Tape Head (Metal Blade)
An interview with Doug Pinnick
by Martin Popoff
It’s been quite a journey for the three musical enigmas who comprise the universally-revered phenom that is Houston’s King’s X. From the most lauded and hopeful of major label empire builders, to their current return to Metal Blade, Doug Pinnick, Ty Tabor, and Jerry Gaskill have continued to shine the light on shimmery metal. The latest developments have seen the band create the masterpiece that is Ear Candy, only to be dropped by Atlantic in a metal house-cleaning. After a post-period greatest hits album, both Ty and Doug have made solid solo albums for Brian Slagel and his label, both of whom have received King’s X with open arms. All of a sudden, we have a new King’s X record called Tape Head.
The journey has not been without its bruises, but Doug Pinnick has found peace. “After we got dropped, basically all I did was sit at home and write music. And through it all, I worked out a lot of things in my life. It was a good time for reflection. I grew up with a lot of religion, but I’ve gotten to a place in my life where I sort of question everything. I’ve seen so much in this world, I mean I hate to say it, but I don’t believe much in anything anymore except in myself, and so that’s where I’m going. And there’s no conflict between myself and Ty. He completely understands why I feel the way I do, and how I’ve gotten here, and he knows there’s nothing he can do about it but believe for himself and allow me to do what I please.”
“Well, I’m your typical musician who’s very insecure,” answers Doug on how this transformation has worked its way into his personality. “I just grew up in a place where I became a very insecure person. But through the years I’ve been through therapy and self-help reading and stuff, and looked at my past and the life and the trauma that I’ve had, and I just woke up one day and said ‘forget it! Just get on with it!’ I walked away from everything – religion, my belief in the government, in people, in trust. Everything just went out the window and all of a sudden, I felt peaceful and content in my life. Now I go on without any expectations, any preconceived ideas.”
Which brings us to two new records from Doug; his Poundhound project, and Tape Head, a typically wonderful King’s X record with lots of dense guitarwork, soulful bluesy singing, harmonies afire, and hooks for hill after rolling hill. But it seems one of the main stories within this band is one of its producers. The dark and classic Dogman record, which came from turmoil within all three corners of the band, saw Brendan O’Brien, in Doug’s words, “wanting to break records for sonic heaviness.” Ear Candy subsequently caused battles between the label, who wanted a bigshot producer, and the band, who wanted to do it all themselves. A compromise found Arnold Lanni, who Doug appreciated for his work with Our Lady Peace.
Tape Head, however, finds the band finally getting their wish. “When we heard what we could do by ourselves with the new songs for the best of, we thought ‘we could do our own record!’ And so we have Tape Head. I built my own studio with my Poundhound advance money and Ty has his own studio and we made the record at my place and mixed it at Ty’s. I think it’s the first pure King’s X album we’ve ever done. There’s nobody on the outside who worked on it, no engineers, producers, nobody to say anything. Not even the record company. I don’t know if it’s the greatest thing we’ve ever done, or if anybody is going to really love it, but we’re happy with it. I don’t think it’s anything new, but I think it’s what we’ve always wanted to do at home.”
Besides self-producing, the other big difference this time is that the band didn’t reach into their legendarily deep bag of tricks for songs. They wrote ’em all brand new. “We wrote most of them from the ground up, which we usually never do. I stayed in my studio for a week and a half and made up melodies and lyrics for everything! I don’t know, I break into a cold sweat, and I sit there and concentrate and somehow something comes.”
Surely, with yet another great record under his belt, and a catalogue that is simply without peer, Doug must have at least a shade of understanding that King’s X are, in this writer’s opinion, one of the most critically acclaimed hard rock bands of our time. “I look back and I’m very proud of it. I’d be an idiot if I wasn’t (laughs). Friends, people in other bands, couldn’t understand why I couldn’t enjoy what I’d done. My life has been great. I’ve been playing music since I was 21, and I’ve made a living at it for 20 years and I haven’t had to have a regular job, and you know, my life is great when it comes to that. I’ve made a decent living, I’m not a millionaire, I’m not a rich rock star, but I made a decent living at it and I look back and I go ‘wow, you did OK.’ I’m very proud of our accomplishments.”
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