Deeply Dug: An Interview with Dug Pinnick of Kingís X

By Charlie Steffens aka Gnarly Charlie, Writer/Photographer
Thursday, September 4, 2008 @ 11:52 PM

"Nobody wants to hear you complain about something in a way that doesnít sound cool. You can sing anything you want to sing in a song if you just sing it cool and get the passion in it."

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Dug Pinnickís musical resume is staggering. Heís been a working musician for over 35 years, and has got to be the youngest old codger on the scene today. As a solo performer, or as bassist/vocalist in the legendary power trio Kingís X, Pinnick is a musician revered by other musicians.

He is about the nicest guy youíd ever hope to meetóa rockstar with humility. But, Dug is a badass on the stage. He owns the motherfucker.

I recently had the privilege to talk with Dug. Here is some of what he had to say.

KNAC.COM: Youíve had two recent releases, Strum Sum Up, your solo album and the new Kingís X album XV, which made the Billboard Top 200. It had been about ten years since youíve had an album on the charts, right?

PINNICK: I guess so. Back then I didnít pay too much attention to what was going on. I really donít know when the last time we were on the charts. I hate to say that (laughs). Shame on me.

KNAC.COM: So youíve never really kept track of sales and chart positions?

PINNICK: In the early days, for the first couple records, yeah, we were really reading it and checking everything out. But when we realized that we werenít going to be the next big thing, I just kind of stopped paying attention because it was more disappointing than encouraging.

KNAC.COM: What pushes you when times are tough?

PINNICK: Writing another song. Itís the truth. When Iím at my lowest, itís usually when some words come flooding in or some chorus hits me. Then, all of a sudden, I start getting into it and making it a song. Thatís what helps me more than anything, just writing tunes. Iíve been standing in front of people playing, singing or doing something since I can rememberómy mom said three years old or something. Itís just something I do. A lot of people have it figured out and can sit down and tell you what theyíre trying to accomplish. I just do what Iím feeling at the moment and later on realize what I did (laughs). Iím a pretty haphazard kind of guy.

KNAC.COM: You never strain to put words on a page then.

PINNICK: I strain more trying to confine what Iím trying to say, so people donít get bored of me babbling about it, because I can talk about one little thing for three days and go on and on about it until you go crazy. So, for me, every song I write I go back over the lyrics and try to take out words to shorten it, just to get to the point and let the listener kind of get a glimpse of how I feel in the raw.. Because everybody has a story and everybodyís got the little details of how things go, and I think we leave that for conversation with one another. Lyrics are always the last thing and the thing that takes the most time. Nobody wants to hear you complain about something in a way that doesnít sound cool. You can sing anything you want to sing in a song if you just sing it cool and get the passion in it. So, I realize that words arenít as important as the attitude I feel towards the words on records. Iíve condensed my words a lot in the last ten years, Iíd say.

KNAC.COM: Were you influenced by Motown and R&B growing up?

PINNICK: Iíve never talked about this to anybody in depth, but yeah, between 11 and about 17, I would say, I had a daily and steady diet of R&B, soul, and Motown. I didnít like The Supremes. They just didnít have any groove. They were too white for me, and they didnít harmonize. They always sang the same notes. Stevie Wonder really knocked me out when he came out with Talking Book, after he had grown up. Then I started hanging out with my white friends, getting high and listening to rock music. This guy came over to my house one day with Led Zeppelin II and said ďHey, check this out,Ē and I put it on and it sounded like Booker T and The MGís without a keyboard player. I noticed how aggressive the music was and that was it. Iíve been a rocker ever since. My whole thing is to blend soul and funk with rock music in a way thatís aggressive, not funky.

KNAC.COM: Youíve said that youíre no longer practicing the Christian faith. What is your opinion now on organized religion?

