Features

King's X's Ty Tabor Gets Manic in the Moonlight

by Duke Egbert

King's X is a band who are constantly named to "best of" lists compiled by musicians, but their commercial success has been limited. Fighting off every label that could be assigned to them, the band - bassist/vocalist Doug Pinnick, guitarist/vocalist Ty Tabor and drummer/vocalist Jerry Gaskill - has continually thrilled and challenged their fans with mixtures of funk and psychedelia, often in the course of the same song.

 

The band's latest CD, Manic Moonlight, is their third effort for Metal Blade Records - not including any of a selection of side projects the band has been involved in. Tabor recently chatted with "Daily Vault" writer Duke Egbert about their latest effort, their longevity and the roles the solo projects play with the band.


Duke Egbert: You have a new CD coming out this September called Manic Moonlight. What’s it like? You do have a history of always changing and updating your sound, so what did you do new on this disc?

Ty Tabor: Boy, it’s really hard to explain, but it is different once again from anything we’ve done before. We did utilize basically, we decided to rather than only experiment in different ways musically, we decided to experiment technically in some different ways also, and use some different types of things we don’t normally do with King’s X like using samples and loops and things to help create the groove. We also did try some different types of music as usual; it’s very different from the last album. The three-song sampler that I think you’ve got is not necessarily representative of the whole record. That’s some of the more mainstream sounding stuff on the record. The rest of the record does get into some more bizarre elements - grooves and sounds and tones that we’ve never used before. Some of it, even to us, doesn’t sound anything like us at all in some ways.

DE: You’ve been recording for thirteen years; in fact, I remember the first time I heard of you guys was on some late night video show in 1989 where I caught the video for “Over My Head” and said to myself, "This is cool." A lot of metal and rock bands will flame out and die after three years, four years, five years. What do you think the secret is for how long you guys have been together?

TT: I’ve only just recently thought about that at all, to tell you the truth, because people ask us that a lot. This is just speculation, I don’t really know, but it seems to me the fact that we’ve never quite fit in to whatever was happening musically has kept us from being just a fad that disappears. It’s hard to be a has-been if you haven’t been. And we’ve always stayed kind of underground, cult-type success, with a really really strong following that I think appreciates the fact that we just march to our own tune and don’t really care about what’s happening in the industry. We’ve seen so many different types of music come and go during our career that really had no effect on our band in any way. I guess that’s about the only thing I can attribute it to is that we don’t fit in with whatever the fad or style is anyway.

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Manic Moonlight, the latest disc from King's X. Artwork courtesy of Metal Blade Records

DE: In some ways, what King’s X is is similar to bands like the Grateful Dead or Phish -- not musically, but in terms of the fact that there’s a small, very loyal legion of fans; there’s never been any worry about getting chart success; you just go out and play and do what you do.

TT: Right, exactly. That is how we see it. That’s exactly what it’s turned into. The last two tours have been the two biggest tours in the history of the band, with no attempts for radio help or MTV or anything like that. It’s been based on the fans growing little by little. It’s really an amazing thing to us. Every time we go out and it’s a successful tour we’re always grateful people are still coming out.

 

DE: Do you think part of it is the fact the lineup has been stable, that it’s been you and Doug and Jerry for as long as it’s been?

TT: I don’t know, I mean, that’s probably a good question for somebody on the outside. I do know that we’ve tried to stay true all along, to have some type of integrity to what we’re doing, treating it like art rather than propaganda, [not] following the crowd. I think that might have something to do with it too, just that maybe people appreciate honesty.

 

DE: You were recently named one of the Top 100 Hard Rock Artists of all time by VH-1. Now, despite the fact I looked at that list today and it was a pretty liberal definition of hard rock in some cases, how do you feel about getting that kind of mainstream recognition when you’ve never been particularly mainstream? That list was chosen by musicians; do you think that’s kind of a gesture of respect from your comrades in the business?

TT: It certainly is. It certainly is a great honor that people within the industry that we look up to, who have influenced us through the years, see us as some type of peers in a strange way. For us that’s just a complete honor. It always surprises me, to be honest with you, that anybody likes our band. I know that we’re something hard to swallow for a lot of people, so any time a musician we respect or any musician, period, just comes up and tells us we’ve had some kind of influence on them or they really appreciate what we’re doing, that’s just such an honor. That’s pretty much how I saw the whole thing it’s just a great honor that people within the industry wanted to mention us as having some type of influence in it. It was humbling in one way because I always feel we’re undeserving of anything like that; on the other hand, we’re just very thankful that they wanted to mention us.

 

DE: There’s a pretty central thread to King’s X history relating to the spirituality of the band. Where do you think that is today? Does your spirituality still play a pretty central role for you guys?

