X's Exene Cervenka Cherishes Her Time Under the Big Black Sun

The singer appreciates the 35-year-old band more because they could end it at any time

After 35 years of performing throttling, provocative LA punk, the members of X have every right to close the book on the band. But ask Exene Cervenka how much passion she still has for the music, and she'll tell you what it feels like to look into the eyes of a soaked bouquet of teenage fans in the front row of a show—fans crammed, reckless and howling for more. The rush hasn't really changed.

"Can you imagine what it's like to be me?" Cervenka asks. "I go onstage and see all these people going, 'I just want to experience this. I want to go crazy. I want to have a good time. I'm 19 years old, and I need to know.' Fuck. What more do you want out of life than to be viable and important as a cultural force for a lifetime?"

In 1977 [1], Cervenka, guitarist Billy Zoom, bassist/vocalist John Doe and drummer DJ Bonebrake first convened in Venice. X have released five records (1980's Los Angeles, 1981's Wild Gift, 1982's Under the Big Black Sun, 1983's More Fun In the New World and 1985's Ain't Love Grand), all of which are considered punk classics thanks to their blend of Americana roots, Ramones-inspired ferocity, and lyrics that sounded as though they were ripped from the pages of poetry chapbooks. This led critics to hail them as the punk version of the Doors, but X's fusion of traditional sounds with modernity is also why fans continue to care about the group.

Don't fuck with these wallflowers
Don't fuck with these wallflowers

Location Info


The Observatory

3503 S. Harbor Blvd.
Santa Ana, CA 92704

Category: Music Venues

Region: Santa Ana


X perform at the Observatory, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, (714) 957-0600; observatoryoc.com. With Shattered Faith and Love Canal, Fri., 8 p.m. With Sean Wheeler and Zander Schloss, Sat., 8 p.m. $25. All ages.

To read Exene Cervenka's advice column for the Weekly, click HERE.

When she's not singing X classics such as "Los Angeles," "Johnny Hit and Run Paulene," "Nausea" and "We're Desperate," Cervenka applies her creative energy to solo material, country-punk outfit the Knitters, poetry and spoken-word performances. This busy schedule means the 56-year-old doesn't need to devote her time and effort to songs she has been performing for more than three decades, but Cervenka says she enjoys working with X because she understands that her band could "stop tomorrow."

"I value X more than I ever did because I know that the time left to do it is very short," Cervenka says. "I never knew, in '79, how long anyone would be around or what would happen to any of us. I'm happy that young people have a chance to see a band from then that is still around and be good."

Though they haven't released an album of new material with Zoom (who left the band from 1986 to 1998) since Ain't Love Grand, Cervenka says she has tried to write new songs with both Zoom and Doe. But so far, nothing has come from those sessions.

"I'm not afraid to do new songs," she says. "I think I could write songs as good or better than anything we've ever done. I think I do it all the time, but would people even care? There's some element of reticence on the band's part. I don't know what the hold-up is. I'm totally into it."

While a lack of new X songs is a definite bummer, this gap in Cervenka's schedule gives her the opportunity to speak to fans in other ways, such as the advice column she pens for the Weekly. While the questions range from overcoming writer's block to roommate drama and porn preferences, Cervenka approaches each column with one goal in mind: to be honest with her audience. She might not be singing, but you can hear Cervenka's voice in her writing.

"I love doing that column because I have to think about things I'd never think about," Cervenka says. "The questions people ask me are never the question they're asking. I read the letter, then their question is, 'Should I blah blah?' and I'm like, 'Your question is why did you say yes to a situation you knew wasn't going to happen?' or whatever. That's your question."

This article appeared in print as "An Open Letter: More than three decades after they began, X still live to share their groundbreaking punk sound."

[1] The band formed in 1977, not 1997, as originally published.


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