By CHRIS ALO (Freelance writer for Limelight Magazine)
More than three decades after releasing their debut album and nearly forty years after they formed, progressive hard rock power trio Kings X are hard at work on a brand new studio album, offering their first new music in more than a decade. In 2019, hard rock’s biggest “cult” group continues to do what they do best in bringing their unique mixture of prog rock, hard rock and beyond to the masses. But this summer they are seemingly wasting no time though as they literally heading straight from the recording studio and jumping onto the tour bus.
But it has been anything but an easy ride for Kings X. Bassist and vocalist Doug Pinnick, drummer Jerry Gaskill and guitarist Ty Tabor have all individually stayed the course and kept the band together this entire time, something which is unheard of today. Yet despite having the same lineup and having recorded albums for a number of record labels and toured the world relentlessly with an incredibly varied lineup of artists, true commercial success has still eluded them.
For those not in the know, Kings X released their first album Out of the Silent Planet way back in 1988. Their 1989 follow up Gretchen Goes to Nebraska is considered by many as one of their strongest releases, yet still unfortunately failed to make them a household name. Over the years Kings X released albums through Megaforce Records, Atlantic Records, Metal Blade Records, Inside Out Music and have now landed at their new home, Golden Robot. They have shared the concert stage with a diverse range of touring partners including the likes of Anthrax, Motorhead, Dio, Dream Theater, AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Pearl Jam, Billy Squire, Motley Crue and the Scorpions, among many others.
Despite changing record labels, health setbacks and having never tasted breakout success, Kings X is one of the most respected and hard-working rock acts in the music business. With a new book chronicling their history, a feature film documentary on the horizon along with a new studio album, the future seems pretty bright for the power groove trio. Drummer Jerry Gaskill talks to Limelight Magazine right before heading into the studio to work on the new release as well as an upcoming tour date at the Vault Music Hall at Greasy Luck in New Bedford, Mass., on July 9, 2019, with special guests blindspot and Analog Heart. Purchase tickets HERE.
ALO: Hello Jerry, how’s it going?
GASKILL: Good thanks, things are really good. I’m really sorry I missed you the other day, we started filming a documentary and I totally forgot about our interview. It just slipped my mind.
No worries at all, I know you are extremely busy. But OK, let’s start with the documentary. How is that going?
GASKILL: Great, yeah we are doing a film, a documentary with a guy by the name of Roy Turner, who is part of Tricky Kid Productions. I truly believe that he is the guy to make this movie. He is a fan, he believes in us and he wants to bring our story to the world. Even people who don’t know who Kings X are, he wants to make those people aware of us. And I think that is the perfect situation.
ALO: More film makers seem interested in making documentaries about rock bands ever since the Anvil movie.
GASKILL: Yeah, definitely and I am very very grateful. It seems like the right time and the right people. It’s kind of exciting for us. We also have a book out right now too.
AL0: King’s X: The Oral History, by author Greg Prato was released earlier in 2019. Is the film a companion piece to the book or anything like that?
GASKILL: Right, Greg did the book. But no, the book stands alone; they are totally different entities, except that they are both about Kings X. It is kind of a good feeling; it feels like something is happening is here, like something is on the rise. I’m not sure. I don’t want to get too ahead of myself but I have believed in my band and this career from the beginning, so I’m not going to stop that now (laughs.) And we are doing a new record too, so it’s like a triple threat.
ALO: Yeah I wanted to ask you that as well. This is your first album in a decade. What can you tell us about the new material?
GASKILL: We have all been writing but I haven’t heard much of anything really. I haven’t heard much of their stuff and they haven’t heard much of my stuff. We fly out to L.A. to start the record in a few days. We haven’t done anything except talk about it, so on Monday we fly out to L.A. and start doing it.
ALO: So when the three of you get together, that’s when the process begins of putting everything together?
GASKILL: Correct, all three of us together and recording a new album together, that’s right. I have no idea what direction the album is going to take, it’s just going to be where we are now, what we are thinking, what we are feeling. None of us know what that is going to be
ALO: Is there a plan for release of the album?
GASKILL: I have heard things here and there. There has been talk about a release in fall of 2019, but to be honest, that’s not something that I am even thinking about right now. Right now I am thinking on Monday, I am flying to LA and making a record. For release dates and things like that, I am leaving that up to other people (laughs).
ALO: When you have done records in the past, how long does it typically take?
GASKILL: Well like you said, it’s been over ten years since we did a record, so it’s been so long, I kind of don’t remember (laughs). I don’t remember what the process is. But this one will be a whole new process since now we are all in different areas. So we’ll see what happens.
