FROM X TO ETERNITY
The band X from Sydney Australia are renowned as one of the most notorious bands of it’s time is etched in rock n roll history as the leader of the punk rock movement created in 1977. The band formed with Ian Rilen on bass, Steve Lucas on vocals Ian Krahe on guitar and Steve Cafiero on drums. The band was raw and energetic forging an intense and chaotic sound that lead the way for not only bands down under but worldwide.
Over 40 years later Steve Lucas remains the last man standing as all members from the original lineup have passed, and to this day, Lucas still rocks from the depth of his heart and soul and both run deep to the foundation of rock n roll. Lucas is alive and rocking with a new release and new music for his fans and the world to behold and experience with “Cross That Line” on Aztec Music. The solo work from Lucas displays his roots of blues and jazz soulful heartfelt content that departs from his music from past bands.
“I am a survivor. I am stubborn. I ‘ve been called an elderly Statesman of rock, a Living Legend and ‘the guy that never sold out’…The sentimental punk was another favorite. Just what any of it means to the casual reader, I can’t say. I’ll be 65 years old this September and most people thought I’d be dead by the time I was 21, yeah, definitely a survivor.”
In addition, Lucas is a firm believer in Independent music. He was also an ambassador for ChildWise, a charity to fight against child sex abuse and exploitation.
For Lucas there is a special feeling to have survived and continue as well as carry the torch for the legacy of the band and to enlighten the world. “It can be a lonely state of mind if I dwell on it. Deep down, I miss the guys like they left just yesterday but it keeps the connection alive in me. We were a passionate bunch. X was the first band I was in and in that regard it is like your first love, you never totally get over it. I loved those guys deeply.” “As for the motivation, I feel a very real responsibility to keep the music we made alive and relevant. In some ways its liberating because what we did was so definitely us, that I don’t need it to define me. I was only one part of the equation. I am free of the need to match our collective achievements. To be blunt, I don’t have to flog the dead horse. I am free. I have a responsibility in regard to the legacy of X but have no desire to exploit X.”
Lucas still has been doing X gigs on occasion using various players to play with. “I tend to go through a lot of players because it is just not the same. It never can be. Even so, certain people will bring out different aspects of some of the songs and for awhile at least, that can be fun. Kim Volkman is the best man for bass these days. He gets it–but we aren’t close. We have to much shared history with Rilen and it can be awkward at times. Instead of bringing us closer it is more divisive. I did do a lot of gigs with Cathy Green and Kim after Ian Rilen died. Not right away…There was a period of mourning and I did a few shows billed as a Night of X Music. I was never Pretender To the Crown. Playing with Cathy and Kim was the closest thing to X post Aspirations and At Home With You.” “Currently, if I get the itch for a bit of X, I have been using Kim, Georr Holmes and John Butler–but I think Kim has reached his limit and wants to be more than an Ian Rilen clone–who could blame him? Time will tell I guess.”
“I have to believe that I survived for a reason over luck. It doesn’t mean I know or understand the reason, but close and long term friends suggest that I was the only one of us that would properly maintain the ‘legacy’ of the band. It depends if you believe in fate or destiny is another consideration. Corny and as cliché as it sounds, that is just about as good a reason as any. I am here because I have a duty to fulfill.”
Lucas has not only suffered through the agony of losing his band mates but was also faced with a great physical pain that occurred in 2009 when Steve endured a ruptured disc and the fluids entered his spinal column causing incredible pain. “The physical pain from spinal trauma is one thing, the other is the emotional pain of being the last man standing. Both were and are difficult at times. I believe as John Lennon so aptly put it “No-one beside you can feel your own pain.” The pain of being all what is left of the original X is a very real emotional one. The very first X fans would understand to a degree, I think. I speak to some of them now and then and their loss or grief sounds a lot like mine. Personal friends that new us all might have an idea of how it feels. I’ll put it this way, since X, I’ve only co-written 3 or 4 songs with anyone else (with the exception of Joey) we are always contributing to each others projects, songs, etc.) It just doesn’t feel the same. I have no wish to replace them. the songs that came out of the rehearsals we called X music. It was very much a group effort. Sometime it would be me and Ian Krahe because we were very close. We went to school together. Discovered girl friends together, all that rights of passage stuff. Sometimes it would be me and Rilen, more so after Ian Krahe died. There were some we wrote as individuals, and some as the three of us. But it was X music. There are songs we wrote as X that were never recorded but I can’t bring myself to grab a lineup and do them and call it X. I don’t see the point if I can’t call it X. It’s rather problematic, but I still here them in my heart.”