PINNICK: It really makes me mad that children suffer more than anything because of religion and rules and regulations. It bugs me to see a five-year old up there preaching saying everybody needs to get saved and go to Heaven. They donít even know what saved is. I believe people should let kids be kids and let them grow up and find their own way. Thereís a scripture in the Bible called the Prodigal Son. You have to go out and find your own way and then come back and settle in. thatís who we are. You canít confine somebody and tell them theyíll go to hell if they do this and this. Or, you disown them because theyíre gay, or theyíre playing rock and roll or they got tattoos. Thatís my problem about religion--the rules and regulationsóthings that society has sanctioned as wrong or right. Iíve always been an advocate of people just saying ďLook, letís stop fighting over this stuff.í The word ďfuck,Ē let it go. Everybody says it. The only reason kids say it is because theyíre not supposed to. What does the word really mean to anybody anymore? Just like black folks saying ďmy niggah.Ē Well, if black people can say it why canít white people say it? Pick your battles, thatís what I say. Find something that is really worth fighting over, instead of getting offended if someone says Barrack Obama speaks articulately. Well he does! I speak articulately, and white people have said that to me, too. And black people have gotten mad, because theyíve said that to me, and Iím going ďI take pride in the way I speak.Ē

KNAC.COM: Itís funny when a white person says ďYou know, for a black guy he sure sounds white. He must be really educated, because you donít hear any Ebonics.Ē

PINNICK: Exactly. I know where it came from, but my problem is why canít people finally get over it? Young people donít care. The color barrier is being blended really well, and itís these old fuckers my ageóthe baby boomersókeep hanging on to this separation bullshit, and the ones older than us. Sooner or later weíre going to die off so this world can live in peace (laughs).

KNAC.COM: God is a lot bigger than Christianity, or right-wing Christianity, rather.

PINNICK: Yeah, thatís what you want to say, right-wing Christianity, because I find that a lot of Christians arenít like that. I used to think all Christians were from this crazy place that I came from. Thatís why I wrote ďPray for Me.Ē Thatís my white flag. If you believe this stuff then pray for me. We all pray. We all want top be prayed for. It doesnít matter what religion you are. People who donít even have a religion or a name of a god will pray to God. I think that kind of energy is pure and I think thatís what we want.

KNAC.COM: Weíre sinners. We stumble and fall every day. If you got it so togetheródonít forget to pray for me. Thatís my take on the song.

PINNICK: Yeah, itís that and the other thing is ďI donít believe in your god and your religionóMuslim, Christian, or Jew. But, if you believe it, and itís real to you, then pray for me, because I believe your prayers will be answered. I donít know if thereís a God or of thereís not a God. I donít care anymore, but for the people that do believeÖI just want to be in the circle with them. Iím not going to tell them theyíre wrong.

KNAC.COM: What do you think about all the Christian metal bands that are emerging onto the scene now?

PINNICK: Iím the kind of person that says whatever you believe then go out and spew it on us. Weíll take it or leave it. But donít force it on me. Thatís where I leave it. I have no problem with Christian bands. I used to, because I came from a real bad side of Christianity. So, I had a real bad attitude towards it. Nowadays I just accept it. People like that stuff, they buy it. I put Christian music in a category of the many, many things in the world that I look at and am Iím in awe of. Like, take for instance, kids growing up in a Christian familyóthereís a great side to that life. Thereís love, thereís this nuclear thing. They give a lot of good things, but they miss the worldly side of things. What makes me mad is when these kids canít experience things that arenít going to hurt them or send them to hell, but itís taboo from the Christian standpoint. I was going to be a preacher.

KNAC.COM: Did you get a lot of backlash from your peers and the community when you left the church?

PINNICK: I know a lot of people are disappointed in me. A lot of Christians are disappointed in me. People email me going ďWhat happened, Doug? Why do you hate God now? Why do you hate Christians?Ē I donít hate God at all. I think that would be stupid to hate God. I donít know anything about God to hate. Why should I hate something that I have no control over?

KNAC.COM: Your physical appearance really defies your age. What do you do that keeps you looking so fit?

