Dug Pinnick Joy Bomb Track By Track

by Greg Prato

Dug Pinnick is one busy gentleman. Whether it be supplying vocals and bass for King's X, KXM, or Grinder Blues, or guesting on a variety of other artists' recordings (Pearl Jam, Dream Theater, Steve Stevens), he always seems to be hard at work on new music.

And in October 2021, Pinnick issued his latest solo effort, Joy Bomb. "It's two words that sounded cool to me," Dug told us about the album title. "But 'joy bomb' is something that explodes joy, or blows up joy - to destroy it."

Dug was willing to go track by track on the 13-song album to discuss the lyrical inspiration behind each song and explain how he came up with the music.

Jon Boy

I had the music for about four or five weeks, and I couldn't come up with the lyrics. My mom had passed away, and I had to stay in LA for a couple of days before I could get my flight out to get home with the family and have the funeral. I was in a grieving state. And I don't know why but I started playing that song. All I could hear was "Lordy Lordy mama, who's that knocking at your door?" It was like Little Richard singing in a church or something.

I turned on my Pro Tools and sang the melody just one time like that and walked away, and thought, I don't know what to think about this. This is a cool thing... but what are you saying, Duglas?

When I broke it down, my mom used to tell me whenever she would turn the record player on [when Dug was an infant], I would start crying, "Gimme gimme yay." I couldn't talk.

And when I sang "Lordy Lordy mama, who's that knocking at your door?" - she had just passed away. "Come to rock and rock and roll ya" - I was just thinking about music and rock n' roll and give me give me more. It was just a mess of emotion, and it came out that way. And I thought, I'm just going to leave this.

The rest of it is just filler - talking about something we can relate to. The music was fun because I just came up with these two riffs and put them together and cut and pasted them back and forth until it made sense. It was pretty simple.

A Long Way From Home

We did a song on the KXM record called "Voices In The Sky," and I used my 12-string bass, and George [Lynch] used his 12-string guitar. The sound was something I had never heard before. It was just this big swirl of chorus-y frequencies of octaves. On the record, you don't hear it very much because it's really mixed in, but in the recording room with just the bass and the guitar, it would fill the room up. So, I thought I'd write a couple of songs with that combination.

"A Long Way From Home" has a 12-string Rickenbacker on it and my 12-string bass - that was all I used on the whole song. And "A Long Way From Home," I basically have nothing to say at this moment and I had no chorus. I was like, I ain't got nothing... but I really want to work on this. Where am I going? I just keep going. I thought, Why don't you just do it like a blues kind of thing? Like an old Black man in the South - "Where am I going? I just keep going."

I'm thinking it's a slave guy who just ran away from the plantation or something. And that's kind of the whole vibe I conjured up in my head. But I thought, Maybe this won't work because we're all stuck at home... [Laughs]

Key Changer

The premise of the song - musically - was I pulled out my 8-string guitar and started making up this "djent riff." I was just going for some real low-tuned cool stuff that I could find that made me feel like this would be fun. When I got the riff going on my 8-string, I thought, Man! And I had this vibe in my heart, like, "This sounds like you could dance to it." I pulled up the drum program, found that beat, and started playing it.

And then I realized, I'm in low-E on my guitar - where am I going to put my bass? I talked to Dick [Lövgren] from Meshuggah and said, "Are you playing bass in unison with the guitars, or are you an octave lower?" And he said, "No, I'm playing in unison." I didn't know that, so I pulled out my bass and played it in regular tuning. So, the three tones are basically one bass and two guitars in the same frequency as a bass, and it gave it that fat riff going. I got excited about that.

And then I said, "Well, this is boring now." So I pulled out my Les Paul and started playing the chord in the middle of it and thought, This is going to work. I put the music together and listened to it for probably about a month before the lyrics came to me: "I want to hear music everywhere I go." And I thought, This could be a song that everybody might get behind.

At that point I thought, This is really worth working on. What am I going to sing about? Let the music do the talking - basically. It has all that stuff about, "Let's just get up and have some fun."

Equally Divided

It's about the state of the United States where we're all equally divided. I came up with this '70s-sounding riff that I really liked so I worked it together and came up with this vintage-sounding sound. Also I got a bunch of friends to come in and sing the chorus with me.

