As a fan of ’80s hard rock, I also found King’s X to be a bit of an anomaly. The (at-the-time) Houston-based trio (dUg Pinnick – vocals/bass, Ty Tabor – guitars/vocals, Jerry Gaskill – drums/vocals) played melodic rock that, while heavy at times, was not the textbook definition of heavy metal even though that’s the genre that the band most often fell into. As you’ll read in this interview with Jerry Gaskill, conducted via a phone call on Labor Day, there’s a reason why King’s X got lumped into that category.
Between 1988 and 1996, King’s X released six Billboard-charting albums featuring hits like “It’s Love”, “Black Flag” and “Dogman” for Megaforce and Atlantic Records. As the music climate shifted, King’s X moved to the indie label Metal Blade for a few albums and then InsideOut Music who released the band’s last studio full length XV in 2008.
While there is talk that a new King’s X album may be in the talking stages, the trio has been doing some occasional touring and will be returning to Columbus on Friday after 11 or so years to play the Alrosa Villa. Get all the details here.
And now, here’s my recent conversation with Jerry who was funny and good-natured with some of his answers.
You’ll be in Columbus on Friday. What does this week look like since you’re not on tour but, rather, just doing weekend warrior type shows. Do you do any sort of rehearsing to get ready?
We don’t rehearse at all. Right now I’m hanging out at my sister-in-law’s house, having a great time, just hanging with friends and family. And, I know that I have a show Friday in Columbus. In my mind, I’m thinking, “You can do this, Jerry. You can do this. You’ve done it before.” That’s what I’m doing this week.
It seems like most of your recent tours are occasional weekend-type tours every couple of weeks or even months.
I’ll tell you exactly what we’ve been doing. Ever since we toured with Kansas, which was the first tour we did after I had my first heart attack, what they did was weekends. They’d fly in on say a Thursday, play a Friday, Saturday, Sunday. They would rent a vehicle and drive to the next town, which was not too terribly far away – 300 miles at the most. They’d do three shows and go home and then do it again whenever they could. That made a lot of sense to me – and to all of us – and that’s what we’ve been doing ever since. We fly in, rent a vehicle, do the shows and go home. It’s absolutely incredible, I love it.
Right now, in the States, that makes the most sense to do that. We can play different cities at different times. We just did a two-and-a-half week tour of Europe. We haven’t done that in a long time. We haven’t been to Europe in a while and we all agreed to do it. The shows were incredible. We did festivals playing to 50 and 60,000 people and all the shows were absolutely great. I realized it’s a different game over there, the whole time all I could think was that it’s a young man’s game. I’m not that much of a young man right now although I feel great. I can do young man things but not if I don’t have to. That’s why, in the States, doing it like we do is great – stay in a hotel every night, we do the shows and they are great. It’s easy and convenient and I felt like I needed that.
What do you mean that it’s a young man’s game?
I think it’s the travel and the way you have to travel over there. It’s not like you can just get in the vehicle and go to the next town a couple hours away because the next town might be like 12 days away. (laughs) Not 12 days, but that’s the way it feels sometimes!
What were the festivals like? The lineups seem more diverse overseas.
You mean with the bands on the bills?
Yeah, like Rock on the Range is pretty much all the current modern rock bands but I don’t see diversity in the bills in the U.S. the way I do with the festivals that are happening overseas.
I hadn’t really thought about it too much, but, probably they are. Here in the United States, there’s a certain thing that people need to see and want to go to and that’s what draws them. It’s the same way overseas, there are bands that are there that people over here don’t know anything about. So, there’s that as well.
Where on a festival lineup does King’s X fall?
We usually have that slot right outside the gate before you get in like when you go to a baseball game or football game and there is a band playing out there to get you excited to go into the place. We’re usually in that spot.
Ha ha, no, not for real. That’s kind of funny, though. That’s what I feel like we’re always going to do before we do anything. Like, “Okay, they’re probably going to put us there.” We’ve had some really nice slots and a really good time playing for a lot of people. The whole European thing was incredible.
