FOR TWENTY-FIVE YEARS, KING'S X HAVE BEEN PAVING THEIR OWN WAY, INSPIRING COUNTLESS OTHERS WITH THEIR UNIQUE BLEND OF HARMONY AND HARD ROCK. WITH THE RELEASE OF OGRE TONES, THE BAND COMES FULL CIRCLE WITH SONGS THAT HARKEN BACK TO THEIR EARLIEST ALBUMS, WHILE STILL TAKING THE KINDS OF CHANCES THAT INSURE AN UNPARALLELED LEGACY. NIGHT WATCHMAN HAD A CHANCE TO TALK TO GUITARIST/VOCALIST TY TABOR ABOUT KING'S X'S PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE.
Night Watchman: I wanted to talk to you a little about the new album, Ogre Tones, because it seems so fresh. It feels like you guys are really excited and are trying some new things on this album. What brought out that approach to the album?
Ty Tabor: Well, it definitely was something that we were more excited about. Itís been a long time since weíve done that kind of an album, and by that I mean having an external producer. The last several albums weíve done in Houston, where weíre distracted by things in the middle of the day. You go home each night and you still have to deal with all your normal home life. And youíre doing that in the middle of doing an album. And thatís usually not the best way to do an album, in my opinion. None of us really like that being the situation, but we didnít truthfully have enough of a budget for several albums to be able to afford an outside producer, so we had to do albums the best we could under the situation we happened to be in. We finally got tired of that, to be honest with you. It finally got to a point where we just said, "We donít care what it costs. Weíll make it happen. Letís work with a producer again and do albums the way theyíre supposed to be done, or there is no reason to keep doing them." It was just a moment that happened between all of us where we realized that we canít do any more of them this way, and that we have to do it right. So during that time we met [producer] Michael Wagener in Nashville, just passing through doing a show. He came out to see us and hang out on the bus. He was interested in working with us, and we, of course, were interested in working with him. Weíve been fans of his for a very long time. He was one of our favorite producers growing up. Some of his early stuff literally changed the sound of the entire industry. He was at the forefront of it, and had a huge impact in bringing heavy-duty energy onto records. We just thought, "Man, that would be awesome to see what he would do with us." So we went to Nashville and did a few songs over a few days just to see how it would work out, and it was fantastic. We had a blast, and we knew that we wanted to work with him. So we just figured out how to do it, and we continued on. We were in the middle of a tour still, so we finished and then decided to go up to Nashville again. We did that up until Christmas. We went home for a few days, came back in January, and stayed until we finished. And because it was such an entirely different situation for us-- where we got to leave town and there was no reason to be there but to make the record, and there were no home distractions-- it allowed us to get back into a higher state of connection while recording. We had forgotten how awesome that feels and how that is the way itís supposed to be. So it was a huge reawakening for us. It was the kind of thing that just inspired us massively in the studio, and weíre very proud of this record.
NW: Did having an outside producer allow you to listen to things in a completely different way?
TT: Yeah. When someone else is involved there is a slight tweak to the whole thing that always makes it a picture that youíve never seen before. Anytime that happens it takes getting used to, actually. The truth is, with our band, everything weíve ever done while in the studio we were saying to ourselves, "We think we like it, but weíre not sure. Itís so different." (laughs) You start second-guessing yourself, and it takes you a little while to accept it for what it is and then start liking it. And it was the same this time with this record. While we were there it was all different, but we were connecting. There was such an energy, such a creative spark always there because we had the energy to do it, and because that was all we were there for. It just became such an amazing, fun record to record, and working with Michael is awesome.
NW: It really comes through on the album. Iím thinking about the things like in "Sooner Or Later"-- some of the guitar parts that you do. It really seems like youíre reaching and stretching-- almost like a Hendrix kind of feeling, where youíre just reaching for these new notes and things that havenít been played before.
TT: (laughs) That is exactly what it was.