TT: My personal belief is that we are spiritual beings whatever anybody does out of honesty has some spiritual value in one way or another, even if they don’t recognize it or even agree with me. That’s what I believe. I think that that’s shone through in what we write, because we write about true life experiences, the ugly parts as well as the good. As beings that are spiritual, I believe that element comes through.

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Photo courtesy of Metal Blade Records's German site

"It helped create a picture that none of us could predict or could do on our own. That’s the whole philosophy or idea of King’s X, that meld of a lot of different influences from different people to create something that none of us are the sum of that, you know?"

Ty Tabor on solo projects

DE: In a strange sort of way, you guys tell stories with your music as much as Harry Chapin ever did. It’s a very different style, but it’s a very similar feeling in the storytelling.

TT: That’s a great compliment. He was such a talented lyricist and storyteller…

 

DE: You’ve got a solo project, Moonflower Lane. What roles do your solo projects play in both your philosophy as a musician and in how the band works? Is it a place to vent?

TT: I think it does that in some ways, yeah. I think the whole original idea of doing solo stuff is that King’s X doesn’t really tour really heavily. I mean, we do on some albums once in a while, we’ll put in some pretty extensive touring some albums we’ll put in some pretty extensive touring, we did a couple of albums ago, then last year we didn’t tour quite as much. This year we’re only going to do six weeks, major cities and that’s it. We find ourselves, or we used to find ourselves, with quite a bit of downtime on the years that we didn’t tour heavily. I think I just decided to make use of that time, to be productive rather than just going out and riding motorcycles and having fun. I just felt the need to be productive in some other way outside of King’s X, and that was originally why I did the solo thing.

What I found is by doing some stuff like that on the outside, it makes me more fresh coming into King’s X. King’s X was the only venue for all of our ideas, and there are a lot of ideas coming out from the three guys in King’s X. It’s like forcing a lot of stuff through a thin funnel, and by having some of these outside projects we no longer have to force so much through that funnel. When we come together we are I don’t know, it changed all of our attitudes towards each other, the openness towards each other to work together truly as a band. It let everybody have their freedom to put their input in the way they see it, in that weird meld of different ideas and different cultural upbringing. It helped create a picture that none of us could predict or could do on our own. That’s the whole philosophy or idea of King’s X, that meld of a lot of different influences from different people to create something that none of us are the sum of that, you know?

 

DE: What do you listen to when you’re not listening to your own stuff?

TT: First of all, I never listen to my own stuff, unless it’s what we’re currently finishing or working on. I burn out on our stuff quick and I don’t want to listen to it anymore. I don’t do a whole lot of outside listening of other stuff, just because I have so many projects going on that I’m heavily involved in from the producing side and mixing and everything. It takes so much of my time that I find myself staying away from listening to music when I get out of the studio, just to give myself a break. A couple of albums that have kind of stuck around in my car that I keep playing here and there the latest Foo Fighters album, the latest Lit album, the latest Filter album I was playing pretty heavily for a while. There’s a lot more obscure stuff, like Leo Kottke and some some really bizarre obscure stuff of mine I like to listen to, too a lot of bands that are local to the Houston area that people have never heard of.

 

DE: What are the current touring plans, and more importantly are you guys thinking about releasing a live CD?

TT: Touring plans are to go out around October 10th and do six weeks just in America. That’ll lead us up to about the beginning of December, and we’re just going to take off December for the holidays. We may do a second leg of the tour sometime after that in Spring, or we may go to Europe and Japan at that point. We just haven’t decided if we want to tour heavily on this album or not, because I think we’re a little tired. We’ll kind of have to wait and see on that, we haven’t made a decision yet.

As for a live CD, we’re certainly up for doing one, we’d like to do one, we have tons of material because we record just about every single show that we do. But there’s a problem in that we’ve been on three separate record labels through the history of the band which causes a lot of legal problems when it comes to re-recording songs we recorded on a different label. It’d have to be negotiated and worked out. We had a manager in the early days who we just split equally the cut from all the songwriting and everything, which is to our detriment at this point because for us to even use our own stuff from the early days we have to work with him and figure out legally what to do. There’s just a few things making it hard for us to do, but we would really like to, and Metal Blade would like us to do it, so I’m sure we will try to figure out how to do it.

DE: Have you enjoyed your relationship with Metal Blade? Do you think they’ve been supportive of what you’ve done?

TT: Oh, yeah, very much so. I mean, they’ve been around since the very first album as friends of ours, since we were on Megaforce. They’ve always been very supportive of us, even when they weren’t our label they were always such big fans of the band that they wanted to do whatever they could to help and be involved in any way they could. They’ve always shown such awesome support for the band for many years. We had several labels we were talking to when we left Atlantic, and they were good people and all, but I think the ultimate criteria it came down to is that we wanted to go with the people that wanted us most no matter what the label was, and Metal Blade just happened to be that label that has proven through time that they support the band. It was an easy decision to go with them, and we’re very happy.

 

LINKS:

King's X Online
Metal Blade Records



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