Earlier this month, I spoke with Exene Cervenka, frontwoman of revered L.A. punk band X, that plays the Fillmore at Irving Plaza on Saturday the 24th on its 31st anniversary tour. The concert is preceeded by the Friday night opening of Sleep in Spite of Thunder, Cervenka’s second New York solo gallery exhibit at DCKT Contemporary (195 Bowery, Ground Floor). Cervenka discussed the much-storied L.A. punk scene of the ‘70s, her poetry and visual art, her attraction to antiquity and the vanishing America that she chronicles in some of her work.
How has X been able to keep the live energy up, especially over these recent waves of shows?
Exene Cervenka: I guess we love doing it. I love playing live, touring, and seeing friends. Seeing all the kids in the audience and all the people that have seen us a million times. It’s pretty exciting up there. I think that makes for a more exciting show, just the fact that you want to be there. There’s nothing worse than seeing a band that doesn’t want to be there.
When the band started, how long did you envision that it would last?
Oh, we had no vision of it lasting or not lasting.
Besides enjoying it, what was the spark that got you guys started again? Writers attribute the return of X to the rise of alternative rock, and that seems oversimplified.
Oh no. It was 10 years ago, ’98. We got asked to do a commercial for the X Files. They were doing this series of commercials with people saying “I’m going to watch the X Files this year, aren’t you?” or something like that. And they asked Billy [Zoom] to do it, not knowing that Billy hadn’t really been in touch with the rest of the band very much. And he showed up for this thing with me. He said he would do it if I did it. He showed up with his silver jacket and his guitar and his amp. And I showed up just being me. They filmed us on the street. I got along really good with Billy and we decided to get back together after [Elektra] released an anthology [titled Beyond and Back] and wanted us to do an in-store and about a thousand people came....
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