Post by TheWallsScreamedPoetry on Dec 25, 2004 23:31:23 GMT
Not a part of Rays career that I am familiar with as I don't like punk but any of you guys got any knowledge of this lot. I know they did Crystal Ship on the X Files Movie, Howard Werth produced them at first before Ray, I know Exene is a pillock but apart from that zip....John Doe was superb as Winonas dad in Great Balls Of Fire so they weren't all bad.
Here are a few snippets I got off the net...
Produced by The Doors’ Ray Manzarek, X’s groundbreaking debut was all about capturing the spirit of the band’s explosive live show. It’s among the most influential punk albums of all time -- now expanded with five bonus tracks, including unreleased demos and alternate versions. Deluxe booklet includes liner notes, band commentary, photos, memorabilia, and lyrics.
John Doe, Exene Cervenka, Billy Zoom, and D.J. Bonebrake were critical and popular heroes on the bristling LA club scene of the late ’70s to early ’80s. With X, the four took a hardcore approach that combined traditional blues, folk, country, rockabilly, and punk rock with a dark lyrical sensibility that reflected the cynical times.
Among the band’s biggest early fans was ex-Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek, who produced X’s acclaimed first album, Los Angeles, for the fledgling local label Slash. After 1981’s equally praised Wild Gift, X signed a major-label deal with Elektra, which would release 1982’s Under The Big Black Sun and their next four albums -- each a raging slab of musical invention that would help sow the seeds of the "alternative" revolution.
X came out of the Los Angeles punk movement, the first such band with its own unique sound and identity. Lyrically, John Doe and Exene Cervenka wrote virtually all of X's songs (singly or jointly). They explored the sleazy, seedy side of urban life. They showed a world where people exist merely to use and to be used by others, with little room for sentiment or hope, where good intentions and honest emotions are quickly crushed. They also took several rapier thrusts at the middle class. Yet they managed to walk the fine line between over-emotionality and cynicism, and usually produced some sharp insightful even subtle observations. Their lyrics occasionally included some wonderful word play, apparently mostly by Exene.
Musically, the band displayed in full the speed, energy, and volume of the punk movement. The rhythm section of John Doe (bass) and D.J. Bonebrake (drums) drove hard and fast. On top of that, Billy Zoom played rockabilly-influenced lead guitar, again at speed and volume. Yet the signature sound of the band was the vocals. John Doe had a wonderful singing voice, clear and expressive. On the other hand, Exene had trouble carrying a tune, though she improved over the albums. Their songs frequently included their harmonies, a unique combination of John Doe's voice handling the lyrics and melody, while Exene's on-the-edge/over-the-edge/off-key (choose one
) vocals danced over them. The harmonies are a bizarre unique treat.
An odd delight of some of these albums are Exene's hand-crafted doodle-strewn lyric listings.
In general, X is highly recommended for another with a taste for hard and hard-edged music, and a must-have for any punk fans.
Post by TheWallsScreamedPoetry on Feb 9, 2005 15:14:52 GMT
X: Heart of the City A Journey Into the Dark Underbelly of L.A. LOS ANGELES.
My favorite spot in Los Angeles is at the top of the transition road from the eastbound Santa Monica Freeway to the northbound San Diego Freeway at about midnight. The overpass there banks and curves sharply to the left and you can look out over the blinking lights of Westwood, Century City and the fringe of Sunset Strip and feel like you're momentarily gliding through the sky. Many's the time I've felt the urge to just let go of the wheel, crash through the concrete railing and see it all from a different, and truly ultimate, angle. After all, Los Angeles lives in cars; quite a few also die in them.I was born and raised in LA (the abbreviation is an appropriately crass butchering of the musical Spanish), and have never touched a surfboard or skis. The tremendously overrated lures of surf, sand and sun have never meant much to me. For my money, everything important in LA happens indoors, in a car, or at night. While in high school, in the days of 30 cents-a-gallon gas, anything was possible once you had wheels. I once impressed a girl by driving her to San Diego for dinner.Other cities may have decent theaters, varied ethnic communities and big-name novelists eating pizza by the slice right out in the open, but we have exhaust fumes, the Whisky-a-Go-Go, Van Nuys Boulevard, cruisers with their peripatetic autos, Spanish-tile roofs and the Hollywood Ten. We're envied for our wealthy, single-family dwellings and beach bunnies on Rose Bowl day, but to me the beach is just someplace where, when you drive west, you've got to stop before turning around. Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe never went near the beach unless it was to fish out some rotting corpse from the breakers or smell the sour blend of brine and Long Beach fumes that signaled corruption. If you ask me, darkened doorways and philistine movie moguls have more to do with the City of the Angels than idiots who display their all-year tans at expense account lunches.And if, sometime in the next century, I do let go of the wheel on that transcendent freeway overpass and buy eternity, get ready to sleep the big sleep, I'll have the cassette player turned up full blast, and the soundtrack to my flame-out will be X's Los Angeles album. What a way to go.The rise of X, and the all-around greatness and penetration of their landmark album, is arguably the most important story to come out of LA's music scene since the heyday of The Doors, Love, The Byrds and the Mothers of Invention. There is a similarity not only in the way certain commercial breakthroughs – like The Doors' debut LP – might be compared to how X's album has kicked open the doors to a new age of independent labels, but in the way that the clubs, bands, music and fans have all grown up together. Nobody's done anything alone.There's an electric excitement on the LA club circuit even in its tackier recesses. X are at the center of this feeling of new possibilities. All the major labels turned down Los Angeles and are now scrambling around trying to buy the group from Slash Records, the feisty independent label that proved the market was there, and that it can be expanded by drawing disaffected rockers from the main-stream as well as dedicated pogoers. Slash owner Bob Biggs has sold 35,000 copies of the album, but the impact of the disc goes way beyond the sales figures. It is the album everyone knew was in the city somewhere, waiting to spring out.The four members of X – bass player/vocalist John Doe, guitarist Billy Zoom, drummer Don Bonebrake and singer Exene – almost magically came together in Southern California after growing up in various cities across the nation. Doe (who adopted the name because he claims no one could pronounce his real one) was born in Illinois, and lived in Tennessee, Wisconsin and Baltimore, Maryland before coming out to set up residence in Santa Monica some four years back. He had played in a few bands here and there, but for the first few months in LA he spent more time hanging out at the Venice Poetry Workshop, where he met his wife-to-be, Exene, than thinking about music.Exene (coincidentally also an Illinois native) spent most of her life in Florida before migrating to California. Her intense personality, poetic flair and enigmatic face made her the virtual center of the poetry group, and she and the sensitive but volatile John paired up almost immediately. "I was always interested in writing," says Exene about those days, "But I've never been that interested in poetry by other people.""There's been a literary influence in our writing from the start," suggests John, "But I don't care if we're a