X was part of the first wave of the Hollywood punk scene, melding the hard and fast punk sound with other musical influences such as rockabilly and country. The high-spirited, charged poetry of Exene Cervenka and John Doe’s vocals together has become an iconic, unmistakable relic of the early days of LA punk.
Exene Cervenka was born Christine Cervenka in Mokena, Illinois, near Chicago, in 1956. She met John Doe soon after moving to Santa Monica, CA, in 1976 during a poetry workshop at Beyond Baroque. By 1977, Cervenka had changed her first name to Exene and formed “X” with Doe, Billy Zoom on guitar, and D.J. Boneblack on drums.
Exene and Doe were married in 1980, the same year that X’s first album, “Los Angeles” came out. They went on to produce six more albums over the next eight years, including 1981’s “Wild Gift” and 1986’s “Ain’t Love Grand”. The band had a country side-project called “The Knitters” that yielded an EP in 1985 called “Poor Little Critter on the Road” and another album in 2005.
In 1985, Doe and Cervenka’s marriage dissolved and Cervenka took time to work on her solo career, releasing two albums from 1989-1990. The band took a brief hiatus. During the punk revival of the early 1990s, X got back together to produce another album “Hey Zeus!” in 1993. They went on to produce an acoustic album in 1995 and resumed touring.
Cervenka tours with X and the Knitters to this day. Appearances have included traditional venues and local record stores. She also performs songs from her prolific catalog of solo work, which experiment with different musical forms and themes, ranging from the satirical to the heartfelt.
Not to be confined by a single medium or genre, she also creates visual art and writes books. Her titles include “Virtual Unreality”, “A Beer on Every Page”, and “Just Another War.” Her most recent solo album was 2011’s “The Excitement of Maybe.”
We were happy to have the chance to sit down with Exene Cervenka to discuss her experiences as part of the beginnings of punk as well as her thoughts on the idea of an “LA Sound”.
Singles, soundtracks, compilations, etc.
- 1978: Adult Books/We’re Desperate 7″ (Dangerhouse Records)
- 1979: Yes L.A. compilation (Dangerhouse Records)
- 1980: The Decline of Western Civilization soundtrack (Spheeris Films/Slash Records): “Beyond and Back,” “Johnny Hit and Run Paulene,” “Nausea,” “Unheard Music,” “We’re Desperate”
- 1980: No Questions Asked by Flesh Eaters (Slash Records)
- 1982: Urgh! A Music War soundtrack (A&M Records)
- 1980: Los Angeles (Slash Records)
- 1981: Wild Gift (Slash Records)
- 1982: Under the Big Black Sun (Elektra Records)
- 1983: More Fun in the New World (Elektra Records)
- 1986: Ain’t Love Grand! (Elektra Records)
- 1987: See How We Are (Elektra/Asylum Records)
- 1988: Live at the Whisky a Go-Go (Elektra/Asylum Records)
- 1993: Hey Zeus! (Big Life Records)
- 1995: Unclogged (Infidelity Recordings/Sunset Boulevard)
- 1997: Beyond and Back: The X Anthology (Elektra Records)
- 2004: The Best: Make the Music Go Bang! (Elektra/Rhino Records)
- 2005: X – Live in Los Angeles (Shout! Factory)
- 1985: Poor Little Critter on the Road (Slash/Rhino Records)
- 2005: The Modern Sounds of the Knitters (Zoë Records)
- 1989: Old Wives’ Tales (Rhino Records)
- 1990: Running Sacred (RNA (Rhino New Artists))
- 1994: Exene Cervenka (Wordcore Volume 7) 7″ (Kill Rock Stars)
- 1996: Surface To Air Serpents (213CD/Thirsty Ear Recordings)
- 2009: Somewhere Gone (Bloodshot Records)
- 2011: The Excitement of Maybe (Bloodshot Records)
- 1997: Life Could Be A Dream as Auntie Christ (Lookout Records)
- 2002: Original Sinners as Original Sinners (Nitro Records)
- 2006: Sev7en as Exene Cervenka and the Original Sinners (Nitro Records)
- 1985: Wanda Coleman, Exene Cervenka: Twin Sisters LP (Freeway). Poetry performance recorded at McCabe’s Guitar Shop, Santa Monica, CA on February 1, 1985.
- 1995: Lydia Lunch & Exene Cervenka: Rude Hieroglyphics (Rykodisc). Recorded live at the Sapphire Supper Club, Orlando, FL on March 20, 1995.
- 1999: Decoupage 2000: Return of the Goddess. Read poem “They Must Be Angels” and appeared in an interview skit.
- 2012: John Doe & Exene Cervenka: Singing and Playing (Moonlight Graham Records). Recorded at Way Station April 2–3, 2010.
Additional musical contributions
- 1994: Applegate, Christina, and Elizabeth Pena. Across the Moon. Los Angeles, CA: Hemdale Home Video, 1994. Music composed by Christopher Tyng & Exene Cervenka
- 1996: Honor: A Benefit for the Honor the Earth Campaign (Daemon Records). “The Future is a War” by Exene Cervenka
- 1997: G.I. Jane original soundtrack (Hollywood Records). “The Future is a War” by Auntie Christ
- 1999: One Man’s Meat by Viggo Mortensen (Lightning Creek). Features Exene Cervenka on vocals, guitar
- 2000: Stoned Immaculate: The Music of The Doors (Elektra Records). “Children of Night” by Perry Farrell and Exene
- 2001: Punk-o-rama 2001, Vol. 6 (Epitaph Records). “We’re Desperate” by Pennywise with Exene
- 2002: Rise Above: 24 Black Flag Songs to Benefit the West Memphis Three (Sanctuary). “Wasted” by Exene Cervenka
- 2009: The People Speak original soundtrack (Verve Records). “See How We Are” by Exene Cervenka & John Doe
- 2011: Kings and Queens by Blackie and the Rodeo Kings (Dramatico). “Made of Love” featuring Exene Cervenka