Interview with King's X guitarist Ty Tabor

It’s been long agreed throughout the hard rock community that one of the most underrated bands of all time is King’s X. Mixing elements of heavy metal, prog, funk, and Beatles-like psychedelia, the group – which includes singer/bassist Doug Pinnick, singer/guitarist Ty Tabor, and singer/drummer Jerry Gaskill - has built a large cult following on the strength of such classic releases as 1989’s ‘Gretchen Goes to Nebraska,’ 1990’s ‘Faith Hope Love,’ and 1994’s ‘Dogman,’ among others. And the trio continues to go strong to this day, as they’ve recently released another winner via SPV Records, ‘XV.’ Tabor recently took time out to discuss the group’s latest triumph, and how his guitar fits into the grand scheme of King’s X.

Ty Tabor

How was it working again with producer Michael Wagner?

It was a blast, man, because Michael just is a blast to work with. He’s got such a killer personality in the studio – keeps you very relaxed, and it leaves a lot of room for creativity and no pressure. There are no rules, basically – he’s up for anything we want to try. I enjoyed the vibe of working with him as a person, and the surroundings of where his studio is, is pretty amazing – it’s a really secluded area where you are truly out of the noise of the city and away from everybody, you can focus on what you’re doing. It’s really nice.

How would you compare the guitar on ‘XV’ with some of King’s X past classics, like ‘Dogman’?

It’s hard to compare, because I was in the middle of a transition right when Brendan [O’Brien] came to us and said, “Do you want to do a record together?” We were like, “Of course!” We were very excited, because he was basically working with only multi-platinum people. I was all excited about it, but right before it, I had quit using the gear that I had been using for years, and switched to Mesa Boogies and Marshalls. I hadn’t tweaked it yet, so when I got in there with Brendan, we didn’t spend any time on guitar tones – hardly at all. We just kind of cranked it up, put some mics on it, and went. Brendan tweaked it to where he was happy with it, and I trusted him with it. But we had done some demos for the ‘Dogman’ record – which we actually released [2005’s ‘Dogman Demos’ via] – some of the playing we thought we played better on the demos, when we weren’t too worried about it. On that, that was the very first recording I did with the new amps. You can sort of compare it with what Brendan did – he brightened them up a bit and made them a little more edgy sounding. But when it came to Michael, we were using gear that I’m used to using, and Michael’s a ‘tweak freak’ – he wants to make it sound better than the last thing he did every time. We tried all different kinds of stuff – different mics, different whatever. Most of the tweaking was done with this unit that Michael designed – it effects the signal before it gets into the amp in a lot of different ways. Not necessarily just volume. It’s a very cool unit – no matter what we did, we ran it through that thing. So working with him, it was a lot more spending time on it and having fun getting good tones.

What are some favorite songs on ‘XV’?

I like a lot of the record. “Pray,” “Move,” and “Alright” I think are really good songs from Doug. I felt like for myself, I wrote a couple of tunes – or at least one – that I was pretty proud of, called “Repeating Myself.” Truthfully, I really like the record, and I can’t say that always.

What about the best songs from a guitar standpoint?

I think “Repeating Myself” might be one of them, because there is an almost ‘orchestra’ of guitar stuff going on, that’s pretty crazy. But on the other hand, there are some tunes that are very straight ahead – I just love it because it’s powerful – like on the song “Move,” I dig the guitars on that tune. I think just about anyone can pick up a guitar and play it, but it still slams.

How about guitar solos – did you plan them ahead of time or just improvised?

On this record, all of them were totally off the cuff. Some of them were first takes, and it’s not unusual for us to keep stuff that went down during the basic tracks. So as far as leads go, it’s really the least amount of effort possible [laughs]. For me, if I start working on it too much, it starts losing life, and I start losing whatever I was inspired to play when I first heard it. We are about representing ourselves the way we do live – flaws and all – so we opt for the earlier, immediate reaction, over getting it perfect.

What amps did you use on ‘XV’?

