| Early years:
The group traces its beginnings to 1979 in Springfield, MO. when bassist Doug Pinnick and drummer Jerry Gaskill were brought together to take part in a musical project coordinated by Greg X. Volz of Christian rock band Petra. Within a month of Pinnick's arrival from Illinois, the project folded and he and Gaskill were left without a band. They soon landed a job as rhythm section for guitarist Phil Keaggy's live band. The two toured the country for about a year in support of Keaggy's album Ph'lip Side. During the group's show in Springfield, Gaskill was approached by Ty Tabor who was a member of the opening band that night. Apparently, his band's drummer had quit the night before the show and Tabor had volunteered to take over on drums for the gig. However, seeing as he HAD no drums, he was forced to ask Gaskill if he could borrow his kit for the show. Gaskill obliged and the show went on.
When the tour ended, Pinnick and Gaskill returned to Springfield and set about looking for more work. Gaskill landed a job doing demo work for the Tracy Zinn Band that included Ty Tabor on guitar. The two became friends and were involved off and on together in different musical projects.
In the spring of 1980, Pinnick attended a music show at Evangel College and watched a set by another of Tabor's bands. Pinnick was impressed with Tabor's skills and the two soon began collaborating musically.
Eventually Gaskill, Pinnick, and Tabor decided to pool their talents into a single outlet. Calling themselves the Edge, they initially were a four piece with the inclusion of Dan McCollam on rhythm guitar. McCollam quit after only a brief time and was replaced by Kirk Henderson, who was a friend of Tabor's from Jackson, Mississippi. The group performed extensively on the Springfield bar and club circuit specializing in classic rock and Top 40 covers of the time. By 1983, Henderson had quit and Pinnick, Tabor, and Gaskill decided to continue on as a trio. They also decided to change the name of the band, and settled on Sneak Preview.
They had been writing and recording many original songs up to this point. The group picked ten of these songs to record for a self-titled LP in 1983. After the album's release, the band continued to tour and hone their songwriting skills.
Move to Houston:
By 1985, the group had made connections at Star Song Records based in Houston, Texas and were encouraged to move the band there. The first order of business for the three was to become part of a touring band for CCM artist Morgan Cryar. Ty and Doug are also credited for co-writing several songs on Cryar's second album Fuel On The Fire in 1986. Tabor also performed some guitar parts and both he and Pinnick are credited with background vocals.
However, when it came to signing Sneak Preview to a recording contract with Star Song, negotiations had broken down and the deal apparently came to a halt.
While in Houston, the group met Sam Taylor, then vice president of ZZ Top's production company. Taylor quickly became interested in the trio and convinced them to change their name to King's X. He also supported and nurtured the group's transition from radio friendly, pop-rock originals to a more experimental and complex songwriting style. Taylor would soon become the group's manager, producer, mentor, and according to some, the fourth member of the group. He was instrumental in helping the group secure a contract with Megaforce Records in 1987.
The group released its first album as King's X, entitled Out of the Silent Planet, in 1988. Despite being hailed by music critics, the album did not fare well commercially, peaking at #144 on the Billboard album charts. The songs "King" and "Shot of Love" were released as singles but failed to garner much attention. The album shares its name with a C. S. Lewis novel, Out of the Silent Planet.
In 1989, the band released Gretchen Goes to Nebraska. What many fans consider to be their landmark album and most creative period, it fared only slightly better from a commercial standpoint than Out of the Silent Planet. Significantly, the song "Over My Head" received moderate airplay on MTV and radio. The album contains many fan favorites such as "Summerland", "Mission", and "The Burning Down". The song "Pleiades" is credited by Ty Tabor as being the genesis of the King's X sound when he presented the demo to the other band members a few years earlier.
The increase in exposure would prove beneficial when the band released their third album, Faith, Hope, Love, in the fall of 1990.
Faith Hope Love was the group's first album to crack the US Top 100, with the help of the successful single "It's Love". (Another track, the funk-rock "We Were Born to Be Loved," has enjoyed a long life on Late Night with David Letterman as a commercial bumper instrumental favorite of Paul Shaffer's CBS Orchestra.)
The band landed a gig opening for AC/DC in the U.S. and Europe for the first half of 1991. They also toured with Living Colour, themselves near the peak of their popularity. The band was signed to major label Atlantic Records for their next release. That summer, their song "Junior's Gone Wild" appeared on the soundtrack to the movie Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey.
The band released their fourth album, King's X,(working title "Since Hector Was a Pup") in the Spring of 1992. But rising tensions with Taylor led the band to eschew the upbeat approach of previous albums and turn out a darker, more introspective effort. Unfortunately, their new style didn't translate well among the record-buying public, thus garnering fewer sales than Faith, Hope, Love. The lone single from the album, "Black Flag" received only moderate airplay on MTV and radio. Not long after the release of King's X, the band parted ways with Taylor. The details of the split have not been made public, but it was believed to be rather bitter. In the aftermath, King's X took over a year off to consider their collective future together. The band members followed other, non-musical pursuits - most notably, guitarist Ty Tabor took up semi-professionally racing motocross motorcycles.
