John Doe isn’t nostalgic for punk rock. Why should he be? Punk still exists.
“It’s hard to allow yourself to get nostalgic,” the X frontman said recently, “because then you run the risk of thinking what you have done is greater than what you will do.”
The bassist/singer/songwriter touches on that subject in “Lying in the Road,” a track off X’s acoustic best-of live album “Unclogged” (issued June 13 on their own label, Infidelity).
“Some people have this image of what X was in 1980, which they weren’t there to experience,” Doe said of punk’s new breed, “and it becomes mythical to them. In some ways, it was greater in their minds than it ever could be now and probably never was then.
“That’s why there’s a line in there, ‘You think the best I ever did I did for someone else.’ We still have so much more to say and do.”
“Unclogged” was recorded in November during two shows at a church in San Francisco. The scene was reminiscent, Doe said, of X’s early punk days when folk singer Phranc organized acoustic shows for punk groups at the Whiskey A-Go-Go in Los Angeles. Back then, X members – Doe, singer Exene Cervenka, drummer DJ Bonebrake and guitarist Tony Gilkyson – often shared stage time with players from The Gun Club, Circle Jerks and The Plugs, among others.
“We did it just for entertainment of ourselves,” Doe said, “but the audience kind of saw it as interesting, ‘How could they do this?’ At that time, there was a lot more generosity in the audience. … You didn’t have to play one kind of music. The variety of music, in L.A. anyway, was huge. So this just showed how versatile these bands could be.”
Doe displays more of his own ingenious work on his Forward/Rhino debut album, “Kissingsohard,” due Aug. 15.
Technically, it’s a solo album – his first in six years – but he’s billing himself The John Doe Thing because of the impressive group he assembled behind him. The unit consists of guitarist Smokey Hormel (The Blasters), bassist Brad Houser (Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians) and drummer Joey Waronker (Beck, Walt Mink). Cervenka, Bonebrake and Sandra Bernhard also make guest appearances.
“Doing The John Doe Thing was exciting,” Doe said, “and they (the record company) sort of left us alone, which is great. Sometimes it’s hard to balance the time with all the things I’ve got going with X and my band, but you figure out a way. Anything that we do that’s creative, you learn from and you can apply those things you learn to X and vica versa. It’s healthy for everyone.”
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