NW: It really comes across.
TT: Thanks. I hope thatís a good thing. (laughs)
NW: Absolutely! Itís amazing to hear someone take chances like that. When I was listening to it I was wondering if you had been recording and producing it yourself, if you would have gotten to that place and been able to do that, and if you would have edited it or gone back in and said, "Well, Iím not sure about this."
TT: I probably would have if I were the one doing all the engineering, because youíre spending so much more energy on the album than anyone else that itís impossible. If youíre trying to do something that should be done by several people it is impossible to not get burnt and lose perspective. I never like being in that position, but at one point it came to a point of, "Well, do we want to release albums and continue or not? This is the only way itís going to happen." So we had to do it.
NW: It seems like you guys have really-- and Iím sure part of this is just going from being on a major label like Atlantic and going off on your own-- but youíve had to make those kinds of sacrifices just to figure out a way to make it work with a smaller budget. I know you had been managing the band for a while, and youíve been producing your own albums for a number of years. It has to be very difficult to stretch yourself in all those different directions and still have to worry about making the music itself. How do you make it all work?
TT: I donít know. I think at a certain point it stops working and you run out of gas, and I think thatís what happened to me. I think if I hadnít just cut everything off at a certain point I would have lost my mind. For me, it was not a choice. I wasnít going to do another record that way. That was over for me. We all felt it. We all knew it was right, too. We all knew it was the thing we had to do. The only problem with it is that we didnít know how we were going to do it. Because to bring in outside help and to go out of town to record an album and to rent another studio-- things that arenít regular expenses within your budget, that you donít have the money for-- itís a huge mountain to figure out how to do it. We just said we would do whatever we had to do to make it happen, and thatís what we did.
NW: As far as keeping energized, I know everyone has been doing side projects. Is it nice to go in a different direction and be able to come back to Kingís X refreshed?
TT: Well, it has been a blessing and a curse for me, partly because of what weíve already been talking about. The good part of it is that it causes me to stretch in ways that I wouldnít have stretched, because any time you play with different people, youĎre feeding off of a different thing. A different sound, a different type of playing-- whatever. You have to adapt somewhat to play together. It helps show you your weaknesses, and it helps show you what people do like about what you do that maybe you didnít realize. Itís very good for you, and it stretches you in every way. On the other hand, unfortunately, in all of the side projects Iíve been involved in I also had to be coming home and engineering and doing vocals and writing lyrics and mixing and mastering and so much other technical stuff involved with it, that by the end of any project Iím just about completely spent. It became something that I just couldn't physically do, so I just had to put brakes on everything. Weíve been home since the end of January, when we finished the album. Weíve been home since then, intentionally taking time off to rest before going back out to support the record. During that time Iíve been able to be home for a whole year. It has been so long since that happened. And because of that, Iíve been working on a solo album. I've been doing it in my own time and not letting it kill me. Thatís the first time Iíve ever been able to work on something like that. So because there was time and I put the brakes on everything else, it actually had turned into an okay way to do it. If there is plenty of time to rest while doing it, it can be done.
NW: You guys have made a couple of music videos, like for "If" and "Alone". What was the thought process behind that? Itís hard to get your videos shown on MTV unless youíre a top forty act or itís a rap video.
TT: Itís funny you should mention rap videos, because we went straight to the hottest rap director on Earth right now: John Tucker. Dr. Teeth. Heís got two thirty-minute specials currently running on the making of videos that he was involved in, and he has several top rap videos being played like crazy. He happens to be from Houston, and he wanted to do a rock video. We met him through another close friend of the band, a guy named Wally Farkus, who some people remember as the guitarist for Galactic Cowboys.
NW: Yeah, yeah.
