When X revealed in July that guitarist Billy Zoom has been diagnosed with bladder cancer, the legendary punk band insisted that the shows, including the group’s performance Saturday at the Hopscotch Festival in Raleigh, will go on.
“It’s very hard,” vocalist Exene Cervenka says while calling from her Los Angeles home. “I had a difficult time getting over this. We’ll miss Billy, but we have to tour. The venues are booked. Billy also needs the money. If we don’t tour, he doesn’t get any money. So we’ll go out and do our punk rock thing. We’ll go out and play ‘We’re Desperate’ and ‘Los Angeles’ for us and for Billy. I just hope the fans aren’t too disappointed that Billy won’t be with us. He’s going to be at home for a while.”
This is Zoom’s second cancer scare. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer five years ago and survived.
In fact, X, which formed in Los Angeles in 1977, is a band meant to survive. It survived the 1985 divorce of Cervenka and vocalist-bassist John Doe, who continue to sing together; and it survived another Zoom break, back in the ’80s, when he was replaced by Dave Alvin and Tony Gilkyson. The band also includes drummer DJ Bonebrake.
“I think a lot of that is due to how well we get along,” Cervenka says. “Sure, we have our disagreements. It’ll be like, ‘Well, I don’t want to play that song.’ And somebody will say, ‘But the rest of us want to play it.’”
Such X classics as “The Once Over Twice,” “More Fun in the New World” and “White Girl” remain relevant.
“I think that’s because we wrote songs about true things,” Cervenka explained. “We still move people.”
The aforementioned “White Girl” really stands out in today’s politically correct society. “That song couldn’t have been written and recorded today,” Cervenka said. “The word ‘white’ is in the song, not to mention the title. They would burn down your house if you wrote that today.”
Just don’t expect X to craft any new songs anytime soon. “There’s just not a market for records today,” Cervenka said “Music is for free. Even the big bands aren’t selling albums. They tour more now. We’re touring. We have our songs. We’re fine.”
Fine except that Zoom is undergoing treatment.
“We’re on a mission,” Cervenka says. “We want to go out there and make some fans happy and make some money for Billy. It’s all about him right now.”
What: X, opening for Dwight Yoakam at Hopscotch Music Festival
When: 7:15 p.m Saturday
Where: City Plaza, 400 Fayetteville St., Raleigh
Cost: $165 for 3-day wristband to access all shows