like I tell my kids, "Just remember, everything changes. Just know that everything changes. The only thing that doesn't change, is that things change." It's a long time ago. Actually, one time I said it to my ten-year-old son, "Everything changes. The only thing that doesn't change is. . . ," and he goes, "That you love me?" I said, "Well, yeah, that, too."
MU: Of all the records you guys have made up to this point, was there any one particular record you can single out that before it came out you said to yourself, "If we're going to break out big-time, this is going to be it?" Was there a particular record in your mind that had that special something that was going to make you popular?
I'll be honest. I've thought that about all of our records. I thought they were all good records. When we did 'em, I thought, "This is a great record." I stood by it and believed in it. . . I mean, I don't know. I don't know the answer to what it takes for us to predict it, I don't know. . . We're just making music and thankful that we can make a living at it.
MU: Do you have a favorite King's X record?
I don't know if I have a favorite. They're all my favorite at the time. I really enjoy the 'Bulbous' record. I thought that was a great record. I liked 'Ear Candy'. That's a really good one. I liked 'em all, at the time. You know, that's a hard question for me because I'm not very objective about it. I just see 'em for what they are. I know what I was goin' through when we made the records and blah, blah, blah. . .
MU: A lot of die-hard King's X fans look to 'Gretchen Goes To Nebraska' as the definitive King's X record. Why do you think that is?
Here's what I think you should do. I think you should interview all the fans who say that. . . 'cause I don't know. I guess they liked it. It's probably because of the story I wrote on there. It's all I can think. I don't know the answer to any of your questions. (laughter) If I knew all these answers, I would probably be doing different things.
MU: I know, in the beginning, you guys were really concerned about forging an individual identity and spit-polishing songs, and the last two. . .
How do you know that?
MU: Well, sorry, I look on the internet and I get these things. I'm making an assumption, but it seems to me the last two or three records have been fairly loose. They're good records, but they're more "jam-orientated" or not necessarily "Okay, let's cross every t and dot every i." Is that something you guys feel comfortable with and want to continue with, or do you want to, in the future, go back to earlier records where there's more second-guessing, more planning?
Yeah, well, we think about all those things. We leave everything open. I think we will continue to write songs together, as opposed to just writing songs individually and bring 'em to the band, which is the way we've done the last three records - got together and write songs together. I think we'll continue that. Whether we use another producer, or really polish it up like you're saying, dot all the i's and cross all the t's, or whatever - that's possible. We may do something like that again, or we may. . . I don't know. We're as curious and surprised when a record comes out as anybody else.
MU: On the new record, you guys used drum loops and experimented more with technology and electronic things. Do you guys find it harder as you go along to find new sources of inspiration? Does it get harder to write, at all?
I think that we think that before we get together. I think we all think, "Man, what are we gonna do with this? There's nothin' left." I think we think that we've done everything, or what can inspire us now? But once we all three get in a room together and start doin' it, new things just come out. I think that becomes the inspiration. It's the fact that the three of us are together makin' music again. So, what'd ya think of that?
MU: Cool. Well, that works with me. I mean, personally, I'm not one of those people that tends to say, "Oh, 'Gretchen Goes To Nebraska' is the thing." You know? I think it's cool that every record you do has the King's X stamp on it, but you're willing to experiment and do different things. I compare you guys to Rush. Those guys do what they want to do, and they still maintain their integrity because their fan base expects them to do what they want to do. . .
MU: Are you working on any solo or side projects at the moment?
I am planning, and I've been planning for quite some time, to do a solo record. And I will do it, I just have to get out there and do it. Songs are written, ready to go, I just have to. . .
MU: Are you working with some of the other guys in the band, or is this totally other people?
Well, I may use those guys for their studios. I've been working a bit with Wally Farkas from the Galactic Cowboys, and I may recruit some other people to do things that I can't do. I can't do everything that I hear in my head on a guitar, and whatever. So, I'll probably choose some other people, and I'll do as much as I can. . . So, I play it on this record. . . and the other Poundhound, and the latest Galactic Cowboys record, and Ty's new solo record, 'Supershine'.
MU: You guys have recorded the last three records at Ty's studio, right?
The last two we pretty much did at his studio, and the 'Tapehead' record we did pretty much at Doug's studio.
MU: The studios you guys have made yourselves, have you been happy with the sound and the resources you've had available to you? Has it worked out pretty well?
Well, I think that it's really nice. I think we can make decent records with the stuff that we all have, or those guys have. I'm sure we're not getting, you know, certain degrees with it because it's not like million-dollar. . . you know, the highest quality of everything available, but we can make good records.
MU: Are you happier with working in studios you guys have made yourselves?
Well, it's really, really, comfortable making records at one of the guys' houses. It's just the three of us. It's real relaxed, and there's no pressure. We like that. That's a great situation. Plus, we can take all the money and live off of it, rather than pay for a damn studio.
MU: Speaking of money, I've read an interview with Doug saying, that you guys are better off now than you've ever been in your career. Is that true?
That is true. I think there was a time when we could've been a lot better off, but things happen, and there you go.