part of the literary history of Los Angeles. I think Jim Morrison did that to the hilt. In his titles, his songs, he's tried in to Nathanael West, Raymond Chandler, Bukowski. We're not so connected to the novelists."John and Exene held down various jobs – for a while Exene clerked at the Beyond Baroque Bookstore – while coming to the slow realization they wanted to start a band. Through an ad in The Recycler they came upon Billy Zoom, an electronics technician also originally from Illinois who'd been playing rockabilly off and on around LA for ten years, doing stints with Gene Vincent, Ray Campi and his own band. Don Bonebrake, raised in the wilds of North Hollywood, was added on drums to complete the line-up, and the band's debut took place at a friend's apartment in front of 50 people.Their name was a catch-all. "I was driving by The Starwood with Exene and she said, 'If I had a band, up on that marquee would just be a big black X,' and I said, 'You'd name your group Big Black X?' and she said 'Naw, just X'," recalls John."X is good because it means so many things," Exene explains. "In the dictionary it means the variable, unknown quantity, Christ, crossbones, universal taboo, marks the spot, even the airport tags – LAX."The songs from the start were angular, ironic and tough, a blend of abstract intellectualism and Chuck Berry. It took sometime to train Exene's free-floating imagination for the more disciplined task of songwriting: "It was difficult for me to learn, when John and I first started writing together, that sometimes the best thing to do is repeat a certain part. I just wanted to ramble on and never go back to point A. Things just sort of...come in. We're fortunate in the ability to make up songs.""The beat of the word has to be the beat of the music," says Doe, trying to explain the intense, yet natural, construction of X's material. "The accents have to sound right. Each beat in some cases matches a particular word, like in 'Nausea’.""You'll prop your forehead on the sink" chants Exene, pounding her fist on her knee to emphasize the rhythm of the lyric quotation. "We've always written in the same manner," she continues, "We start with a line, maybe put it in a corner and say, ‘That's nice,' or take it out and work on it later – it's real hard. A lot of songs come from matching a line I've written to a bass part John's thought up independently. Sometimes I don't like songs until we start arranging with the whole band. 'Your Phone's Off the Hook' was like that. I thought it sounded like a folk song when I first sang it, and then when John did it I liked it more, and when Billy started playing the guitar part, it started sounding good.""If anybody's responsible for the sound of the band, I'd say it's Billy," says John. "He and Don think up parts I never could."X's songs are processes, evolving over the years, getting fleshier but tougher. You can hear how the structure developed from a rhythm fragment or lyric. They think in terms of elements: the undercurrent of Doe's rumbling bass, the flatly ironic monotone Exene brings to every performance (and which matches wondrously with Doe's vibrato), the strong pulses of Bonebrake, the almost casual rockabilly fire of Zoom, the calculated use of cliché. They don't write songs so much as total performances; they're so attuned to each other that the pieces fit.It wasn't always so. Some of their early performances were hit-or-miss, a compendium of ideas without unifying direction. They were an interestingly mutated rockabilly band with artistic leanings. But in the last year especially, they've focused their energy. And though they still assimilate numerous styles, there's no sense of a clash of elements. Of course, their equilibrium is already a bit strange compared to most bands. They've replaced the tension of competing modes with the more genuine friction of the deep structures of their performances – the lyrics, the rhythms, the dual vocals that seem so different and match so well, the unforgettable melodies, the dark stage look.An X show isn't just a parade of tunes – it's a chain of energy. There's a cumulative power, an aura that on special nights is indescribable. That's why their audiences are now comprised of junior high school girls, punks in leather, old rockers, mods in day-glo shirts, sulky intellectual college students and mindless pogoers. Their credibility is virtually intact across the board.No other LA band in recent years has gotten more polished without losing a great deal of their original punch and following. X have translated their original vision with integrity. They play better, sing better and write better, with more commitment.
Post by TheWallsScreamedPoetry on Feb 9, 2005 15:15:17 GMT
X: Heart of the City 2
This is why some people regard X as the vanguard of a crusade: they are living proof that broad appeal can come from a tightening up, a harder and more tenacious attack, rather than a popish, watered down, major label version of the original conception. The band doesn't seem particularly comfortable or uncomfortable with the image. They have confidence in themselves, but they're never arrogant.X first came into the public eye as regulars at the Masque, the back-alley club that became LA's warped Cavern. The atmosphere was damp and the crowds hungry for something new, and the band members began to hone their skills while still working their day jobs. Billy would flash his expansive smile while anchoring his weight on one foot, leaning back to almost flippantly strum his guitar. Bonebrake applied his snapping attack to breakneck paces, and John and Exene, like some new and fiery Balin/Slick combination, traded lines and provided a coldly sexual, alluring front line.My first impression of the group, at a Troubadour show, was of an imprecise amalgam of rockabilly and punk, although I was drawn to the underlying personality. As I saw them more, I began to catch on. What I had originally taken for indecision and mushiness began to look like a truly brilliant manipulation of styles; a strange, compelling sound that took some getting used to. By the time Los Angeles appeared and X played a weekend Whisky engagement with ex-Doors keyboard man Ray Manzarek (who produced the LP) sitting in, I was hooked. Now I look back without understanding why I ever found X anything less than irresistible. Either they got better or I found my ears. It turns out my reaction was typical."We're not a pop-band," says John. "We require a lot from an audience. We challenge them with the music. We're challenge them with the music. We're not like The Ramones or The Undertones, who are easily grasped. It takes a few times for people to hear us.""There's so much in there," agrees Exene, who off-stage has an easy-going, but no less determined way of presenting her views. "It's not like playing all fast songs, and people go home and say, 'Wow, I was dancing all night!' We can't bring it out any faster than we do. It takes a long time to get real good at what you do. People go from one thing to another – art, then music, then poetry – and they don't give themselves a chance to get really good. We've been playing basically the same music for three years.""The thing that built our following in Los Angeles," says John, "is that there's an entertainment value to the live shows, a lot of uptempo things. And beyond that are the lyrics, which are more...introspective. I think it's the marriage of the two that gives us the power to not be classified."From the Masque (which closed in January 1978) the band went on to fill houses at Blackie's, Club 88, the Hong Kong Café, the Elk's Lodge and other venues that opened seemingly every week. X's first recording situation was a session for the local Dangerhouse label, and their gritty single, ‘Adult Books/I'm Desperate’, showed at least a hint of their raw appeal. Later their unofficial anthem, ‘Los Angeles’ appeared on Dangerhouse's Yes LA disc."The Dangerhouse records are just timepieces," says Doe. "We can appreciate their early