Fragile X
By Ronnie

Its not often that I am impressed by new hard rock CD, much less a new hard rock band. But, Atlanta's own FRAGILE X really caught my attention. Most hard rock that is produced today are from band's that have been around for 15+ years, trying to milk the glory of their former successes. They still think it is 1983 and their CD's sound TIRED. Then along comes FRAGILE X to inform me that not only is the hard rock genre not dead, but also can still sound vital. I wanted to find out what inspires a new hard rock band, when the odds in the current music scene are so stacked against you.

E.C.: I know that FRAGILE X was formed out of the ashes of the band "Roadside Prophets". Can you give me a 'reader's digest' version of how the band came together for our readers? What ideas, if any, did you bring from "Roadside Prophets"?

Chris: After Roadside Prophets split up, everyone kind of went in different directions. I played with Van Gogh for a few months (I grew up with Robby and Ricky of Van Gogh in Panama City and we all moved up here together back in 1984 with our band "the Kopps", which eventually became "Blitz") and Jeff jammed with our old guitarist and some other people. After a while Jeff and I got back together and started working on new material and looking for a bassist, lead guitarist, and vocalist. Any combination of the three would have been fine such as a lead singing bassist or guitarist, or whatever as long as the roles were filled. We looked and auditioned many people, but no one seemed to fit what we were looking for... When Tommy answered the ad for bassist, he was a perfect fit. Back in the mid to late 80's and early 90's, Tommy was the founding member of the thrash metal band Hallows Eve. They were signed to Metal Blade Records and did three albums and toured the country many times. (We actually met him back around 92 when Roadside Prophets played a show with Hallows Eve at the Wreck Room). With the three of us, Jeff started singing the songs in rehearsal to help work out the changes while we were still auditioning singers. Tommy and I thought it sounded good with Jeff singing and wanted to play live. We decided we would do a couple of open mic nights, doing the songs instrumental, just to get our feet wet again in public, and if he felt comfortable, he could start singing. One night (to our surprise and relief), Jeff just went up and started singing. It sounded great, so we left it alone and stopped looking for anyone else. As for any ideas from RSP, basically Jeff and I wanted to give the sound a harder edge. RSP had gotten more on the pop side and although had some GREAT songs, we wanted to make it a little heavier and do whatever we wanted without having someone telling us what would or wouldn't work.

Jeff: Tommy understands what we are trying to do and he rocks. We are really doing now what Chris and I had wanted to do with Roadside Prophets all along. This time we just decided to say to hell with it and do exactly what we wanted to do no matter what. Tommy fits in with that kind of thing really well. As far as what we brought from the old band, it's pretty much the same. We just want to rock.

E.C.: You guys get a HEAVY sound on the CD although you are only a trio. Was it a decision from the first to keep it only a trio instead of adding an additional guitarist? I mean, that's quite a load for Jeff: vocals, guitars AND leads.

Jeff: No, not at all. We had planned on being at least a 4 piece if not 5. The problem is that you just can't get that many people on the same wavelength for very long. We interviewed tons of singers and guitarists but none of them seemed to work out. They were all good but just not right. I never planned on being the singer. I sang on some demos we made of these songs earlier. We really looked for a singer because I just didn't want to do it. After about six months, the guys said "hey, give it a shot, we need to move forward." Once we got that going, we kind of settled into being a three piece. It's more compact and easier to deal with. We have three very distinct and different personalities in the band. That's what makes it what it is. There is pressure but it's easier when you have these two guys laying down the foundation.

Chris: After not being able to find the right people and "doing with what we have", we found out that it really worked well the way we have it. Tommy is undoubtedly the best bassist I have ever played with, and Jeff writes the songs based around great riffs, not a bunch of "my fingers can move faster than yours" solos and leads. Also, as a three piece, it makes it easy for us to show our strengths. Jeff writes great hard driving songs, Tommy can go from being a "lead bassist" to just holding the bottom down, and as for me, I am just your basic rock drummer. You won't find me doing any clinics, but if you need someone to beat the ever-loving shit out of a drum set, call me.

E.C.: I hear allot of old hard rock influences on your album: Motorhead, old AC/DC, Led Zep, Kiss and Thin Lizzy. Are these the bands that have influenced you most?

Jeff: Tommy has been on tour with Motorhead when he was in Hallows Eve so they are a big favorite. AC/DC is a big favorite as well. We also like a lot of more recent stuff too. Chris likes everything from Kiss to The Carpenters. So you get a mixed bag. Of course that may hurt you as well since the record industry wants things packaged into neat little boxes that are easily defined. We have a lot of other influences as well. Like Budweiser and state and local governments.

Tommy: Yeah, those are some of the main bands that influenced us. The cool thing is that from there, all three of us kind of go into different directions. I think Chris goes from (I can't even say them) big hair bands to mellow stuff like the Carpenters, And Jeff gets into the Replacements, the Who, the Stones and Nirvana. I tend to go from metal to more progressive rock like Yes, Jethro Tull, and King Crimson.

E.C.: Jeff is the primary songwriter. Does he involve the other band members or are you given pretty much finished songs? Or do you guys give him any themes or ideas for songs?

