Ian Rilen quit Rose Tattoo in 1977 to start X. A move like that takes gigantic cojones. It also makes whatever band Ian might have started (in this case X) harder than pretty much every other band in Australia.
After 33 years X are finally making it to America in support of a long-overdue reissue of their seminal X-Aspirations album by Rock'n'Roll Blitzkrieg. They started a west coast tour this week alongside the A-Frames including a stop at Austin's Chaos In Tejas fest. Here's what frontman Steve Lucas had to say.
Vice: Has X ever toured America before?
Steve: No, not ever! We came pretty close sometimes but would usually end up shooting ourselves in the foot. The closest we got was in the late 90s. That time we internally combusted. Nobody trusted us so we trusted nobody! And besides, I didn't want to do what so many other bands did way back then. You know, you leave the country with your balls sucked up into your body, do a half arsed tour and then come back home as a conquering hero. I wanted to earn that kind of respect in my own back yard, so to speak. I wasn't about to, and Ian wasn't about to claim validation by clinging to some other bastard's coat tales. I wanted a strong home to come back to. Not just a bunch of brown-tongued sycophants who hated you in private but would be the first to knife you in the back while congratulating you for "doing so well over there."
The liner notes elude to some career suicide moves when X was on the brink of a major label deal, but they offer no details…
The day we signed the contract to Mushroom they took us out for a magnificent lunch. Everybody loved everybody. I left soon after that and Ian and Cathy went out with some of Mushroom's lackeys to a cocktail party. Well, to cut it short, Ian and Cathy wanted to see the new video clip for "Dream Baby." They went back to the Mushroom boardroom and demanded that they see it then and there. I went back to my then pregnant wife. When no one could find the video the pair went ape shit. They turned over the boardroom table, accused people of molestation, and started fucking with all the gold records on the walls. We were booted off the label the day after we signed. And a good thing too in my opinion, I never wanted to play "industry" anyway.
So the negotiations for the new reissues with Rock'n'Roll Blitzkrieg went better?
Yes. Someone asked nicely and we said yes. Well, I said yes, Ian just grumbled "is there money in it?" and I told him there was. We signed the lease and that was that. Very civilized and simple.
X-Asperations is a pretty sparse sounding album, especially compared to other punk rock from the same era—there is a lot of space in the songs so to speak. Does Australia's relative remove from other parts of the world factor into that at all?
The "space" in X came about because I found it difficult to sing and play at the same time. The "holes" were the bits I got to sing in. It stayed pretty much like that, though I have become a little more adventurous as the years went slipping by. You know how it goes, "necessity is the mother of invention." It just so happened I was a rather lazy inventor.
Has there ever been any sort of problems from the American X? Like for instance, if Australia's X and LA's X were to meet in an alley who would come out victorious?
I've always wanted to know two things, and to be frank, that wasn't one of them. I want to know when the LA X did their first gig, and why they declined the offer, made by myself, to a battle of the X's. As far as winning, who knows. But they have avoided playing with us, so I think they may be a little intimidated.