Formed in LA in 1973, Zolar X made a name for themselves by playing pulsating rock that both forecasted punk as well as saluted glam… and also by claiming they were from outer space. If you went to see the Stooges in their garage greatness during the proto-punk era, you might first be confronted by three orange aliens in slick spacesuits who resembled a cross between the Vulcans and the Flintstones' Great Gazoo.
While lots of bands had stage presence at that time, Zolar X took it to a whole other level by staying in character (and uniform) when going to the laundry mat, local bars, and even the supermarket and speaking to each other in their strange language, leaving a wake of bewilderment, shock and confusion.
Although they fell into obscurity at the end of the 70's, punk icon Jello Biafra took a personal interest in the band and re-issued their legendary recording Timeless in 2004 on Alternative Tentacles. Since then, a retooled version of the band has been touring, alien antennae in tact. Because Zolar X has special show in San Francisco on the horizon, staff interviewer John Gentile fired up his intergalactic-communication device and contacted Ygarr Yggarrist, the band's mastermind, to get the transcript on their latest adventures.
Some bands, like GWAR, rarely acknowledge that there are people under the masks, while other bands, like Kiss, make no pretense about their theatrics. Is Zolar X really a bunch of aliens?
Well, Zolar X is definitely from outer space on the cerebral issues of life. My mind is definitely out there in spaceâ¦ Zolar X is really a band from outer space- the planet Earth is in outer space.
Zolar X was founded around 1973, when Glam rock was nearing its end and punk rock was starting. When you were playing in LA, did you feel out of place or were you welcomed?
We felt in place. Zolar X was never glam and Zolar X was never punk. As music develops, your psyche evolves. People were like, "Thatâs a good tone" or, "Oh boy, I really liked the lead of Jimmy Page!" So you just learn and go with it. With that, we fit right it.
On stage, as well as in the street, you were constantly dressed as the Zolar X characters and were constantly in role. Did you ever get any negative reaction from the population of LA because of this?
Constantly. We were slurred and called all kinds of different things because of our make-up. If we would go to the market, we could cause car accidents, just from people looking at us. People would take pictures.
Did you get positive reactions from people on the street, too?
People would smile at us and go, "These guys are obviously about something." The positive and the negative was both sides, it was 50/50. It depends on your level. We didnât really wear our spacesuits everywhere, but we wore what looked like our space outfits because in our suit cases all we had was our tights. We used food color for our hair back then. There were negative and positive reactionsâ¦ the women of Hollywood were very interested in Zolar x.
Were early Zolar X shows packed shows or were they empty?
Most of the places were never sparse. It was very deep. The Palladium was large and it was packed when we were there with Dolls or the Stooges.
Zolar X has its own language. Does it actually translate?
There are a lot of words that we use. "Bo Tre" means greetings. There is a lot of translation in our lyrics. All our words mean something. Sometimes, if I want to use some Zolarian, I'll have to alter the words so they rhyme. We have a Zolar X dictionary with a couple thousand words. There are translations to everything we say.
A lot of Zolar X songs deal with Sci-Fi themes. Are the songs just for fun, or does Zolar X has a unified message?
The unified message of Zolar X is kindness. It's like the old saying, Take me to your leader, we come in peace." It's an observation of earth. We, like most people, hate war. But, some people make money from war, like big corporate structures. So, in that sense, Zolar X is political. But, we observe the insanity of planet earth- from silver spooners to people being born in the middle of Nigeria, the balance is way out of whack. Our message is space-age-fun, space-age-love and to look at what the world is doing to you.
Zolar X is a very visual band and the mythos surrounding the band is quite large. Do you ever feel that these flashier elements detract from the message or music itself?
Over the years, Iâve thought about that, as one of the major songwriters of the band, the idea that the image could detract from the melody. At the same time, I wouldn't be making the upcoming documentary about the band without the Zolar X image, so its a catch 22. But as far as the image and music, Iâve always thought about that. Would it be interesting to release a couple songs with de-spaced lyrics, and then just see the nature and reaction of the listener? It may detract, but at the same time, there is no other Zolar X, is there?
Zory Zenith, who is a founding member of Zolar X, and also contributes about half of the band's vocals on the Timeless album, is currently incarcerated. How has that affected you?
Well, it has affected us in a lot of ways. Maybe good and maybe bad. Zory does have a violent temper- he's in jail for violent assault. People didn't want to work with him for the fear that he might go insane. But at the same time, looking at him on stage, when he's doing the robot dance, that's really fun and unique, then you have all these different things going on that's very visualâ¦ All of us add an element and you cant quite get the same action without him. As far as Zory Zenith in prison, I miss that part of the visuality. He has sent me some lyrics. He is on countdown now. When he gets out, I would go on a Timeless tour with him.
Can you tell us some details about the upcoming Zolar X documentary?
Theyâve finished forming the LLC. My wife started the documentary and she's in Zolar X now, but sheâs turned over the editing job to a woman in Chicago. The attorneys say they want to get it into film festivals in 2011. I know that's going to create a nice little spark for Zolar X. The documentary covers everything. It doesn't have a lot of old footage because there just isn't much of it. We got a lot of still pictures and music from shows back then.
It's about life in Zolar X, about life in the music industry and life in general. It's more than just a rock documentary.
Last year, Zolar X released a live DVD that featured Don Bolles of the Germs on drums. What was that like?
It's a pretty punky little 60 minute DVD that we did. Don is fantastic. In 2005, when he was still in the band, we did a three piece shows with Don. We already had a familiarity- me and don date back to the late 70's. Maybe down the road heâll come back in. Right now, we are playing with a drum machine, because we canât find any humans that fit with Zolar X…