King's X is a rock band that finds itself in a most unusual position. The usual Behind the Music progression leads the rock star from obscurity to fame to fortune to drugs to rehab to Jesus. King's X is doing it the other way around.
The group started as a band of three Christians who hinted at Jesus in their lyrics but never quite came out with his name. Then came a degree of success and fame, thanks in part to the cult of American Christian boys desperate for guilt-free heavy metal. Several albums later, two of the trio were basically "unborn again," admitting, when pressed, that Christianity was no longer the sun over their spiritual landscape. At about that time, King's X slid from their modest peak of notoriety, and now, ten albums into their career, they're searching for the secular fanbase that lead singer/bassist Doug Pinnick says they have truly wanted all along.
"We grew up Christian, and we came out of the box with spiritual lyrics, and people pigeonholed us," says Pinnick. "We never, ever said we were Christian; we never went out to evangelize the world or do anything of that nature. We were one of the first rock bands that came out on the scene that had Christian overtones and had three Christians in the band, so the religious neighborhood jumped on it and championed it as the next Christian rock band, and they ruined everything for us. They totally ruined it for us. People still call us 'that Christian band,' and we never were. I'm not a Christian. I don't consider myself a Christian anymore ... but still people are sending me letters saying, 'Come back to God,' and I'm goin', 'Leave me alone,' you know? 'Let me live my life. I'm sorry that I disappointed you. Go listen to P.O.D. or Amy Grant.'"
In all fairness, Pinnick and drummer Jerry Gaskill were both briefly members of seminal Christian-rock outfit Petra before King's X came to be. Gaskill and guitarist Ty Tabor met at a Christian college in Springfield, Missouri, and the name of the group's first album, Out of the Silent Planet, is a reference to a book by Christian apologist (and Chronicles of Narnia author) C.S. Lewis. Many assumed that the very name of their new band was a reference to Jesus' royal bearing or the crucifix (there's still some debate about that). They may never have mentioned Jesus by name in their lyrics, but that only gave the nation's Christian teens a case of religious-rock blue balls that lasted for five albums.
Regardless, there should be no debate about the unique King's X sound, which hasn't changed much over the years. Their uplifting, sometimes chunky art rock is filled with bright supersmooth Beatles-style vocal harmonizing. The music's not overpowering, but it can grow on you. King's X is often lumped with fellow "thinking man's metal band" Rush, and this summer the group has been sent out on tour with baroque prog-rockers Dream Theater and seven-string-guitar wanker Joe Satriani.
Pinnick adds, "We're just trying to let people know we're still here, 'cause a lot of people think we broke up." In their second act, the reformed King's X is finding that Christianity is its cross to bear.