TT: Wally has a distribution company here in town, a record company, and he deals mostly with rap artists. Heís made some amazing contacts and done real well within that world, and he basically hooked us up with John. We were thinking that would be the smartest thing to do to actually have a chance to get on MTV; using a producer who is really hot on the air right now. Plus, he wanted to do it, and we were very thankful that he wanted to do it, so we just hooked up and did two videos. One of them has been edited already, and the other is being worked on. They were the first two singles that we plan on releasing. The way I see it, the video is kind of the strangest thing Iíve ever seen. It reminds me of a Seventies video and a rap video being put together. It makes such a bizarre combo. I really love it.
TT: I hope it gets played. Weíve been getting so many open doors with this album that werenít there in the past, and itís beginning to really blow our minds. Weíre getting huge support on this one in places we didnít get before. Itís just amazing.
NW: Is "Alone" the first video thatís going to be out?
TT: Yeah. Actually, if you go to insideoutmusic.com they have it streaming. You can see it anytime.
NW: Iíll check it out. I think "Alone" is a killer tune and a great way to get people interested in the new album. Iíve liked King's X for a really long time, and this album seems like a combination of the things that I loved, especially vocally, about the band on the early albums like Faith Hope Love and Gretchen Goes To Nebraska, but it's also mixed with a more modern musical approach. It really feels like youíve come full circle.
TT: Cool, man, because thatís how it feels, too. Just yesterday I was talking to somebody else who said the exact same words. Iím so glad that some people feel that way about it, because we definitely do. When the first person said that to me, I had not really thought about it. But after thinking about it, thatís exactly how it felt; just kind of full circle.
NW: Itís nice because, on one hand, it feels very familiar. But then on the other hand, there are other aspects of it that are so new; not just for King's X, but for any album. Songs like "Bebop" make for a really exciting album.
TT: Thanks, man. It was really exciting doing it. Thatís all I can tell you. We had a blast. We were like kids in a candy store. We kept looking at each other and saying, "I canít believe weíre getting to make a record this way again, where we can be just the band and think about what weíre doing and focus all our energy on it and not be distracted." The surroundings we were in were just supreme-- just an awesome setting-- where the studio is, and just the vibe that Michael creates. Heís such an easy-going, super-cool, very, very funny guy. And humor is involved in everything we do in the studio. He was perfect for us. It was just a very positive thing in all ways.
NW: I know that when the three of you first got together you went through several different styles of music, from three-chord punk to even reggae at one point. Was there a point where you talked about creating the sound that is now your hallmark? Did you site particular sounds? Was there a time when you vocalized that as a band, or was it something that just happened and evolved over time?
TT: Itís something that we have all wanted to do, but just didnít know quite how to put it together in a way that it sounded okay. Itís something we have always tried to do as a band, because even in the most early days some of the most heavy stuff we ever wrote was when we first got together. Some of it has still never been recorded or heard by anybody other than the people who saw the first two or three shows we did. Iím talking mega-heavy stuff, but it was also melodic. We hadnít really worked in very many harmonies at that point, but we wanted to. We just didnít have confidence in it. For one reason, I was only 18 when I met Doug and Jerry, and Doug has such an amazing voice that I didnít even want to open my mouth. It took us awhile to get brave enough to add vocals in. But we all had always been drawn to that kind of thing and wanted that to happen. I think the real catalyst for us was we ended up with some time off at one point after we moved down to Houston, and we were helping out another friend of ours who had a record deal. We were actually playing on his record and helping him write music for it. During that time, I started experimenting by just writing whatever I felt and throwing the rule book out. I had just done an album with an artist where they were wanting me to write stuff by the rules. They literally wanted me to read a book about songwriting and hits, and go by the guidelines to write music for this guy. For me, that was very unfulfilling. It was like being asked to be a whore with your talent, so I really despised doing that. He had depended on us to help him write stuff, and I realized that this guy actually needed my help. So I gave it my best shot, and we wrote a lot of stuff together for the record. It turned out to be a hit record for him, and some of the songs were mega-hits within the