Original X Guitarist Billy Zoom Back In The Fold

At 50 and fixing amplifiers, Billy Zoom says he's ready to reunite with pioneering punk-rockers.

In one of the more complete disappearing acts in modern-rock history,

former X guitarist Billy Zoom stepped off the stage after a Nov. 1, 1985,

show at L.A.'s Universal Amphitheater and never turned back.

Zoom, the 50-year-old guitarist who basically invented the punk-rockabilly

sound of the pioneering L.A. band and who has been, for all intents and

purposes, incommunicado for the past 14 years, has decided to end his long

silence and join his former mates for a pair of reunion dates in L.A. and

San Francisco in February. (See Jan. 29 Music News story)

The question is -- after all this time and all the silence -- why?

"It's been a while," Zoom explained over the phone from his Orange County,

Calif., home on Friday in what passes for a thorough explanation in his

cloistered world.

"Re-Zooming" is the clever name Zoom has coined for his

unlikely reunion with singer Exene Cervenka, bassist John Doe and drummer

DJ Bonebrake. The name doesn't appear to be an homage to the Jane's

Addiction much-heralded "Relapse" tour last fall, though, since Zoom said

he doesn't even know what that was.

Claiming he's been busy in the intervening 13 years doing custom repair

work on amplifiers in an Orange County shop and laying down some session

work, Zoom said he also recently recorded some X covers with a pair of

local bands -- the Bleeders and Four -- for an X tribute album. Oh, and

when he has some time, he plays with his church, he said, so deadpan that

it had to be a joke. "I've only played guitar in church," said Zoom, whose

sweeping blond duck-tail haircut and press-shy silence contributed to his

outsider mystique. "Haven't you been to church lately? They all have bands


The guitarist, who said he didn't leave the band because he was angry, but

rather because he just wasn't having fun anymore, said the four successful

rehearsals the band has had so far have made the shift back into the X fold

that much easier.

"Listen, these guys have no intention of kissing and

making up and doing another album," added Mike Rouse, the road manager for

the two gigs and Zoom's business manager. "It wouldn't do anything for

their legacy."

Rouse, who has sat in during the rehearsals, said the four members are

probably getting along better now than they have since 1980. "There was

this big, heavy feeling in practice until they started playing," Rouse

said. "But everyone is older and wiser and the substance [abuse] problems

that were there aren't anymore, their egos are in check. I feel honored to

be the only guy who has heard them for 12 years."

Within the first hour of

the first rehearsal, the group had fallen right back into their prime,

rockabilly punk-rock sound, Rouse said. "The magic was definitely there


Echoing what singer Cervenka said earlier in the week, Zoom explained that

the group's Dec. 13 signing of its two-CD anthology, Beyond and

Back, at an L.A. Tower Records -- which drew over 700 X fans -- was a

catalyst for the gigs. "That appearance started the wheels turning. It just

seems like a lot of people wanted to see us together again," Zoom said,

adding that it was the first time the four had been in the same room

together outside of their lawyers' offices in more than a decade.

Ironically, though, Zoom said he never really missed playing in the band.

"I don't sit around listening to X records," he said. "I never listened to

our records again after we mixed them. What's the point? It's like a movie

you've seen. You already know how it's going to end." In fact, he said he's

never even heard the work that the men who replaced him -- ex-Blasters

leader Dave Alvin and former Lone Justice guitarist Tony Gilkyson -- did

with X.

But things are different now with X, Zoom said. "They've grown up a lot,"

Zoom said of his bandmates. "And we're not going out on tour for eight

months, living in a tour bus for little or no money, thinking it will help

sell records."

And what of Cervenka's assessment that watching Zoom work is akin to

witnessing a master such as classical violinist Isaac Stern?

"I've never heard Isaac Stern play guitar," Zoom said.

Color="#720418">[Mon., Feb. 2, 1998, 9 a.m. PST]