- - Wednesday, August 10, 2016

In the pantheon of punk rock ,there are four very distinctive pillars: From New York it was The Ramones; London gave us The Sex Pistols and The Clash; and in Los Angeles it was X, the ragged punk quartet comprised of John Doe, Exene Cervenka, Billy Zoom and DJ Bonebrake.

X played hard and fast songs of desperation and destiny. And they have continued on almost nonstop since the late 1970s, with only one break between 1988 and 1993. They reunited after the hiatus and rocked on until last year, when a cancer scare sidelined guitarist Mr. Zoom and almost silenced the band for good.

Now on the mend, Mr. Zoom & Co. have resumed touring. One of their first shows will be at the State Theatre in Falls Church, Virginia, Friday. Miss Cervenka spoke about their long run, Mr. Zoom’s health and the possibility of a long-overdue new X studio album.

Question: How is Billy Zoom’s health these days?

Answer: Pretty good. I think Billy is pretty amazing. He’s been through double cancer now. He did great, had a really good prognosis. And we’re going back out on the road, and it should be great.

Q: When you heard about his diagnosis, did you think that was it for X?

A: Of course not! I’m not a doctor. He already survived cancer once.

When people get cancer now, the first thing you do is you go to some doctors to get some advice, figure out what to do. Then you set up a treatment plan. People live through cancer now. A lot. People live a long long life after a cancer diagnosis.

Not that it’s not scary. I was very concerned for him. Very sad and worried. But when he got his prognosis, it looked really good. We just keep our fingers crossed.

The other thing is, at this point in our lives, the people I know have done so many stupid things. And they’re still alive. Just being alive at this point is kind of icing on the cake.

Q: What is the bond you guys have that keep the four of you together after all these years?

A: The fact that we are still alive and still playing together is amazing. You don’t want to let go of that. It’s too good to be true. I think we are older and wiser and get along better in some ways. I guess our personalities always worked well together.

There are always fights in a band. People get together for these reunion shows after 20 years, and they play a couple shows and break up again. What the heck? You haven’t learned anything? We have been playing shows again since the mid-‘90s.

Q: Do you still enjoy playing the live shows?

A: I do. I’ve always loved playing live shows. I love traveling, seeing the country.

I wish it was more like the way it was when we started out. And there is nothing right now we can do about that. I’ve made a lot of lifelong friends on the road at shows. It’s so neat to see that so many of our fans have become friends. There are these nice little groups of “X People” everywhere.

Q: What is the one thing you need on the road to keep you sane?

A: Vitamins. Water. Maybe a couple of books. Some makeup. That’s about it. I don’t take much. I usually only bring a backpack. If you’re going for three weeks, you pack for five days. You just do laundry or whatever. I travel very light.

Q: Many of the songs you have played for decades. Have their meanings changed over the years?

A: Some of them have changed. They become more prescient.

Like the song “New World” I think is more true than ever. The lyrics are about having a president named “What’s His Name” and things being terrible. People not knowing who is president. It’s similar to what’s going on now where people really just aren’t as informed as they could be about what’s really going on. That’s more relevant.

There are some songs I like playing more than others. There are a few that are harder for me to do, although some are more fun. Everybody wants to have fun, right? But sometimes the slower, sadder songs like “Unheard Music” can be so intense. Depending on what the people that are there are feeling, it can be powerful and moving.

Q: What songs will you be playing when X hits Falls Church?

A: We change the setlist every night. We did a tour where we played all the songs from the first four records. Any of those songs could be in the set. We are doing songs on this trip that we haven’t done in many years. I don’t want to say too many because I don’t want to spoil it. But we’re doing “Bad Dog.”

Q: Do you ever think X will make a new studio album?

A: I really wanted to. I have fought for it, but I think I’m coming around to the idea that it’s probably not going to happen. These days there is really no point, because everything is streaming. No one buys records. No one buys CDs. Once it’s streaming, that’s where people get it. Or they download it. And you can’t really make much.

Think about it. iTunes just pays a percentage. Streaming, you don’t get paid, or you get paid pennies. People tell me, “Oh, I heard you on Pandora.” I say, “Fantastic. Hope you enjoyed it. I won’t get paid for that, but have a nice time.” Record companies get paid for that. Kind of like MTV, where nobody ever got paid royalties for videos. It was a “promotional tool.”

Artists have been getting ripped off since the beginning of time, probably. But on the other hand, it might be nice to write songs. We certainly could.

The Re-Zoomed Tour, featuring X and Dead Rock West, comes to The State Theatre in Falls Church, Virginia, Friday. Tickets are $35 by going to TicketAlternative.com.

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