ALO: So it’s been a decade since you recorded new music, how does that feel?
GASKILL: Well it’s kind of exciting but kind of daunting. It does give me some anxiety. I always get worried about, well, what if it’s not good enough? There is always that aspect. So it’s all those things rolled up into one. But once we get together, I am sure it will be just fine. But somebody said something recently. Most of the things we worry about, those are things that usually never happen anyway. So I am just taking each day as it comes,man.
ALO: This will be your first album on your new label, Golden Robot. Obviously they haven’t released anything yet, but how has it been working with them thus far?
GASKILL: Well we haven’t done a lot with them. But we have spoken with them, and I do think that they believe in us. I think that just like with Greg Prato with the book and Roy with the movie and now with Golden Robot, it just feels good and it feels like now is the right time to do all of these things. You know, I didn’t want to make a new record until it felt like it was time. I didn’t want to do it until I thought it was the time that we could make the best record possible and it seems like now is that time. Well, I guess we will see, won’t we (laughs).
ALO: Over the last few years you have had health issues, you lost your home due to Hurricane Sandy, and will these terrible tragedies affect the direction on the record?
GASKILL: Well, I don’t know if it will be a conscious affect on the record. But I can tell you, that it has definitely given me a different perspective on my life. Some of the songs that I have been writing do have some of those things thrown in there with the lyrics and whatever. But I just learned that tragedy often times, or sometimes can cause greater things than we ever imagined. I found that in my case. I died, I came back, I had a heart attack, and Ilost everything in Hurricane Sandy, all those things. But each one of those things turned into something that I thought I never could have imagined. So there you go.
ALO: I guess you are living by the old adage, that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?
GASKILL: I guess it just depends on how you deal with things. It’s easy to let things overwhelm you and take you over. And just say forget it, I’m done. Or you can rise up and learn from those situations and become better.
ALO: You are going out on the road at the end of June for a number of shows.
GASKILL: Oh yeah, I am looking forward to it. I always look forward to doing shows and playing festivals and playing places we haven’t been yet. We are going out on our first weekend after we done recording our new album.
ALO: Will you be playing any new material at these upcoming shows?
GASKILL: I have no idea. I don’t know if we are going to be playing any of the new material (laughs). I don’t know even know what the new material is going to be yet (laughs).
ALO: It seems that so many musicians are fans of Kings X. Why is that?
GASKILL: I don’t know, but it sure seems that way. I am honored by it. I am a little baffled, but always honored. It’s an honor to think that people that I look up to can turn around and look up to me as well. That’s a pretty amazing thing to be a part of.
ALO: I know I have seen you personally open for Anthrax, Dio, Motorhead, I’ve read about you opening for Pearl Jam, AC/DC and so many others. I guess you often get paired up with so many different acts because your band isn’t easily labeled. Is that a plus or a minus for you? The fact that your music can’t easily be categorized?
GASKILL: I think it’s a little bit of both. I guess it’s probably a plus. It would have been nice to have sold millions of records and make millions of dollars; I am still willing to find that out (laughs). But it’s also one of those things that if that did happen, we might not be a band anymore. We could just give it all up and go live on an island. But like you are talking about, we have respect from musicians and the fans who love us, they really love us. I have nothing to complain about.
I don’t think anybody really knows where to place us. That’s the hardest thing with people, so they just place us everywhere and we just go and play. We’ve done the Monsters of Rock cruise but then we did the progressive rock cruise, then we went and did the KISS cruise, whatever. You never know where we are going to be. But I guess that’s because we really don’t fit in anywhere.
ALO: Kings X was a band that was very forward thinking when it came to side projects. Now everyone that is in a successful band seems to be in multiple bands. Has that helped you to grow as musicians?
GASKILL: Oh yeah, I think that has helped us. I know back when we were managed by Sam Taylor, that was something that was forbidden, if I can use that. But when the disillusionment happened with Sam, I think we all just realized, we can do whatever we want to do. I know that worked out great with Doug, he is just a part of everything now. I am in New Jersey and I have played with some great musicians. But everything has just been great.
ALO: How about playing in South America?
GASKILL: Well I haven’t heard of anything concrete. We have talked a lot about going to South America, but we have never actually been there. We have never been there. We have always wanted to go to South America. We have always wanted to go to Australia too. We’ll see what happens. It’s a little too early to tell, but I am open to whatever.
ALO: It’s incredible that you have been a band so long and there are still places you have not visited yet?
GASKILL: Yeah, I have always wondered why we never went down there. But hopefully in the future we will. The future is wide open.