|Ty Tabor - Kings X|
|Written by Kim Thore and Jon Epstein|
|Sunday, 07 March 2010 08:00|
The official Kings X websites states:
Magic filled the air when King's X visited Cleveland, OH in the summer of 1991. It was only better in 1992. After completing the new recordings found on 'The Bigger Picture' (and the subsequent, self-titled fourth album), King's X embarked on a summer mission across the continent, pausing in the Forest City only long enough to seize the town's airwaves and decimate the Empire Concert Club.
'Tales from the Empire' is a two CD set, originally recorded live on 6/26/92 at the Empire Concert Club in Cleveland, OH. This show is touted as the finest King's X performance during their 1992 U.S. tour and also ranks as one of the most legendary shows ever given by the band. The concert was originally broadcast over the FM airwaves, courtesy of WMMS-Cleveland. However, 'Tales from the Empire' was taken from the band's own, "pre-radio-airwaves compression" master, complete with a new digital remaster.
With the release of 'Tales from the Empire', Kings X is once again branding the music scene with their own indelible mark, one that remains as original and thought provoking now as it did 20+ years ago when the band set out to forge a new trail in the American rock scene.
We recently had the chance to catch up with legendary Kings X guitarist and producer Ty Tabor to talk about the new, much anticipated CD, what is the secret to the Ty Tabor sound, and get an inside look into one of the most recognized American rock bands to ever hit the scene.
Ladies and gentleman we give you Ty Tabor!
So let's begin with a bit of a bio/feedback if you will on the legendary guitarist and producer Ty Tabor. Word has it that you started out as a teenager playing bluegrass, so tell our readers how you developed from bluegrass to your current tag as a progressive metal guitarist?
Well, that's a bit of a myth. I did play bluegrass growing up but it wasn't that I wasn't playing rock and roll at the same time. I think people assume that I started playing bluegrass and then switched to rock and roll, but I've been playing rock and roll the whole time. That's where my heart was, and is, at. I did play bluegrass with my family for years. We did a lot of gigging, played festivals and events but it was just one of the things I was doing. As soon as I got home I was plugging my electric in and rockin' out, and that was definitely what I was into most. The bluegrass thing, though, was a great family thing. We had a blast camping, playing festivals and just making music together.
Did one influence the other somehow?
I think they're more closely related than most people realize. There's a lot of blues in bluegrass, it's just sped up a bit. Bluegrass is blues based just like rock and roll, so to me one complimented the other. I've never really considered myself a "progressive metal" guitar player. In fact, I don't think there is a metal guitarist out there who would say I'm a metal player. I've always been a more blues based rock and roll player. I don't do a lot of double picking and shredding, my playing is more like Eric Clapton with traditional blues based kind of stuff. So, I've always seen bluegrass as being just another extension of blues. Blues on 11!
Your guitar sound is in a word unique- Tell us about your gear and your technique that produces what has come to be known as the Ty Tabor tone?
At the moment I'm using Egnater Amplification. I've got some custom, tweaked Egnater stuff. Bruce Egnater has been really supportive and has helped me get the sounds I need. He and a guy named Jeff Hilligan at Egnater have just been super cool with me to help get exactly what I was looking for in the gear that I'm using right now. But, I'll be honest with you. Doug, and everyone else for that matter, have said that I always sound the same no matter what I'm playing through. It's kind of a curse. I think that a lot of the tone and voicing is a matter of technique or style that I learned playing. People say it's in the hands more than the amp. Like I said, it's kind of a curse (laughs) because a lot of times I'll be trying to get a different kind of sound, but it all ends up sounding about the same.
How do you cut through dUg's bass? He seems to have so much mid range.
Actually, he has hardly any midrange in his tone whatsoever. What he has is highs, super high mids, super low subs and nothing whatsoever in the middle. When you put the two together it gives you the feeling that it is covering the whole sonic range, but it's not. He basically has no midrange so the guitar just sits in there. It's mostly on the extremes of the high and the low and that's what gives it its apparent bigness.
Kings X has just released a live album- how was the process different for the band as opposed to a studio album or even your last live album?
The greatest thing about this live album is that we didn't have to do anything. It was something recorded a long time ago and we didn't touch it. We released it exactly as is, we didn't fix anything. We didn't do anything to it at all. That's always great when you can have an album out without having to do any work (laughs), or in this case the work was already done in the past. The difference between that and doing a studio album is that a studio album takes a lot of effort, and a lot of hours. It's something we always have to work ourselves up for.
So is this a tape Kings X had?
We got it from the radio station back when it was first recorded. We have a lot of stuff that has been recorded over the years that are in very good shape and are way better than the bootlegs that are out there so we decided that we would start releasing them.
