King's X: The Oral History - An Excerpt

by Greg Prato

Since becoming a King's X fan (in 1989), I have read as many articles and interviews with the band over the years as I could come across - and I've been lucky to interview Doug Pinnick, Ty Tabor, and Jerry Gaskill over the years for a variety of magazines and websites, and become friendly with each of them. But I always wanted to read the band's complete story - from prior to their inception through to the present day.

In the midst of witnessing a truly amazing/inspiring show by the band in the summer of 2015 (at Stage 48 in NYC), it became clear as day - I needed to write a book, and put it all into perspective for myself, the band, and, of course, King's X fans throughout the world. Three years later, King's X: The Oral History was completed, and issued on February 19, 2019, via Jawbone Press.

Here are excerpts from the book - which discuss the inspiration behind 10 of the trio's most classic tunes.


Ty Tabor: I was at a club in Houston, with my friends Marty [Warren] and Dale [Richardson]. We were going out to a place called Cardi's in Houston, which is where we actually used to see Pantera play all the time, when they were in spandex, playing Loverboy!

It was this really big club - a lot of great bands came through all the time, so it was a great place to see killer musicians. We would go and check out pretty much anybody that came through town. And, one night, there was this beautiful girl with long, curly, gold hair, a couple of tables in front of me. But I was too chicken to bother her. I went home, and I had this music in my head, and I couldn't get it out of my head. I didn't even really have anything to write about, so I took that incident and turned it into this whole big deal, which to be honest with you, wasn't as big as the song makes it seem. But that was the inspiration for it. It was a real person that I never met.


Doug Pinnick: Back in the day, I was a believer - I think we all were. And I was trying to subtly write things about my faith, without being blatant or turning it into an evangelical type of song. I just wanted to rock out and have fun.

When I sang, King is coming, it's sort of like saying, "Whoever is going to come and fix everything, they're on their way. Your big brother, your lover, your God, Jesus - whatever." It's sort of a victory song. A song of hope, of, "Hey man, these people have been fucking us over for a long time, but your time is coming - someone is going to come fix this."

"Over My Head"

Doug Pinnick: It's like a negro spiritual. It was an old thing - Over my head, I hear music in the air / There must be a God somewhere. It's an old gospel thing that I grew up listening to all my life. And when I wrote the song, all I could hear was, "Over my head, I hear music in the air." And I went, Oh, Lord, music over my head. But I kind of figured, well, I'm not going to say, "There must be a God somewhere."

Also, I remember that Lenny Kravitz had written "Let Love Rule," and when he got to the chorus, the chorus went down instead of up. Usually, a chorus is supposed to lift the song. But "Let Love Rule" brought it down - it was the opposite effect. And I thought it was genius. So, I figured I would try it on "Over My Head," and that's why I wasn't screaming or yelling on the chorus. It was inspired by those two things.


Ty Tabor: I wrote that one. My friend Marty sang it on the original demo. It's a song about Jackson, Mississippi, and it was written during that time when I had my friends from Mississippi living with me, and we were coming up with our own ideas. "Summerland" was one of those freeform songs, that didn't do all the standards of a verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus/out kind of thing. We sort of rearranged it to be a little bit closer to that kind of a thing from its original idea.

"It's Love"

Ty Tabor: In the video, we tried to make it obvious, because there is one line that says, There's a ship on the ocean / And I can't decide if I like it. My brother one time - laughingly - asked me what the hell that meant, because it seemed like nonsense to him. And my point was, man's progress is wonderful and everything, but when the ship turns over and poisons all the fish, that's not so wonderful.

So, it was me contemplating all that we do and all that I'm happy with about it, but how much destruction it causes. It's yet again one of those socially conscious songs. I just had to say it.

"Lost In Germany"

Ty Tabor: That one is the only song I have ever written in my head in its entirety. While I was taking a shower, I heard all these parts - the guitar parts, the harmonies. I heard everything.

