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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



Doug Pinnick interview from March 1999

October 16th, 2007 · Comments Off on Doug Pinnick interview from March 1999

I’ve just been listening to King’s X, which reminded me I’ve yet to re-post my interview with Doug Pinnick. Doug has been one of my biggest bass heroes since I first heard Out Of The Silent Planet back in the late 80s – I was and still am a massive King’s X fan, so interviewing him was a bit of a dream come true. And it was made all the more enjoyable and memorable by the kind of conversation we had – he’d just come out as gay, which had massively upset the conservative end of their christian fanbase in the US, but on the upside had inspired an amazing album in Dogman… So we talked about all kinds of stuff – american culture, theology, bigotry, etc. etc. for hours. And with about half an hour to go i remembered that i was supposed to be getting a load of information for bass geeks, and that’s what this bit is! I’ve probably got the tape somewhere with the rest of it on, and maybe one day I’ll get round to typing it up, will run it by Doug and put it up somewhere if he’s OK with it… But for now, here’s the bassy bit of the interview, which is still pretty interesting! :o)


At the tail end of the 80s, the rock world underwent a bit of a shake up, as a handful of groups arrived on the scene, combining hard rocking guitars with such disparate elements as soulful vocal harmonies, funky bass lines and a sharp line in observational lyrics that were a far cry from the sword ‘n’ sorcery stuff that most of the HM fraternity were prone to churning out.

Bands such as Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Living Colour, Faith No More and, of course, Kings X, took over the pages of both the metal mags and the ‘serious’ music weeklies, hailed as the saviours of hard rock, and, for the most part, made a sizeable dent in the charts.

However, despite combining crushingly heavy guitar riffs with radio-friendly three-part harmony vocals, and enjoying some very favourable reviews, Kings X have so far managed to skirt round the edge of the mainstream without yet finding that elusive crossover hit.

Now, with a new King’s X album, ‘Tape Head’, in the shops and ‘Massive Grooves” by Doug’s solo project, Poundhound available, Kings X are finally coming back to the UK.

‘I always wanted to play bass, for as long as I can remember,’ begins Doug. ‘Eventually, I got lucky – a friend of mine gave me a bass. I grew up in the ghetto, and we were pretty poor. I never even thought I’d be able to play but this friend of mine loaned it to me and I wouldn’t give it back to him! I started playing and I was so happy! I mean, just one note made me ecstatic, and from that day on I’ve just played and I love it! I don’t remember learning how or really working at it because, even though I did, it was so much fun. Every new lick, every new note, was like “yeah!”‘

Thus begins the tale. But what kind of things were you playing along to back then?

‘It was the early 70s when I started playing bass, so I jammed along with records by Led Zeppelin, Sly And The Family Stone, Deep Purple, Yes, Kansas – that kind of stuff. I was a music-aholic! Anything I bought I would put on and play along and try to learn the licks. I did that for about two years and then started playing in bands. After that I never tried to copy anybody else – I was too busy having fun, writing music and stuff.’

What were those first bands like?

‘They were all pretty much garage bands. I wanted to just play bass but ended up singing in all of them. I thought each band was going to make it, but they all sucked! It was a good learning experience!’

How did you make the jump from garage band to Kings X?

‘I moved to Springfield, Missouri, to look for work and I met Jerry (Gaskill: KX drummer), and Ty (Tabor: KX guitarist). We formed a four piece with another guitarist for a couple of years, but it soon became evident that we were meant to be a trio!

‘After that, we played cover tunes for about five years, and then moved to Texas. We had dealings with a couple of small Christian labels before signing to MegaForce/Atlantic and releasing the first Kings X album. Since then we’ve been making records, doing gigs and going through everything everybody else goes through.’

That is, if “everything everybody else goes through” is releasing seven critically acclaimed albums, and doing regular arena tours both as headline act and as support act to some of the biggest names in rock!

There was a big change in the Kings X sound with 1994’s “Dogman” album. What happened?

‘Sam Taylor, who produced our first four albums, had a big influence on our sound, but he never managed to capture on record how heavy we are live. When he left us after “Kings X”, we got Brendan O’Brien in to do “Dogman”. He’s one of my favourite producers. He gets a really dry mix, and that’s what I wanted to go for. There’s one song on “Dogman” called Black The Sky, that is now my standard to mix to. That’s the sound on the Poundhound album – big and fat – more like our live sound’huge!’

Anyone doubting just how huge the Kings X live sound is should take a quick look at Doug’s live rig. Any queries will soon be laid to rest:

‘I use 6 Ampeg SVT 8×10 cabinets and I’ve got two double stereo Ampeg power amps – you can hook eight speakers up to each amp. They’re split in half with two electrical plugs on each amp, to cope with the power! I use an SVT pre-amp for my low end and a Fender Dual Showman for the high end, then run them both into a little mixer, through an EQ and into the power amps. Then I turn it up!!

