Billy Zoom

Everyone at the Weekly has a different take on X guitarist Billy Zoom, who, after a decade's rest, recently restarted the rockabilly band he named after himself.

"Good luck," Ziegler said, his curls gently swaying.

"One of the best interviews I ever had," proclaimed Rebecca Schoenkopf—but I knew she was wrong, even from across the room.

Billy Zoom has a long history of not giving reporters anything to work with. He and I have been not talking for at least seven years; and my biggest regret this year—besides my pool skaters piece not getting optioned—is that when I interviewed him, I didn't find the one question/phrase/monosyllabic grunt that would have made him come clean. About anything.

Unlike Tom Cruise, Zoom—also a religious man—is a public relations expert's delight. He's terse to the point of being brusque, doesn't volunteer anything, and when what he says lasts longer than this sentence, it's safe to assume you're getting one of 10 or 15 anecdotes that are either clean enough to tell or already out there in the public record. His guitar is still lethal, but in conversation he's like a Wurlitzer stuck on Pat Boone doing Little Richard. And that's fine. He has every right to not tell you what really happened the night he and Top Jimmy—dead drunk—got bounced outta the Starwood, or who punched whom at the Hong Kong Cafe when Darby Crash opened up on X.

Billy Zoom withholding information is the perfect crime: he does it so well that his eerie calm reflects back on the reporter, which quickly leads to paranoia, and here we are.

I interviewed him twice: first over the phone, the second time in his Orange studio on a loveseat the size of a large chair. He wasn't jumping on the couch; I got next to bupkis.

A reporter's most effective tool is silence—most people feel honor-bound to fill it—but after every answer, Zoom turned the silence back on me. And I wracked my enfeebled mind anew for the one question that would unlock his psyche and set his synapses ablaze. The questions didn't come, and I didn't know why.

I had the bootleg of the Billy Zoom Band covering Cliff Richard at Raji's in the late '80s. I'd caught Citizine's interview with him. I knew his real name. I didn't realize until I wrote this that everything I knew about him was what he wanted me to know—so no matter what I said, I'd be sticking to the script: feeding him his lines. All this time I'd thought I was talking to a rockabilly god—which he is—but Billy Zoom is every bit as sharp at sculpting his own image. The man is a public relations genius. I will forever regret not outsmarting him.

 
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