In 1977, acceptance of the L.A. punk movement was
quick—I would say maybe six to ten months—because it was in the air. Everybody
was ready for something new. They were tired of Peter Frampton and
stuff like that. It was just time. So everybody in punk rock drew a line and
said, “This is now, that was then. Let’s move forward.” That was liberating.
The scene was extremely cooperative, because everybody had to pull
together to keep this very tenuous sort of wobbly, shaky thing moving. Brendan
Mullen [founder of The Masque punk club] gets a lot of credit for putting
on gigs and keeping the community going. Everybody worked together,
and, at the same time, nobody wanted to sound like each other, so the style
of the groups was all over the place. I don’t think it was until the early ’90s
that punk was codified into “This is what punk rock sounds like.”
Exene [X vocalist] hadn’t sung in a bunch of bands before X, so she just
sang what she heard. She didn’t know any “prescribed” harmonies—which
is why she’d sing in fourths or seconds and do all these dissonant drones.
We’d also make up song structures in threes, rather than fours, or put a measure
of 2/4 between a bunch of 4/4 measures. We were just being contrary,
I guess, and Billy [Zoom, X guitarist] was always complaining about that.
He taught Exene and me about rockabilly, and he’d tell us, “Don’t do that,
because people in 1962 wouldn’t do that.” He put limits on things—made
us have boundaries—which was good, because I believe that you can’t play
all kinds of styles and still have people know what kind of band you are.
Last year, X celebrated its 35th anniversary, and the band is still touring
today. And in all those years, there has never been any doubt about the “X
sound.” —Michael Molenda