‘People ask why I use so many cabs. It’s mainly because I like to get 40Hz and lower, to get that church organ kind of sound, so that when I hit a low note there’s that rumble that just shakes the building!’

You’ve been long associated with Hamer basses, and particularly with their 12-strings. I guess you were a Cheap Trick fan?

‘Yes, Cheap Trick was one of my favourite bands, and Tom Pederson is still one of my favourite bassists. We opened for them when “Out Of The Silent Planet” came out, and he let me play one of his 12-strings. Even though it was right-handed, it felt and sounded amazing, and he said, ‘just call Hamer up and get one.’

‘Hamer wanted to work with (King’s X guitarist) Ty’ and I said ‘What about me?!’. They replied, ‘We’ll make you some basses too, Doug!’, so I started using the 12-strings. The company started getting calls from people saying they’d see us play and were interested in them, so Hamer were quite happy to keep the thing going.

‘Ever since then, I’ve been using Hamers. They’ve made me about 12 basses, all of which have been custom-built for me. I have really long hands so I go for wide but shallow necks. I also have Seymour Duncan pickups with a power booster inside, so anything I plug into distorts. It’s my sound. The bass, the amp, the strings – which are DRs – and my hands’that’s my sound.’

Recently though, you’ve reverted to four stings’

‘On the last two Kings X albums, and even the Poundhound album, I’ve used predominantly a four-string. The 12-string is a weird animal to play, it didn’t quite fit with some of the Kings X stuff. Ty felt that it weakened the sound of his guitar, and I finally got tired of the power struggle and gave in for the sake of the overall sound. If I write a song on the 12-string then I can work the rest of the sound around it. Like Jeff Ament did on Jeremy with Pearl Jam – the 12-string carries the whole song. Human Behaviour on “Dogman” and Faith Hope Love were both written and recorded on the 12-string. I can actually play the whole of Faith Hope Love with the harmonics and arpeggios and everything on the 12-string, I don’t even need the guitar!!’

Kings X have always been known as a musicians’ band, and have been more influential than your record sales might suggest. Is that frustrating?

‘Not really. It’s great to be recognised by other musicians and we’ll always go down as the musicians’ band. It’s amazing how our name comes up in the strangest places. All across the board – jazz musicians, pop musicians and everything. But we’ve still never sold that many records. I think that was down to bad promotion. When ‘Dogman’ was released, New York radio stations were playing the title track all the time and we sold more records there than anywhere, but there still wasn’t a major single release of any of the tracks.

‘Jeff Ament from Pearl Jam was quoted on MTV as saying that as far as he’s concerned, King’s X invented grunge! When “Out Of The Silent Planet” came out, no-one else seemed to be doing D-tuned riffing like that. Then we went away for 18 months touring, got home and everyone was D-tuning, which was weird. We’re just one of those quirky weird bands, like Jane’s Addiction, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Faith No More that were around in the late 80s, so I feel we were inspirational somewhere along the line.

‘As far as influencing bassists is concerned, I think my tone is what I’m known for, which is fine by me. Chris Squire from Yes is my hero, and he had such a great tone. Roundabout and America were two of the first tunes I ever really sat down to work out all the way through.

‘I’m not really impressed by fast players any more. I don’t cut them down, because that takes a lot of work. I admire someone like Yngwie Malmsteen who can sit and play like that, but I’ve stopped writing to be clever, the gigs were ending up too much like hard work!’

With Kings X signed to a new label and things looking rosy for the band, why choose now to start a solo project?

‘I’ve written about 100 songs in the last two years, and when I write for Kings X there are usually a few songs that don’t work in that format, so as an outlet I decided to do my own record. The album is out on Metal Blade, with me playing bass and guitar and do all the vocals with a few different drummers. It’s the dark side of King’s X.

‘Most of the material is real heavy but melodic as well. I’ve gone for something between Sly Stone and Hendrix, using the C-tuned/B-tuned Kings X style riffs, but with a kind of Neil Young approach too, sometimes. I’m making it real rootsy. I’ve got all the guitars tuned down to C, so it’s real low but with my usual Gospel-y vocals. It’s completely me, this is my record. I’m a control freak and this is my way of doing everything.’

Tags: journalism

New unreleased tunes!

September 25th, 2007 · Comments Off on New unreleased tunes!