I’ve got some new gear here that I’ve been really inspired by – some of Bruce Egnater’s gear. It really sounds amazing. I’ve been so inspired by that, I’ve been writing some really heavy stuff with it. I play Randalls – I use the RM4, which is like a modular unit thing, where you plug these preamp modules in that are actual tube preamps – not software emulation, but actual hardware emulation of different famous amps throughout time. And Bruce Egnater designed this thing for Randall. I’ve been playing those for the last couple of tours and last couple of albums. Bruce himself makes his own version of that, that has even more features than the Randall version, and I’ve got one of those here at home, too. So lately, I’ve been playing both Randalls and Bruce Egnater’s amp version. It’s just inspiring stuff, because I would never be able to afford that many amps – if I had to go out and buy a Bogner and a really classic Marshall. Instead, I’ve got this whole list of classic amps that have been tweaked by Bruce Egnater – he’s a guru. I forgot to mention, one of the things that I’m most excited about the whole thing is Jeff Hilligan, at Bruce Egnater’s place, designed a module to emulate the kind of ‘Gretchen Goes to Nebraska’ era tone of King’s X guitar. It’s the first time that anybody’s done it that I actually think it sounds like it. He’s done an amazing job – we’re actually talking about putting it out there, because people are always asking me, “How do I get that tone?” And it was such a nightmare how to get that tone, that if we can just fine-tune it a tiny bit and tweak it, it would be a real easy way to get it.

What about guitars?

I’m using Yamahas exclusively for years now. And on the last record, I used primarily an AES-920 and an AES-720. And along with those two, I pulled out my original Strat that I used on the first four King’s X records. It’s a Strat Elite - it’s been retired for a while – and I used it with the Yamahas on this last record. I think we came up with some pretty brutal guitar tones on a couple of things.

How would you compare playing with King’s X to some of your other projects?

It’s always radically different than playing with Doug and Jerry, and it’s the same for those guys when they play with other people. It takes being in tune with each other and complementing each other rather than getting in the way of each other. It’s sometimes tricky. But with Wally [Farkas, who plays with Tabor in Xenuphobe], it’s pretty easy. We have a lot of similar music interests, and we play guitar in similar ways – we’ve always been able to make music together with no problem. It does all kinds of things, even technically. For instance, I’ve made a few records with Rod Morgenstein and John Myung [as Platypus], and playing with those guys, again, is like jumping into an entirely different arena. What it causes me to do is have to technically adapt in some ways, in things that I was doing suddenly didn’t fit. It forced me to have to think differently – a lot of technical things. And at the same time, the challenge was to be able to do that, and leave the emotion of how I like to play in it. I really enjoy that challenge whenever I play with those guys – we have a blast playing together. It inspires all kinds of new stuff between the three of us.

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Ty Tabor Kicks ass!

Ty is up there with the all time greats of guitar rock.

Ty is awesome! Balance and XV are great works. I hope he and King's X continue to make music for as long as they can!

Ty Tabor is also a true original. Modern Rock music owes a huge debt to Ty and Kings X.
Real people, writing real music.

Met Ty and the guys in San Diego and was in front of him when King's X played at Brick by Brick. Had him sign my guitar and was extremely impressed by his musicianship.

Not a single bad note. He simply blew me away. I love those guys! Funny how I found out about them through Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey soundtrack and got hooked by Junior's Gone Wild.

Ty Tabor

I'm so tired of reading Guitar magazines(which I subscribe to)
and only seeing these tiny blurb articles about Ty and King's X.
When will I get Ty on a cover. God forbid some mag will mention
Dug Pinnick and id have a stroke if I see Jerry Gaskill anywhere.
These guys are 1 of my fav bands. All 3 are incredible singers/
songwriters and phenoms on their instruments respectively.
Ty has one of the most original heavy guitar sounds to this day and
I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. He and the boys have
Been using drop-tunings well before they became a staple of todays
metal bands. When corn was canned food and not on stage if u get

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