Photo by Ross Pelton

"Collateral Damage" by Pinnick Gales Pridgen

Catching a smoke outside a Southern California hotel (and looking badass with a single-coil pickup repurposed as a necklace), blues-guitar virtuoso Eric Gales reminisces about playing on the same bill with King’s X years ago. “I never thought that I’d have the opportunity to open up for them on my first tour ever,” he recalls. “As a kid, I’d go to see King’s X, and my head was blown away.” King’s X bassist and vocalist Doug Pinnick (aka dUg) elaborates. “Eric opened up for us when he was about 16. My impression of him was the same back then as it is now: He’s always been a freak of nature.”

Both men have since achieved cult status, and even though their paths crossed countless times over the decades, surprisingly they’d never collaborated on any music until now. “People had suggested it, but I never really gave it a thought,” says Pinnick, who is currently working on five separate projects. “I mean, I get so many opportunities and suggestions to play with people. It’s not something that I really think about.”

In 2012, Gales’ label president—the impresario almost single-handedly responsible for feeding the shred craze of the ’80s—reached out to Pinnick. “Mike Varney from Shrapnel Records called me up one day and asked if I’d be interested in doing a project with Eric and Thomas [Pridgen, ex-Mars Volta],” Pinnick says. “I said, ‘Sure, it sounds really good.’” Soon after the call, supergroup Pinnick Gales Pridgen was born. “I did it originally for the paycheck, but after I did it, I went, ‘Wow. That was a lot of fun. Let’s do it again,’” says Pinnick.

The power trio’s self-titled debut release Pinnick Gales Pridgen infuses Gales’ Hendrix-meets-Eric Johnson stylings with Pinnick and Pridgen’s prog-flavored twists to create a heavy, riff-laden masterpiece of mostly originals, with Gales and Pinnick sharing vocal duties. There’s also a low-tuned cover of Cream’s iconic “Sunshine of Your Love”—a ballsy move, given the song’s almost holy status among classic rock fans.

“I was like, ‘Everybody’s done it—now watch us [expletive] it up,’” says Pinnick. “Anybody can do that song, but nobody’s done it like we’ve done it. I thought what we needed on this record was to have Eric and Thomas do what they do best. I said, ‘Let’s just overkill. Nobody’s gonna tell you that you can’t—that’s what people want to hear!’ I just laid back and plugged along and sang, because Eric and Thomas are really killin’ it.”

Here, Gales and Pinnick tell Premier Guitar what went into the making of Pinnick Gales Pridgen and share their unorthodox approaches to their instruments and gear, including Gales’ signature Two-Rock amp and Pinnick’s 12-string bass—and the rare pickups that are the secret to his sound.

Eric Gales plays all of his guitars upside down and lefty, including his signature St. Blues Blindsider. Photo by Willem Kuijpers

Pinnick Gales Pridgen kicks ass like a band that’s played together forever. What’s interesting is that, as cohesive as it sounds, you’re coming from different musical backgrounds—Eric, you’re often labeled a blues-rock guitarist, and Doug, you’re often considered a bit of a prog-metal bassist. What was the common ground?
Eric Gales:
Man, you know that’s a really good question. I don’t even know if I have the proper words to say how or where it meets together. The one thing I know is that it does meet.
Doug Pinnick: We’re black. That’s what I think. It’s a 3-piece, all-black rock band. We haven’t had one of those since Living Colour. There’s camaraderie between the three of us because we all came from a heavy gospel background growing up—not gospel preaching, but gospel groove. That’s the thing that I connect with them on more than anything else, and on our next record I hope that we can bring that out more.

Did any of the material brought in for this album take any of you out of your comfort zone?
Never. Not for any one of us.
Pinnick: Y’know, I never even gave that a thought. The thing I enjoyed about it was that Eric just stepped up to the plate. It was nice to see his eyes light up when we played some of the songs that I brought in, which didn’t have “normal” changes. He found new things to do—and when he did, he always looked up and smiled. We knew that we were on the right track.