The physical pain also runs deep as anything affecting the spinal chord has serious implications. “As for the physical pain, the spinal trauma I endured was off the scale. I had the best meds going! Over the years I have come a long, long way and manage it quite well. The drugs I was legally given were a dream come true, but unfortunately, I was living in a nightmare. I was bombed with opioids and codeine. I was taking pure morphine tabs along with Oxycontin, Oxycodon, Panadine Fortes (Paracetamool/Codeine) MS contin-all at once, all manner of anti-inflammatories. I ate them like M&Ms. The number I took twice daily, plus extras for breakthrough pain, and the incredibly high dosage of those products would have and should have killed me. My doctor once joked that the only thing that kept me alive was the pain. That is how intense it was. As much as I wanted, I couldn’t enjoy them, I could merely be grateful they existed. The fact I didn’t get addicted to them is beyond me.”
X was a groundbreaking band in its day and Lucas reflected on the thing that put X on a different level in the music world. “X was different in many ways. the short explanation–chemistry. Ours was unique into itself. We were staunchly independent and basically we just didn’t want to sound like anyone else. That is a separation right there. We went out of our way to be a stand-alone unit. Rilen and Caferio had ten years on me and Ian Krahe. They’d been playing bands long before they met Krahe and me. Their experience and our naivety was pretty unique. They had known commercial successes, but Ian Krahe hadn’t had any real experience at all. In the beginning a lot of the ‘attitude’ cam from us two. We were so cocksure and blissfully ignorant…Full of piss and vinegar. We had nothing so we had nothing to lose. It didn’t take long for Rilen to adapt to our ways. Caferio was different in that regard. He was extremely professional-he only did X because he genuinely love the music. He loved with all his heart. We frustrated the poor guy so much. Our hand painted posters over the unemployment pages of our local newspapers certainly set us aside from everybody else. There are probably a dozen little things I am missing. We rejected and fought with booking agents and their ilk. We were very Do It Yourself. Unrepentantly so. Also, we didn’t tend to really hang out with other bands much. There were exceptions but we tended to keep to ourselves.”
“At one time X was banned from 32 venues in Sydney. The punters, fired by newspapers headlines creaming out of the English press and into ours described scenes of carnage and rebellion with Punk Music being the voice and sound of the day. Suddenly a new wave of punk ‘fans’ broke into the scene. They’d throw chairs through windows and rip out toilets then smash them to pieces. They were like a plague of locusts and somehow hive mind wise attached themselves to X. There were brawls and near riots…during one of those brawls someone stabbed someone in the eye with a pool cue and killed them. It had nothing to do with the music. X became an excuse for anarchy. We were forced to break up because of the violence and lack of access to venues. When things calmed down we started hiring Town Halls and doing our own gigs. They were very successful so bookers and agencies started sniffing around and we worked our way back into the so-called circuit. somehow, whenever an overseas band came to Sydney, we got the main supports. The Stranglers, Nick Lowe, XTC…Top 40 punk/new wave stuff. Later on we were doing supports for the Damned, Iggy Pop, the Cramps, etc. It was weird.”
“The thing that really made X different was the melodies of the songs. Sure the powerful down strike and kind of lead bass, was different. The minimal guitar approach was different and the drumming of Steve Cafiero was so precise… It was, a killer rhythm section that could punch or swing or do both. But the melodies a simple catchphrase chorus’ were the thing. Ian Krahe’s riff based guitar would have become trademark quality if he’d survived. It was too complex for me to play and sing.”
His latest release Cross That Line turns to a solid blues epic that draws down from over 40 years of music. “Cross That Line” is solid heart felt blues as Lucas unleashes an intense song about taking on challenges head on without turning back. Have guitar will play, there is no stopping him! “The Bomp a Bomp Song” follows up intensely with a bluesy funk stomp and great harp mixed in. “Dare to be Different” is pure gut wrenching blues featuring awesome horns added to top off the sound with a crescendo. “Joshua Tree” closes out the EP with a feel good duet with Lucas and Joey featuring some great foot stomping acoustic guitars. All in all a great collection of music with excellent production and sound. “Recently I recorded a blues album. In my mind I imagined it was going down the same way as X-Aspirations, bang, bang, bang. One track after another. I wanted it to be pure, but then Covid hit and the whole thing became a lot more complicated. It gave me time to reconsider though. I managed to get the rhythm tracks for six of the songs down in a studio over in Brunswick. Double bass, brushes, piano and a resonator guitar. Three tracks of each song, the third being the one was the take every time. A simple, traditional combo. Blues with jazz overtones. My engineer, Levei Dowsett and I managed to (ahem) work around all the restrictions and curfews put in place by the government and engineered and produced the final mixes. It was intense but probably the best thing for anyone to do under those circumstances. Now I have to play and sell the album ,CROSS THAT LINE and hopefully enter a new phase of my life. It will be steamed, naturally, with digital distribution by Laneway Music, released on 12” vinyl by me on my SLXPRESS label and, AZTEC MUSIC are doing a run of CDs with a beautiful color booklet about the whole thing. On “Dare to be Different”, Lucas added, “During a break between that marathon lockdown I managed to get the guys from The Horns of Leroy over to my place. I’d got to know a couple of the guys through Jack Howard’s Epic Brass band. What they gave e blew me away. Trumpet, trombone and sax. Suddenly there’s a New Orleans jazz or Dixie vibe. I was really swinging and e an a bit funk crept into a track here and there, it just developed a life of its own, the session I mean.” What else? I’ve been recording custom lead solos in a few bands. I tend to be melody based and simple-no shredding. Some people still like it that way); I am gigging regularly with my other two current bands, The Heinous Hounds and The Rising Tide. Doll squad has started recording new material so I have my producer and on for the m. I am busy. Joey has a huge side project going on….I am helping out a lot with that.”