You've been involved in quite a bit of solo work, guest appearances and your work as a producer with Kings X and other projects is well known...how do you think all of these roles have impacted the Kings X sound and overall output?
As of the last four or five years it hasn't had any impact at all because I've tried to make it a point to be nowhere near the board when King's X works. It's just too much to handle production and be the artist. We did that for a while just because financially it was much better for me just to do it. For me there came a point a few years ago when I said "I can't do this anymore." I felt I couldn't do my best as an artist and do the knobs. We just made a decision not to do that anymore. So for the past two albums we hired Michael Wagner to produce and I intentionally had nothing to do with it. When it came to technical matters I didn't even want to know about it and would leave the building. I just wanted to work on playing guitar and writing the music and performing. It made recording the last couple of albums a joy for me because it was so nice to be able to just be the player again.
As a songwriter- can you tell us about your creative process? What inspires you?
It's always somehow related to personal experience and life and what's in the news. The majority of the stuff I've written over the past couple of years has been about what I've heard on the news, and politics and things that are going on in America. But it can really be about anything. It's just about whatever has been making me think at the time. Sometimes I have tons to write, and sometimes I have nothing to say so I have to wait for some inspiration. I write music constantly, though, so usually that's what happens first. For lyrics 9 times out of 10 I'll have a phrase that pops into my head that has to do with a subject matter that I want to get out and it then finds itself in the right song or music.
Let's talk about the song 'Pray' for a moment... One would imagine that you may get mixed reactions from audiences...tell us about that?
dUg wrote 'Pray' . It's one of my favorite things he's ever written.
Agreed..it is one of Kings X's best tunes in my opinion. But I can't help but wonder every time I hear it, are people understanding what dUg is trying to say?
I've been very surprised that the song has been as misunderstood as it has...I mean, to me the song is about as crystal clear as it can get as words can be can be put down, which is why I think the song is so good. Unfortunately a lot of people don't get what is being said which I don't get...unless they are just listening to just a couple of phrases and not really listening to the lyrics as a whole. It's been strange; a lot of people have interjected things into it that have nothing to do with the song at all.
To me its just a plain and simple call out to anyone who waves a banner of religion that if you're concerned for me, rather than hate me -pray for me, what is with all of the nastiness, the hatred, just pray for people, do what it is that you're supposed to be doing. Do what your religion teaches you not what you're actually doing. It's a call out to be real.
So, dUg doesn't write all of the lyrics?
I think you'd be surprised, there is a whole lot of stuff that dUg sings, it also depends on the era of Kings X. For example on 'Dogman' I wrote a lot of the heavier stuff that dUg sing, and people didn't realize that I wrote it, I think you'd be surprised, as far as my writing I always see dUg as the lead singer, so as far as my writing goes, I always give it to dUg first, even if I write it and if he doesn't tap into it or feel ok with it then I try do it, I don't see myself as a lead vocalist. I'd much rather have him sing it than me to be honest, so I always pass it to him first. However in recent years it's been that he sings what he writes and I sing what I write. Up to that point there was a whole lot of sharing in the writing.
So what has changed?
I guess we settled into some different roles. dUg usually comes in with a whole lot of material, a lot of it unfinished , even though he'll have the lyrics, I see it as my job to finish the song musically connect the dots... although we have done some writing together, for example 'Go Tell Somebody', we all 3 wrote together, we liked that song, its one of our favorites. There was a period where for 4 or 5 albums we wrote everything in the studio together but we needed a change, on the last two, but we've talked about going back to writing together again its always better to have three heads.
'Go Tell Somebody' is another great song, it seems to have a call and response feel to it.
That's exactly what we were feeling from it, that's a perfect way to describe it!
Your production and mastering is very recognizable, very ambient but powerful. How do you do it?
Good gear... (laughing) I think a lot of it is just having good gear...for example. As far as the drum room I use, its not a good sounding drum room, pretty dead, so you don't get any real room sound out of it, so you have to create it digitally. I'm sold on Steinberg products; I think CuBase 5 is just absolutely tremendous, one of the most powerful recording tools I've ever touched. It has a reverb, that is in the new version, the way they actually do it is they go into real studio rooms and cause a sound and then record the after sound, so I have at my disposal every sound imaginable from wood floors to ceramic tiles...So we bring the room in from the outside.
How did you discover CuBase?