releases of The Deadbeats, The Avengers, Black Randy. But it was the right place and the wrong time.""It's like a reference point for us," nods Exene. "We never got paid a penny for any of that, because we wouldn't sign their contract that said they owned our name, our faces, our music...what was the term?""In perpetuity," answers Billy laconically. "They did offer to sell us back our masters for $12,000...""But they only cost $600," says Exene. "The entire Slash album cost $10,000."The Slash deal came about because some demo tapes being shopped by Jay Jenkins (a friend acting as X's manager by this time) were rejected all over town. X's high-resolution snapshots of urban life may have been too depressing for A&R men. In any case, the persistence of Slash owner Bob Biggs paid off, and they struck a deal. He sold out his initial pressing of 10,000 units almost immediately, and his biggest headache now is keeping up with demand. Major labels began to make offers to buy the album; all were rejected. The distribution of JEM and the loyalty of Biggs cemented everyone together.Los Angeles is a monument to tenacity. Manzarek's production shows the enthusiasm that led him to approach the group in the first place, and they return the compliment by including the classic ‘Soul Kitchen’ as the only non-original.The LP's other eight songs and such X tunes as ‘Universal Corner’, ‘Back to the Base’ and ‘White Girl’ (which have yet to be recorded) are concise examples of modern rock. At times brutal and severe, the songs make up a panorama of LA's underbelly, capturing life and death in nervy, sometimes oblique, glimpses. In ‘Sex and Dying in High Society’ the crude, updated De Sade is meshed with a mesmerizing, mocking tone: "That pretty man of yours/The one hiding inside the director's clothes/The one who calls you dear/After banging away/At you in the night/That one's just got to go/Every time you look at him/You could almost/Fall asleep." There's a kind of warped humor in ‘Nausea’, a pulverizing song with a pulsating fullband rhythm riff that reverberates in your limbs: "Today you're/Gonna be so sick/You'll prop/Your forehead on the sink/Say oh Christ oh Jesus/Christ my head's/Gotta crack like a bank." And the album's title song is a burrowing, insistent account of a nightmarish confusion, a sickness of spirit.X have been criticized, unfairly I think, for having a vision so bleak it admits no humor. The world of drugs, meaningless sex and violence is not pretty. The fact is, the songs are too complex to yield easy descriptions. X draw from the details of their own day-to-day existence, as well as try to tie together some of the overlooked loose ends of LA and the weird cross-cultural atmosphere.
‘The Unheard Music’ is about a time when the band couldn't afford to go into the Whisky and sat in the Sunset Strip Licorice Pizza parking lot, sometimes setting a trash dumpster on fire for amusement, hanging out with nothing to do. The edgy lyrics show how experience is transformed into song: "On the car radio/We set the trash on fire/And watch outside the door/Men come up the pavement/Under the marquee/There's laughing inside/We're locked out of the public eye."The song that's gotten the most attention in print and on radio is ‘Johnny Hit and Run Paulene’, a disturbing fantasy that is X's most fully realized moment. The vocals on that particular cut are intuitively correct in every nuance – onstage the song is even more conclusively masterful. But the imagery has turned off a few: "He bought a/Sterilized hypo/To shoot a/Sex machine drug/He got 24 hours to shoot/All Paulene's/Between the legs.""Everybody's so wrong about all this drug stuff," says Exene during a discussion of the various misinterpretations of X lyrics. "We only have two songs that mention drugs.""People have made a general statement about our music, that it reflects what's going on in these times. That's true," asserts John, choosing his words carefully, determined to make his point clearly. Absently, he picks up an X-acto knife and toys with it on his forearm. "’Johnny Hit and Run Paulene’ is about a guy who takes an imaginary drug that allows him to have sex once an hour for 24 hours. It's about rape, forcible intercourse and shit like that.
Post by TheWallsScreamedPoetry on Feb 9, 2005 15:15:33 GMT
X: Heart of the City 3
I see people getting into it like, 'Yeah, hit and run...' I'm saying this happens a lot, watch out for it, be aware, don't give in to it. Don't think I'm condoning rape!"Maybe people latch on to the most extreme aspects of songs to explain their own weird behavior."Yeah," says Exene. "Like 'Los Angeles' is supposed to be this racist song. You wouldn't write, 'She hated every negro and other people too,' if you're being truthful about the character. You'd write, 'She hated every nigger and Jew,' because she didn't hate negroes she hated niggers. It's not a personal she. People don't understand. When you read a book, you don't think the narrator's the person who wrote the book. There's a separation."Los Angeles has certainly given people something to latch on to in LA and outside California, too, where half the X LPs have been sold. In early summer the band made a long trip in support of the album, visiting cities like Toronto, New York and Washington D.C. before swinging over for a 4th of July date at London's Nashville, and some interviews with BBC and Capitol Radio. The English music press was not kind, with New Musical Express going so far as to criticize Exene for being "overweight." In New York, some critics put forward the laughable notion that X's experimentation was old hat with hip NYC audiences – this from a city where art-damage bands and ridiculous theatrical weirdos like The Plasmatics have sapped the strength from the whole scene."The tour was good," says John. "We got to reactivate our practical joke sense of humor, to meet a lot of people. We got good crowd reactions everywhere except Toronto, where we played in a restaurant and people were eating through the set. Many people across the country seemed familiar with our songs, but a lot weren't.""It was sometimes difficult playing in places like Washington D.C.," says Exene. "You don't know those people. We play best when we feel like we've got things in common, really get a quick impression of an audience when we walk onstage."When X returned to LA, they promptly sold out eight shows at the Whisky for their homecoming, but the performances weren't all they could have been. In a way, they symbolized the quandary the band's success has left them in. During my interview with the group, a great deal of time was spent analyzing those evenings, figuring out exactly why they were so unsatisfying to the band (even though many critics found them just as powerful as always). The roundtable went like this:EXENE: It was homecoming but it wasn't as homey as when we left.BILLY: Obviously, the people coming to see us at the Whisky for the first time ever aren't the sort of people who are really involved in going out to clubs, getting into the scene. It's great that we're reaching so many different kinds of people, but it can make it weird.EXENE: You have to speak to all people. You can feel badly that you're playing to people who caught on late, who just didn't feel like coming out before. Maybe they were too scared by the media.ML: But the people coming on late may be in the vanguard nationally. You may look back some day and say, "I'd like to trade this audience for that first crowd at the Whisky when we got back from tour."JOHN: That's a frightening thought.EXENE: None of the Whisky shows were up to the level we wanted.ML: The set you played the early show of the first night had several new songs in a row after you opened with ‘Soul Kitchen’. Don't you think that alienated people who just got the album and wanted to hear it played live?JOHN: That was the point.EXENE: That Whisky show was good because it wasn't the same little group up front dancing. There were people responding to us in the immediate