Is D.J. Bonebrake the hardest-working drummer in show business? Quite possibly. As soon as the X anchor finished tracking the debut from Matt Freeman’s Devil’s Brigade this year, he was off on summer tour backing his old Los Angeles-scene pal Peter Case.
This week, he’ll be playing a pair of annual “X-mas With X” holiday shows in San Francisco, and as soon as he returns home, he’ll pick up where he left off with his other jazzier ensembles, Orchestra Superstring and the Bonebrake Syncopators, for whom he tinkles the vibraphone.
Like X leaders John Doe and Exene Cervenka, Bonebrake (yes, that’s his real name) can’t resist a good side project.
Over his two-decade career, he’s slapped skins for the Germs, Joe Strummer, Viggo Mortensen, John Lee Hooker and X spinoffs like the Knitters and Auntie Christ.
“I work at it, because I’ve got to make a living,” he says. “In L.A., I play with everyone. Here, you’ll see me just about anywhere, with any kind of band, playing jazz vibes, punk rock, backing a folk singer, even playing with the symphony. If they call me? I’m there!”
The X Batphone only recently rang. Porterhouse Records is reissuing 180-gram vinyl editions of early X classics “Wild Gift,” “Under the Big Black Sun” and “More Fun in the New World.”
But new X recording sessions were scratched when guitarist Billy Zoom was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
“He had an operation and he’s actually doing really well now,” says Bonebrake, 55. “But it took him a while to recover, so we just went off in different directions. We always tend to split up and do other things.”
The musician is plotting three new albums: a duo set with his friend Travis Dickerson, an all-percussion solo record and a debut disc from his daughter Annabelle, which he’s producing.
With Dickerson, he also runs a thriving, if unusual, business. “I sell my drum services online,” he says. “People contact me with music that has everything but real drums, so they’ll give me their click tracks and I’ll just put a real drum track over it.”
Bonebrake doesn’t have many Christmas memories. “I’m an atheist,” he says. “But back in the early ’80s, X used to perform on Christmas because we had nothing else going on. Now we all have families, so we’ll play on any day but Christmas. Even for atheists, it’s a sacred day.”
Bonebrake also has a recession-proof motto: “I’ll take $50, $100 gigs because at least you’re working,” he says. “And afterwards, you can go to the market and actually afford some milk!”
IF YOU GO
X-Mas With X
with Ray Manzarek opening
Where: Slim’s, 333 11th St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday
Contact: (415) 522-0333, www.slimstickets.com