King’s X; victims of racial stereotyping?

I’ve recently been listening to a lot of King’s X. Though I’d heard their stuff a while back just right now they’ve really hit the spot with me. If you go through the youtube videos of their music one particular comment comes out strong. “Most underrated band ever.” And I agree. For their time they were at the very forefront of rock. Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam reputedly said that King’s X invented grunge. Billy Sheehan the virtuoso bassist in this video says that King’s X should have been bigger than U2. Rock bands like Extreme, Mr. Big and later bands like RATM all seem to have got some inspiration from King’s X when you listen to their music chronologically.

Yet why are they so underrated? It can be said that many bands fall foul of the music industry but these guys worked very hard with the industry itself and yet they never hit the big time. I could be wrong but I think it’s because they are a mixed race band. We have to remember that in the early 80s MTV were still not showing many black artists including Michael Jackson. Significant numbers of Americans still think that mixed race marriage should be banned. I think in that kind environment marketing a band like King’s X would have to really rise above racial stereotyping. How many black frontmen are there in rock/heavy rock/metal bands? Not that many and I think those that are around are probably from more recent acts than King’s X was. So as with a lot of things it was a huge marketing issue. Racial prejudice would’ve dampened King’s X obvious rise to the top.

Obviously it’s sad. They are an astonishing band combining sounds that even today very few bands can authentically do. Yet they live on in the memories of their hardcore fan base. Long live King’s X.

Sunday Garden

An old song that I wrote. Sung beautifully by Christina all those years ago. Well, three actually.

Shackled in an endless stream,
Merry go round of fate, round and round
The hurts, the hates of a thousand wars
Free to choose, free to lose
Free to fester and die

Written deep within the heart
Longing for life so full of peace and joy
Lies and cries of a thousand souls
Free to fear, free to sneer
Free to stifle and control

Roll the stone away
Break this circle of pain
As you did so long ago
In that Sunday Garden

Train of thought on a lonely track
Greenest of grass and trees pass us by
Only one thing’s on my mind
Me, and me, whose spirit’s free
Free to live a lie

Roll the stone away
Break this circle of pain
As you did so long ago
In that Sunday Garden

Sunday garden’s calling
First day of recreation
All things are new
The tomb has been thrown
Wide open. Wide Open.

Roll away my stone
Break this circle of pain
As you did so long ago
In that Sunday Garden

Lent 39 : Lifted up

This piece uses the octatonic scale or the diminished scale. It climbs and rises symbolising the lifting of the Son of Man. The glorification of God himself. In the end the breaths. And the final cry. God is dead. In our hearts and minds God needs to die too. We build up these strange edifices and pictures of God that might initially resemble him but they get twisted and perverse. God needs to die in us so that we might see him again truly.

Lent 38 : Conspiracy

A conspiracy  is a noble intent which needs to take ugly but necessary steps out of the public eye. Most people don’t act with pure malice. Most people shield themselves from truth and act true to themselves. So bankers can justify their huge bonuses and their immoral actions against humanity. Politicians can justify their corruption and society as a whole can give an almighty shrug.

When our authorities decide to arrest a trouble maker we don’t think of it as a conspiracy unless we are in some way with the trouble maker. We think the authorities are doing what they are supposed to. So when the priests and scribes plot Jesus downfall they’re merely trying to neutralise a possible terrorist. Unless of course you’re on the other side and see it as an extreme injustice.

Jesus on the other hand seems to lead a counter conspiracy. One that would reveal human conspiracy as pitiful attempts to hold on to power and reveal the naked broken God who takes on the fury of conspiracy and suffers with its victims.

Lent 37 : Quick Breaths

Everyone’s excited. The corrupt government will be overthrown. There’s a new leader in town. Yet everyone’s uneasy. Even this great leader shows unease. How will all this end? There’s a strange feeling that this Jesus is going to do something none of us want. A deep breath could help. But God’s breath seems to be present only in snatches. We’ll take what we can.

Lent 36 : Other Ways

This is a piece which uses a 12 tone row. For those of you unfamiliar with this it is a composition technique that ensures that every tone available has to be played before it is used again within the music. So if one plays a C, it can be used again only after playing all the other notes. And the order in which the notes appear is repeated in this piece. Repititions of notes are allowed but only immediately. So we can play C C but not C E C.

I did this as part of a composition course I was doing last month. A lot of the music sounds discordant. But the point is where did our sense of harmony come from? Do we listen to music only in certain ways? It would seem that for most people music is primarily a call and response in an emotional sense. Emotion rules prime in how music is heard. Music is also a slave to the image. Play an atonal piece and people might say ‘sounds like a scary movie.’

The interesting thing is that these sounds existed before movies. So is there a way to listen to music more intellectually? Poetry faces a similar, opposing problem. We expect words to primarily give us information. So words aren’t often associated with emotion.

It is interesting how we box each art form into such strict categories. There are analogies here to how we practice our spirituality. Music is used emotionally, rather than intelligently. Visual art is used as background rather than foreground. Words are used as the sole purveyors of truth rather than acknowledging their slipperiness and using them more emotionally.

I want a sermon from an art piece. And our prayers in music. We’ll use words for notices and for where the toilets are.

Lent 35 : The Lord gives, the Lord takes

Into the last week!

This is a song idea of mine, which has been hanging around for a bit. I’ll maybe work on it properly after this project is over.  It explores Job’s reaction to the disasters surrounding him. He says the Lord gives and the Lord takes. Is this true belief or is this false piety? I wonder if this is just a conditioned response. Why else would he spend the rest of the book arguing with his friends about God?

Lent 34 : Finding Foundations

Growth is surprising. You think you’ve based your existence on something and then as you grow something deeper is revealed. When this piece starts it is ambiguous as to where the first beat is. Only later in the piece do we have a definite beat one.

Life is quite like that. We keep saying that we want to get back to our roots, our foundations; but in reality our foundations keep changing. Not because of a lack of fidelity but because we can discover deeper structures under what we thought were our foundations.

My view of Jesus has changed incredibly over the last decade and a bit. This doesn’t mean I’ve discarded all my old beliefs. However some of my old beliefs needn’t be absolutely at the centre because they are no longer the foundation.

I’ve been led to dig deeper into the skies.

Lent 31 : The Dust Weaver

The desert is dry. Dust flys even at the merest breeze. On the other hand well watered soil sticks together. The Genesis story says that we were made from dust. There is no picture of a well watered garden sprouting forth with humans. There is a sense of play when the wind blows the dust. It is dynamic and the dust can take varied shapes as opposed to rich soil which will fall unmaginatively back to the ground.

We are woven says the Psalmist. (Ps 139) By placing the Psalm next to the Genesis 2 passage I would like to say we are woven from dust.

Lent 30 : I never knew

This piece is inspired by the Charles Ives piece for two pianos. One piano is tuned a quarter tone down. The effect is amazing. This is an entirely new palette for me. This is the beauty of the desert. That new things are possible. With old structures broken down we could do new things. Of course new things will never be received without opposition. But what is new gives hope for an old stricture has been broken.