way, even if they were seeing us for the first time. There were people up in the balcony and in the booths bobbing their heads...ML: Do you have something in the back of your minds saying, "If we're selling this many records we must be doing something wrong"?EXENE/JOHN: No.DON: The only thing that bothers me about it is that some of the so-called hard-core people are bitter because they don't want to pay $6 to see us. And they think because we get so much press we've sold out, that we're selfish.EXENE: First of all, we've never given in an inch on our guest list. Sunday night we had 120 people on the list, at least 80 of which were friends. And when we got back from our trip I had people say to me, "Congratulations, Exene, you've really done it, you've proved LA deserves a chance. You're helping the other bands."DON: I overheard two girls in a shop discussing us – "They've sold out, they play all the same songs for the people from the San Fernando Valley. Those hippies shouldn't be allowed in..."EXENE: You can't worry about people who criticize. We're not doing anything wrong, we're just successful.BILLY: Success cannot spoil me. I've always been an egotistical asshole.These kinds of pressures – forcing X to prove themselves over and over again – are a perverse form of flattery. They are held up as leaders of the "alternative" music scene and given more scrutiny for that. The fact is, nearly every working band in Los Angeles has nothing but personal and artistic admiration for X. They've got friends all over. They've done benefits for clubs in trouble, free clinics and even for a branch library in East LA, where their contacts with Chicano musicians have been particularly fruitful. "The Mexican-American population in LA has a pretty good attitude," says John. "They have a real sense of pride, of history.""Me and John feel real close to that community," adds Exene. "I feel distant in that I'm not akin to it, but I really like it, the Mexican influence. [The band may release a Spanish language version of ‘Los Angeles’ on a single this fall.] Yesterday we bought a 1956 Ford for $500 and drove to a taco place on Pico where they were playing Mexican music on the jukebox. It just felt so good to be in Los Angeles!"In many ways, the power of X derives from their understanding of the city they live in, and they transform that perception into songs. They love Los Angeles, the sacred and profane."I think Los Angeles is so great," says John, "because it's this conglomeration of small groups of people doing what they do, and it all makes up the city. Everybody's confused about what makes Los Angeles what it is. It's real crass and momentary at the same time. It's an insane city – 'city of night'."Exene thinks "cars are very important. In New York people say to us, 'How do you like being from the same town as Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt?' And we say, 'How do you like being from the city where Jackie O. lives?' Billy explains to people that there's no beach in Los Angeles. You have to pass through three cities to get to the beach. Los Angeles is inland. Downtown doesn't exist to some people – but that's Los Angeles.""LA has the best balance of the three essential things in life: cars, girls, and rock and roll," says Billy with a grin. "It does have the best music scene in the world.""When you put up our record against the major label LA releases," offers John, "you can hear the difference. The point is to say that's not Los Angeles, this is Los Angeles. It'd be hard to call it anything else."
Mark Leviton, Bam Magazine, 12th September 1980
Post by TheWallsScreamedPoetry on Feb 9, 2005 20:49:34 GMT
X’s Exene talking to Rag In Chains, April 1981
Shredder: Tell me what it’s like being the number one band around.
Exene: It’s horrible. You can quote me on that. It is a very big cross to bear when suddenly people keep telling you you’re this great thing...
Do you actually get stopped on the street as rock stars?
Well, sometimes people act really weird when they see us, they… you still think of yourself as yourself even if they don’t. They think of you as… well, it’s just that people’s image of you can never be your own image, which is really hard to take. Whether they hate you or like you, it’s still hard to take.
Tell me about the new album. Is Ray Manzarek going to produce it?
Yea, he produced it. We just finished it seven this morning and it’s going to be called Wild Gift and it’s just a whole bunch of songs… I think it’s a pretty good album! It’s a whole lot different than the first one.
In what way?
I can’t figure that out yet. It’s a lot different because… you know how a lot of people said Los Angeles is an album about Los Angeles? It was a good first album for us, because it kind of defined us as this band from Los Angeles and Ray played on it, and this one is really just X.X songs…<br>Do you mean X Live?
Yea, well… it doesn’t sound really live. It’s a studio album…but it’s not like Linda Ronstadt… it’s kinda hard to describe. But it’s just us, nothing added, in the flesh.
I’ve heard a lot of complaints about how on the first album you got into this self image of being an essential L.A. band….
Well, I’m glad you brought that up because it’s hard….I mean, what if everyone didn’t like the album? If they thought it wasn’t about Los Angeles? It would still be the same album. You read all these things about yourself and that becomes what you are to other people. And it may not be what you actually are. It was weird on our part because when we did it we thought Ray produced it and it will just be the real good thing and we called it Los Angeles cos we thought it would be appropriate. But we didn’t mean it to be the definitive L.A. album.
What do you think of Robert Hilburn? Do you think people will respect his opinion in the long run?
Well, as a band we really needed his push to get famous… but I don’t need it personally. It was strange that he liked it that much… you see, compared to the overall norm of the rock business Hilburn is pretty cool. I mean he’s not Slash or Flipside. Next to them he’s pretty square, he likes Bruce Springsteen. But in comparison he’s cool.
What do you think of Bam and their whole thing on you?
I have always hated and detested that magazine from the first time I picked it up. It’s a funny situation when they ask you to be on the cover. Because you need the straight world to catch people’s attention, you’re fighting the straight world. Does that make sense?
Well…<br>Putting yourself on the cover of Bam does not mean you like Bam. It just means you like yourself enough to try to get into peoples lives so they can decide whether they like you or not. We’re not climbing up the ladder of success the way a lot of people think we are. We don’t play those games. It’s like Black Flag on Rhona Barrett. I don’t think they like Rhona Barrett…<br>But Rhona Barrett wasn’t promoting them.
That’s true. But what I’m saying is that there are avenues at your disposal that you can use or not use. You see, we have this feeling that if people could hear us by Bam or whatever way possible they would like us and that they would not be so timid about getting back on the right track as far as music goes.
You seem to get into this strange mood on stage. What’s that all about?
Well… just kind of lately. You see, onstage you wanna play and have a good time but it gets to be real hard to enjoy yourself… oh, it’s very confusing. I’ve been having a weird time. I know I get into those moods. This weekend at the Starwood I had a really good time except for the last night. Unless you’re this real professional entertainer you can’t hide your personal feelings on stage…<br>But as far as stage presence goes it works a lot better. And the audience ate it up…<br>Yeah. The crowd never cares. It’s a battle every time you go out there on stage. I felt that night, after all this time being in a band and having a good time I really didn’t care if I never did it again.
What did you think of New York? How did they react to you?