Christian rock world that year. But I didnít tell anybody about it, hardly at all. I couldnít admit to anyone that I wrote the stuff because I couldnít stand it. So because of that-- because of how bad I felt about it-- I threw the rule book in the garbage and said, "Iím gonna write stuff. I donít care what the format is, I donít care where it goes, just as long as it moves me." I just started writing stuff, and I ended up writing the chord progression and the music to "Pleiades" at that time. And then I started thinking of vocals when another friend of mine, Dale Richardson, chimed in and started throwing his ideas into it, too. We came up with this thing that I had never heard before. To me, it was a very, very strange song. I knew that I loved it, but I didnít think anyone else would care for it. I just knew I had to do it for myself, so that was like the catalyst. I started writing like crazy at that point, coming up with all this different kind of stuff that had no rules to it. I was having fun writing for the first time in a long time. We had one last gig with this artist that we were working with, and we were flying to Virginia Beach to do the gig, and while we were on the plane I decided to let Doug and Jerry hear this tape of stuff I had been writing. I honestly thought they would be confused by it and wonder what the heck I was doing. But instead, they both completely freaked out and started talking about how it was exactly what we had all been wanting to do, but just hadnít done yet. Itís the vocals, itís the heaviness with melody, itís everything we always talked about. Itís the vibe we always wanted to find, but never found. And it was literally at that moment that we suddenly had focus. The focus was letting go of the rules and crap that had been crammed down our throats, and to just be free. When we did that, for the first time ever we started coming up with something a little different than what was normal. We had always tried to be different, but we were copies of other people. It wasnít until we quit trying that it actually started happening, and that was the moment.
NW: As far as the evolution of the band and the writing goes, there has been a change in the lyrics. Things seem to be a lot more personal, a lot more introspective as you get into later Kingís X albums. And there are other things, too, like the band being seen as a Christian band in the beginning, and more recently Doug has been very outspoken about questioning things and coming out. Is it hard to gel those different aspects together, or is it something you donít even think about? Is it just a natural evolution?
TT: I personally donít really think about it. I think it was in ourselves as people in the band. The only thing weíve tried to do is allow each one of us to be who we are, and weíre all three extremely different people. I mean, we are extremely different people to be in a band together and love each other so much and be such a family. We are so unalike in our personal lives and the things we like to do. We have nothing in common other than music!
TT: We love what we do musically together, and we do love each other, but weíre extremely different. So for us, itís always been a matter of letting each person be who they are within it. When we let that happen it makes something else happen that none of us can do on our own, and thatís the whole point of a real band. So for me, that's always been the most important thing. In the beginning, I think we were just trying to find who we were as human beings. We were so young. And when youíre first coming out of school and college and everything, youíre coming out of the molding times of your life where youíve been told how youíre supposed to be your whole life. Once you come out of that you start going, "Well, why is that?" I was a young, young kid when this band started, thatís for sure. And I was still pretty young when we got a record deal. But we have grown up, and that causes the introspection. I think it's the natural order of things with everybody who gets older. We realize that when we were younger we thought we knew everything, but that we knew nothing at all. And then we realize how humbling it is to know that whatever we think now, the only thing we can count on is when weíre sixty or seventy years old looking back and seeing what an idiot we were now. Itís humbling as you get older. You quit having the answers, you quit even pretending to, and instead you just try and be honest. And that was always our goal. When youíre trying to be honest and youíve been together for twenty-five years, everybody sees you go through all those different changes in life. (laughs)
NW: I have just one more question for you, and it has nothing to do with anything else weíve talked about today, but itís something we ask everyone we interview.
NW: In your professional opinion, do dogs have lips?
TT: Ahhh... it would depend on the dog. Yeah. I think maybe some do and some donít.
NW: Is there a particular lippier breed?
TT: Uh, hound dogs are pretty lippy. Terriers have a thin leather band that I guess you could call a lip. So yeah, I guess dogs do have lips.