billy zoom

Photo by John Gilhooley

The legendary X guitarist dishes about the trials of balancing a busy touring schedule with the demands of his amp business, and shares his latest designs for Gretsch, the Black Crowes, and Brian Setzer.

Standing onstage at Boston’s Paradise Rock Club, 64-year-old Billy Zoom doesn’t look a day over 40. In his signature wide stance, he peers out over a sea of thrashing bodies with the vacant grin of a joker. Possibly for fear of blinding, he never once looks down at his sparkling Silver Jet as he shreds. The entire club, entranced by X’s beloved punk rock anthem “Los Angeles,” murmurs with cult-like enthusiasm, “She had to leave ... It felt sad, it felt sad, it felt sad.”

Just a few weeks earlier, not far from L.A., Zoom was in his Orange County shop, where he’s known in the industry as a jack-of-all-trades for his technical work building, repairing, and modifying tube amps—work he says he prefers to touring. “I hate that feeling right before I have to leave,” he says. “I usually don’t bother to read the itinerary or anything until a few days before so I don’t have to think about it.”

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