Very enthusiastic. Like we were the new thing. It was really fun. It’s very expensive to go to clubs there. It’s like ten dollars if you wanna go anywhere. And there’s hundreds of people waiting to get in and a guy outside goes around picking out cool-looking people and letting them in. If he sees some kids from Jersey that look like "Hey, rock ‘n’ roll!" He doesn’t let ‘em in. Which is horrible (laughing). Lydia Lunch and I were just saying how L.A.’s kids are just a saving grace cos they don’t give a shit. They won’t pay five bucks to see a band. They’d rather break a window and crawl in!
What do you think about them denying X as punk?
I don’t think its really important. If they don’t like us they don’t like us, but that’s not gonna influence what I think about them. I think they’re really young so… well it’s not… well, I can say that there are certain things about life that they simply don’t understand yet. They’re naive. That’s a luxury of being young. Overall I think they’re great.
On the other side of the coin what do you think of all these square kids who are kind of unreceptive to X’s message?
Well… here’s these kids that you respect and you think they’re really great and they’re wild and then you’ve got these plain people and they love you… it’s good that they’re coming around, I can’t hold it against them for being late. Neither side is really receptive. Only a tiny percent of the audience is. I think a lot of the radical kids don’t like us because they don’t really understand us. All in all you’re just a fuckin band, just like any other band in a town like any other. If you’re bad you break up and no one likes you and if you’re good you’re good. But you’re still just a bunch of fuckin’ humans.
Then what would you suggest to good bands like the Alley Cats and the Middle Class who’ve been playing four, five, or even six years but still have gotten almost nowhere?
I can’t suggest anything to them. It’s really unfortunate. If record companies were smart they’d sign those bands or at least would have four years ago and done it in a good way, like have the Alley Cats produce and package and promote their own album by themselves things would not be so fucked up now. I think it’s really sad.
But what does it take for a band like X to get the best album of the year so quickly?
Well, I think we got that because the critics were saying that because of your bravery and especially because you did it with a small label and gave this city some real credibility for the first time in ten years…here is your reward. Because all you here out of town about L.A. is the Knack. It was sort of an award for giving some artistic integrity.
Have you been approached by big record companies?
Yeah. We have. A&M, I.R.S., Island, and I think Capitol or Columbia or one of those biggies that stars with a C! don’t think it was C.B.S. I honestly cannot remember!
Did you refuse because you thought they’d take the guts out of your music?
I think they’d take the guts out of our bodies! We’d completely lose respect for ourselves and each other. I know a lot of people think we sold out because we played with Ray on the album and at gigs… God, what if we went with a major label? It would have been the end of the world! They only wanted us after we started to do really well. That really made us mad. It was like: "Fuck You! You didn’t care about us two years ago. Why do you give a shit about us now!" All they think about is money. It’s real crazy because the people that make the decisions don’t even hear or know anything about the music! We went down to A&M and it was scary. The guy was so creepy… I felt like a little child being offered candy. The creepiness was just oozing out of the building. Man! I may not be that bright but I’m not stupid enough to get involved with those kind of people!
A very lengthy interview, but not a wasted word. Now tell me who’s hard core and who isn’t.
by Danny (Shredder) Weizmann,
Rag In Chains, April 1981
Post by TheWallsScreamedPoetry on Feb 10, 2005 9:16:40 GMT
X....Communication: Sounds 1981
FIRST THINGS FIRST. When X get to England (sometime in September hopefully) see them. They're good.
While Los Angeles punk gets worse and worse, X keep getting better. While record conglomerates were dangling dollars in front of Doug Fieger's smirk, X were already getting good.
By the time their album Los Angeles came out on independent Slash, X were getting pretty awesome. See The Decline of Western Civilisation film.
Other L.A. punk bands falling by the wayside or just falling over with X (and this isn't even their best live performance to my mind) rising above it all like some dark giant. (I heard tell that young punks who turned up to the film's first showing in Hollywood cheered the ever-crass Fear and Black Flag and booed X, one of the earliest California punk bands.
A couple of years ago it was all they could do to headline the Starwood midweek.) Now they're the first band without a major label (ie one with credit cards to buy up all the front rows and soothe the ego of the artist) to headline the Greek Theatre.
And X have been making forays into other local scenes. New York, Chicago, New Orleans, all very successfully. Strange how they've become both the flag-wavers and the rarity on the L.A. scene.
Their second album, Wild Gift is less ragged, more accessible than the first, though I'm not suggesting some blatant shot at radio stardom or even a tiny compromise. It's just stronger, more precise work.
The playing is flawless, the vocals cutting, and the overall record has the heart and soul that so many California crap bands have traded in for cheap sarcasm, lethargy, imitation or a bottle of suntan oil.
Especially imitation. Before I even liked X that much at least I respected them. It seemed they were the only band on a then-small scene that wasn't spawned by some London or New York trendiness.
X is a real Los Angeles band, and not because they write and sing about the place. The Eagles, America, Rods McKuen and Stewart and a whole pitful of blushingly sensitive singer-songwriters do that but that doesn't make them L.A.
X's songs – poetry if I may be so bold – are about L.A. lust and pain and love and bitterness and madmen on the bus screaming about Elvis and broken dreams and some unbroken ones.
They sing like they've lived in these songs, Exene Cervenka with a plaintive razorblade voice that cuts across Billy Zoom playing Chuck Berry, and John Doe with the weary voice of a despaired Romantic (the feeling, not the frilling, variety).
It's been said so often that they're sick of it but only the Doors has this vision of the dark side of L.A., which is probably the biggest part, though you wouldn't know it from those hypersensitive artistes who won't step out of the borders of Santa Monica beach and then not without a slick Coppertone protection; a vision that takes in both the sensuality and the scam of the place.
Visions of violence and desperation and sick passion on some dirty mattress on a bombsite by a dirty book store, that isn't some National Enquirer yellow-journalism sensationalist shit.
Jim Morrison would have envied some of their poetry. It's not surprising that they have one of the Doors – Ray Manzarek, producing for the second time around – working with them.
It is surprising that they haven't yet become a massively successful band, although it should be pointed out that their first album sold over 50,000 copies, and that on a small independent label without the budget and the contacts to deal with the thousands of miles between major cities in the U.S. is saying something.
THE SUN IS setting somewhere over West Hollywood where I'm to meet with X at Billy Zoom's place. We're all sitting awkwardly around a coffee table like you do in interviews.
John Doe, bassist and singer, is doing most of the talking. Billy Zoom, guitarist and Exene Cervenka, vocalist, are putting in a good showing, and drummer D. J. Bonebrake (the only card-carrying local, being born and raised in the Valley while John came in from Baltimore, Exene from Florida on the poetry circuit and Billy from Chicago, Etta James' band and various rockabilly line-ups) is a good listener.
