King's X Marks The Spot: Three Bands Spawned by Houston's Hard-Rock Power Trio
Jerry Gaskill of King's X
Photo by Mark Britain
As many local music fans and members of the hard-rock/metal scene, King's X drummer Jerry Gaskill had a heart attack Saturday. Fortunately, according to bandmate DUg Pinnick, he seems to be responding to treatment and the prognosis appears to be good for the founding member of Houston's third most-recognized musical trio behind ZZ Top and Destiny's Child.
Despite the fact that King's X has wielded substantial influence in the world of hard rock since their debut release Out of the Silent Planet in 1988, they have remained largely an underground band with a startling lack of recognition, particularly in Houston. They may have formed in their home of Springfield, Mo., but it was Houston where they changed their name and began the career as the band we know today.
In addition, they influenced the migration of other similar acts from Springfield, which spawned additional bands with varying degrees of success. In many ways, King's X changed the dynamic of music in the late '80s and early '90s in Houston and left an indelible mark on the city's music scene.
David Ohlerking (right) hugging DUg Pinnick at the Axiom reunion in 2007 at Fitzgerald's.
Photo by Jeff Balke
The Awful Truth: Another trio featuring David Von Ohlerking, Monte Colvin and Alan Doss who moved to Houston at the same time as King's X and recorded with producer Sam Taylor (the central nexus for all of these bands), the band only released one record, but the lush Beatles harmonies (a central theme of all the Springfield bands), heavy Metallica-esque grooves and soaring Siouxsie and the Banshees wail were memorable. Von Ohlerking split with the rhythm section to form In the Garden, a decidedly more goth version of the Awful Truth while Colvin and Doss left to form the next band on this list.
Ohlerking is now a painter living in Philadelphia. In 2007, he performed again under the Awful Truth banner at the Axiom reunion without Colvin and Doss. He was joined on stage by Pinnick for a song and aided by at least one member of the next band.
The Galactic Cowboys: After the demise of the Awful Truth, Colvin and Doss were quickly back to work with a heavier and decidedly more complex band, The Galactic Cowboys. They added guitarist Dane Sonnier and vocalist Ben Huggins and their self titled debut album was praised in many circles. Unfortunately, grunge was entering full swing (Nevermind was released the same year) and metal was moving its way back into the underground.
The Cowboys were certainly the most successful of this group, releasing seven albums and having a song appear on the Airheads soundtrack. The band slowly began to change first replacing Sonnier with Wally Farkas then losing Doss. In fact, Gaskill played drums on the band's final record, Let It Go.
Colvin left Houston to return to his home state. He now performs with his power-pop band Crunchy. Doss still lives in Houston and works with local bands as a musician, producer and writer. Huggins and Sonnier also remain in Houston. Both occasionally perform together and separately. Farkas would up working in hip-hop distribution and has performed on records with King's X members Pinnick and Ty Tabor.
Atomic Opera: Primarily the brainchild of frontman Frank Hart, Atomic Opera was formed after the breakup of local band Love in Grey, also formed with members who migrated to Houston from Springfield including Hart.
Atomic Opera has had a rotating cast of musicians backing hart including Len Sonnier, brother of Dane from Galactic Cowboys. They released four albums between 1994 and 2000, their first the Collision Arts label, a subsidiary of Giant, and two more on Metal Blade Records.
A mix of the elements present in all of these bands -- layered vocal harmonies and heavy guitars -- Atomic Opera's music could easily hold its own alongside heavy alt-metal bands of today. Hart remains in Houston and continues to write and record with a focus on Christianity, another trait that is a not insignificant part of the Springfield contingent.
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