Jeff: I usually come in with a completed song. Words and music. Then we work out dynamics and arrangements. Tommy writes on his own as well. Having said that though, it's really the process that the band puts the songs through that makes them what they are.

E.C.: FRAGILE X fits into the 'hard rock' category of rock 'n roll. This is a genre that pretty much slips-between-the-cracks on radio. I mean, you are almost too heavy for "alternative" stations, yet the "classic/album rock" stations are so formatted that they can't take ANY chances on new bands, no matter how good. What does success mean to you guys? Is it sales or a good turnout at a live gig?

Jeff: It's both. You really need both for it to be a success. We want to make good music that moves people. We feel like we are doing that so I guess we are successful to some degree. 96 Rock has played our stuff. They're the only real outlet in town for our kind of music. Or at least that's what we are told. 99X likes it but says it really doesn't fit their format. That's surprising to us since we feel like it's as good or better than anything they have on now. 88.5 just says they don't play that kind of stuff. What ever that means. You're right, it's hard to break into radio. It's totally formatted and you have to spend tons of money to get on the radio. Most bands don't have those kinds of resources. We are hoping to build a ground swell that pretty much demands that the music be heard. I don't even listen to music radio that much any more. It's just the same crap over and over.

Chris: I talked with Leslie Fram the PD for 99X and although she liked the stuff, she said that it was more geared to the ROCK audience. It is very difficult to get a song into regular rotation. It is impossible to compete with the major labels when they are paying ALOT of money to get songs played. Success to us is both sales and playing to alot of people. Sales mean that more people are listening to your material and that they like it, and large turnouts at a live show is like instant gratification. You KNOW what you are doing works when people see you live and get off on it. Yes, it would be nice to make a shitload of money, but quite frankly, being a success to me would be just being able to make a living playing music. To have the time to make great records, and play for as many people as possible. There is nothing like playing to a bunch of people. I know you have heard it a million times, but you really do feed from the energy of an audience. And with us, there is NO telling what will happen at a show.

[Editor note: 99X and 96Rock are both Atlanta area stations.]

E.C.: PLAN B is the best 'hard rock' album I've heard in a looooong time. It kicks the asses of allot of the tired, old 'workhorses' that put out lackluster hard rock albums. What are your hopes for the album? Eventually major label distribution?

Chris: We just try to play what we enjoy and hope that a few people out there like it. We are getting it in as many stores as we can, but obviously when we are having to do everything ourselves, it takes a little more time. Right now we have it in about 40 stores throughout Atlanta, Athens, and the Carolinas, in addition to selling it and other merchandise on our website. Realistically, we are hoping to use this record to get with an independent label, and use that as a stepping stone to a major. It would be nice to skip the foreplay and jump right in the sack (only in this example), but that is something totally out of our control.

Jeff: We have had some really good feedback and we are proud of our record. We hope this will open a lot of doors. You're right again. It seems like the labels just keep on shoveling the same old crap. Music is really ready for a change and we want to be part of that. We do want to take a look at bigger distribution and maybe a deal. We realize that we need the infrastructure to take it to the next level.

E.C.: What is your live schedule like? Will we ever see FRAGILE X on a tour with a major hard rock act?

Chris: We have played around Atlanta quite a bit over the last couple of years. We took off around the holidays but are getting back into the swing of things again now. I feel sorry for Lenny's on March 15th. It will be our first show in a couple of months, and I don't know if the building will be left standing afterwards. We are going to go nucking futs. As for the tour with a major, that is like the label deal, it is really out of our control. We try to meet as many people as possible, and send out a bunch of promo kits, but who knows if they actually get heard. All it takes is ACTUALLY getting someone to hear it, that can do something with it. We would LOVE to go on a major tour... Do you know of anyone that is looking for a great live unsigned band to take on the road? If you do, give them my number and we will be there.

Jeff: It has been pretty brisk. We took the holidays off and we are now working on new material. We have a couple of dates coming up. We will be working out some new material and then maybe a tour this summer. We would really like to get on a big tour. We could reach a lot of people that way. That's what we really need. That might break it wide open. Of course, we would probably have a lot of trouble since things have a tendency to get broken at our shows. The repair and equipment costs alone would be ridiculous.

E.C.: I know this sounds cliche, but what is the future of FRAGILE X? And when can we expect another kick ass CD?

Chris: The future of Fragile X is simple. We are going to keep playing anywhere we can, and writing and recording more stuff, and doing anything we can think of to excite and or piss off everyone that sees us. We have seen everything from being kicked off stage at one of the WORST dives we have ever played at for "scaring the customers" to doing a tribute show in drag for another band at our own "CD release" show and everyone LOVING it. As for the next record, we are working on new material now and having our own studio gives us the freedom to record as much as we like. We may put out a couple of EP CD's before the next full length one. Either way, we will probably have something out there pretty soon.

Jeff: The sky's the limit. We enjoy what we do and we have a lot of material that's already done and in the works. We already have a lot of stuff in the can from the last sessions we did. We really feel like we're just scratching the surface. We have enough material to release another CD now but we are going to keep working on some newer material. We may do another one this fall. We want to go as far as possible and bring Fragile X to as many new fans as we can.

Click here to visit the official Fragile X web site