Lucas met his wife Joey Bedlam in Australia who herself is the front woman of the all female garage band Doll Squad. Joey said, “We came together through music because I found out about X and Steve Lucas later than most people in life. I was a mod so punk and rock was not a style I really delved into. When I found out about Steve Lucas and X was about the time that Kim Fowley was courting Doll Squad with a view to producing a record for us and having us featured in his movie Doll Boy. We had a lot of detailed talks on that collaboration but in the end I just decided that instead of getting a ‘designer brand’ producer for an Aussie band like us, I was better off getting a tried and tested Aussie rock n roller to be our producer. But I wanted someone that was not a sell out….someone who clearly had the chops )whether or not ‘the firm’ recognized it or acknowledged it). Steve fit the bill perfectly. And, that way the band’s style roots and sound would remain unadulterated by ‘Americanism’. Kim was so renowned and ‘with it’ back in the day but was probably a little past it by the early 2000’s. I admire Kim’s work very much but from the talks we had I just didn’t think his management style and production would be suited to us. Steve came across as forthright and straightforward. Lucky for me Steve agreed to produce that album and did a fantastic job. Eventually we started dating after that and I realized what a really strong union and partnership we made because we were so similar where it counted but each had strengths the other lacked so we were really made to support each other. My music has changed a lot since we met in that I have watched Steve play live and record for so long now that I have taken a lot from him in the way of influences and good musical habits. Especially around listening and turning my ear and also techniques around singing and musical arrangement. He helps me constantly as a sounding board, technical and musical advisor, music producer and role model and even a collaborator and definitely as a muse. Steve has saved Doll Squad on more than one occasion in multiple senses of that world and sometimes I still stop and think what a fortune it was for me to meet him and ow lucky I am to have him in my life because we get on so well and are so supportive of each other. I mean when you look at the shit storm with Amber Heard and Johnny Depp you really understand the truth that money does not buy happiness…in fact it is counter intuitive…often it buys a massive pain in the arse. I guess God or fate gives you one other or the other…rarely both. I am happy with the hand I got dealt.”
Lucas said Joey has changed his life as well. “For my part, musically it changed my life in a big way. It is no small thing to have someone that loves you and believes in you. Even just asking me to produce Lethal In Leather was a big deal for me. She was the first person to ever ask. Joey is a great one for networking. The people and music she has introduced to me have definitely changed the way I was seen and the way I see myself. We don’t do everything together, but are always interested in what each of us are involved with. Sometimes it crosses over but we respect one another as individuals as well as being partners–we don’t interfere with one another unless we are asked to…we are not ‘joined at the hip’ which I think is very healthy. It’s one of those rare relationships when there is no dominate partner. We appreciate one another’s music and abilities and we are always there for each other if needed. To have the trust and faith, given unconditionally is a very heady and healthy thing. It gives you confidence to be more than the person you might see yourself as being. How can that not influence your music? It influences everything!”
“Once upon a time I was an angry young man. I spat my vitriol and made my statements with X in the early days. I happily told the whole world to fuck off. And as far as the world goes, nothing much really changed so I don’t really, I don’t really have much more to add as far as politics go. It’s all there on X-Aspirations and At Home with You etc. My muse these days is my wife, Joey. I write for her because she does fire my imagination. She has led a very different life to me. Stories of fleeing with her family from Bulgaria in the early 70’s are inspirational. The differences in our life experiences is almost the glue that holds together. That matters hugely to me and I never tire of exploring those differences. They are very complimentary. I still make social observations in songs, but I’m not one to shove a message down your throat anymore. I like people try to get people to think for themselves. I want them to interpret, to digest, not just swallow and follow.”
Be sure to tune and and inhale Cross That Line and soak it in. It is a great collection of Blues and perhaps no one knows it better, understands it better than Steve Lucas. His solo music is outstanding and worth your listen just as well as reliving the great music of X! Through the ages of music history and the legendary performances Lucas is a name to remember and for new fans a name to discover!
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