KING'S X - MANIC MOONLIGHT & MORE
Interview by Christopher J. Kelter - July 25, 2001
King's X are at it again. In late September 2001 King's X released their newest full-length CD "Manic Moonlight." As usual, the band has done the rare trick of coming up with a new angle on their sound for fresh approach to the King's X catalog. I had another opportunity to chat with King's X bassist and vocalist extraordinaire Doug Pinnick about "Manic Moonlight" and his recent tour with his own band Poundhound. So follow along as Doug gets sentimental, laughs at (not with) yours truly, and explores the band's collective confidence.
Rough Edge: Hey Doug! For me there are a lot of special things about this interview. You probably don't remember, but my first interview was with you and Jerry back in the Winter of 1999 while you guys were touring for "Tape
Head." This interview also marks the first time that I've interviewed an artist or band for the second time.
Doug: That would make it special wouldn't it?
Rough Edge: Thanks for taking time out to chat with me about what you've been up to lately. If it's OK with you I'm going to focus on the upcoming King's X record.
Doug: We can talk about anything you'd like: King's X, Poundhound, whatever.
Rough Edge: Well, all right. Let me ask you about your Spring tour with Poundhound. You seemed buoyant, like you were free, completely in the moment, that nothing could bring you down, and that you were really having fun. I was wondering if there was a reason for that.
Doug: To tell you the truth, the Poundhound tour really did work out well. It was fun because I was doing something that I really, really love to do. I love music; music is my life. When I put the Poundhound project together I realize that it is 'me' - and that's what made me happy about it. I was in control of the whole thing and it was all or nothing, make it or break it; Poundhound was entirely up to me to make it work rather than relying on other people, people that I'm so entwined with. Poundhound is me naked and alone - and it actually helped me build up my self-esteem, too.
Rough Edge: I normally don't watch TV, but I did manage to catch VH1's "100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock" and King's X rolled in at number 83. Do you have any comments or feelings about that?
Doug: I saw that, too, and I said to myself, "Whoa, what the hell is this all about!?" (laughs) I didn't realize King's X were that well known - it was really beautiful and I was happy about it. It made me feel like I was finally in the 'country club.' Before I always felt like an outcast and I didn't think King's X really fit in. Well, we still don't really fit in anywhere. (laughs)
Rough Edge: Did being mentioned in the Top 100 make you feel included in the inner circle of what's been accepted as stellar music?
Doug: Well, it makes me think that everything we've ever done in King's X was really worth it. Sometimes you look at record sales and it just leaves me feeling helpless. But then to hear people say that they've been affected by your music - that's when the 'inclusion' makes it cool.
Rough Edge: Tell us a little bit about the title of the new CD "Manic Moonlight." I've heard a few tracks such as "Vegetable," "Believe," and "False Alarm." To the casual King's X listener it isn't something that's going to sound out-of-the-ordinary, but it really is different. Is the rest of the album in that vein?
Doug: Well, on "Manic Moonlight" we've gone in a lot of different directions. We're not concerned about whether people like it or not. We just did a record that we wanted to do. We started using loops for the songs for the first time. It's kind of got an atmospheric feel and vibe to it.
Rough Edge: I think King's X fans expect and want each new King's X record to be different from the last one.
Doug: They got their wish! (laughs)
Rough Edge: Is the band at a cross-roads? By that I mean that the three CD deal with Metal Blade is up - are you going to stick with Metal Blade?
Doug: We just renewed our contract with Metal Blade.
Rough Edge: Oh yeah? I think that's going to be news for a lot of King's X fans.
Doug: Do you think people care about that kind of stuff? I don't think people were aware that our contract was up.
Rough Edge: Well, I think die-hard fans knew the contract was up and might have been worried there wasn't an immediate new deal in the works. I remember listening to "Tape Head" for the first time and noticed the band was on a new label and pretty quickly found out it was a three CD contract so if I was able to learn about it quickly I assumed other people knew. Anyway, I know that the recording process for "Tape Head" and "Mr. Bulbous" were sort of about instant creativity, recording one song at a time. You had specifically mentioned the recording process for "Tape Head" as being process by osmosis. Is it the situation with "Manic Moonlight" the same sort of osmosis process?
Doug: Yes, it is. We basically started playing, found a groove that worked, and created a loop to piece it all together. Basically we were trying to be a little more 'funky.'
Rough Edge: I think the 'funkiness' comes out in the song "Believe."
Doug: "Believe" does have a funkiness, doesn't it?
Rough Edge: Tell us some more about "Manic Moonlight."
Doug: Well, like I said before it is more atmospheric. But still, if you're a King's X fan you still hear the King's X style. I played some tracks for my sister and she said 'that doesn't even sound like you guys!" so I laughed and said back 'Yeah, it doesn't sound like us!' We used a lot of different tones and tweaked some knobs in the recording room. A lot of sounds I used to fight to get on a record came really easy this time. The bottom line is we really wanted to write some cool songs and we weren't concerned about anything but the songs.
