Old Dog, New Tricks

In the beginning, there was King's X, which put Katy, Texas, on the map as an unlikely springboard for the melodic Beatlesque hard rock band. Though never actively marketed as a Christian act, the trio, and through it 12-string bassist/vocalist Doug Pinnick, has always carried a whiff of purity, which in the final analysis proved as much a burden as a boon. In the early- to mid-'90s Dogman-era Pinnick was frustrated about always having to be the nice guy. People erroneously thought he was some kind of hard-rocking Pat Boone, and thus they were astonished to hear Pinnick actually -- gasp -- swear on record.

Back in about 1997, however, Pinnick got serious about putting together a solo effort. The songs had been percolating for some time, and a cadre of enthusiastic musician friends signed up for the project. And so it was that in 1998 his band Poundhound released the second-only-to-Fiona-Apple-in-terms-of-title-length Massive Grooves from the Electric Church of Psychofunkadelic Grungelism Rock Music.

"Through Poundhound, and by getting to the age that I am, I've gotten to the point where I've kind of taken all the bullshit out of my life," reflects Pinnick. "And now I'm finding myself and trying to be myself, trying to express myself in a true fashion rather than struggling to express myself."

Poundhound's second CD, Pineappleskunk -- on which Pinnick handles all the bass, guitar and vocal chores, while King's X drummer Jerry Gaskill pounds the skins -- is neither as immediate as Massive Grooves nor as overtly soulful. It is, quite simply, a more straightforward rock album. On tracks like "Somedays," "Jumpin'," "Rain," "Pineapple" and "Atlanta," the emphasis is on the riff, each one as thick as it is deep, as long as it is wide. In fact, the only thing that separates Pineappleskunk from your typical high-quality King's X record is that in Poundhound the nearly geometric obsession with plotting everything out to a scientific extreme is nowhere to be found. What is heard instead is simply a guy -- Pinnick -- and his muse.

Pinnick freely admits that Poundhound gives him the opportunity to be "a control freak." "And I need that," he says. "I play in a band where all three of us have say-so on everything. And that's a good thing. It's like a marriage. But sometimes you just need your freedom to find yourself, and Poundhound allows me to do that."

Poundhound also allows Pinnick an outlet for material that may not otherwise see the light of day. Notwithstanding Internet complaints from fanatical King's X devotees that Poundhound serves only to dilute the former band's power, Pinnick is certain that "at this point in my life, after 20 years of being in a band … it adds to it."

"On the first record, I really wanted to get two-dimensional and just hone in on the Poundhound low-tuned groove kind of thing," offers Pinnick. "On this record, I wanted to write some songs that I could sing along to in my car. Not necessarily a commercial record, but I've always wanted to write good melodies in the chorus, and I think this one has some pretty catchy stuff on it."

Pinnick is being a little too modest, since his melodies -- not to mention his harmonies -- gush like a gorged gully from even the heaviest of his work. Yet in addition to the heads-down rock numbers found on Pineappleskunk, songs like "Mind," "She" and "Someone" take an airier, more personal and straightforward tack than most of Pinnick's output. "A little nonsense" scattered here and there is also a valuable part of the Poundhound equation, according to Pinnick, as some of the work is "not really, really deep."

The live response to this combination (Pineappleskunk is set for a June 5 release) has been great, beams Pinnick. Audiences have taken rapidly to the new material despite its unfamiliarity. Joining Pinnick on stage are bassist Len Sonnier (Sonnier Brothers Band), who according to Pinnick "is the only guy that can match my style," guitarist Christian Nesmith (son of former Monkee Michael) and drummer Eric Tatuaca (Chris Duarte).

"At this point in my life I just want to make as much music as I can with everybody," states Pinnick. "Life's only so short, and I've spent 20 years with King's X. And in the early days with [ex-manager] Sam Taylor there was a policy of not doing anything with other people, kind of a ZZ Top course. But since we're free… I figure it this way: I've still got a little bit of value in the marketplace, so I might as well go for it and live my dreams and continue. A lot of people give up and stop making music after a while. But the reason I do this is because I love it, and so I'm gonna keep on doing it. I'm probably going to be like B.B. King, on a tour bus when I'm 65 years old."

That's not to say the thought of sitting around the house in blissful retirement hasn't crossed the 50-year-old's mind. It has. But he figures he'd last about six months and then start going seriously stir-crazy. Current plans, in addition to Poundhound and King's X, include recording an album with Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament this summer, as well as pending collaborations with Queensrÿche guitarist Michael Wilton and Dimebag from Pantera. With that kind of schedule looming, no trips to the asylum are likely.

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Chris Smith