We've been talking about how when an English band, any English band, comes out here to L.A. there's a cosmic 'wow' and a mad dash for the club to see them, whereas L.A. bands away from home – well we all know the L.A. reputation.
"Over here they only like English bands and over there they only like English bands" as Billy puts it.
Their decision to take another bigger stab at England comes after a successful national tour of the East and Midwest.
"That's the only way you can spread your influence", says Billy.
"You can't", adds Exene, "get played on the radio. When Slash releases a record it doesn't automatically get picked up by all the stations. We're still the underdog and no-one's going to make it easy for Slash.
"There's all this stuff that exists, stuff that's been built up over the years, radio and all that, and it's very hard to infiltrate."
Still you can't, says Billy, "remain a local group for the life of the group. Bob Seger's not going to stay in Detroit, is he?" Though Seger's got a big label to make sure he doesn't, the band reckons Slash is doing pretty well, despite small budget and big distance problems ("between here and Chicago there's 2000 miles of nothing. It's not like in England where everybody's in the same place.")
What they lack in credit cards they make up for in enthusiasm and artistic control, is the bottom line, and they're signed up for five albums.
But first a bit about the second one, Wild Gift. Ray Manzarek produced again. They "trust him", will probably stick with him and if nothing else he's good to have around in a studio.
"A real cheerleader", according to John. "Not in terms of a girl in a little short dress", a nice vision, "but he's always saying yeah, that's great, keep going, do more, gung-ho about doing stuff...
"Is there a big Doors thing going on in England right now?" Exene wants to know. "Suddenly 10 years later they're selling more records than they ever did."
I want to know if Ray sits down and has little fireside chats about his old band (with the way this Doors business is going out here – I think X are a bit sensitive about the whole thing; they're certainly not making a big deal of Manzarek joining them onstage at the Greek – maybe we could negotiate a paperback, not to mention a film starring Leif and Bebe out of this).
"Yeah we're pretty good friends with him by now – I mean it was a big part of his life. We like hearing about it", says Exene.
John: "It's not like the first time we met him he sat us all down and said, 'well let me tell you about the Doors, son'. Just little things off and on. He's great to work with. It's better to work with someone who says, 'yeah, let's go'!"
WHICH LEADS ME to muse that they probably need a cheerleader. From all I've read about them, heard with my own ears, and memories of John and Exene's house in Hollywood filled with sad religious idols, I can't help but get this vision of four people going into a studio with black cartoon clouds over their heads and an ex-Door going bananas.
"Oh God no", cries Exene. "Don't think that. Sometimes if you're in the studio and you have a hard time you feel weary and it's real good to have someone there to encourage you, that's all."
"I think", adds John, "If there's anything to say about what people call gloomy which is in our music it's that they're realistic. And experiencing those things and putting them in songs is not to say that yeah, those are great things to go through, but that those are the most jarring things in your life.
"They can inspire you, but it's more like going through it and feeling that you've gone through it and like, well I'm good enough to tackle the bad situation and make it through and not be afraid to go into it."
Talking about dire situations they've been through, you can't help but summon up all the press you've read locally that X are doing okay, selling albums, packing halls, regular little happy smiling gurus.
Does the fact that several songs on the album go right back to their early days mean they've been too happy, laid-back even, to write sufficient new gloomy numbers, I wonder aloud? Apparently not.
"When we did Los Angeles we only had enough money for nine songs and there was a bunch left over", says Billy.
"You just don't feel like throwing away perfectly good songs", says John, "so we put them on the second record. Isn't that what The Beatles did on their second record?"
True, a lot of second albums are a time to pause and gather the troops around you before venturing onto the third, and if nothing else, Wild Gift confirms and goes a step beyond all the praise and acclaim that was showered on the first.
As for the happiness stuff. "The fact is we're not selling hundreds of thousands of records, and we don't have any wide airplay because radio stations can't handle what they feel is unnatural music. We're still doing well in Los Angeles and now we're spreading out to some other cities, but compared to other acts that quote 'break'" says John, "we're taking the most arse-backwards hard route you could consider. Not intentionally. It's just the state of the music business at this point. They're not embracing new ideas and they're already thinking that this is such an old idea that it's really not worth bothering with."
It's the proverbial devil and the deep blue sea time for X. The mainstream audience still thinks they're punk and a lot of the punks they're mainstream, doing okay, sold out, whatever, and still no mansion in Beverley Hills.
Post by TheWallsScreamedPoetry on Feb 10, 2005 9:16:53 GMT
"Right", says John, "it's a real strange middle ground we're at now."
"Every time I got to a restaurant," adds Billy, "someone comes up and says, 'Billy Zoom, what are you doing here, how come you're eating at a place like this?'"
Exene: "It's great to go to the Whisky when you've been going there on average of twice a week for four years and basically it's your home away from home, and you're in there one night watching a band and someone comes up to you and says, 'I didn't know you went to the Whisky to see bands play!'
"And it's like, 'I've been going here way before you, should I stop because you're here now or what?' It's funny, but I think it's just another transitory thing. People get used to the fact that you didn't change and they don't bother you."
"There's a perfect scene in Coalminer's Daughter," says John, "Where Tommy Lee Jones is in the bar and the first time Loretta Lynn's on at the Grand Ol' Opry and he eventually gets into a fight with this guy who says, 'hey, your old lady's on the Grand Ol' Opry. Shit boy, all you got to do is sit back and collect the cheques, huh?'
"And meanwhile they've just been driving around in their car going to every radio station trying to get some airplay and this guy thinks he's on easy street while they're absolutely killing themselves."
"People don't give bands a break", says D.J. "Journalists don't give bands a break if they do something that doesn't quite jive with what they think a band should be doing. They don't try to appreciate a band on their own level."
Which gets us talking about H.M. which brings us to Van Halen, which brings us to other local bands.
Considering how large and diverse (ie not all of it good, but at least some of it different) the L.A. scene's now become – one night for example the other week, The GoGos were headlining the Palladium, Lydia Lunch and Bush Tetras at the Whisky, The Nuns at the Roxy and The Gun Club at the Cathay de Grande with over 10,000 people out and about, this just in Hollywood alone, listening to music – there's considerable camaraderie between at least a core of the bands.
Reports of John and Exene jumping up at benefits and otherwise to sing with whoever's playing (they did a regular Johnny Cash and June Carter at the Whisky just the other day) too numerous to mention.
And John and Don have a regular if occasional gig with locals The Flesheaters, who recently released one of my favourite new albums on Slash's esoteric sister label, Ruby Records.
"It's not just musicianship, but just as friends", says Exene. "All the bands are pretty friendly."
