Return of the Kings

After a decade and a half and numerous side projects, King's X is still going strong.

King's X, with Podunk, TBS, and Antithesis The Phantasy, 11802 Detroit Avenue, Lakewood 9 p.m., Friday, August 4, $15, 216-228-6300
King's X likes it low and heavy.
King's X likes it low and heavy.
When the time comes for a new King's X album, you have to greet the event with a mixture of delight and dread -- delight because the band will finally release a new set of energetic and challenging songs, and dread because of the inevitable slew of King's X side projects that generally accompany a new disc. And this year is no different from previous years.

Along with the new King's X album, the groundbreaking Please Come Home . . . Mr. Bulbous, the individual members have an astonishing array of side projects in the pipeline. Guitarist Ty Tabor, who also plays in Platypus, has just seen the release of Ice Cycles, an album which features Dream Theater's John Myung and Derek Sherinian, and the Dixie Dregs' Rod Morgenstein. He's also completing work on his as-yet-untitled, sophomore solo album. Bassist Doug Pinnick is finishing work on the second album from his side project, Poundhound, and has formed a new band called Supershine, with Trouble guitarist Bruce Franklin and members of the Bus Boys. He's also just finished a track for a Van Halen tribute and is gearing up for a contribution to a Metallica tribute. Drummer Jerry Gaskill has a project called Geek, which Pinnick produced. The countless side projects and offshoots represent a classic case of overachievement, but it's still only par for King's X.

With so much energy thrown into his side work, which includes a number of production and mastering jobs that come his way, it's amazing that Tabor has anything left for his primary band, but he's constantly energized, as he proceeds from one project to the next, in both scope and attitude.

"When you get together with different musicians, you are always limited by whatever vibe it creates among those musicians," Tabor says, when asked how his creative expression in King's X is affected by his side work. "I feel actually more free in King's X to do absolutely anything. The way we look at it, we're open to anything as far as writing -- any style, anything at all, if it's really what somebody's feeling."

Those outside experiences must have been particularly liberating this time, because Tabor is incredibly excited about the results of the new album.

"I'm extremely happy with it," Tabor says of Mr. Bulbous. "It's definitely the most experimental thing we've ever done. For me, it was being inspired by Jeff Buckley, recently, and getting into his Grace album, and a lot of the live footage of his band, since the album was recorded live. I loved the free-form style that he had, with no rules about where to take a song. I think that just being inspired by something like that reminded me that in some of the earlier instances of King's X, we were a lot more free-form in our writing. I just wanted to get back to that and to see what would come out, because we all have different likes and dislikes now. I thought if we were experimental like that now and just free to let the music go wherever that it would be something very different for us."

When Pinnick, the four-string half of the rhythm section, discusses the band's new album, he does so with a bass player's standard stoicism and lack of window-dressing.

"We were bored," he says, without hesitation. "Sometimes you just get tired of hearing your band do the same old thing, and you want to reinvent yourself or be adventurous. We just decided to be adventurous."

Tabor's take on the Bulbous sessions implies that the band looked back to some of its earlier work and then reprocessed the results.

"We did concentrate on making the vocals important again, like we did on the earlier things," says Tabor. "We used to have a lot of harmony parts, and we wanted to do some of that again with a different background of music. The background of music in some places is more vicious than anything we've done, and at the same time the overall tone of the record is deceptively more mellow."

After playing together in a band called the Edge, Tabor, Pinnick, and Gaskill formed King's X in Houston in 1985 and released its debut, Out of the Silent Planet, three years later. After a decade and a half together, Tabor says, there has been no lessening of the chemistry between himself, Pinnick, and Gaskill.

"Doug and Jerry and I always feel the same thing at the same time -- it's uncanny, really," Tabor says with a laugh. "We'll come together, and one of us will say, 'Man, I've been thinking so and so . . .' and all three of us are like 'Absolutely, I've been thinking the same thing.' We're always on the same page when it comes to doing records, and we always feel the same way about it."

Right now, the band's biggest concern is its summer tour and the preparations required to make it happen to everyone's satisfaction. Pinnick has his own take on what should occur, once the band is on the road.

"I really am looking forward to this one," he says. "I really wanted to do just this album, nothing old except Tape Head and Dogman, but I know we can't get away with that. We might have to do a couple of old standards. But I really want to do nothing but new stuff. It's a new time, a new era. In the 20 years we've been together, there's songs 10 years old, from the records, and there's stuff older than that. So, unless the people really want to hear them, we're really tired of them."

Fans who wanted the greatest hits package should have been on board for the last tour. "Before the last tour, we actually got on the Internet and took a poll to find out what everybody's favorites were, and we basically did that set," Pinnick says. "That was the 'Best of' Tour. It's all over. No more. You know, we look out in our audience, and there's so many younger kids out there that have never heard our first couple of records. It almost doesn't matter, except everybody still sings 'Goldilox.' Everybody likes that one. I wish the world had liked it the way they like it."

The debate over old material may be moot. An alternate tuning device that the band used on Mr. Bulbous may make any of the older songs they play on this tour sound brand new, anyway.

"On the new album, we dropped the guitar -- the whole guitar is tuned five steps lower than normal," says Pinnick. "We were thinking about doing a lot of the old songs in that key, so it will be low and heavy. 'It's Love' will be like three or four steps lower . . . It'll pound your brains out. We can't wait to do it. We want to be beautifully heavy."

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