I used digital performer, I was definitely in the Mac world with recording on a lot of the stuff that we've done over the years. CuBase has the best audio engine that I've ever heard. That has a lot to do with that open, clear, big space. I used to have to work really hard to get that sound. Now it's a whole lot easier because the audio engine is clearer. I did an experiment when I upgraded to CuBase a few years back. I had two systems side by side going into the same board with the same sound cards, the same cabling, the same everything and I put the same files on both systems and A-b'ed between them to see what the difference would be and the CuBase system was like someone took the cloth off the speakers. It just opened up and was much more clear. So it's a lot easier to get that tone now.
Did being labeled a Christian Band help or hurt? Or seem misplaced?
That is correct. It was a label that was imposed on us that caused quite negative reactions because we NEVER wanted to associate ourselves with the Christian industry in anyway. It just tried to do that. The fact is that we three believe very differently from each other in a lot of ways and we've always left room for each of us to be ourselves. We've always looked at it as just trying to be artists, I know that sounds kind of pompous, but that was the goal. We wanted to be artists and be honest about whatever it was we were talking about whether that was taking out the garbage or whatever, you know?
It would seem though that the industry feeds on labels?
That is true. We tried to avoid it, but people seem to enjoy putting labels on things. It can help sometimes, I suppose, depending on what you're talking about, but we've always tried to avoid it. I've always seen it as musical propaganda, and that would be all, but I'm not interested in that.
When a band has been together as long as you guys have, what keeps you together?
That's a question people have been asking for a long time and I'm not sure how I answered it in the past, but these days I really don't know the answer to that. I don't know why we're still doing it other than that we want to, and I guess that's the bottom line. We enjoy playing together. We enjoy making music together and always have. When I first started playing with those guys I felt that I had finally found the band that I would always be in, and we all feel that way. I never know what tomorrow holds but so far we're just too stubborn to give up. We really enjoy playing together.
How is the band trending in sales? Have you seen any changes?
We had a turn around back around the time we put out 'Ogre Tones' when sales started getting better for us and then 'XV' sales were even better so at the moment it's on an upward swing for us. It's not huge sales, but it's turned around to actually getting better for us.
Still, one can imagine it's tough to make money in this digital age?
It is. Now days it's hard to know how many disks are out there in the hands of people listening because everybody has the ability to copy a CD. The need to buy CDS or an album doesn't exist like it used to. If you wanted to hear an album you had to buy the album, but not anymore. There's no way to know what the numbers are until you go out there and play live. We've had a whole lot more people at the shows knowing every word to the songs than had bought the album, so there's just no telling how many.
So, what is next for the band?
Right now we have so much stuff starting to pop up that it's hard to even cap it all, but we have a whole lot of stuff planned including touring this year. This summer we're hoping to go out in an opening slot with somebody because that seems to really help record sales when you get in front of new people. So we're concentrating on that, and are hoping to be out this summer opening for some people and doing our own shows, obviously. We're also doing a lot of individual appearance things. I'm going to do a guitar show, and Doug and I just got back from NAMM where we both did appearances at different booths for different endorsement situations. We also have a new live DVD coming out in May or June recorded at a sold out show in London last year, so we're going to put that put before we work on another album. But we already know where we want to record the next album and the philosophy behind how we want to do it, but we don't have a time frame yet. We're also looking into some box set ideas, so there are all kinds of stuff in the works at the moment.
And what about you personally?
I'm working on a new solo album that should be out in a couple months if all goes well. I also have a new signature guitar out there. I love it, too. I have guitars being made by a great builder named John Guilford. He's making super nice stuff. It sounds so good that when I was doing my new solo album, and I had already finished the guitar tracks, I went back and rerecorded them all because it sounded so good through my rig. I've also been talking to John Myung and we're planning on doing another Jelly Jam this year, too.
Wow, you couldn't pick two bass players whose styles were more different!
No kidding! You'd be surprised how 70s John's soul really is though. A lot of the heavy 70s kind of riffs in Jelly Jam are actually John's. You'd be surprised because its not 70s progressive stuff either. Major riffage like Zeppelin. Non progressive!
What is turning you on musically?
Over the past couple years I haven't been listening to much. I've been really disappointed with a lot of the new music. I haven't found anything that has gotten me excited. But before that I was listening to a lot of Billy Talent, kind of had a Toadies revival there for awhile, plus I'm doing so much music that when I'm done I don't really want to hear music. I've been listening to a lot of talk radio. There's this public station in Houston that is not supported by any corporate dollars, so it's like free radio, which covers a lot of topics and ground.
Makes for great songwriting ideas, we bet!
Ty- thanks for your time..any last words for our readers?
Thank you, really- this has been great, and look out- the next year is going to bring lots of new things!
By: Kim Thore and Jon Epstein
Photo Kudos to Ty Tabor's Myspace page.
As first published in February 2010 by All Access Magazine http://allaccessmagazine.com/