MU: Does the extra money come largely from the fact you're working with a smaller label, and you're doing a lot of stuff on your own?
I think that may have something to do with it. Just the fact that we can do everything ourselves, so the money can come to us rather than all go out immediately. But we're talkin' a whole lifetime here, so I'm gonna be very vague.
MU: You guys are pretty prolific. I mean, the first three records came out within a year of each other, and even since then, you guys have put out a record pretty much every other year. Is that something you feel like you wanna do, or is there any pressure from you or the record label to do so?
I think it's just the way we have to do it to live. If we're not makin' records or we're not touring, then there's no money comin' in. So, that's what we do. We make records and we tour. If we were sellin' millions and millions of records, maybe we wouldn't see a record so quickly, I don't know.
MU: I want to talk about Sam Taylor. I know you guys split with him around the time of the fourth record. What was the main reason for the split with him as a manager?
I think the main reason was, I think we were just goin' in different directions. We were thinking differently.
MU: Musically speaking?
Possibly musically, in business, in all areas of life. It was just time for us to move on, for him to move on.
MU: Do you guys manage yourselves now?
We all manage ourselves now.
MU: So, you don't have any official representation?
We're pretty much doin' everything ourselves now.
MU: Is that working out pretty well for you?
I think it is, you know? I mean, we're able to have fun, go on tour, make records, you know, have a decent living, and, you know, kinda do what we wanna do.
MU: Cool. On a side note, what were the main reasons for the break with Atlantic Records?
Again, I think that it just played its course, you know? We both realized that we had taken it as far as we could, and it was time to move on.
MU: Was Atlantic supportive of you as a band? Were you happy with their marketing for you?
I think so, yeah. I think Atlantic did everything they possibly could. There's a time when, you know, we were all over MTV, a lot of radio airplay, a lot of big tour support. Yeah, I think Atlantic did everything they could. It just got to a point where, I think I may have said earlier, you can't force people to buy records. It just got to that point where we. . . I think it was a mutual thing. Let's just move on and see what happens.
MU: When you guys broke from Atlantic and were shopping your music around to different labels, did you have a lot of labels interested? Were there a lot of labels saying, "Hey, come work for us?"
Well, we're on Metal Blade. Maybe you can deduce from that.
MU: I mean, before that, did you get a lot of offers from different labels?
Well, actually, there wasn't a lot of offers.
MU: Really? That surprises me. I mean, even if you guys didn't sell fifteen million records, you have a very strong following. So, once you signed with Metal Blade, are you happy with the way they've been treating you?
I think they're doing what they can.
MU: You guys aren't buying mansions and BMWs every week, but you guys have been together twenty years and forged a career. Do you feel successful? Are you satisfied with your musical career? Do you guys feel okay with what you've done so far and the level of success that you've achieved?
Actually, I think we all do, yeah. Ty and I were just talkin' about that quite a bit on this tour. This tour seems really special. It's just helpin' us to realize that we have achieved a lot of what we set out to do. We may not have sold millions of records, but we have, like you said, forged that thing where the music is special. . . special as any music that they've ever heard. I think that's successful. And just by being this band - and the things we've done - has opened up other doors for us to be able to continue with this career and do other things that we want. I think we have a nice little nest to rest on.
MU: You guys are one of the most original bands I've ever heard in my life. I mean, there are elements: I hear the Beatles. I hear Black Sabbath. I hear certain things that. . .
You have to steal from somebody.
MU: Sure, everybody's a thief. You know, like Ozzy says, everybody's a thief.
The good artist borrows, a great artist steals. . .
MU: That's right. At some point, when you guys really started to forge your own sound, did you guys have any concerns, thinking, "Oh, crap, we're so original that we're not going to find an audience. How are we going to market ourselves with this sound?"
Actually, I don't think we ever thought like that. We didn't think, "Oh, wow, we're so original." We were just making the music that we felt to make, and never, never felt that it was this original thing like you're talkin' about 'til the first record came out. We finished with the first record and we thought, "Wow, this is different. Now, where the hell'd this come from." But we didn't consciously set out to make somethin' that was what it has become. I think when you do that, you have something to offer. More than likely when you're following what's inside yourself, it's gonna have a uniqueness to it because each one of us, I think, are individuals. If we're bein' true to that, then there has to be a certain uniqueness to it.
MU: Along the line of influence, like I said, with the vocals I hear the Beatles. I hear a little Jimi Hendrix in Doug's voice, and I hear some Black Sabbath in there. When you guys were growing up, what kind of stuff did you listen to? Did you listen to Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath and all that stuff?
Oh, yeah. All that stuff, yeah. I remember the Beatles came to America. I was, I think, five - four or five - and it just changed my life. It's like, "That's what you will do from now on." I was playin' before that, but that's what opened up the gates to whatever, you know? Then, I would. . . Grand Funk and Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, you know, all the bands that we thought were great in the 60's and 70's. It's what we grew up on.
MU: Where do you see the band ten years from now? Do you see yourselves continuing as a band and going forward another ten, fifteen, twenty years?
