The magic all started in the California punk scene… X formed in ’77. Few bands from that era have been able to evolve into the 21st Century while maintaining that ever-glorious thrashing PUNK sound. X harbors the unique ability to keep it new and invigorating.
Forceful and authentic to their sound, the four original X members just released a new album, Alphabetland.
The album comes as a rather pleasant surprise at a time when live concerts are but dreamlike memories relived from the insides our homes. Exene Cervenka, John Doe, Billy Zoom, and DJ Bonebrakedeliver once again an 11-track album full of raw intense energy and exciting chemistry.
In this exclusive interview with Jerk Of All Trades, the female rock deity herself, X‘s lead vocalist Exene Cervenka takes us through the new album, her spoken word, and how she’s survived the virtues and vices, from the 1980s to the chaos of today.
You know I wanted to make a record for a long time. I had been working on songs and I started sending them to John the last year and a half ago mainly and singing the melody. He would take it and work on it. If you believed in fate or magic, that’s what this record is. Everything I wanted to happen was happening.
What was your favorite part of the developmental process of the album?
My favorite part was listening to John’s bass lines, he was playing this really groove-oriented 60’s, 70’s fundamental traditional but interesting bass lines. I was just in love with what he was doing and I was so happy cause I knew once that bass track was right the rest of the songs would be great. We worked on it pretty hard and we did it pretty fast.
What’s the difference between Alphabetland and your other releases?
I think the difference between this record and the early record is that we never got to play these songs live before we recorded them, so they’re all without input. Usually, you play a song live for a year or two and then you record it, so by then you’ve perfected it. You’ve seen what people react to. You’ve come up with a vocal part that’s different from the way you first wrote it. So after two years of playing a song live its a completely different song than it would have been if you rehearsed it and then recorded it, but we didn’t have the luxury of doing that, unfortunately. We didn’t have that luxury of playing them over and over with people, pretty strange.
All The Time In The World
I wanted to point something out on the very last track, which is a spoken-word track, that’s Billy Zoom playing piano, and Robbie Krieger from The Doors playing slide guitar. It’s in the notes when you buy the record online, so I wanted to make sure people know that cause nobody seems to be talking about that.
That’s my favorite song. I love it cause that’s how I remember you when I first saw you, you were doing spoken word with Lydia Lunch reading poetry. Please tell me more about it, I want to know all about track 11.
Well, I started writing that in February mainly, well, some of that I wrote many years ago. “All the time in the world turns out not to be that much,” is an older line. I built that other part around it over some time. At the very tail end of what we were recording, I recorded it. I thought it was timely of what was going on and had branched where I was years ago, to where and I am now. It was kind of like a lifelong poem coming to a conclusion. I didn’t intend for it to be on the album, I just wanted to get it down and I thought if we put out a single someday it could be a B-side, ya know? I didn’t understand what the future would be or not be; I just wanted to record it in case we ever needed it.
As I recorded it, Billy started playing the piano, and then after that Robbie came down and played on it.
Every song is so different, it has the classic X signature without every song sounding the same. I love it! Thank you for sending me that by the way.
You’re welcome. Those guys can play every kind of music. We have all these different elements, and we’ve always thrown them in there, sometimes clumsily and sometimes brilliantly I would say but, it seems like this time it all came together pretty good. It was supposed to come out in August or September, we should be touring now, and since we can’t tour anymore, and who knows what August will bring, we just kind of figured we’re all in here right now, and all we’ve got is today. That’s all I’ve got, that’s all X fans have, that’s all anybody has so let’s just put this record out and share it with people right now.
Speaking of staying at home, what types of activities have you been doing to stay busy?
Walking Dottie early in the morning, and a lot of gardening. A lot of digging up, chopping, weeding, and pruning. The rains made it so nice. I kind of putter around, I go back and forth between playing Words With Friends and Solitare to gardening, and to cleaning the house. I don’t want my mind to go into profound places, I just want to keep it nice and easy.
I don’t enjoy myself and I don’t relax. I’m trying to stay in the moment. Some days it’s hard. If we can just stay right in the present moment, and if we can just stay in that frame of mind and not leap too far ahead, we’re alright. That’s the trick though, and it’s very hard sometimes. We’ve had this great rainy season so everything is blooming, there are people riding bikes, kids playing, and hardly any cars. There’s chirping birds and no pollution. It’s just perfect: the ideal version and the nicest it’s ever been right now. We’ll see what happens. It doesn’t hurt to be positive. Maybe we can influence the future by being positive to a certain outcome.
Even with the good and bad of our ever-changing global realities, Xhas provided us an avenue to venture to a place where we can again hear and feel the sounds of a Punk rock Shangri-la. May we count our blessings as the universe reminds us to cherish the little things in life, like great music! Alphabetland is available now on Fat Possum Records.