X band posing together.

Interview with X: July 1995


It’s hard to believe X has been around for almost 20 years. Even though X started out as one of the premier LA punk bands, the members are true artists in the strictest sense of the word. Collectively they form X, individually they are authors of books, spoken word performers, actors, and collaborators. They have written and played punk, rockabilly, love ballads, and country music. Through their lives, they refuse to be categorized.

X has just released Unclogged. It’s a broad brush stroke of songs from the X library performed acoustic and live. Once again they’ve proven why their music is so enduring. 

SLUG: Looking back on X’s career, is it amazing to you that the music has lasted this long? Or did you know going into it, hey this is something really special, this is going to be great. 

DJ: I didn’t know. You’re living in the moment and you’re playing. I mean you know, you think the band has potential otherwise you wouldn’t play with them. But you never know how it’s really going to work out. When we released Los Angeles I actually had an inkling that something is happening because we played the Whiskey I think three nights and we had a whole new audience. It was sold out and it just seemed like something was happening. But you always keep a certain amount of humility cause you expect the next show to be empty. You always have that feeling, no one’s going to show up. Cause you don’t think you’re that great. As far as the records go, you never know. You don’t think about how the record is, if it’s going to last forever, if people are going to listen to it in 20 years or a 1000 years. 

SLUG: It’s got to be cool for you to look back on some of these books being published now about the early punk scene and to have X mentioned in that. 

DJ: Yeah, it’s kind of nice. But on the other hand it sometimes, you know, I think the obsession with the scene is sometimes a little, you know goes overboard. But of course it’s because people who weren’t there are interested in it and I’ve lived through it so I don’t care as much. I see people obsessed with Darby Crash of The Germs and that’s great. But part of me things. He committed suicide. He died. Who cares? He blew it. You’re kind of mad at him. With all these other people who have been struggling all these years and they’re doing great things. You know it’s not easy living. You have all those feelings. But I can’t say it’s bad having people write about you and being in books. It’s not something everyone has.

SLUG: So how’s it going now? 

DJ: It’s going pretty good. We’re getting ready to go on the road in a few weeks. 

SLUG: How long are you going to be on the road for? 

DJ: I guess it’s probably about five or six weeks. Mid-July to the end of August. We’re just doing a circle around the United States.

SLUG: Yeah, it’s got to be kind of rough. So you going out to actually just do the Unclogged tour, is that it? 

DJ: Yeah, it’s gong to be interesting because we’ve never done anything like that before. I’m just looking forward to it. To see how it develops. Playing it every night. 

SLUG: Now when you actually recorded Unclogged, was it over a two day period or three? 

DJ: It was over two day period. Just one show a night. We played two shows. 

SLUG: Did you actually do more material than what’s on Unclogged

DJ: Yeah, we did. I would guess we played about between 20 and 22 songs and we picked out the ones that sounded the best. 

SLUG: Now on something like that, How do you pick your audience? Did tickets actually go on sale? Or were they friends of the band or friends of the company? How did you work that? 

DJ: We put the tickets on sale, you know as a regular show. In fact it paid for the recording. 

SLUG: That is nice. 

DJ: Yeah, that was one reason we were able to put it out on our own label. You know cause there weren’t a lot of expenses. 

SLUG: Yeah, that worked out really well then. I really liked the recording. I think the production is clean. I think it sounds good and I think everything is mixed in really well. I like it. When did X form?

DJ: X formed in ’76 or ’77, but I wasn’t in the original line-up. 

SLUG: You were on the Los Angeles album correct? I mean you’re on all the recordings. 

DJ: I’m on all the recordings including the Danger House single. That was the first record we did. It was Adult Books and We’re Desperate. Yeah, we recorded that and we actually did a tour in 1978 to New York. We drove all the way to New York and played some clubs. There’s CBGB‘s and I think it was called the Nashville and something else. 

SLUG: When you look back on it, did X categorize X as a punk band, or did you just think “oh, we just play music and the type of music we like is this aggressive, fast stuff.” 

DJ: Yeah, well in a way its almost both answers. Because of the time we called ourselves punks to distinguish ourselves from everything else that was going on. The industry bands. We definitely weren’t, we knew we weren’t like them. But we also knew we were a little different from some of the other punk bands. I think that’s the reason I joined them. I was in another punk band called The Eyes and I joined X because they had a little more depth. 

SLUG: Substance

DJ: Yeah, The Eyes are really good too, but they had more depth. What’s the word, they had different feels, it wasn’t you know the straight punk beat. They had more variety and I found it more interesting musically. So in a way we were kind of an odd ball band. We weren’t easy to categorize.

SLUG: Let me ask you about The Knitters, were The Knitters actually all the members of X, just playing original country music under a different name? Or did that project involve different people?

DJ: It was ¾ of X. It was John and Excene and myself. 

SLUG: And Billy Zoom didn’t do it? 

DJ: See he didn’t want to do it. I think we wanted to do something as X like that but he didn’t want to do it. So they got Dave Alvin and then Johnny Ray played bass. Yeah it was just an excuse to put out more country type music and just a variety of things and play acoustic. I know that I like to play different types of music. Otherwise I get bored. The same reason I joined X from The Eyes because I wanted more variety. I don’t feel like I’m stuck to one thing. Maybe that’s one reason that X has survived so long is we try out different things. Cause if you’re bored there is no desire to play. It has to be fresh and exciting. I’m really happy we decided to do this and a tour. It makes it different. It’s not like we’re just going on the road, we’re going to do our same old thing. Which is still exciting, but this is better. This is more fun. We don’t really know what’s going to happen. 

The Unclogged Tour will stop in Zion for one night only on August 9th @ the University of Utah. Make plans now to attend. This tour will go down in the history books, this show will sell out and it will be one of the best shows of ‘95. Trust me on this one. —Royce

Read more from SLUG Archives here:
Comic Reviews: January 1993
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