Ex­ene Cer­venka of X is still more punk than you.


Newsweek - - NEWS - —JEFF PERLAH

IF X HAD formed in New York City rather than Los An­ge­les, would it have been as big as the Ra­mones? The band (co-song­writ­ers Ex­ene Cer­venka and John Doe, gui­tarist Billy Zoom and drum­mer D.J. Bone­brake) was ev­ery bit as in­flu­en­tial. X’s coun­try-in­flected punk was the equiv­a­lent of an au­ral speed­ball—some­how manic and nu­anced—with Cer­venka and Doe trad­ing hy­per-lit­er­ate lyrics like de­ranged noir lovers. Yet X still gets marginal­ized as merely “L.A.’S sem­i­nal punk band.” X was, in fact, among the great­est bands any­where, as ev­i­denced by the group’s first two stu­dio al­bums, Los An­ge­les and Wild Gift , and an up­com­ing ex­hi­bi­tion, “X: 40 Years of Punk in Los An­ge­les,” at L.A.’S Grammy Mu­seum. (The open­ing, on Oc­to­ber 13, will in­clude a per­for­mance by the band.)

The fiercely gifted Cer­venka spoke to Newsweek about the early years (the band formed in 1977) and a still-grow­ing legacy (it is fin­ish­ing up a 40th an­niver­sary tour). “I’ve been hear­ing two re­sponses from peo­ple about X,” she says. “Who?” and “That band changed my life.”

You were a poet be­fore join­ing X. How did that get you into song­writ­ing?

What hap­pened was, I wrote this lit­tle piece, and John said he wanted to take it to Billy and see if they could work up a song. X hadn’t formed yet. I re­al­ized, if it was that good, I’d bet­ter hang on to it be­cause it was all I had. We were kids. I didn’t own any­thing. I had no money. My writ­ing was the only thing of value in my whole world. I kept say­ing, “No, you can’t. No, you can’t.” And John said, “Well, why don’t you sing it?” And I said, “OK,” and then im­me­di­ately thought: Wait a minute, I don’t sing. Uh-oh.

As a front­woman, were you aim­ing to present the fe­male view­point?

Oh, God no. I was just me. Re­mem­ber, this was not the time of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness or a me­dia-man­aged di­ver­sity cam­paign. We were just boys. We were girls. We were men. We were women. We were gay. We were straight. We were black, white, Chi­nese, Asian, Latino. No­body made a badge out of their hy­phen­ated be­ing. No one was sen­si­tive to any­thing, you know? They were just peo­ple dress­ing weird, hav­ing fun. You could say any­thing you wanted, and if they didn’t like it, they could tell you what­ever they thought. But then, in the end, you would al­ways hug each other.

+ SHOW SOME PUNK: Cer­venka then, with her X band­mates— from left, Zoom, Bone­brake and Doe in 1980— and now.

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