And there wasn't even any resentment when the big companies blew into town in an orgy of signing bands with narrow ties and narrow rock & roll confines leaving them by the wayside, she says, because "We never met any of those people. Most of those bands didn't start out playing a couple of years in the clubs like the Masque and the Starwood. They did some showcases..."
"And none of them", says Billy, "was ever a part of the scene. If you did real pop-sounding music you could come out here and get a band together and record a demo and play three showcases and get signed by a label."
And become an L.A. band.
"Until we went to England last year I didn't realise that anybody thought of any of those bands as L.A. bands. I didn't think the Eagles were supposed to be from L.A."
"We found out about The Knack the same time everybody else did", says Exene. "It wasn't like, 'God, that Doug Feiger, I swear that band's going to get signed one of these days, we'd better hurry up if we're going to compete with The Knack.' We didn't even know who they were.
"As far as our scene goes, we've been very successful, but I don't care. I was real happy when The Motels got signed even though I don't really know them."
"There was a time when we were trying to get any possible gig, that was the time that 20/20 and The Knack, The Great (LA) and others – we were just thinking like, here we are and basically dong this thing that's right and good and pretty neat and here are these other just wimpy horrible bands that we'd never hear of or nothing getting these deals. And we're thinking, 'oh man, I can't believe it!' But everything worked out. We've ended up better than any of those did by far."
X HAVE JUST taken a few weeks off playing, partly for a break, partly to work on songs for a third album. Other than their musical ventures, Exene is writing a book with Lydia Lunch and the whole band is working on an X film (not an X film but a documentary of sorts about the band).
We talked a bit about The Decline before I downed the last of my coffee and was at least gratified to learn that I wasn't the only one who found it disturbing; especially the local young punks.
Their parents' children every one of them, hating women, gays, blacks, old people, wearing the Indian chic of the hippies they beat up and the jock attitude of those they claim to despise.
"The great thing about the movie and those interviews with fans", says John, "is that it doesn't make any judgement, and it is disturbing because you can't say that person's wrong, you can't condemn the person just like that.
"It's like this unfinished question. It's like the younger audience that's now coming to clubs that's thrashing round on the floor and causing certain problems, it's this weird situation that you really can't come up with an answer for.
"Even people in the bands, like Black Flag or The Circle Jerks, they don't even know what the hell is going on. The audience doesn't even know what the hell is going on! If you get real heavy with them they go, 'oh fuck, I don't know. It's like A Clockwork Orange – which is the worst of two evils? You just have to demand different things from the audience, like let's not ruin your own enjoyment by having a club shut down or tearing out the toilets or whatever.
"It was like that when the Masque (the formative L.A. punk club) was open. People would come in and fuck up the place just for the sake of screwing something up. But it's what everybody does. You have a rough day at the office and you come home and yell at your wife. You should yell at your boss, not your wife."
"Did you read that letter in The Times?" Exene asks as I get up to go. I saw it.
"They said the problem with England isn't socioeconomic. It's punk rock. It's the Devil's music and a sin. Music is a sin and rock music is the biggest sin of all."
"Then we must be in a worse shape then they are", concludes Billy Zoom.
"Because we've had rock music longer!"
Sylvie Simmons, Sounds, 29th August 1981
Post by darkstar on Sept 8, 2005 15:17:24 GMT
Interview with Billy Zoom of X
So what did Ray Manzarek have to do with all this?
Ray was like artistic consultant.
Was he around?
Ray was around. Ray wasn't a producer. Ray was a nice guy though; I don't want to put Ray down. Ray had a lot of artistic input. He was good as far as getting a good performance out of John and Exene, or just making suggestions on how they should phrase a vocal or something like that. But this is the truth -- Ray honestly doesn't remember making any Doors records. You ask him about it and all he says is, "Hey man, there was so much fuckin' drugs around in those days, I don't know where I was half the time." That's all he says! Plus the fact that he's about half-deaf and couldn't hear what was going on.
Were you a Doors fan? Was this a big deal for you? Or no?
Me? I was not a Doors fan. John was. John and Exene were. You know what? I liked the band, but I couldn't stand Morrison. He sounded too much like a Vegas crooner. "COME ON BABY, LIGHT MY FIRE!" You know, that kinda thing. He didn't sing rock and roll. www.citizinemag.com/music/music-0505_billyzoom_x2.htm
Post by TheWallsScreamedPoetry on Jun 24, 2011 8:40:12 GMT
X: Beyond the Valley of the Doors
Hollywood Punk. Sounds about as real and desirable as cocktail-lounge muzak. If there's anything genuine or worthwhile in there it certainly isn't easy to find. Which is probably why X and the few bands like them in Los Angeles haven't been signed to the proverbial Big Record Deal like just about every other local band who rode in on the wave they helped start over here.
See, the bearded west coast A&Rmy is more used to dealing with these ageing cokespoons-on-legs out in Malibu crooning songs so sensitive that even the turntable arm lifts to cover its embarrassment at the latest ego to pop out of Linda Ronstadt's backing band, than it is to scouring the lamp-posts and empty walls around town for Letrasetted xeroxed flyposters barely visible from behind the wheel of a Merc.
So they signed nothing, and then to be on the safe side they signed everything, at least anything that was thin-tied and tame and looked pretty when it grimaced. Vegas-style Pistols-punk bands and the whole Mike Yarwood repertoire of Mersey-rockabilly-white reggae impersonators.
And the few bands like X, the ones who started the Hollywood scene three years ago, even though they had all the right ingredients – female front person (essential) Exene Cervenka, a tough James Dean type (desirable) bassist-vocalist John Doe, and two all-American boy-next-door characters (helps with mass acceptance) drummer D. J. Bonebrake and guitarist Billy Zoom – were left standing on the sidelines like the kids that neither side wants on their team in case some secret flaws would flare up like acne on the day of the big parade.
Exene: "We've been playing 2 1/2 years and in my opionion we're this really great band; and in England it seems like bands get together and play for about a month and get a recording contract, and then they come to America and they're real famous over here and they paint the Sunset Strip black and white for their arrival.
"I would just hope that people who don't know what it's like here would realise that a lot of the bands that were really great broke up because of being in a place like Los Angeles where there was just no encouragement and we had to create every club scene for ourselves. It's been really hard over here to try to get people to relate to the music. They fought it for a long time."
X GOT signed eventually – to Slash Records – and they've just released their first album, Los Angeles, produced by former Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek, who also donates some shrieking organ to the clean razor-edged sound.
The Doors connection is interesting, other than the fact that they were all fans of the group, in that Jim Morrison is the only person in rock I can think of whose lyrics have had this particular vision of Los Angeles.
