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King's X Marks the Spot

By Matt Thurber
Pre-Show Interview:
King's X
Ego's Club
(668 S. State St.)
Saturday, Nov. 26, 8p.m.
Tickets cost $15 via

For a genre that exemplifies musical snobbery, progressive rock is oft misunderstood. In synch with comical stereotypes, devout followers chastise the usage of simple bar chords and basic song structures. And although the holy-rollers of prog rock proselytize Rush and other notable radio favorites, there are plenty of bands like King’s X that stray from the archetypical obsession with showing off and offer an enlightening and thought-provoking take on an otherwise serious style of music.

While not so much a progressive rock band as a group that thinks progressively when it comes to music, King’s X falls somewhere between the metal and hard rock spectrums. Progressive rock listeners are drawn to the offbeat time signatures and three-part harmonies, whereas rock fans favor the heavy guitars and Doug Pinnick’s poppy bass lines. This all-around original sound that has influenced the likes of everyone from Faith No More to Pearl Jam.

According to King’s X guitarist Ty Tabor, the band is fortunate to continue playing the type of music they enjoy, even as they celebrate 25 years together this month. While some measure success by album sales, the Mississippi-native notes that there’s more to consider. “To me, the most rewarding aspect is playing night after night and knowing that people still come and enjoy what we’re doing,” said Tabor. “Looking back, we’ve had many breaks throughout our careers that have enabled us to keep going. Even now, with a new album, there are still people in the business who aren’t afraid to take a risk and do all they can to help us make it work.”

Recognized as hard rock pioneers who were always on the verge of making it but never actually did, the members of King’s X have experienced their share of highs and lows. The group knows what it’s like to play stadiums, but they are also familiar with gigs at college campuses and local bars, like Ego’s in Salt Lake City, where the band will play on Saturday, Nov. 26. All the members have side projects or offer instructional music clinics in their downtime, but ultimately the three friends always come back to King’s X.

It’s not so easy to pigeonhole King’s X music into one genre, but some attributes differentiate the band from the masses. On almost every release since the late 1980s, the band’s music has always been extremely calculated and precise. The production quality and clean guitar-work make for an overall polished and tight sound. The last things you’d hear on a King’s X album are sloppy song structures or messy, improvisational jams.

To loyalists and musicians alike, the band created a blueprint for groove-oriented rock. The songs were “out-there” in a progressive sense, but never strayed too far from the band’s hard-rock roots. With album titles like Faith Hope Love, King’s X music was spiritually themed and filled with optimism.

Just as there are several theories why King’s X never achieved a certain level of gold or platinum success, there are some ironic tales of how timing may have played a part in the band’s exposure or lack thereof. For example, when the group opened for AC/DC on the 1991 Razors Edge tour, most fans remember the three fatalities at the Salt Palace that led to a ban on general admission seating in stadiums throughout Utah for many years. But rarely do people recollect or reminisce about King’s X performance that night. And in 1992, they made an appearance on the “Dennis Miller Show” in the hopes of capturing the hearts of late-night television viewers. Unfortunately, there was no audience that evening and the band played to an empty studio set as the Los Angeles riots were going on right outside.

This year, with the release of Ogre Tones on Inside Out Music America, the band is giving it another shot by releasing a video/single and touring throughout the United States and Europe. While some longtime fans say the new album is a return to form, others argue that bassist Doug Pinnick has experienced a kind of spiritual fallout, resulting in an underlying dark vibe. According to Ty Tabor, some listeners are critical of the lyrical content on Ogre Tones, while other feedback has been more welcoming. “There’s one song specifically where Doug questions God, and in our opinion it’s never wrong to do that. Some people take it as negative towards God and to us it’s just questioning,” said Tabor. “I think questioning is expected of human beings if you have any sense at all. I guess people can freely describe what they get from it, and it’s often totally different from what we had in mind when we were creating those songs.”

As the music world has its share of bands who were never really given their due, King’s X’s members aren’t complaining about how things have turned out for the Texas trio. In fact, the seasoned veterans have publicly expressed contentment and a focus on enjoying life. For Tabor, everything is just the way it should be and there are often valid reasons as to why some bands never click with the general public. “I don’t have a lot of the feelings I used to about being owed anything. It’s all all right as far as I’m concerned. Some bands just don’t strike a chord,” said the guitarist during the first week of the current tour. “We’re musically adventurous and do things a little twisted or left of center. There have been some setbacks and rough nights on this journey, but we’ll keep rocking as long as our voices hold up.”

matt [at]


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