Thanks to the wonders of ReverbNation, I’ve uploaded a bunch of new tunes that you can have a listen to… The tracks in the player, embedded below, are a previously unheard live version of Scott Peck, a live version of Uncle Bernie from a forthcoming live album with Theo Travis and ‘Endo’ from the brand new ‘Calamateur vs Steve Lawson’ album that will be appearing in my online shop at some point in this week.

Enjoy – just click on the picture!


Steve Lawson

Tags: cool links · Music News

new look blog… well, new look to me anyway…

August 7th, 2007 · Comments Off on new look blog… well, new look to me anyway…

OK, this affects precisely none of you, but the lovely Sarda has just upgraded the blog software used here to the newest version of Moveable Type, so the blogging process looks completely different for me…

The biggest difference for you is that I’ve just switched comments back on, so feel free to trawl back through all the nonsense I’ve been typing over the last wee while and comment away… We’ll see how long it lasts before the spammers get round whatever security is in place…

have at it…

[edit – ah, I’ve just remembered that I’ve deleted the comment-related stuff from the index template… must replace that before you can comment… Doh!]

Tags: Geek

Spoke too soon…

February 20th, 2007 · Comments Off on Spoke too soon…

While tidying up today (more on that in a later blog) I found a load of copies of Grace and Gratitude! Yay!!

So it’s back being orderable from the shop, if you want a copy. Or, let’s make this easy, you can just click the ordering button here and get it for just £9 inc. worldwide P+P!





Tags: Music News

One thing to improve your life…

October 24th, 2005 · Comments Off on One thing to improve your life…

I occasionally get asked by students what the most important skill I’ve learned since I left college and went professional as a musician is. The answer often surprises them – learning to touch-type. I can’t even begin to imagine how long it would take me to do all my admin/web/email/etc. stuff if I couldn’t touch-type. Even keeping a blog would be unfeasible given the length of time it was take to get any thoughts down on the page.

The method I used was Mavis Beacon’s typing course – it’s only $20, and will save you that much in work-hours in the first three days after you’ve finished the course.

Go on, learn to type properly!

Soundtrack – listening through a load of the old duet sessions that inspired the idea for the Recycle Collective – earlier on it was stuff with BJ Cole, now it’s stuff with Andrew Booker.

Tags: Uncategorized

Now this is the kind of review we all live for…

August 25th, 2005 · Comments Off on Now this is the kind of review we all live for…

There were loads of shows that I really wanted to see at Edinburgh this year, but didn’t get to see. One of them was Rob Newman – a standup comic, who used to be in the Mary Whitehouse experience, and was the funny one in Newman And Baddiel.

These days he’s a very political standup and author, and I’ve heard wonderful things about his show. None, however, quite as wonderful as this five star review of his show in The Scotsman – any review that finishes with the line “If this world could be saved by a superhero whose superpower was comedy, that hero would be Robert Newman.” has to be good! It’s the kind of review that will be quoted on his press material for the rest of his career.

And what’s more, it makes me desperate to see his show – let’s hope he brings it to London after the festival… a quick glance at his website shows that he’s on tour for the rest of the year with fellow political comedy genius, Mark Thomas – now THAT’S an unmissable double bill!

Tags: Uncategorized

Tshirt details –

July 26th, 2005 · Comments Off on Tshirt details –

Here’s a webcam pic of me in one of the t-shirts –

nice, eh?

And they can be yours for a measly £12 if you live in the UK, or £13 round the world, in advance of the festival!

The sizes available are

Small
Medium
Large
X-Large
XX-Large
and a ladies’ skinny t

All lovely top quality ethical threads marvellousness.



– Click here for UK delivery (£12)


– and click here for the rest of the world (£13)

So make sure you put what size you want in with the paypal order!

[EDIT] – OK, so there’s nowhere on the paypal page to do that (doh!) – instead, just email me, or I’ll email you back when I get the order and find out what size you want! Sorry ’bout that.

Tags: Uncategorized

The Solo Summit

July 11th, 2005 · Comments Off on The Solo Summit

So last night was The Solo Summit a mini festival-within-a-festival as part of Hackney’s Spice Festival.

The idea was to have lots of performers on different instruments and across myriad styles all playing solo. As it was, it was that and a whole lot more – the solo performances spawned some really interesting collaborations as the mini-sets overlapped.

Due to the current mess of bomb-scares and transport disasters in England, a few of the performers were either late or didn’t appear at all, so the set was being re-jigged all evening, and as a result even more time was freed up for new combinations of players. The initial three long sets became four slightly shorter sets, and each set seemed to take on a character of its own.

The first set began with Tunde Jegede on Kora, who was then joined by Cleveland Watkiss, who was using my loop set-up to great effect, layering vocals on top of Tunde’s gorgeous Kora.