I Can't Fight This Feeling

I wrote "I Can't Fight This Feeling" the same time I wrote "Love And Fear." It was about a friend of mine who was a heroin addict - and we lived together. I was at my wits' end because I wanted to save him, and he had OD'd a couple of times. It was just a good person who didn't deserve it and didn't want it. But just somehow, the Oxycontin thing, when people take it for pain and they have an addictive nature, they can go down the rabbit hole. And that song was about him.

I literally thought, He's going to kill himself. And it's going to be him doing it.

But now he's doing great. That was 20 years ago, and he's made it through that.

That song has a couple of samples in it. I played piano on it. I put little things in there that I normally don't do, especially keyboards. If you put your headphones on, there's a lot of little things jumping out at you.

Like A Wolf

It was another one of those songs where I pulled out my 8-string guitar and was feeling the "Meshuggah feel." I was just randomly playing things on the guitar and I randomly played this thing that lasted two measures, and it didn't make any sense. It was real primitive. It was one note, open note, one note, open note - all the way down the neck. And when I got done with it, I thought, This could be a melody. Let's just keep this.

I built a song around it.

Lyrically, it's some of the deepest stuff in my opinion that I've put in poetry. Because for writing lyrics, [King's X drummer] Jerry Gaskill is my hero - and Bob Dylan. And both of those guys write in really cool ways that make me really think. I feel that I can tell a story in a minute, but I can't do the Bob Dylan thing, which is what I like. Opposites attract, and I feel like I nailed what I was trying to go for lyrically with that song. It ain't like Bob Dylan, but it's me not being so common and simple in my lyrics... I hope!

Social Distancing

The pandemic had just started and I was messing around with the music of this song. All of a sudden, I'm going, "This sounds like Sly and the Family Stone." It had that kind of vibe to it - the verses, especially.

When I write a song, I write the music first and then I record it all - drums, bass, guitar. Then I listen to it when I'm riding around town or whatever I'm doing. I just let it go in the background until words come to me or a chorus comes to me. So, "Social Distancing," that's what really came to me.

Here's the deal. A lot of times when I write a song, I won't have a title, so I'll just make something up. I just put up "Social Distancing" because I had been watching the news and they were all talking about social distancing. I thought, OK, this is another song I'm working on. I'll just call it "Social Distancing."

And then after I wrote it, I saw the name of it and thought, Why don't I just go with that subject?

I was hearing from people who were struggling and having a hard time, and some people were doing OK. And on the news it was so confusing. Then the record came out before the pandemic was over. Shame on me! [Laughs] I didn't want it to sound like a "pandemic record" because then it has no chance to go further than the pandemic.

Love And Fear

I wrote that song around 2000. I recorded it and I thought it had too many verses, and the bridges were too long in between the verses and the chorus, so I canned it. And one day, I was going through really old stuff and pulled that out and played it for a friend. And they said, "You should put this on your record." I thought, Maybe I'll cut some of the parts down and make it into a song.

And I couldn't find the tracks! Back in the day, I was using ProDigital, so all the hard drive and all that stuff, I didn't know where it was. All I had was a two-track of a rough mix of it. So I thought, I'm just going to master it and put it on the record. And that's what you got.

Lyrically, it's a long story about things that I think about and feel in life. It's like grandpa telling the young kid what you need to look forward to, and, "Watch your step."

Long Live Love

I thought about when "When The Lights Go Down In The City" by Journey, and I thought, Let's do a little shuffle today.

So I pulled up the drums and I just played it for a while, picked up my guitar, and started playing along to it and I wrote this song. And I thought, This is kind of like a Journey song.

And then when I started working on the words, all I could think of was, "We live for is love, die for love, long live love." I remember in my car going to the dispensary to get some weed and I was riding down the road, and all of a sudden it hit me and the chorus came to me, and I thought, Oh fuck! This is going to be good! And then I got home and fired up Pro Tools and tried to throw down that melody.

I had Tommy Baldwin do the leads in the middle and I wanted him to do a Brian May/triple harmony kind of thing. So, I hummed all these melodies to him, and he did it, which was pretty cool.


Something about all the songs that I write is usually I'll say, "I feel like writing something." And I'll go up there and throw up a drumbeat on my Superior Drummer [software] and I'll come up with something. And if I get excited, I will come up with another drumbeat and come up with something for that drumbeat, and go, "Well, maybe I'll make a couple more drumbeats up."

Then I'll make four drumbeats up and make up parts for it and then record them all, and then think, Well, I'll take that one, that one, and put that one in front of this one, and I mathematically put the music together. That's the same way Ray Luzier does with the KXM stuff. And then when it all makes sense, I play it until the words come to me.