PINNICK: Everything in moderation when it comes to health. I exercise, but I donít exercise too much. I eat, but I donít eat too much. I eat what I want. Iím a health nut, but Iím not so healthy that if you invited me out to McDonaldís, I wouldnít eat it. Iím not a hundred years old, so I still havenít got it down pat yet. My mom and dad and my relatives live into their nineties. They donít have wrinkles when they die. Itís ridiculous. Some of them go, ďIím tired. Iím going to sleep now,Ē and they go to bed and theyíre dead. They know when theyíre going to die, some of them. Itís insane.

KNAC.COM: Does your family accept that youíre gay?

PINNICK: They donít really know anything about it. And if they do theyíve never said anything about it. Iíve never told anyone in my family Iím gay, not even my mother. My momís the kind of person whoíd say ďWell, if he needs to tell me he will, and if he doesnít thatís fine.Ē My mother believes that your business is your business, and you donít have to tell anybodyóyou donít have to feel obligated to tell anybodyóto the point where youíd even lie to them. People donít need to know your business. Iím a love child and anytime Iíd ask my mother anything about my dad, or if anybody brought my dadís name up in conversation, my mom would say ďHerman BatesÖhmmm.Ē Thatís all Iíve ever heard my mother say about my dad.

KNAC.COM: You said you didnít like The Supremes, but ďLove ChildĒ is a cool song.

PINNICK: Oh yeah. I related to it, but I love ďPapa Was a Rolling Stone.Ē That was my daddy.

KNAC.COM: And when he died, all he left us was aloneÖ

PINNICK: ÖAll he left me was alone. He died last year. I didnít feel alone, though. But he never left me anything, anyway. He even had a little money in the bank and he had eight kidsóten kids. We had three different mothers. When my dad died the Veteranís Administration calls me and says ďYour dad has a pension here that we want to split up with his children. Could you bring your birth certificate in so you can get your inheritance?Ē (laughs) ďI ainít got no damn birth certificate!Ē When a woman has a baby in the hospitalóif the dad ainít there he donít sign it. So, my dadís name isnít on my birth certificate, so I got no money. My dad didnít even show up when I was born, so I go ďWell fuck him!Ē I donít hate him. I understand who he was. I sing about it (laughs).

KNAC.COM: A lot of people would use that as something to feel sorry about.

PINNICK: I did, but you get to a point in your life where the drama has to end and you have to take responsibility. When I turned around fifty years old I looked back and thought ďYou have cried and moped like the victim for this long,Ē and I thought ďLife is too short. I donít have that much longer to live. Iím past the hump now. I want to enjoy my life and get past the shit. And for some reason, that was the most abrupt thing that ever happened in my life, and I just stopped. It just stopped. It didnít make any sense anymore to cry and mope about how I hate myself and how my life was so terrible and how fucked up I was. I want to sing about positive things. I want to recognize when weíre in pain. I want to recognize that in many ways things are hopeless, but in many ways I wanna say ďHey, but itís gonna be alright.Ē You gotta believe that. If you donít believe that then whatís the use of living? I know itís bad, but letís grab each otherís hand and keep on crawlin,í Come on.

KNAC.COM: I heard someone say ďI know itís an inside job, but how do I get inside?Ē

PINNICK: You know how you do it? This is one of the only ways you can do it, and itís sad, because most people wonít be able to--Iíve lived single, all my life. Iíve never had children or a relationship where I had to spend my time with the drama, with their lives, with sharing my life with them. All Iíve had is me to give my attention to, so Iíve sat for hours and hours and hours and hours dissecting myself and my surroundings and everything that I see, because thereís nobody to distract me. So, Iíve been lucky. I found myself. There are things I like and things I donít like and Iím working it all out. I wish other people could have the opportunity to do that. I feel sorry for some people who are searching and struggling and having a hard time with their lives, because all they need is some time off, to get away, and figure it out. And it takes years, not a weekend, or a couple months or some kind of seminar. It takes ten years, maybe, to undo the bullshit thatís been put in us unconsciously, from TV on down.

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