Forty years after releasing its debut album—and twenty-seven since releasing its last studio album —the iconic L.A. punk band X sounds positively ageless on Alphabetland. We spoke to drummer D.J. Bonebrake all about it.
MD: X had played with regularity over the years, but hadn’t made an album in a long while. How soon into the recording process did you realize, Yeah, this still works in the studio?
DJ: The second day of recording. The first day, we got sounds and recorded four old songs. On the second day we tackled a new song that required arranging. When that worked, I knew we had something, I knew we could make a good-sounding record of new material. It was a continuation of the old X.
MD: This sounds very representative of what X feels like live, maybe more so than any other record in the catalog. Do you have a limit on the number of takes you’ll do in one sitting to capture that energy?
DJ: Usually three, maybe four takes. It’s not a physical thing, it’s about capturing a feeling of spontaneity. You don’t get that by playing a song over and over.
MD: How has your playing evolved over the years in a studio setting?
DJ: I don’t play as hard now. I’m better at playing with a click track, although X never uses one. I’m less stubborn about changing drum parts that aren’t working. I don’t get nervous when the red light goes on. I’m better at getting into a state of mind during recording that’s focused but relaxed. I’m quicker at getting out of that state of mind that’s focused but relaxed after eating three chocolate bars and drinking four cups of coffee!
MD: You’ve put together the Bonebrake Syncopators and Orchestra Superstring, playing vibes in jazz and Latin-jazz settings. You’ve also played timpani with the Palisades symphony. Has your work in those projects informed what you bring to X, and vice versa?
DJ: It’s a spiritual reciprocity—not so much a technical exchange, but an emotional, spiritual exchange between the different types of music.
MD: Taking into account that we’re dealing with something of great global consequence, where’s your head at with putting out the first X record since 1993—a really good, vibrant one at that—and not being able to go out and tour behind it, at least in a timely manner?
DJ: I’m glad we released the album right away instead of waiting a year. Originally its release was scheduled for August to coincide with a tour, then we postponed until next year, and finally we just said, “Let’s just release it now!” At first I was worried that it might be insensitive to release it during a pandemic, but the response from fans has been nothing but positive. My state of mind during the pandemic is to try to go on as best I can. I try to practice drums every day so I’ll be ready when we can tour again.
Interview by Patrick Berkery
Photo by Scott Mitchell