The Ever Enduring Integrity of
Lee Ann Leach
In all my 15 odd years of keeping my eye on the rock music industry, there is not a band I can point my finger at and say, “That band is incredibly talented, courageous, full of strength, character and most of all, has integrity in their personal selves, how they handle the music business and in their music.” That is, except for King’s X. I saw them for the first time in 1990, at the first Livestock Festival held by 98 Rock in Tampa. I only went to the festival because my 15 year old foster daughter wanted to see Trixter, who was playing in the lineup following King’s X. So, we managed to get there in time to see the King’s X performance, and I was astounded at the enormous sound produced by this three-piece band. Now, ten years later, I am still amazed at their talent and integrity.
On May 23rd, King’s X and Metal Blade Records released the band’s ninth album, entitled Please Come Home… Mr. Bulbous. The last few albums produced by this band, Tapehead (1998), Ear Candy (1996), and Dogman (1994), tended to concentrate on the intense musical end of the band and lay low on the lyrical and vocal skills. PCHMB returns back to the same harmonious vocals and insightful lyrics of the band’s earlier efforts, such as Faith, Hope and Love and Gretchen Goes to Nebraska. The band has always listed the sweet harmonies of the Beatles as a major influence in their vocal style and it’s oh-so-present in this latest recording effort.
PCHMB is a self produced recording, with lead guitarist Ty Tabor taking the most decisive role in the production. Bass and drum tracks were recorded at bassist Doug Pinnick’s studio, Hound Pound, while vocals and guitars were recorded at Tabor’s own studio, Alien Beans. Artwork for PCHMB was also done by the hands of Tabor.
Tracks include “In A Fishbowl,” “Julia,” “She’s Gone Away,” “Marsh Mellow Field” (classic King’s X!), “When You’re Scared,” “Charlie Sheen” (no, it’s not about the actor!), “Smudge,” “Bitter Sweet,” and the last two tracks, (the best, in my personal opinion!) “Move Me” and “Move Me (Part Two).” Speaking with bassist Pinnick in a telephone interview, I learned some of the stories behind a couple of the songs on PCHMB.
The first song we discussed was “Smudge.” Pinnick does this half-rapped, half-sung little scat thing. I asked him whether the current surge of rap music had influenced him in writing this song. “Rap music has been around for I don’t know how long, and I’ve always been afraid to rap because I never thought I’d be any good at it, [laughs] but with this song, I’ve sort of enjoyed doing something along the rap line; I don’t think it’s what you would consider ‘rapping.’ Right now, I’m listening to a lot of Slipknot and bands like Korn and the Deftones. I think that’s where this inspiration is coming from in all this.”
Next up on the list was “Julia.” Pinnick stated that this was his personal favorite off PCHMB. “Actually, the song ‘Julia’ comes in two parts. The first part is about when my sister was living with me with a child who was three, and she was 22. She lived with me for a year. Her child began calling me ‘Grandpa Dad,’ and then she moved back to Illinois and well, the first part is about her leaving and it’s my feelings. It just sort of flowed right into it. The chorus is ‘Julia, you don’t have to cry, I’ll do anything you want, be your Superman,’ and that doesn’t make any sense, but the melody, the music, and the way it goes is just really beautiful. The second part is about a real good friend of mine that had his wife leave him, and it’s about her. Julia is really no one, when I got to the chorus all I could hear was this chorus in my head going ‘Joooooooo-lee-aaa’ (singing) and everyone was like, ‘Who’s Julia?’ I said, ‘No one! It just sounds so good,’ so I left it like that!”
In talking about the sixth track on PCHMB, “Charlie Sheen,” Pinnick talked about how this song was written and explained it in these words. “We all wrote this song together… ‘Charlie Sheen’ is a song about… Ohhhh, I forget what’s it’s about now! But, basically we just wrote it line by line… just threw our own thoughts in. Ty would say a line, then Jerry would say a line, and then I would say a line. When we got to the part where Charlie Sheen was added, Ty blurted out, ‘Charlie Sheen!’ We just looked at him and said, ‘Charlie Sheen?! What does that mean?’ and he said, ‘I don’t know, but it rhymes,’ so that’s how it got there. What we do when we write lyrics is that we just come up with some of the craziest, stupidest, funniest things we can come up with, and that’s how we write.” Anyone who knows anything about King’s X can see this clearly in their lyrical direction. Solid, heavy, well-constructed base music with lyrics that contain, simply put, the first things that pop into their heads. Sort of a psychological brain dredging thrown into lyrical form in a song.
King’s X’s history in the music industry is a long and arduous journey lasting well over 20 years. Yes, 20 years. How many other bands that have not gained monumental, legendary status can say this? Not many. Considering everything this band has gone through and experienced, it is close to a miracle that they are still going at it. Really, King’s X is probably the most unrecognized, underrated, and underplayed band on both radio and music video television. It is very sad and downright disgusting that this is the way it is. King’s X were the originators of bringing positive spirituality into the secular rock music world, yet bands that followed with the same theme (such as Collective Soul and Creed) have gained far more notoriety and notice from the press, radio and music video television. I have a very hard time digesting this fact. I asked Pinnick’s feelings on the subject, and how he deals with knowing that Atlantic Records has put so much into Collective Soul and didn’t give his band the same promotion or faith (King’s X were on Atlantic for the promotion of Faith, Hope and Love back in ’90-’91 and were dropped shortly thereafter). “The bottom line is this,” he says. “At first it hurt, because I felt like something was taken from us. But on the other hand, when you think about it, in what we do, and the music we make… we have the world imitating it… then we must be doing something right! Whether we’ve made a lot of money at it, or whether the world knows this or not, in my heart, I know I’ve done something, and it means a lot to me. You’ve got to remember, too… that when Collective Soul’s first song came out, it was an automatic hit. When a record company has a band that comes out right off and has a huge hit like that, then they’re gonna do all they can to push it even further. They’re gonna pull all the stops out. With King’s X, we never did get to that point. We would have loved to have gotten to that point, but we didn’t, and there was really nothing we or the label could do about that. If people aren’t buying corn flakes then Kellogg’s will pull it off the shelf and the people that do want them will go to the mom and pop stores to buy it.”
It seems that Pinnick and his fellow bandmates have become the corn flakes he was describing, and have made their way on the smaller – yet more accessible – Metal Blade record label, and are doing quite well, thank you very much. And even Collective Soul are thumbing their noses at Atlantic Records these days, as one of the tunes featured on their upcoming CD due to be released in September is entitled “Prick,” which Ed Roland from Collective Soul openly admits is directed at the major label for “lack of communication to the band.” Gee, you’d think Atlantic would get the message, eh? Two great bands with worthy and uplifting music have been disappointed by the efforts given to each of them from the label.
All in all, King’s X have endured and stayed strong in all areas of their lives and music. It is beautifully reflected in Please Come Home… Mr. Bulbous, and from what I have been hearing from the die-hard King’s X fans, it is probably their strongest and best produced album to date. I have to agree with the hardcores here. The emotion, sense of humor, and mostly the intensity, aggressiveness and sheer talent is so well displayed that I won’t be surprised if this is the band’s best selling and most recognized recording yet. It’s high time King’s X got their well deserved nod of approval from the masses. “Maybe we’ll be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame one day as the most unrecognized talent in rock music history,” Pinnick jokingly muses to me at the close of our discussion. Let’s hope not. Let’s hope they are inducted so the masses finally do catch onto these three men of incredible talent and integrity… I can’t think of three musicians who would deserve it more!