Playing With the King of Hearts

Suicide Kings stack the deck with roots country for the alt. rock set

"Ultimately, we ended up with me, Jessie [Valenzuela] and Doug all writing songs. But I started shooting dope again, and they were all drinking, and they thought shooting dope was worse than drinking, and I thought drinking was worse than shooting dope, so we'd fight about that a lot."

Taylor eventually quit the Gin Blossoms right before they threw him out. They all decided to give it another go, but Taylor checked himself into a treatment center before the band got rolling. "So, basically, five years later, I experienced the pleasure of working in a furniture warehouse in North Carolina for five bucks an hour and listening to the stuff I wrote on "Found Out About You" on the radio. It was a real moment."

Longtime friends, Cannole and Taylor played together briefly in the Strand, but it didn't work out because one of them was trying to stay clean and the other was shooting up. "Over the years, Bruce and I have never been 'together' together for any length of time," Taylor says, again laughing. "I guess this is the first time we've both had our acts together long enough for it to turn into anything."

The acoustic-night jam at Nita's struck a chord in both musicians in spite of themselves. "It felt really right," says Cannole. "I got very prolific in my writing and excited. I hadn't really left the house to go out to clubs for two or three years, so I wasn't really sure what was going on. I assumed whatever it was, it involved a lot of tattoos and piercings."

Cannole says he was surprised to find that the tattooed and pierced gravitated toward their roots-country stylings. For the first time, he says, he found the "self-fortitude" to guilelessly write in the style closest to his heart. "I used to buy that whole line about pain and creativity, and I found out that the root of all my musical endeavors has always been self-pity. Pure and simple. I know that now. It's not very grandiose or spectacular, but that's what it is. That's what inspires me, that's what I write about. If I strip away all the pretenses, that's what's left."

Based on the success of their acoustic sets, Cannole and Taylor found a rhythm section to back them up and named their new band after a gamblers' slang term for the King of Hearts, who holds a sword to his own head.

The Kings' drummer is Chris "Bolt" Olson. "Chris lived in San Francisco for a long time, which created an influx of really bizarre ideas in his head that are totally impractical," says Cannole. "They're artistic as all hell, but completely useless. He kind of embodies everything that, in my own Arizona way, I think that San Francisco is."

Cannole and Taylor jokingly refer to their bass player, Scott Calkbrenner, as "The Prozac Kid." "Not that he's on Prozac," says Cannole. "He just looks like he's eating way too much of it--with Xanax chasers. He's an angry little man, but he sure doesn't look like it."

Live, Bolt and the Prozac Kid build a subtle but steady base of operations while Cannole and Taylor trade turns on lead and rhythm guitar and harmonize their vocals. Cannole takes the role of tormenter in their stage banter, jibing his partner as Taylor silently scratches his chin with an extended middle finger.

Taylor also plays a lap steel guitar, perched on a modified ironing board, that adds a delicious Western twang to Suicide Kings' sound, especially the band's signature country-western version of "Heart of Glass."

Cannole says the idea to cover a Blondie song struck him one night in his cab. "There seems to be this resurgence of New Wave music," he says. "It's kinda funny. Every resurgence is funny to me 'cause I was around the first time. It seems like every time I sober up, there is a whole new revival of something. The last time I got sober, it was all the hippies, and then I went off on another five-year voyage, and the next time I came to, I was playing in a club with a bunch of punk-rock kids."

Suicide Kings are scheduled to perform on Friday, July 12, at Nita's Hideaway in Tempe, with the Paladins. Showtime is 10 p.m.

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