Photo by Debra DiPaolo

Doug Pinnick worries that nobody hates his band. Everywhere the King’s X three travel, fans go crazy, and musicians love them enough that they were featured on VH1’s Top 100 Hard Rock Bands of All Time.

Yeah, that must really suck. Lounging in the Weekly’s luxurious conference room, bassist and main singer Pinnick speculates that these Texans might have a higher profile if more people hated them. Pity they’re so hard to hate, unless you’re a homophobe (Pinnick came out a few years back) or a Satan slave (the X’s have been overidentified with their Christian creed).

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But Pinnick’s taking a new tack, shrugging when asked if he even believes in God anymore. “If there is one, hey, he’ll let me know later.” He’s clearly sick of the way Jezoids have slammed his orientation, and riled by that Christian tag.

Guitarist and singer Ty Tabor drew early inspiration from Christian rock, but from the ’70s renegade wing — hairy outcasts like Randy Stonehill, Larry Norman and Phil Keaggy, “the real creators of what has become the bastardized, sorry-ass Christian industry now. The organized churches did not accept this stuff. It dealt with issues that the church didn’t want to talk about.”

What really drove King’s X, though, was the secular tension between the Beatles (Tabor) and Little Richard (Pinnick). So the two friends, along with drummer Jerry Gaskill, formed a band exploiting Fab-ulous harmonies, sweat-pit R&B rhythms, Ledden guitaristics and Pinnick’s deep-soul testimony. During the hard-rock revival at the turn of the ’90s, their second and third albums, Gretchen Goes to Nebraska and Faith Hope Love, stood out as landmarks of variety and ambition; they’ve continued to blast out scarily consistent releases every year or two.

The new one steams like a clambake. Always a groove band, King’s X bring their most Pentecostal rhythmic fire to Manic Moonlight, and Tabor, acting as producer and mixer, has boiled the band down to a permeating density. Pinnick’s bass is an enormous undulating bottom. Tabor’s guitar riffs are dirtier and plain funkier than ever before, while his solos are, like the man said, manic — he also smears and squeals noisy atmospherics all over the place. Gaskill’s layered propulsion demonstrates why, as Tabor says, “He’s not a real member, or he’d be here for the interview,” before he and Pinnick crack up and declare him their favorite skinsman in the universe.

The spacious, scratchy metal-drill experiment “Static” and the earth-shaking title tune show that King’s X is having a lot of fun, but Manic Moonlight also bleeds old-fashioned songcraft. “Jenna” has three unforgettable melodies and a psycho guitar bridge, while “Believe” and “False Alarm,” with Pinnick’s hopeful/downer lyrics, forge wrought-iron beauty from the sadness of betrayal.

Pinnick lets his emotions motivate him in other ways. When Tabor says modern metal tuckers him out, Pinnick offers the flipside: “Most of the time, you come over to my house, I’m playin’ Korn, Limp Bizkit, Mudvayne.”

He talks about first hearing Slipknot: “It was the hardest, angriest thing, and I agreed

with everything he said. When I went to see ’em, I was up there with the rest of the kids: ‘Fuck this world! Fuck everything and just back off!’”

Tabor looks at him across the table, like, What happened to turning the other cheek?

Pinnick, it seems, wants to uproot every trace of restraint. He’s wearing a little cannabis-leaf medallion; he says he always smokes before performing nowadays, and “Every King’s X record we ever did, I was stoned makin’ it.” He obviously hopes Jerry Falwell is listening.

Also at the table, E.J. Johantgen, at the time publicist for Metal Blade Records, tries to explain why his charges are on the same imprint as necro outfits like Six Feet Under and God Dethroned. “A lot of metal kids still gravitate to your music, because I think that there’s a void,” he says. “There’s either metal or pop, there’s nothing that’s just heavy, and you guys are just a heavy rock band.”

“Dark-heavy,” Tabor amplifies.

While the King’s Xers are committed to their relationship, they’re also heavily promiscuous — Pinnick in Supershine (with Bruce Franklin of Trouble), for instance, or Tabor in Platypus (with guys from Dream Theater). Tabor has four separate record deals.

What the hell, spread it around. King’s X are out there almost alone in bringing new inspiration to classic-rock values. And a couple of intangibles set them apart: dignity (without being stiffs) and vulnerability (without being wimps).

Fans and interviewers tell them things like that all the time, of course. Still, Pinnick’s head isn’t that swollen.

“Listening to people tell me how great I am,” he says, “I can’t wait to get home, so I can be a regular shithead like everybody else.”

King’s X play House of Blues on Monday, November 19.

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