For more than 30 years, rock band King’s X has been performing, recording and touring with its unique brand of soulful, Beatle-esque, prog-leaning, psychedelic and infectious hard rock. Loved by its small legion of adoring fans and revered by musicians across all rock genres, the criminally underrated power trio never really broke huge like it should have, even when the group was in rotation on MTV and rock radio or performing on massive stages like Woodstock ’94 or opening for the likes of AC/DC.
Fronted by out bassist, songwriter and singer Doug Pinnick, the group soldiered on, surviving the comings and goings of glam metal in the late 1980s and the rise and fall of grunge and punk rock in the 1990s to continue touring internationally to this day.
But that’s not Pinnick’s only gig: He releases solo albums and participates in side projects. After the King’s X summer tour winds down, Pinnick, who was tapped by MC5 guitarist and bandleader Wayne Kramer, will participate in the hard-rock band’s “Kick Out the Jams” 50th-anniversary tour.
“I remember when that record ‘Kick Out The Jams’ came out. It affected me in a real militant way. When he said, ‘Kick out the jams, mother fucker!’ it was like, Yeah! We were being persecuted by the churches and everybody who considered themselves normal Americans. They hated hippie long-haired people. It was a call to arm yourself: Let’s get out there and do this. Fuck them. It was exciting for me to be asked to play with the MC5.”
Is “Kick Out The Jams” more of a rallying cry now than it was 50 years ago?
“Everything that is going on now, it just shows me that that record is timeless,” Pinnick said. “There’s always a war. There’s always bad politics. There’s always bullshit. It’s just the next generation and I think everybody can relate to that. The musical chairs just keep turning around. We just have more information. Every day we’re bombarded with this bullshit.”
Speaking of research, fans of Pinnick or King’s X can get a healthy-sized dose of the frontman’s story with the recent release of “What You Make It: The Authorized Biography of Doug Pinnick.” Written by Chris Smith, the book digs into Pinnick’s journey and evolution as a musician and performer who straddles the lines of black and white, gay and straight, the Christian and the secular while pursuing a career in hard-rock music. Pinnick said he preferred to have his story told through interviews with people who know him instead of him recounting his own life story.
“I wanted [Smith] to find a whole bunch of people that I have known and lived with and spent a lot of time with. I wanted him to talk to them and ask them questions and let them give their take on me and what I’ve done, because I figure somebody else could tell it better than I can.”
When King’s X came on the scene in the late 1980s, you could count the number of people of color in hard-rock bands on one hand. Meanwhile, Freddie Mercury and Elton John were the only openly gay rock stars out there. So we asked Pinnick if, after 30 years, things have gotten any better for people of color and LGBTQ performers in rock music.
“I think it’s still hard because rock music has a certain audience,” he said. “There are not many gays and there are not many blacks. This is not a racist thing. Kids like what they like. Sometimes I think I should have just gone into the gay community and made straight-up gay music or be in a gay rock band. I thought about that, but I just want to make music and be a part of the music industry and be accepted. I don’t preach about being gay or anything like that. I preach about everyone loving each other for who they are. Gay people aren’t the only ones being rejected. It’s black people and white trash being rejected. If we all could just wake up and realize that the powers-that-be are fucking us all over, that’s where I’m at.”
Rock music in general is at a crossroads, as a lot of the biggest names in the genre are either getting very long in the tooth, retiring or dead — a troubling scenario when you start to ask where the next icons like Prince, David Bowie or Queen are going to come from. At 67, Pinnick said he is feeling the pressure of being part of a genre that has a fading grip on the zeitgeist.
“Even the young people are coming to me and saying, ‘Please stick around because our heroes are dying and we don’t have any more.” Nobody is buying guitars. What happened to the kids who woke up and wanted to play guitar because they found Nirvana or The Beatles or Led Zeppelin? Kids are getting on their computers and making beats. It’s a whole different world. I don’t know how to take it.”
Bands are not succeeding because of the way the music industry is structured today, Pinnick said.
“There’s no way to be heard except to get on the road and play, but you have to get paid and nobody is going to pay you if you don’t have a record. And even if you have a record, nobody is going to buy your record because there’s no radio. We have to reinvent something so that we can all keep doing what we’re doing and make a living. Spotify and YouTube took our product and gave it away.”
“What You Make It: The Authorized Biography of Doug Pinnick” is available now. King’s X performs 7:30 p.m. Aug. 26 at Sellersville Theater, 24 W. Temple Ave., Sellersville. For more information or tickets, call 215-257-5808, or visit http://www.kingsxrocks.com/ or http://www.dugnation.net/.