I was watching the news about the 1% who own everything, and the anarchy and the Sky Gods. I looked around, and I was like, "We are slaves. They make us do what they want us to do." So I thought, We're slaves to the few. And that's how it came up.

Although best known for his vocal and bass talents, Dug has also been known to (to borrow a phrase from an earlier solo album), "strum sum up" on a 6-string guitar, as well. And he even took it a step further on Joy Bomb, by providing some leads. "I did the lead on 'The Poison.' I wanted to do at least two leads on this record - just for the fun of it. So, I did the lead on 'Jon Boy' and I did the lead on 'Poison.' But all the rest of the leads on the record, I had friends come in to do it. Oh, and I did the lead on 'I Can't Fight This Feeling' - which was drowned out by the rap part." [Laughs]

The Poison

I went down the rabbit hole years ago about all the crap that's in the food that we eat. And the more I learned - and continue to learn - the more I'm surprised that even the stuff I thought was good has bad stuff in it. I thought, We pay, they kill, we eat the poison.

What else can you say? We're paying these people to kill us - we eat their poison.

The verses:

Don't have to even be right
Don't have to end in a fight
I'm not the enemy
Nobody listens to me

That's when I look around and go, "This is how everybody is treating each other at this point in politics."

Musically, I pulled up a drumbeat that wasn't 4/4, and I thought, This is fucked up like Meshuggah would do. So, I put the beats together and learned the crazy time changes of it, and made up a rhythm part that went along with it. And I thought, This is fucked up... I like this!

And the drum machine, it was harder to understand what was going on, but when Matt Kjorvestad came in with the drums he linked the things together and made it smooth so it made sense. I really dig that song because it was really hard to follow until he put his swing on it.

I remember I played it for King's X, and Jerry said, "I'm encouraged and horrified at the same time, Dug." But we never did get to that song on the King's X record.

Making Sense Of The Bones

I named it "Making Sense Of The Bones" one day out of nowhere. That thought just came out of nowhere and I sat down and pulled up some drumbeats and started playing along. I thought, I'm going to make a quicky one today, and made up two parts, pieced them all together, and played it like that for a couple of weeks. And I'm going, What are you going to do with this, Dug?

And all of a sudden, "Gonna have a party, can't wait to see everyone." It just came to me. And I thought, Well yeah, I want to have a party. I can't wait to see everyone because we're in a pandemic. But what can I put with that? And I thought, "Fighting over who's the best master, like sheep being bled at the altar." Yeah. We are fighting over who's the best master - the left, the right, the God King, the Trumps, the Bidens. Like sheep being led at the altar.

When the temple will be built in Jerusalem, the sacrifice will happen again, like sheep being bled at the altar. I thought, If anybody gets that, they'll either be pissed at me or go, "That's clever." But right now, we're going to have a party.

Like A Wolf (Reprise)

When I wrote "Like A Wolf," when it was done, I accidentally doubled the whole song. And when it faded out, all of a sudden, it faded back up again and the music started all over again. I thought, This is kind of cool... like a movie soundtrack.

I asked Randy McStine to do a lead on it, and then I thought, This kid has really got a gift.

We've had lots of conversations about what goes on in his head in music. I look at him like he's my little prodigy brother. I said, "Randy, take this whole section here and just do whatever you want with it." And he put on four different layers of tracks, which to me were just amazing. I put in everything he put on there. It took me a while, and I mixed that thing to get everything I could in there that he did, that just made it magical. I love listening to it because I had nothing to do with it - that's Randy. All I am is the bass and that one "djent guitar," and he did everything else.

He got to the Brian May harmonies, and he got to the one chord in the second harmony and the third and the fourth, and then he got to the fifth, sixth, and seventh, and I'm going, "Oh my God! He just tripled Brian May!" I hope that Brian May hears this stuff and smiles.

October 28, 2021

For more Dug, visit dugnation.net.

Further reading:
Our 2013 interview with Dug
King's X, The Oral History
Tomas Haake of Meshuggah
Sly & the Family Stone Songfacts entries
Fact or Fiction: Queen

More Song Writing

Comments: 2

  • Eddie from Nashville, Tn Love you DuG
  • Karen T Anderson Baker from Joliet, IlLoved reading about the thought process and inspiration behind the music. That in itself should be inspiring for to fans listen to the music. Great
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