For Gay Pride Month, Billboard asked artists about the reality of being out musicians in hard rock/metal and the state of LGBTQAI acceptance in the genre. Below, Dug Pinnick discusses his experiences as frontman for King’s X and KXM.
Dug Pinnick, bassist-singer for progressive veterans King’s X and rock act KXM, has been publicly out since he declared his orientation in an interview with Christian publication Regeneration Quarterly in 1998. King’s X had been tagged a “Christian band” due to the band’s spiritual lyrics, a term the group disliked.
“I thought to myself, ‘This is a Christian magazine, and I am tired of being ridiculed,’ ” recounts Pinnick, 66, of why he came out during that conversation. “In the Christian world, they’re not too kosher on being gay, so I just thought, ‘Might as well come out and get it over with,’ ” he says with a laugh.
Despite Christian bookstores dropping the trio’s music after Pinnick’s confession, he, guitarist Ty Tabor and drummer Jerry Gaskill were relieved. In the wake of the interview, “the industry and fans treated me great,” says Pinnick. “No one gave me a problem at all. I’ve heard a couple comments the last couple years, like [on a] video or something, somebody says something really horrible about me, and I kind of dismiss it. But back in the day, there was hardly any talk about it, or if it was, they kept it from me.” He adds that many people expressed support for him, “especially [guitarist] Dimebag [Darrell Abbott] of Pantera. He came up and said, ‘Dude, you know I love you. I don’t care who you are. You’re Dug, and we love you.’”
But Pinnick was devastated when, during King’s X’s early days, its then-manager wanted to send Pinnick to a conversation camp. “Everyone around the band left,” except for Tabor and Gaskill, once they learned he was gay, including a guitarist who declared he could no longer be Pinnick’s roommate because “God told him he couldn’t sleep in the same house” with him. While being outed to his band had been Pinnick’s worst nightmare, “the greatest thing about it was when Ty and Jerry came and said, ‘Hey, we don’t care,’ ” he says. “And we’ve been a band for almost 40 years now. Those guys are my best friends, and I trust them more than anything in the world. They’ve never forsaken me or made me feel like I wasn’t a good guy.”
What have you seen in the metal/hard rock scene that is troublesome in regard to acceptance?
Every now and then, I’ll see a band that I’m really liking, and there’ll be a line in a song about [being] gay, and it’ll be very negative — and not just the word “gay,” ’cause the word “gay,” kids say, “Hey, that’s gay,” I have no problem with that — but when they talk about our lifestyle and who we are in a very negative way, I don’t like when anybody does that, especially a metal band. It kind of makes me angry.
What is your take on people using the word “f—t” in lyrics?
Korn, for instance, when that first record came out and the line says, “I’m a f—t, I’m a motherfucking queer,” what [singer] Jonathan [Davis] did is, he didn’t come out and ridicule gay people at all. He came out and owned it. He said things that made you own what you were saying. It was like it was so, so, so big and so strong. Because gay people, we don’t stand up. We don’t say, “Hey, this is who I am. Screw you.” When he said that, and even though Jonathan’s not gay … it kind of broke a lot of walls, especially [in light] of his childhood sexual abuse … It was helping kids to open up and realize they weren’t alone, especially kids that have been abused sexually.
What about when people use that word as an insult?
I don’t know. For me, words are words. I’m black, so I’ve heard the word “n—” more in my life than “f—t,” actually. Going to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert, I heard someone say behind me, “Oh, they’re lettin’ n—s in now,” and I’m goin’, “Wow,” you know? So I’ve lived in prejudice all my life. I’ve heard the comments.
But as for that, no, I don’t have a problem with words. I have a problem with the reason why people say the words. And I’ve always been that way. I’m an advocate that says two words that I think we need to decriminalize, it’s “n—” and “fuck.” Because every time those two words come up, somebody gets offended or has to have a problem with it, and then the rebellious people want to use it all the time in your face to make you mad.
What contributes to homophobia in metal?
One thing is ’cause it’s such a guy genre. Guys get together, and they make jokes about gay people and talk about gay people and they call each other “gay” and accuse each other of being gay if they do something feminine. Guys are just brutal. I mean, you go to the bathroom in a guy’s bathroom, and you don’t hear a word. No one looks at each other, no one says anything, and when everybody’s lined up at a stall, everybody’s eyes are straight ahead. No one looks at each other, because if anybody looks down or anything, they might get hit.
We’re just taught to be homophobic. I think it’s something that’s just been beat into us, and so as a result of it, guys especially are like, “We’re in our closet.” It’s crazy. Go into a girl’s bathroom, girls are in the same stall with each other, pissin’. And I’m goin’, “Oh my God, guys would never do that.”
What do you think of those who say that if you are gay that you should be out and advocating for gays in some form?
I think they should fucking mind their own business and go out there and do what they think they should do. If they feel like they should get up on a mountaintop and scream it, I say, “Go for it.” Do it, and I’ll support you. But don’t tell me that I have to do it just because you think that I do. And I am very adamant about that.
I get really pissed when someone outs someone without telling them. A person has no right to publicly out someone if they are in their closet. When a gay person comes out and says, “I’m going to out you because you need to be out. We need more people out here. Our voice needs to be heard,” I go, “Well, find the people whose voices need to be heard. I’m using my voice in my own way.” I do not believe anyone should tell someone else how to live their life, other than they need to love one another and treat one another how they want to be treated themselves.