With grunge music at the peak of its popularity, and Pearl Jam's bassist Jeff Ament declaring that "King's X invented grunge" (despite the group's trademark sound being very different from that of the commercially successful grunge acts), the band went looking for a new sound on their return. They enlisted veteran producer Brendan O'Brien, who had recently produced albums for Stone Temple Pilots and Pearl Jam, and the resulting album, 1994's Dogman, showcased a much more muscular and heavy sound from the group, along with less abstract and spiritual lyrics. The record received a heavier promotional push from Atlantic and the band enjoyed a very successful tour, capped by an appearance at the Woodstock 94 festival in August. But despite a return to the Top 100 for the group, the album failed to sell as well as Atlantic had hoped, and the label's support for the group quickly faded. The band's third release under Atlantic, 1996's Ear Candy, would also be their last for the label (not including a subsequent "Best Of" compilation). Although it sold to the band's sizeable core following, it lacked the relative mainstream success of previous efforts. The record was soon out of print, and it seemed that the group's chance for commercial success had come and gone.
Metal Blade and beyond:
The group moved to Metal Blade Records in 1998. Their first album under the label, Tape Head, signaled a new era for the band. They modified their creative methods by writing and recording the album together in the studio, rather than coming together to record songs that the individual members had written separately. They also elected not to hire an outside producer and recorded the album at Tabor's Alien Beans Studios, thus cutting production costs. Their next two albums, Please Come Home... Mr. Bulbous and Manic Moonlight were created in this same way.
For their next album, Black Like Sunday, the group arranged and recorded an album full of original songs that the band had regularly performed during The Edge and Sneak Preview days. The cover art for this album was selected from artwork submitted by fans.
The double-disc set Live All Over The Place was the band's final album for Metal Blade Records, and their first official live release.
The band then signed to InsideOut Music, the label that had previously released some of Tabor's side projects. The album Ogre Tones was released in September 2005 and was described by many as a return to a more "classic" King's X sound. It was produced by famed rock producer Michael Wagener (Dokken, Extreme, Stryper, White Lion, Skid Row). The tour for Ogre Tones featured the band playing the album in its entirety.
Molken Music, an independent label started by Wally Farkas, has released several titles by King's X and its members. Live & Live Some More, a live concert recorded during the Dogman tour, is available there as well as demo compilations, rehearsal tapes, and other items.
King's X again worked with Michael Wagener on its second album for the InsideOut label, XV, released in May 2008.
As of Friday, May 23, 2008, XV was the best seller in the Amazon.com "Music > Hard Rock & Metal > Hard Rock" category, outselling new releases by Whitesnake and Mötley Crüe, and was the #70 best-seller in their whole Music category.
The members of King's X have been musically prolific since the separation from Atlantic, releasing a number of solo albums. Doug Pinnick recorded two albums under the name of Poundhound while his Emotional Animal and Strum Sum Up albums were credited as dUg Pinnick. Ty Tabor has released Naomi's Solar Pumpkin, Moonflower Lane, Safety, and Rock Garden. Jerry Gaskill also released a solo album in 2004 titled Come Somewhere.
Tabor has also played with several bands other than King's X, releasing two albums with Platypus, one album with Jughead, and two albums with The Jelly Jam. He also has an electronica style project with Wally Farkas called Xenuphobe with two albums released through Molken Music.
Doug Pinnick released one album with Bruce Franklin of the band Trouble called Supershine as well as one album with The Mob featuring Reb Beach and Kelly Keaggy. Pinnick has also recorded several cover songs for various tribute albums including the Jimi Hendrix tribute "In From The Storm" performing lead vocals on the song "Burning Of The Midnight Lamp" as well as tributes to Van Halen, Pink Floyd, Metallica and others. Pinnick stood in for lead singer Corey Glover on Living Colour's August 2006 European tour. He is also featured on a recording with Dimebag Darrell of Pantera, performing a cover of Cream's "Born Under A Bad Sign," and on Dream Theater's "Lines in the Sand" from the album Falling into Infinity.
All three members of King's X have numerous guest appearances on other artist's albums as well.
In an interview on the UK late-night television show Raw Power around the time of the release of Gretchen Goes to Nebraska, the band's explanation of its name was that the X relates to the mark on the wax seal used by royalty to seal correspondence. If the seal on a letter sent by the King, the King's X, was broken, it meant death for the messenger.
In an interview published in a guitarist magazine in the mid-1990s, Tabor revealed the true origin of the name, claiming that "King's X" is a safety zone in the game of Tag in Texas: a player could "Call King's X" to avoid being tagged. Sam Taylor's brother was in a band called Kings X some years earlier and he suggested it to the band. After much thought and with no better names forthcoming, members of the band said, "Are we gonna be called King's X or what?" The band agreed on it and King's X stuck.
Whether the band's name was intended as a Christian reference or not, the band members themselves have resisted being identified as a Christian metal or Christian rock band. Although many of their early lyrics have a clear spiritual influence, generally this came from the individual faith of the members rather than an explicit attempt to tap into the contemporary Christian music market in the way groups such as Petra did. While members would speak openly about their faith, and the Faith Hope Love CD insert contained an entire chapter of the Bible, the band rejected the association as a Christian band. While some of their albums were marketed through Christian book stores, most removed their albums from sale after Pinnick's announcement in 1998 of his homosexuality.