Smith, Chris -What You Make It-The Authorized Biography of Doug Pinnick (Book review)

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Smith, Chris – What You Make It
Reviewed:  August, 2018
Publisher: Independent
Year Published: 2018
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: JP

King’s X has always been one of those bands appreciated, admired and enjoyed by Metal fans, although the band themselves may not be ‘Metal’ in the strictest sense of the term.  A number of staff here at MR (myself included) like the band and since they just announced (as of time of writing) that they are working on a new studio album, their first one in about a decade, I thought this was as good a time as any to do a little King’s X type spotlight.  I’ll review the new Doug Pinnick book and a Dug solo album. I happened to be on a bit of a King’s X kick this summer and while I was reading the new Doug biography I stumbled across one of his solo albums from 2007.

WHAT YOU MAKE IT is the authorized biography of Doug Pinnick and this independent publication written by Chris Smith, long time Metal journalist working in England and America.   The paperback itself is simple, a little under 200 pages and doesn’t have many frills.  I would have liked to see some photos and a discography of Doug prolific career.  A foreword would have been a nice touch, maybe someone famous paying tribute to Doug, I’m sure there are countless musicians who would have stepped up to the plate.  Those little complaints aside, WHAT YOU MAKE IT is a very worthy read.

Smith employs a very human, people oriented, story-telling style that draws you into the life story of the revered musician. Pinnick grew up in somewhat difficult circumstances, he was from a broken home among other issues but as the tale unfolds despite certain social challenges he rose above quite quickly.  I felt I could identify with Doug very early on despite being from very different circumstances in my own life.  I often forget that Doug is actually a little older, the was born in 1950 so he was already 40 years old by the time King’s X started to break out, out compared to many other rock/Metal artists who were in their late teens or early 20’s when they first started to break-out in the American music scene.  Doug is now a senior citizen and sounds better than ever!

The narrative follows Doug’s life in enormous detail through the first 50 years of his life and then sort of drops off.  As we get closer to the current day, there is less information about the writing and recording of later King’s X albums and unfortunately perhaps even less detail about his four solo albums and Poundhound side-project.  His latest project KXM barely gets mentioned.   The book could have easily been twice as long.  But overall, the there is a lot of detail and interesting stories; the whole era of getting signed to Megaforce was fascinating to me, especially as they were a dark horse on that label.

Smith touches on all sorts things, Doug’s personal life, his gear, his sexuality, religion, his various homes, I got a real sense of who he is. I had the pleasure of meeting Doug once after a gig and while he was tired, cold (not used to our Canadian winters!) and in hurry he was very gracious. He seemed sincere and and kind and that was the sense I got from reading this biography. WHAT YOU MAKE IT is certainly not your generic ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll’ biography designed to cash in on some nostalgia.  Smith has done a superb job capturing the life of the iconic and respected musician.