We were on the road, and we had just gotten back from Europe - from being on tour with AC/DC. As successful as it was for us, the way we turned the crowd around every night, it still was brutal in a way that I never can explain to somebody. I remember when we got out of there, I felt like I'd been dragged behind a truck emotionally and felt almost dead inside. It killed us. We were glad it was over - even though we were thankful for the opportunity. And, like I said, AC/DC themselves were awesome. But we were glad that trial was over.

"Black Flag"

Ty Tabor: That again came from the whole trip through Germany that just sucked my soul. [Laughs] The song was about me making the decision that I'm over it - life is different, starting this second. It was my own self-realization - to stop wallowing and get the hell over it.


Ty Tabor: I wrote it, demoed it, and brought it in. So it was already done. We just learned it. The only thing we changed was something that I asked to change when I brought it in. I said, "I like this song, but the only thing I don't like about it is what it's called, and the main catchphrase of the song." Because, originally, it was, To be a good man. And it didn't fit what I was trying to say.

So I remember, in rehearsal, we were all sitting around trying to think of things to come up with. I think I just thought about the fact that I love dogs, and always have. I have three right now - I always have dogs. They're family to me.

"Mississippi Moon"

Ty Tabor: When I wrote it, I didn't even know what it was for. I was just trying to come up with a guitar part in D that was a very melodic, straight-ahead kind of thing, but that was not the same old, same old, if you try to figure out how to play it. That's where the guitar part comes from.

It's slightly different than anything I'd ever heard people playing rhythm at that time doing. But it sounds straight-ahead. I'm kind of singing about Mississippi - where I grew up. I reference blue and gold - that's my high-school colors. It's all referencing old Mississippi stuff from growing up, riding motorcycles - everything is covered.

"Groove Machine"

Doug Pinnick: We wrote that together. Ty started playing the riff and Jerry and I fell in place. It's fun writing from scratch with these guys, because whatever someone starts playing first, the rest will immediately find something to play with it, then we immediately track it - while it is new to us.

There's something magical about this band when we're all playing together as one - the song usually writes itself. And I think it's my favorite King's X song. It's the purest King's X music we can create. There are no home demos to compare them to, or the struggle to reproduce or change someone's original demo to fit the band. And everyone's playing what they want to play.

I remember when I was writing the lyrics, I thought, The song grooves hard. I was thinking, This might be a nice intro song - "Welcome to the groove machine" - and we could probably do it live, too. It's the song we start the show off with - every time we play.

February 18, 2019
To order a copy of King's X: The Oral History, click here.

And for more King's X, visit their website.

Further Reading:
Doug Pinnick
Corey Glover
James LaBrie
Charlie Benante
Angelo Moore

More Song Writing


Be the first to comment...

Editor's Picks

Producer Ron Nevison

Producer Ron NevisonSong Writing

Ron Nevison explains in very clear terms the Quadrophenia concept and how Heart staged their resurgence after being dropped by their record company.

George Harrison

George HarrisonFact or Fiction

Did Eric Clapton really steal George's wife? What's the George Harrison-Monty Python connection? Set the record straight with our Fact or Fiction quiz.

Jonathan Edwards - "Sunshine"

Jonathan Edwards - "Sunshine"They're Playing My Song

"How much does it cost? I'll buy it?" Another songwriter told Jonathan to change these lyrics. Good thing he ignored this advice.

A Monster Ate My Red Two: Sesame Street's Greatest Song Spoofs

A Monster Ate My Red Two: Sesame Street's Greatest Song SpoofsSong Writing

When singers started spoofing their own songs on Sesame Street, the results were both educational and hilarious - here are the best of them.

Incongruent Opening Acts

Incongruent Opening ActsSong Writing

Here's what happens when an opening act is really out of place with the headliner, like when Beastie Boys opened for Madonna.

Harold Brown of War

Harold Brown of WarSongwriter Interviews

A founding member of the band War, Harold gives a first-person account of one of the most important periods in music history.