The rest of the set was three of Orphy’s students, Renel, Yao and Michael, two spoken word artists and guitar/bazouki, respectively, who played some marvellous music. My set dove-tailed into the end of Michael’s, as I took a short solo over the end of his last piece. I then played Grace And Gratitude, and went into The Kindness Of Strangers, which Orphy joined me on, with my loop gradually fading after I’d left the stage and Orphy took over for his solo spot. End of set 1.

Set 2 was very different – mainly guys from the London Improvisors Orchestra, it started with harpist Rhodri Davis (playing music a fair bit removed from his work with Charlotte Church!), Bass Saxist, Tony Bevan, flugal horn from Claude Deppa and electronic bleeps ‘n’ squawks loveliness from Steve Beresford. An interesting set with moments of magic, a very long way from the opening set! This stuff is really a stretch for the audience – they seemed to stay with it though, which was great.

Set 3 was back to many of the performers from set 1, with the addition of Pat Thomas on piano (an insanely gifted musician) and Steve Williamson on Sax. I played another duet with Cleveland, and a trio with Cleveland and Tunde on a track that they’d be playing as a duo, which worked beautifully. I had it set up that I was able to loop Cleveland in the usual way, so that gave us a lot of scope to loop ‘n’ layer and have some fun, and it came out superbly well.

By Set 4, we were about an hour ahead of schedule (whoever heard of a gig running ahead of time???), but my ears were getting a little fatigued after such a long time of intense listening. I listened to BJ’s set from just outside the main auditorium, where the processed ambient pedal steel wafted beautifully around. The set grew with the addition of more and more musicians, til most of the LIO guys were back on stage making a glorious racket. Cleveland then joined them, and once I’d turned up his mic, was able to add a vocal percussion loop to it, and start to inject a key centre into the melee. I joined in on bass, and the whole thing gradually mutated from free soundscape to twisted funk/swing groove thang, providing a space for the rappers/spoken word guys to rejoin the party. As the musicians peeled off one by one, the loop faded, and it ended with just bass, acoustic guitar and the two voices. One heck of a journey from the free to the funky. I look forward to hearing the recording of that one too!

All in, a fine evening’s music. A smallish crowd (hey, that’s brit-jazz for you), but an enthusiastic one with a fair amount of stamina!

Tags: Uncategorized

Bono and Bob on the G8…

July 9th, 2005 · Comments Off on Bono and Bob on the G8…

here it is.

What on earth are they thinking???

” ‘We’ve pulled this off,’ said U2 frontman Bono.

He and Geldof praised the Group of Eight summit for pledging to double aid to Africa to $50 billion, saying the move will save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who would have died of poverty, malaria or
AIDS.

‘The world spoke and the politicians listened,’ Bono said.”

and

“Geldof, creator of the Live 8 concerts, said: ‘The summit in Gleneagles is a qualified triumph.’ Appearing alongside Bono at a news conference held at the close of the summit, he said: ‘A great justice has been done.’ “

Oh shit, why do these people conspire to make me look like a miserable whinging git? Everyone has come out and said the G8 produced very little of note. The 50 billion is fine – it’s 50 billion, not to be sneezed at – but it’s way too little and it won’t be protected by trade reform and debt cancellation.

Before the summit Bono and Bob were both calling for the three points of the MPH campaign – trade reform, debt relief and aid. Only the aid element has been touched with any effectiveness.

Maybe I’ll just go back to writing about my solo gigs, it’s less depressing than all this stuff.

The MPH campaign goes on, more pressure is needed. What isn’t needed is Bono and Bob telling the G8 what superstars they are. ‘A great justice has been done.’ – no it hasn’t!!!

I really really hope I’m misjudging this, that they know something I don’t about making things happen. I’ve no problem with pragmatic compromise to get a result, and if they honestly can get the bastards to move faster and further by chumming up to them, then great, I’ll sit here and whinge to my few hundred readers while they change the world, but right now, it’s looking like they’ve got too close and can’t tell it like it is.

Tags: Uncategorized

Online articles from The New Statesman

June 14th, 2005 · Comments Off on Online articles from The New Statesman

I’m a big big fan of The New Statesman – it’s the only magazine I subscribe to, and read it avidly every week.

They don’t tend to put much of the content on their website, prefering to tease people and get them to buy the mag, or pay for online access.

Anyway, I was just reading some stuff on Mark Thomas’ website, and he’s a got a fairly big archive of a lot of the things he’s written for them on there – click here to read some – he’s a very good columnist, and his site is a great resource for political action links.

SoundtrackCharlie Haden, ‘Nocturne’.

Tags: Uncategorized