When you’re touring in the U.S. and it’s only every month or every other month, do the three of you get together like old college roommates seeing each other for the first time or is it just like going to work where you’re going back to work with guys you’ve known for so long?
I’ll say this, it’s always, always, always good to see those guys. And it’s always good to be with those guys. And I always look forward to being with them and playing with them and doing the things that I know that we do together. There’s that. And I’m looking just as much forward to not seeing them anymore too (laughter)
Do you guys keep in touch when you’re not touring? Do you send texts or emails? Or is it just you talk when you see each other but that’s it?
Well, it’s pretty much like that. I texted dUg yesterday for his birthday and wished him a happy birthday on Facebook too.
I find it fascinating that there are videos on YouTube of you guys before you were King’s X. Now, everybody has a video camera in their pocket and can take videos and upload them instantly for the world to see. I can’t imagine there’s a ton of bands that were playing small clubs in the mid-80s that you can go out and watch videos of their concerts.
We were called Sneak Preview. I don’t know what you’ve seen but we’ve had fans do things and we’ve done some things ourselves. I don’t know, to be honest, I’d have to see what you’re talking about. Somebody probably had a video camera of some sort.
Yeah, but in the ’80s it wasn’t like you could just pull a video camera out of your pocket. There was time and effort put into filming concerts.
You had to bring a camera in. We used to allow that. It was okay for them to do that, apparently. We were nobodies back then, not that we’re anybody now!
Was it when you went from Sneak Preview to King’s X that your sound started to change?
From what I remember, it was before we met Sam Taylor. Ty had come up with a song called “Pleiades” and he played it for dUg and I. I think we were on a plane, I’m not sure if I remember the story correctly. I remember hearing “Pleiades”, dUg and I both, and we both just thought that was the total direction we should go. And we moved on from there.
I imagine this subject has been beaten to death but I first heard King’s X when I saw a video on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball. And you were featured in the all the metal magazines I read. When I went to the record store to buy your cassette, I found it in the metal section. Was it weird to be classified as a metal band?
Here’s the way I feel about all of that, I never thought of us as a metal band or a prog band or whatever label you want to put on us. Nobody cared about King’s X except for these people like Megaforce. They believed in King’s X, they saw it and they believed it and they just happened to be a metal label. That’s what they do, that’s where their clout is, that’s where their connections are in the metal world. So we sort of got pushed into the metal world by association, I think. That’s always been the case with us, nobody has ever known what to do with us.
Galactic Cowboys are another band that fits that mold. I discovered them before seeing them on tour with King’s X but I saw them open for King’s X a few times. I hear they are releasing a new record later this year – that’s pretty exciting. Didn’t you play on one of their records?
I did. I played on the Let it Go record. We’ve actually known those guys since the Springfield, Missouri days, since the really early ’80s. In all their incarnations, we’ve known them. Once they came to Houston … I guess we were the first to come to Houston and it seemed like other people followed us to Houston.
I always thought they were from Houston.
I know Monty’s not from Houston, Alan’s not from Houston, Dane’s not from Houston. I think Ben might be from Houston. None of us are from Houston either, we just migrated there. I think they followed us there.
Houston seems like an interesting place to migrate to. What made you end up in Houston instead of New York or L.A.?
We tried the New York thing, we kind of went out there to check it out but it just didn’t feel right. We had some people who believed in us in Houston and wanted to help us in our career so we went down there. It was ultimately through them that we met Sam Taylor and we had a lot of great experiences through that whole thing.
I only recently discovered that you’ve put out two solo albums. I spent a lot of time in the last couple of weeks streaming the 2015 release Love & Scars on Spotify, wanted to sample before I bought. I liked it so much that I bought a copy of the CD. From what I’ve read, it sounds like the songs on Love & Scars have been ones you’ve worked on for a while. It’s not like you wrote them all quickly and jumped into a studio to record.
Well, I’d say that’s true of both my solo records. It’s not something that I just came up with one day and said, “Okay, let’s put a record out.” I’ve been working on that stuff for a while.
Was hooking up with Dan Karkos what helped bring everything to fruition?
