Tuesday, February 28, 2012

You Should Appreciate King's X While They're Here

Jerry Gaskill had a heart attack.

You're probably asking, "who's Jerry Gaskill?" The fact that you're asking that question kind of upsets me. It upsets me when extremely talented musicians have to labor on the hardest circuits, and no-talent hacks scoop up Grammys and millions of dollars.

Gaskill is the drummer for, in my book, THE underrated American band, King's X. They were just about to embark on a US tour, but that's had to be scuttled, for obvious reasons. Now, more than anything, I wish Jerry a quick and full recovery. That's more important than anything.

However, this has just reminded me how fragile this band is, and has been. There's been rumors of a break-up at the release of every album since 1996's Ear Candy. That album even had the lyric "last time aboard the train that goes around the world," and fans feared the worst.

We feared, even though we understood. The band has faced an uphill climb from almost day one. They were older than your average "rock star" (Bassist/primary singer Dug Pinnick was 38 when their first major label album was released - he's 61 now). They were lumped into the fading "hair metal" movement when their first album, Out of the Silent Planet, was released in 1988. They were also lumped into the "Christian Rock" genre by their original producer/manager, with the double problem of the assumptions made by the public based on that label, and that the band's subject matter was never that cut and dried.

Yes...the band has affirmed Christian beliefs over the years, but their music has constantly represented more of the core, loving nature of Christianity, rather than the oftentimes divisive dogma of organized religion. Oftentimes questioning faith within their lyrics. As time passed, their music moved further and further from the normal tropes of "Christian Rock," sometimes alienating their fanbase. This evolution came to a head when Pinnick announced that he was gay in 1998, leading to the band's albums being pulled pulled by Christian bookstore distributors.

Honestly, I am not overly religious, but the subject matter of the bands music, in any phase of their career, has never phased me. I was comfortable because the band has never, ever felt like preachers for anything other than Rock and Roll. Even tracks that were rather overtly pro-life never felt like more than a personal sadness over the procedures taking place, at all, rather than a condemnation (Plus, it's just a beautiful song, and I'm not one to let my political beliefs override a lovely work of art). Whereas, with one-note bands like Petra, the music seemed an excuse for preaching, King's X made it very clear that the music was far more important than any religious agenda. I also appreciate that, when the religious material did appear, it was all, in the main, positive. Much like my early years in the Methodist Church, I enjoy the idea that the gospel is "the Good News" rather than some hellfire and brimstone terror story.

So, anyway...yes, King's X is a band that has a history as a contemporary Christian act. A history that has been left pretty far behind. What was left was expert musicianship from Gaskill on drums, Pinnick on bass, and Ty Tabor on guitar, and a sound that preceded the heavy and melodic revolution that we know as "grunge." King's X was vastly heavy, with Pinnick even using a 12-string bass at times, full of bottom end and groove, layered with very melodic vocals, punctuated with almost Beatle-esque harmonies. They've been sited as influences to many of those Seattle bands that made it so huge (Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam is a huge fan).

The band has struggled, touring in vans and buses for more than 20 years. Consistently putting out albums, 15 studio albums, to date, with various live albums, as well, but never really reaching the level of stardom, I think, and have thought for a long while, they deserved. The band has been a "pet project" for me, I drag people to shows, give them mix CD, to try to spread the word...

Like the band says, if you like what you hear...go tell somebody.


  1. Awesome...a loving tribute to this band that we both know deserves to be heard, not to mention the fact that they are genuinely nice people to boot, always hanging out after the gig, signing everything folks stick in front of them, posing for pictures...all the while, smiling. Hoping beyond hope that Jerry fully recovers, and that they can bring the music once again to those of us that appreciate them...and that we can drag at least one non-fan along with us, proselytizing the faith that is The Groove Machine.

  2. I think one of the reasons that they never hit the heights of popularity is that (in an age of categorizations)they defied category. They came out in the late 80's and got lumped in with the metal of the day then. They weren't thrash like Metallica. So, did that make them a "Hair" band?...well...no not really. So, in the 90's with the grunge movement in full swing, the public was forced to feed into everything out of Seattle and forget everything from the 80's. But, wait! Yes Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam was (and is) a huge fan. I think he even wore a "Faith Hope Love" t-shirt when they were on SNL. Obviously, The band was upfront about their faith with an album titled Faith Hope Love. But, they didn't fit into the category of "Contemporary Christian Rock" They played Woodstock 94 for crying out loud. I honestly thought that would have blasted them into another level of popularity. Who did we see get the post Woodstock attention?...Green Day, Primus, Nine Inch Nails. After Woodstock, They played the MTV John Stewart show and even John Stewart says "they stole the show opening night at Woodstock!" On VH1's 100 greatest Hard Rock/Heavy Metal bands of all time, they made that list. You had people like Living Colour's Vernon Reid saying "it was only a matter of time before they would be THE BIGGEST BAND IN THE WORLD". They've juggled different record labels too. Their YouTube page has tons of famous musicians praising this band. I met Dug years ago at the Ranch Bowl after a show. I told him I had seen the band 4 times and they just kept getting better. He was so humble about the whole thing. He looked at me and asked "Really? you think so?" For those who have heard them. They get it. I'm afraid that now we're living in a world where music is so niche and diverse. People don't go to MTV and the radio to find new music. The brick and mortar record stores are a thing of the past (and I'm not working at one to push the albums anymore either) There was a post this past year from one of the finalists of American Idol had been performing a tune in his live show. Hopefully, Jerry recovers and the word will continue to spread.

  3. Hard to find a band with more passion that truly lives to play live.if u cant feel dugs heart and soul in his lyrics,u might be dead.great article on my all time favirite band.

  4. I wouldn't be the musician I am without King's X. Also some of the nicest, most genuine guys I've ever met.

  5. Love doesn't even begin to describe my feelings for King's X.

  6. I've seen King's X more times than I can remember and I have never had anything but the utmost respect for these guys. Their music is so full of the soul that has been missing from almost everything anybody else has produced in the last 25 years since I have been paying attention. They definitely have not had an easy time of it, but they continue to make genuine rock and roll and tour year after year to entertain us die-hards. Much love, strength and peace to Jerry. Here's to a speedy recovery.