Rough Edge: Can you tell us anything about the title "Manic Moonlight"?
Doug: We simply took one of the titles from one of the songs on the new record. We had a bunch of different covers proposed for the record and the artwork we choose fit really well with the song "Manic Moonlight." Nothing really deep about it.
Rough Edge: Well, I just thought there might be something to the title because after the simplicity of "Tape Head" and the out-of-left-field nature of "Mr. Bulbous" that maybe "Manic Moonlight" was an extension of the sounds on "Mr. Bulbous."
Doug: No. (lots of laughter)
Rough Edge: There was a rumor that you were recording all the lead vocals on "Manic Moonlight" …
Doug: I did do all the vocals on the new record.
Rough Edge: Really? Well, listening to "False Alarm" I convinced myself that it was Ty singing.
Doug: The vocals are going to freak everybody out. I reinvented my voice on this record. Besides, it was fun because I was tired of hearing me. (laughs) I decided to get away from the soulful screaming to more of an Oasis kind of vibe. I wanted to have fun with my voice for a change and it was fun.
Rough Edge: You said in the past that you weren't going to be as crazy about the creative process, perhaps not be as anal-retentive about the whole recording process and it seems true especially given how "Tape Head" turned out. Based on the direction of the new material I'd have to guess that particular modus operandi is still true today.
Doug: Well, it was almost out of necessity this time around. I was doing rehearsals for the Poundhound tour at the time we were doing "Manic Moonlight" so I went to the studio during the day at Ty's house for the King's X record and then rehearsed at night with Poundhound at another studio. Then the next day I'd wake up and go back to Ty's house and do it all over again. I'd basically do my bass tracks, do some singing, write some lyrics and let Ty and Jerry do what they wanted to. So, when I came back from the Poundhound tour I got to hear the completed King's X record that I'd never really heard before in its final form.
Rough Edge: I know a lot of fans were wondering what was going on with the new King's X record because fans had heard so much about the band's side projects. So was this approach 'freeing' to you?
Doug: Ty said he didn't have any songs, musical ideas, or lyrics ready for the record so basically it was left to me to write the material and up to Ty to produce it. I made up the bass lines and loops; I had confidence that Ty and Jerry would construct songs around it. We basically did one song a day for two weeks.
Rough Edge: Writing a song a day sounds like a very daunting task to me! But, then again, it seems to come naturally to you guys.
Doug: Nowadays, it seems so simple. We create songs right and left - whether that's good or bad I don't know, but the songs just keep coming.
Rough Edge: Let's talk about the song "Vegetable" right now. Sometimes when you hear lyrics you can take the words at face value, but other times you can really see the meaning behind it. So, is "Vegetable" about equality?
Doug: Nah, but that's an interesting take on the song. When I write lyrics I get outside of my body - usually to help get me and listener to places we need to go. But with "Vegetable" I'd been down on myself and I was thinking if I didn't have a brain or feelings, I wouldn't feel any pain and that's basically what it's about - if I didn't have all these things to weigh me down I'd be a vegetable.
Rough Edge: I just assumed that if people didn't have a lot of preconceived notions or prejudices about other people …
Doug: It can be about what you just said, too. It all goes hand in hand - it's all those thoughts you're talking about. It's not just one specific thing - it's about life in general. There's so much conflict because of who we are. So, if were vegetables we probably wouldn't have these types of problems.
Rough Edge: Let's talk about the confidence you mentioned earlier. You mentioned that you had confidence in Ty and Jerry that they would create songs to your bass lines. Is that a type of confidence that builds up over the years because you've been doing King's X for so long or is it that when you all go off and do your own things that King's X has its own inherent spirit?
Doug: Well, I don't think it's really 'confidence' - we are still trying to find the ultimate song. We're always unsure of ourselves. If we really had a direction, if we really knew what we wanted, we'd probably be like AC/DC. So we end up with records that are different and we're lucky fans want to buy it.
Rough Edge: Let's go in the opposite direction. If you say that the band is sort of unsure of its collective self, were there any things that you and the band were struggling with while making "Manic Moonlight"?
Doug: Expressing ourselves has never been a problem. Being sure of the expression has been troublesome. (laughs) Usually, in the end we throw the songs out there and let the fans figure out it if they like it or not. We obviously like what we do, but we certainly lack confidence in whether or not anyone else will like it.
Rough Edge: Well, I've only got one last question and it seems to be a question most King's X fans ask themselves at one time or another: is King's X rock's best secret?
Doug: Well, I don't know if we are rock's best kept secret, but we are great at being kept a secret! (laughter)
Rough Edge: Thanks Doug and I'll see you this Summer when you come to JAXXs.
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Revised: 31 Jul 2018 23:38:09 -0400.