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The Resurrection of Sam Taylor

After years of laying low, a Houston music guru has come back for more

"I believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah," says Taylor. "But I also think the biggest thing wrong with Christianity is Christians, and I probably fit into that category and can point the finger back at myself."

To some extent, Taylor is also willing to point the finger back at himself when it comes to his relationship with King's X. In 1986, after seeing the group rehearse, Taylor quickly took the power trio under his wing, climbing aboard as their manager, creative collaborator, producer, video coordinator and in-studio instrumental handyman.

"If I did anything, I gave King's X a license to be true to themselves," says Taylor. "Not only did they create a new sound, but they found a new starting point -- and this band had already been together five years when that happened."

Partly by coincidence and partly through persistence, Taylor landed King's X a user-friendly deal with Megaforce/Atlantic. The honeymoon lasted through four releases, which were met with strong critical acclaim, if unspectacular sales. About the time of 1990's Faith Hope Love and the semi-successful video for the striking single "It's Love," the members of King's X began questioning Taylor's role in the band. In 1992, Taylor and the group unceremoniously parted ways.

"It was a culmination of things, really. I was building the company [Wilde Silas MusicWorks] at the time, I had two other bands -- Galactic Cowboys and the beginnings of Atomic Opera -- and 20 people on the payroll," explains Taylor, who admits that, near the end, he wasn't giving King's X the attention they deserved. "I brought some people in to help out who didn't have the same kind of talent for cheerleading and counseling. King's X needed preferential treatment; they were the top dogs."

Taylor let King's X go without a struggle, which left him free to concentrate on the Galactic Cowboys. His situation with the Cowboys was slightly less hands-on than with King's X, due to his overwhelming business commitments, a troubled marriage and his failing health.

"Problems in my personal life were taking their toll," says Taylor. "I had financial obligations; I was very, very unhappy. At one point, my bad cholesterol was over 400. I went to my doctor for a checkup, and he told me I had severe problems."

Taylor has also experienced strange headaches over the last few decades. Extensive testing has failed to reveal their cause; hence, the brain tumor scare. "There was a fear somewhere along the line that it might be something more than headaches," Taylor says. "And I think some people put two and two together and thought that maybe I had a heart condition, a tumor, cancer or something like that."

None of Taylor's problems kept him away from his work, though. The Galactic Cowboys signed with Geffen/DGC, releasing an eclectic pair of spiritually focused, harmony-intensive releases in 1991 and 1993, both produced by Taylor. "The Cowboys got this huge deal with Geffen," says Taylor. "They would have had to become Nirvana to keep it."

As luck would have it, the Cowboys were announced to the world about the same time as Nirvana, also a DGC act; it's not hard to figure out which band came out on the bottom. Understandably frustrated with their predicament, the Cowboys split with Taylor.

"At the end of the day, you have to realize that this is their career, not yours," he reflects. "I refused to believe that's the way it was, and for ten years, I tried to change the system."

His personal and professional life in tatters, Taylor soon realized that it was time to stop beating his head against the wall over things that he couldn't control and start working on changing himself.

"I started going to some counseling to find out what motivated me," he says. "I really believed at the time that I really didn't want anything from these [bands]; I just wanted to do a good job for them. But my counselor made me realize that, hey, I was always taking a back seat; I never took credit for what I did; I was always behind the scenes."

Eventually, Taylor says, it dawned on him that his whole life revolved around the approval of others. "It was like family accepting you -- if they think you're cool, then you're okay," he says. "I realized that the very nature of an artist is to be self-centered. You can't really expect someone -- after being told how great they are -- to tell you that it doesn't affect them, or turn around and be caring individuals."

Often, though, Taylor's own aloof, self-absorbed behavior didn't help matters any. "He was always this mysterious father-type figure -- almost an unapproachable guy," says Dane Sonnier, former guitarist with the Galactic Cowboys. (Losing their with deal with Geffen after 1993's Space in Your Face, the Cowboys broke up, only to reunite months later without Sonnier.)

Taylor says he's well aware of the work required to iron out the kinks in his life. But from the sound of things, he's come a long way. At least, many around him think so -- even Sonnier. He recently reconciled with Taylor, who has produced a demo for the Sonnier Brothers Band (led by Dane and his bassist brother Len, formerly of the Taylor pet project Atomic Opera) and is shopping it to major labels.

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