I feel like with this record, it’s a Dan and Jerry record. We did the whole record together. I brought the ideas and then Dan would put himself into them. There are some songs exactly as I wrote them and there are other songs that have Dan completely in them. That’s the difference between the first record and the second record. The first record is just me, the second record is me and Dan.
The two that stood out to me the most are “Patty’s Song” and “No More Yesterday”.
That’s great. We love those songs too.
dUg and Ty have been releasing music over the years between King’s X releases. Do you keep up on the music they’re putting out?
I try to listen to everything they put out, but I don’t think I’ve heard everything they’ve put out. And, I really don’t like those guys that much so anytime I don’t have to listen them, the better it is (laughter).
How do you listen to music these days?
Mainly what I listen to now – I work out 6 days a week – I wake up and I go into my basement and I work out and I listen to music. The way I listen to music is through Amazon. I have a little speaker and I hook it up to Amazon Prime. Anything I want to hear, it’s there. I listen to music in my car on CDs.
Do you play in bands around New Jersey, where you live?
I do, I play with people around New Jersey. It’s more fun than anything sometimes. When I first moved here I had no idea what the music scene was going to be like here. I was hopeful, because I was going to be near New York City, and I was thinking, “Oh, something’s going to work out.” But nothing worked out. But then I met some musicians and the very first person I ever played with, his name was Sonny Kenn, I sat in with him one night. It was just incredible to be making music with people who also really knew how to make music. So many people since I moved here – like Bob Burger, for instance, I play with him often. And the people that he has in his band are great players and great people. It’s been the greatest thing ever in my life to move here just to be with my wife, who was my girlfriend at the time.
I saw a picture or video of you playing during the daytime at what appears to be a dockside bar with water in the background. I’m sure playing in the sun isn’t probably the most fun thing to do but it’s a great picture.
It is awesome, it’s beautiful. I used to live in that town – it’s called Highlands and the place was called Windansea. We played the bar outside in the afternoon and the sun does beat down on me and I wish it wasn’t doing that but it’s a great place to play.
Bob Burger seems to be a pretty amazing guy.
I love Bob Burger and I’m honored to be playing with him. And since meeting him, the things I’ve got to experience have been, in some ways, beyond what I’d thought before in my life. We got to play with Paul McCartney together, just to mention one little thing.
Is Bob one of those people that had a chance and just came up short or has music been a hobby, a creative outlet for somebody with a full-time job that never dreamed of selling a million records?
He’s written songs with Donnie Iris and the guys in Styx. Do you know Glen Burtnik? He’s in a band with Glen Burtnik right now called The Weaklings. He’s a lawyer and I think maybe he writes software.
I read the story that you just mentioned about playing with Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Jimmy Buffet, and Roger Waters at Bon Jovi’s house. That story seems crazy!
It doesn’t even sound like it can be real, but it is. That’s exactly what happened.
Besides that time, has there ever been a time where you’ve looked around and said, “Wow, what a life!”?
I think about that when I’m at my house now. I see my dog sitting next to me and my wife is there and I’m happy with what I have. I’m going, “Wow, alright. That’s the life I have.” That’s when I think it.
Closing on a bit of a down note. You experienced Hurricane Sandy and lost everything. Having lived in Houston during the course of King’s X heyday, you must know exactly what people are going through in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
All the people that I’ve talked to so far, that I know in Houston, they made it through really well. My kids, my friends, they had some damage – it’s a horrible, horrific thing. But, not to the extent that some people have lost everything they have. It’s a terrible thing. It’s tough to see only because I know the reality of it and the reality of it is it’s good and bad. I think if we do well with ourselves, and I think most people in these tragedy situations are doing this – they did it in Sandy, they did it in Harvey – is that you rise up and take care of the situation, you don’t let the situation take over you. It’s already said, “Okay, we rule right now. We’ll leave here in a second. But you have to deal with this shit now.” I think that’s when people rise up. That’s just the way it is. Tragedy can bring the greatest things ever imaginable. I’ve experienced that in my own life. It rains on the righteous and it rains on the unrighteous, nothing we can do about it.