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How X's John Doe reinterprets his old punk hits acoustically




Musicians John Doe (L) and Exene Cervenka of the band
Musicians John Doe (L) and Exene Cervenka of the band "X" perform onstage at the ASCAP Tribeca Music Lounge held at the Canal Room during the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival on May 2, 2007 in New York City.
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Over the years, Los Angeles has seen plenty of bands come and go, but few have had the impact of the band X, with its song "Los Angeles" becoming, to some, the anthem for our city.

https://open.spotify.com/track/75a66iUfwKdJb5n9juvXRI

The punk rock foursome was once even awarded an Official Certificate of Recognition from the City of L.A. to applaud their influence on the music scene here. 

Later this year, the band will be performing a series of four shows: Each night, the band will perform one of its albums in its entirety. 

And this weekend, two of X's founding members will perform an acoustic set at the First Unitarian Church of L.A

Doe recently joined Alex Cohen in studio to talk about his musical career and L.A. back in the day. Below is an edited version of their conversation.

Can you describe what L.A. was like back in the 1980s?

"There was an actual scene happening in 1980. In 1977, there wasn't. But there was something about Los Angeles at the time that was like a Tennessee Williams book. Everything was in decay. And I'm proud of Hollywood Boulevard for not succumbing to the gentrification. ... Hollywood Boulevard is still pretty scary, ... and it was then.

"The second 'O' of the Hollywood sign had fallen down. Or the third 'O,' if you count Holly. But that would never happen nowadays. Since I'm bohemian, I thought that was incredibly wonderful. That they had such a lack of civic pride that they would let one of their defining icon of the town that everybody could see, and the 'O' is just laying on the ground for several years."

But in the midst of that decay, there was this burgeoning punk rock scene. And it's easy to look back now and say, "Yeah, there was this golden era of punk, and X was a key part of it." But I'm curious. At the time, did you have any sense about being a special band at a special time?

"I think we were too busy to think that. And you can't inflate yourself while it's happening. I think everybody had a sense that something was going on, and we hoped that it would be another step in the rock and roll ladder of scenes.

"We were trying to recapture the freedom and dangerousness that rock and roll had. Short songs. Fast and loud and wild. But I think what defined it was that freedom. You could do anything you wanted. It wasn't codified into one type of punk rock."

One of the reasons X is such a great band is because of the chemistry you have with Exene Cervenka. At one point you were married, you eventually divorced, but you continued to make music together. What's it like these days when the two of you perform together? 

"Exene and I have a special secret language. ... I somehow know how she might phrase a line, and she somehow knows the same about me. But after we separated as a couple we became better friends. We support each other through all the ups and downs. She knows that she can always give me a call, and I can do the same for her."

When you two play this weekend, it's going to be just the two of you performing at a church, acoustic. It seems like a really long way from being a punk rock quartet playing in a hot and sweaty club. 

"It certainly is. Life is a long journey if you're lucky enough to keep going. We became fascinated by old music. By folk music. By all kinds of music, ... and for this show we'll do some X songs reinvented."