Metal bands aren't very interesting. Black men fronting metal/punk bands? Seen it before—Bad Brains, Living Colour, Body Count. Christian black men in metal bands? There's that guy in POD, and . . . give us an hour, we'll find another. Gay Christian black men in metal bands? Well, that's different.
And so it was back in 1998, when Doug Pinnick, the singing bassist of arty Houston metal trio King's X, came out in an interview with Contemporary Christian Music magazine. Hate mail from supposedly loving, compassionate Christians followed. King's X albums were banned from Christian bookstores. Fans stopped liking the band overnight, even though a lot of them had taken to heart their song lyrics, oozing spiritual themes. They even had an anti-abortion song, "Legal Kill," which ensured proper Christian street cred.
But that didn't matter to the flock's more close-minded types. Apparently in the dictates of modern Bible-beating, you can backslide and be forgiven, but the one thing you absolutely cannot do is be Christian and proudly, happily queer.
"We lost a lot of the Christians who used us as a platform for their faith, and we're quite happy they're gone," Pinnick says, calling from a tour bus somewhere in Ohio. "Any time you do something that steps out of the box, they'll turn on you." Like snakes, we assume.
Pinnick has also been discovering that once you out yourself, it's something you never stop doing. Last year, he gave an interview to the Advocate, which got him several e-mails from gay fans who told him they were encouraged by what he'd done and who likely never knew he had been out for four years already.
Pinnick, though, is hardly the queer stereotype that many in the Christian community would be quick to brand him. He's not into parades or activism, aside from slapping a pink triangle sticker on his bass. In a recent interview, Pinnick said he feels that part of the reason he's gay is because of childhood sexual abuse he endured in his youth, which plays neatly into the tired creed spouted by such right-leaning groups as Focus On the Family. But he also knows that's not the case with every gay man, and he certainly doesn't buy into the being-gay-is-a-choice rhetoric, either. "Your sexual orientation is given to you when you're born," he'll tell you in a staid, matter-of-fact tone, as if not a day goes by when someone doesn't confront him about it.
A lifetime spent listening to high-and-mighty zealots rant against the evils of homosexuality eventually took its toll. Pinnick was raised homophobic, he admits, by a grandmother who went to church every day and read scripture regularly but who never told Pinnick she loved him (which has left him with a keen sense of picking out hypocrisy). The struggle between what Pinnick was taught and what he knew to be the truth left him a depressed, suicidal mess. Finally, he was able to confront his feelings.
"If God is true, then he wanted me to be gay," he says. "I feel I'm spiritually stronger since coming out. I just got away from my fears and insecurities. I used to have these vivid spiritual dreams where I'd wake up screaming. I don't have those anymore."
Acknowledging first to himself that he was gay left Pinnick with a feeling of being born again, a commonality shared by gays and Christians, even though neither group may necessarily want to admit it. His King's X band mates, guitarist Ty Tabor and drummer Jerry Gaskill, who are also Christians, were supportive, and they remain so, even after Pinnick decided to leave Christianity—or rather, the politics of Christianity—behind.
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"I still believe there's something out there that I don't know anything about," Pinnick says. "I still have a relationship with God or whatever you want to call God. I just don't buy into the dogma anymore."
One thing Pinnick hasn't been able to do is maintain a relationship, something even straight rockers find daunting. He has never had a boyfriend; his life partner is pretty much his music. Since coming out, he says he feels no need to write queer-themed songs, preferring to stick to more universal subject matters, like dealing with the general freakiness of life.
"Our personal lives are our personal lives. At the end of the day, we're just a rock & roll band."
King's X perform with Zug Izland, Prymary and Trash Daddy at the Galaxy Concert Theatre, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, (714) 957-0600; www.galaxytheatre.com. Fri., 8 p.m. $22.50. All ages.