Yeah, I was thinkin' about this the other day, and I'm thinking, you know, we can all do whatever we want to do. We can all make other records, play with other people, have other bands, do whatever we want, but what would be the reason of breaking King's X up in the midst of that? We can still do King's X, too, you know? So, I don't see why we wouldn't wanna get together to make music, no matter what else we're doin'.
MU: Twenty years is a long time for three guys to be together. What keeps you from killing each other?
It must be love. It must be love that holds it all together. (chuckle)
MU: Are you guys pretty good friends? Do you guys get along pretty well, as a group?
Yeah, yeah, we do. I feel like those guys are brothers, my best friends, you know? If I trust anybody, it's those guys. I don't know what's kept us together for so long, other than the fact that we enjoy makin' music together and we love each other as people. I think the fact that we have been together so long has helped us to learn about each other, so that we don't get to that point where we want to kill each other. I think we've worked through a lot of that stuff. Plus, when we're not makin' music, we never see each other. So, that helps, too.
MU: You are planning to release a book, is that correct?
Yeah, that is correct.
MU: What's the content like?
It's totally fiction, pretty fantastic, a lotta fantasy. . . and yet at the same time, to me sometimes fiction is more real than nonfiction. You can cover a lot more area in fiction than you can in nonfiction, 'cause nonfiction you have to state the facts, but fiction you can just go anywhere. . .
MU: Do you read a lot of science fiction or fiction? Do you read a lot in your spare time?
Not a lotta science fiction, but, yeah, I've read a lot.
MU: Do you gravitate towards a certain subject area?
Not necessarily a certain subject. There's certain writers that I like. When I was a teenager, I loved, I still do, Herman Hesse. Herman Hesse, the German writer, I don't know if you're familiar with. . . I read almost everything of his - just love all that. C.S. Lewis was another guy. George MacDonald was another guy. And I love the Anne Rice stuff - the Vampire Chronicles - love it. It's just so many different things.
MU: When I think of King's X, there are certain bands, like Galactic Cowboys and Atomic Opera, that have a similar sound, especially in the vocals. I know you know these guys. Did you and those other bands develop around the same time? Do you influence each other?
Well, a lot of that stuff is in the Sam Taylor days, too. So, there's a lot of Sam Taylor influence, and that may have something to do with it. I've never felt we were influenced by those guys, necessarily. I think they may have been influenced by us. I don't know whether they'll admit it or not. We were like a little family, but I see us all as completely different bands, not like one comes with the other.
MU: Among rock musicians, you guys carry a lot of respect. As far as blatant influence, and I don't know how much you're up on current music, but when you listen to the radio or listen to records, do you find yourself saying, "Oh, it sounds like us?"
I didn't used to do that. I used to just think everybody just did what they did, but as I go on and have people talk to me and point things out to me, it's almost like the whole damn world has been influenced by King's X, you know? It just amazes me. We meet people all the time, and it seems like no matter who we meet, no matter what level they're on, they're like, "Woah, man, you guys! We listened to you when we were a kid." So, I start to hear it now because people tell me. I guess I just have to believe it's true. It's pretty amazing, actually. Like, for instance, Deftones - I love Deftones. Recently I saw them in. . . and he came back and told me, "Man, Abe [Cunningham, Deftones drummer] - you're his hero." I had John Otto [Limp Bizkit drummer] say the same thing to me. So, I kicked him in the bal ls and said, "Hey, I don't wanna hear that shit!" (laughter) I didn't really do that.
MU: Did you have any sort of formal training or take lessons?
None at all.
MU: When you think of drum influences, are there any particular names or bands that come to mind?
John Bonham comes to mind. Don Brewer [Grand Funk Railroad], Ringo, Buddy Rich.
MU: You haven't incorporated jazz or Latin or anything like that?
No, I've never considered myself a "drummer's drummer." I just play what I feel, what comes to me. I admire those guys who can do all that stuff, just given themselves to drums, but I've never really just given myself to drums, and I like to write songs. I like to do other things.
MU: Do you play guitar or any other instruments?
Yeah, I do. I play a little guitar.
MU: So, when you guys write music, you're the drummer for the band, but do you come up with any riffs?
I don't really come up with riffs, or anything, not with King's X. I mean, I might say, "Hey, why don't we stay on this chord a little bit longer" or something like that 'cause you got Ty Tabor on guitar. I don't need me playin' riffs for him. (laughter)
MU: You guys have not had an outside producer for the last three or four records. Is that done on purpose? Do you not want another Brendan O' Brien or someone like that?
Well, like I said to you earlier, we're open to whatever. We're not gonna throw anything out, and if it comes to a point where we work with another producer, then it'll probably be a great situation. If not, we'll continue making records as we are, but we're not gonna throw anything out. All possibilities are open.
MU: But, I mean, since the last three records, you guys have not had an outside producer. Did that just come out naturally? Did your record label not suggest a producer? Did you guys just say, "Hey, let's produce this ourselves?"
Well, Metal Blade has given us entire freedom to make records, however we want and whenever we want, which is a really good thing. So, that's where we're at. Actually, we've always been that way. We always made the music that we wanted to make.
review of King's X 'Manic Moonlight'
review of King's X / Moke Concert
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