No sun and surf and drive-ins, no kids selling maps to the stars homes in Bel Air and Beverley Hills on bright street corners, this leads you through the dark areas; buses, gutters, alleyways, tacky apartments, a map of the modern mental landscape. Songs about cruel love, cool lovers, violent sex, passion, sickness, gloom and dying. Lurid details straight out of pulp fiction, National Enquirier, Raymond Chandler, with a compelling and often traditionally-rooted rock sound and John and Exene's vocals moving in and out of each other almost sensually. Someone else called them the Slick-Balin of punk and you can see what they meant.
"He bought a sterilized hypo to shoot a sex machine drug He got 24 hours to shoot all Paulene's between the legs...L.A. bus door open kicking both doors open when it rested on 6th street That's when he drug a girl inside he was spreading her legs and didn't understand dying. She was still awake." ('Johnny Hit And Run Paulene')
We're in a two-bedroomed shoebox off the gay hustler section of Santa Monica Boulevard, the front room filled with religious relics of no particular denomination – cruxifixes, baby Jesuses, Hindu paintings and Billy Zoom's Club 88 best guitarist trophy. You walk straight in off the street that right now they're digging up and tearing down for no other reason than to make yet another homogenized section of town, according to Doe, who has these theories about a conspiracy to make the whole of the United States indentically boring.
("It's like the radio – there's no more FM radio. Once it had a very free format and now it's just the same as AM and it's a really strange thing to find ourselves in – and I'm sure the same goes for the Clash and everyone else who's becoming accepted by the radio stations and the record-buying public FM people's minds haven't really changed. It's not disrupting their status quo ideas about what a person can do and decide on their own. They haven't adopted anything different. It's just accepting. Everything's the same.")
The dusty unpaved road reminds you of Tijuana, tacky border town of Mexico, where John doe and Exene went at the Easter weekend to get married. They share the back room. Billy Zoom sleeps on the couch.
Don Bonebrake is the only true local, born and raised in North Hollywood. Billy came from Chicago, played four sets a night for $50 in rockabilly bands that broke up "because nobody wanted to hear it then." He said that when he heard the Ramones he knew he could do what he wanted and be able to reach people. He'd played guitar with Gene Vincent and Etta James when they came to town.
John came from Baltimore, South of New York, veteran of "a lot of bar bands." He came to L.A. to escape the east coast and to become a songwriter.
Both Billy and John put almost identical want ads in the Recycler (an all-purpose advertising rag) and got together. "Then I met Exene at a writing workshop." said John "and we started going out together and getting drunk. So I said, 'why don't you join the band?' and we stole Don from another band, The Eyes (it also included Charlotte of the Go Gos). I promised him a lifelong supply of Coca Cola, bubblegum and cigarettes, plus we had a better band."
Exene had come from Florida on the poetry circuit. "I was just writing when I came to California and didn't really have anything to do. I never really worried about what I was going to do with my life. I just kept doing things and having fun, and then I met John and we were both working on this poetry. This was my first band."
Pretty much figuring that they'd been outcasts living the punk myth before it had even reached the city of the Big Lights they started hanging around with the few hard-core musicians and poets who started out the L.A. punk scene about three years ago around the Masque Club.
Locally they now have a large and loyal following, and have managed to live off the music for the last eight months, ditching jobs like collecting shopping carts at the tourist shopping centre, Farmers Market, working as a waitress and in record stores, or John's job history, "working in an Adult bookstore and a straight bookstore and as a telephone salesman where you call people up in the midwest and convince them that you can sell them things for really cheap when they're really triple the price they can buy them in local stores – a real shyster job."
THE BAND met Ray Manzarek a couple of months before they were due to make their first album, before they signed with Slash. "He saw us at the Whisky and really loved us and called up our manager and said, 'get me that band! Just like the movies, yeah. It's really when I first got a band together at 15 or 16, if at that point I'd lied I'd have said, 'please recreate me as Jim Morrison,' Then I move to L.A. and who do I end up being closely associated with than a person I idolised when I was in my teens."
Originally they were going to make a demo tape with Manzarek and have him do the whole record company tour with it, using his influence, until they found out that it was almost as negligible as theirs and settled with Slash because they knew then and because it was the only offer they got.
"We had the opportunity to make a record and have a lot of control over it, plus we knew the people at Slash understood us and we could work with them. If we had a big money offer to sign to a major record company now I think we'd turn it down. I don't think they could market something that they couldn't understand."
Things worked well with Manzarek. "And the press was coming out saying, 'Ray Manzarek's really going to fuck up this record. He's going to stick a lot of keyboard on it and tell them what to do.' That just wasn't the case."
Exene: "It wasn't like, 'ooh thank you Ray, we'll be sending your cheque in the mail, 'bye' and walking away and punching the time clock on this person because you needed him to further your career."
Manzarek joined X in a powerful show at the Whisky where they premiered Los Angeles for their fans just before its release. It was a moving night, in many ways. Between shows, police arrived with the tragic news that Exene's sister Mirielle, star of the New York underground film Ecstatic Stigmatic, had died nearby in a car crash.
"I'd thought, God, what's going to happen when we get famous and we're going to make money and live in this nice place, and then what?" says Exene. "I'll never be able to write songs because I'm so happy. But no-one's ever going to be that happy. There's enough misery going on in life whether you're rich or poor or anything. Money comes in handy when you have to make funeral arrangements. Other than that I don't think it does much good when you're sad. My sister just died two months ago and if that doesn't make enough desperation and sadness in my life, then I don't know what does."
EXENE AND John write the songs together. Usually Exene comes up with a set of lyrics and John adds the music, "It's a sad thing that your creative spark comes from misery, but it's true", adds John. Exene doesn't find the religious relics tha litter the room particularly miserable. She says she's attracted by the ancientness of the symbols. "People will read this and if you say, 'ooh you've got crucifixes and baby Jesus over there – doesnt everybody? Everybody I know has as much or more.
"When I was real young I tried out every religion, but now I don't believe in it. I believe in being a good person just in case you have to carry things through after you die. You might realise after you die that you fucked up real bad because you didn't take responsibility for yourself."
"Our images and our music and our whole approach", says John, "has grown out of us living in basically an urban community surrounded by a lot of rich and oblivious people who live in this beach-sunlight-natural foods kind of thing. The people who think the whole of Los Angeles is like that should listen to a song by Woody Gutherie called 'Do Ray Me': They say California's a Garden of Eden/A Paradise for everyone to see/But believe it or not you won't find it so hot/If you don't have the Dough Ray Me!'"
'Nausea' (by X): "Today you're gonna be sick/so sick/You'll prop your forehead on the sink/say oh Christ oh Jesus/Christ my head's gonna crack like a bank."
Los Angeles: there is intelligent life out there.
28th June 1980