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February 21, 2024

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Say You Want an Evolution: In King's X, "X" Doesn't Necessarily Mark the Spot

By: Randy Harward

(Previously published in the Salt Lake City Weekly)

evolution (ev-e-loo'shun): A gradual process in which something changes into a significantly different, especially more complex, or more sophisticated, form.

growth (groth): 1. Full development; maturity. 2. Development from a lower or simpler to a higher or more complex form; evolution.

One of these words is blasphemy. That is, if you're a Christian. Once upon a time, King's X vocalist/bassist Doug Pinnick called himself a Christian, but he evolved; he grew. The person he, revealed...could no longer accept certain tenets of Christianity, much less the existence of God, as defined by Christians.

Pinnick is gay, which, to some, contradicted his role in the 13-year-old, incidentally Christian, rock trio. Yet, his faith contradicted his essence and was the core of a lifelong struggle until, in the interest of personal peace and happiness, evolution mandated itself and he came out in an interview with the Christian publication, re:generation.

The disclosure was almost unnecessary, as even a cursory glance at Pinnick's lyrics reveals a conflicted, alienated man. And if anyone wanted to know why, they need only ask. "I've always been one to talk about the truth as I see it, no matter what it is," he says. "I felt like, if I'm going to preach about being honest, I need to be honest, too. I didn't realize that I wasn't. I mean, it's been a very, very hard battle for me, being gay, because I'm homophobic. I was raised that way, so I hated myself. But when it started to get to me psychologically, I just had to come out of my closet and say, 'This is who I am. Love me or leave me.'"

While it wasn't news to his bandmates, guitarist Ty Tabor and drummer Jerry Gaskill...who knew from the beginning...there was nevertheless a ripple and a consequence. King's X online message boards buzzed good and bad, and Christian booksellers...only having stocked the band's music for two weeks prior to Pinnick's revelation...pulled King's X product from their shelves. "We figured that would happen," he says without ire. "Ty [the only member of King's X who still calls himself a Christian] even said to me, 'Good. Now we can play for real people.'"

The actual impact of the ban was less traumatic than the situation would imply. In fact, it was something of boon. According to Pinnick, King's X fans...Christian and otherwise...remained loyal. They were fans for other reasons, be it the music (duh), a sinewy blend of funk, Hendrixian guitar and Beatlesque harmonies, or a message of a different sort. "Everybody's got their demons. Very few people that listen to King's X, I believe, are gay, but they seem to relate to [what] I've been through with their own problems, which has been a good bonding between me and the fans."

As for a financial impact, well--it didn't even register. "I know that most people who buy King's X music go to regular stores to buy it," he says. "The Christian buying public isn't very big when it comes to King's X...[although] I know we had a lot of fans in the Christian market at one time. But they've got P.O.D. now, so they're all happy again [laughs]."

So if the Christian buying public has a replacement for King's X, who or what replaces God for Pinnick? Does he know, as Christians are fond of reminding their backslidden, God still loves him? As it turns out, these are dangerous questions to ask a learned, ardent man. The Reader's Digest condensed version, if you will: "Me and God don't got no fuckin' problem. I ain't got no problem with God, is. My problem is all these people that put his name on their work."

In other words, he'll ponder the idea of a nameless, faceless, genderless higher power, but no other man's interpretation, account, or method of salvation will do. Believing in oneself...a basic right he denied himself for the only reliable doctrine, and blind belief only breeds self-denial, guilt, and unhappiness. "Religion, to me, is just a terrible, terrible disservice to mankind. Everybody feels they've interpreted the Bible correctly and their way is right. I look around and go, 'You know, if Jesus came right now and said, 'Hey, here I am. I'm the Son of God. I've come back to you,' these same guys would go, 'Get the fuck out of here!' It's stupid. Give me a break."

It's this doubt policy and attitude of hope and self-discovery that permeates King's X's just-released ninth album, Manic Moonlight (Metal Blade). But, in making a case for Pinnick's evolution, one must consider that the band has also evolved, on a musical as well as personal and philosophical angle. Moonlight finds the band as musically deft as ever, possibly at a zenith. Pinnick's bass is at the forefront, a result of Tabor's desire for another source of inspiration. Each song originated with Pinnick writing a bass line to a MIDI loop. Tabor, in turn, wrote guitar parts to match Pinnick's lines. Consequently, the songs are decidedly funked-up, though still characteristically psychedelic and abstract. But, to Pinnick, it's just King's X.

"I think we're better musicians only because it's been twelve years and we've got to get better. Other than that, I don't notice anything. It's sort of like when your hair grows. You don't know it's gotten longer unless somebody tells you, or you just wake up one day and [notice]. It wasn't until a year ago that I realized that every record we put out is so different from the next one. To me, it's just King's X putting records out."

And Doug Pinnick is just Doug Pinnick, albeit happier and freer.

"The greatest thing that happened to me was, when I stopped believing in God, I stopped believing in the Devil. When I stopped believing in the Devil, all my fear went away. I'm not afraid to die, I'm not afraid to walk down the street. I'm not looking over my shoulder thinking the Devil's going to get me, or 'God is watching me, so I'd better not do that,' when there's nothing wrong with what I've done. We used to preach when you come to Christ you're free, and you have peace and you have happiness. Well, for me, I got all that stuff when I stopped believing in God. I was in prison, I was unhappy. I felt like I didn't fit in-- And then people tell me that I didn't believe in God in the first place. Well, I totally did. I gave my whole life to it. I studied it. I learned it. I lived it. I really, really did."

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