Ty Tabor: King's X

Why You Should Know Him

Ty Tabor is the guitarist for the progressive rock band, King's X. The band released three albums from 1988 to 1990 that put them on the map: Out of the Silent Planet, Gretchen Goes to Nebraska, and Faith Hope Love. Each spent time on the Billboard 200 charts with a unique sound that did not really sit in any specific rock, pop, or metal genre. It was the video for "Over My Head" from Gretchen Goes to Nebraska that first brought the band to the original MTV generation, and the subsequent album's video for the hit song, "It's Love," further cemented their presence in the rock world.

The three-piece band forged their own sonic landscape based on the inspirations of all three members. Not being pigeonholed into any specific genre allowed the band to create their own sound, though you can clearly hear the Beatles influence in the three-part vocal harmonies, and Ty's soloing certainly displays hints of Hendrix.

But King's X was able to take these influences and implemented them in a way that became their own signature sound. Another aspect of the King's X sound is the fact that they are a three-piece band that writes three-piece rock music. There are no layers of guitars and studio production that is impossible to recreate live. Even during solos, the bass and drums are able to carry the rhythm while Tabor plays lead, and they still sound larger than some bands do with layers and layers of rhythm guitars. That is a testament to just how well the band members compliment each other's playing style to showcase their individual talents.

The Gear

We spoke directly with Tabor to find out about his early guitars and amps. In the early ‘80s, Tabor played a Fender Elite Stratocaster with active Fender pickups. He loved the tone so much that when he later switched to other guitars, he had the preamp circuitry removed from the Fender and rack mounted in a custom setup so that his other guitars could run through it for the special tone he loved.

Around this time, Tabor was playing through a LAB Series L5 amp. One day, he blew out one of the power sections in the amp, and the tone it produced from just the preamp section was absolutely phenomenal. Instead of fixing the power section, Tabor had it removed completely and ran the L5 preamp into a Sun Microtech power amp, from there feeding into Marshall cabinets with Celesion V30s.

Running through his effects loop, Tabor had some familiar and popular rack gear: an Alesis MIDIverb and a Roland D-1000 digital delay w/modulation, often used to generate his chorus sound. The D-1000 was a relatively noisy effects unit, but had a unique sound in the delay that Tabor felt wasn’t captured by the later, quieter Roland models.

Tabor used an Ibanez noise suppressor, which began life as a pedal, but was later gutted and stuck in his rack. On floor, sometimes Tabor would put a flanger pedal in front of his, and the Dunlop wah pedal seen on the floor was typically just controlling a rack-mounted wah.

When King’s X recorded Dogman, Tabor changed his guitar sound significantly. Mesa Dual Rectifiers became his primary tone machines, complemented by a 100W Marshall, blended, but mostly what you hear is dominant Mesa tone. Later, he switched to Egnater amps, which he still uses in the studio.

After Fender, he played Hamer guitars, then Zion, then Yamaha, many featuring a familiar X logo on them. Today, Tabor uses Guilford Guitars in the studio, but not wanting to risk damaging them, he has returned to playing Fender Stratocasters while on tour.

Eventually, Tabor caught the modeling amp bug, and toured with a first-generation Fractal Audio Axe FX Ultra for a few years. Most recently, however, he switched to the current rig, which has Orange CR120 Pro amps, which Tabor finds sound the closest to his classic LAB tone. His pedalboard now includes a Mojo Hand FX Rook Royale boost/distortion (mainly used for boost) into a Line 6 DL-4 Delay Modeler for long, washed-out delays, short delays for leads, or very fast delays with just a few ms delay and modulation for his chorus tone. The delay runs into a [Sweet Sound] Ultra Vibe, then into a tuner, and finally into the front end of the Orange amp. Tabor uses Lava cables and has extremely high praise for their sound.

Where Is He Now?

Tabor is still writing and touring with King's X. The band has released twelve studio albums as well as several live CDs and DVDs. On top of his work with King's X, Tabor has released eight solo albums, and a total of eleven albums with sidebands The Jelly Jam (featuring Dream Theater's John Myung on bass and Winger/Dixie Dregs drummer Rod Morgenstein), Jughead, Platypus, and Xenophobe.

In addition to the albums Tabor made with King's X, he also found time to make guest appearances on over a dozen projects through the years. Tabor contributed solos on "In the Hands of God", and "Everything" for the album Frequency Unknown by Geoff Tate's Queensryche. He also set up his own Alien Beans Studio in 1996, where he has mastered all of King's X recordings since.

In 2016, The Jelly Jam released their latest record, Profit, and Tabor is currently working on a new solo album to be released in 2017. While we wait, Tabor continues to tour with King's X.


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