'The Word on Christian Rock' Panel, Austin Convention Center, Saturday, March 17

Live Shots: South by Southwest 2001

'The Word on Christian Rock' Panel

Austin Convention Center, Saturday, March 17

Doug Pinnick should be one of the industry's heroes. As bassist and vocalist for King's X, he helped break new ground in terms of crossover appeal, bringing Christian-friendly music to a wider audience and making many aware that some of the music labeled as Christian rock possessed true universal appeal. Instead, the industry turned on Doug Pinnick, stabbing him in the back. Just as King's X was poised to make a renewed pitch at the Christian market, they were blacklisted. The reason? Doug Pinnick is a homosexual. Pinnick shared with the media his long-held secret almost two years ago, and King's X was soon unilaterally dropped by Christian retailers and distributors. Saturday's panel, "The Word on Christian Rock," in which Pinnick was joined by representatives of the industry that snubbed him, held the kind of drama rarely seen in panels. When faced with a choice, Pinnick took the high road, appearing confident in his convictions. Instead of harboring resentment, he chooses to pity the narrow-minded forces at work against him. "It's the same thing as going up to your Mom and Dad and doing something that they disapprove of and saying ,'Why can't you accept this?' Well, of course they don't accept it. It's not what they teach," said Pinnick, who showed up a half-hour late, slowed by the hellish weekend traffic. "Of course, in the Bible, if you read it, then I am an outcast. I understood that later." Part of Pinnick's comfort level with the issue stemmed from the fact that he never considered King's X a Christian band per se. "You don't have to really say anything, because the music speaks for itself," said Pinnick, whose band never explicitly discusses Christian issues, content to speak in metaphor rather than scripture. Other stories of censorship and direct interference from labels abounded. "My favorite story was the cover of a record that had a dove with a dunce cap on it, and was pulled off the shelves because they said the Holy Spirit was being mocked," said Tim Cook, manager of P.O.V., a sort of Rage Against the Machine for the Christian set. "You're dealing with people who have a lot of fear issues," said David Bach of longtime Christian metal band Guardian, who also works as an A&R rep at Christian ForeFront records. "There's a buzzword in Christian music called gatekeepers. They're church leaders who are well-intentioned, but they're self-appointed gatekeepers. And I struggle with that all the time from an A&R and creative level. … That's the very unique thing. Christian music is the only genre of music that is strictly defined by the lyrics. You can look at that as good or bad; that's just the way it is."

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