A common goal of most people is to experience a little bit of everything. Artistically, Exene Cervenka has achieved that goal. Along with being a vocalist in a legendary punk band, Exene has also pushed her limits as a solo artist and a writer, trying to find new ways and mediums to express herself through the art that makes her proud.
She is also fiercely protective of her art, a trait that led to her joining what would become one of the most revered bands in American punk. In 1977, she met bassist/singer John Doe at a poetry workshop in Los Angeles. The two began dating, and she let him listen to a song she wrote called “I’m Coming Over.”
“I didn’t know how to play music, so I just wrote it and sang the melody.” Doe liked it and wanted to perform it with guitarist Billy Zoom, but Exene wouldn’t have it. She said, “No way. It’s my song. I’m singing it.” So she joined the band as a vocalist. Later, the addition of drummer D.J. Bonebrake helped complete X.
Throughout the 1980s, X released seven studio albums and made their place in punk history. Exene, like most punk fans, is proud of the scene she was a part of. “The original punk scene was not sexist, racist, or fascist, biased or anything. The early punk scene was quite amazing.” For that reason, Exene was always treated as an equal. “A lot of women were in bands. A lot of women were doing what the men were doing. It didn’t have anything to do with gender.”
Since X, she has gone back and forth between solo projects and group albums or tours because each, she says, has its own perks. She likes performing as a solo artist because “it’s nice to be on my own and be my own person.” On the other hand, “I loved being in X and I loved being in the Knitters, and I loved the people that were my band on the record and the people that I played with in Texas at SXSW. I could go back between one thing and another.”
Exene is adept at going back and forth, covering as many areas as possible artistically. Along with music, she also writes poetry and has published several books. Exene has also had her own exhibit at the Santa Monica Museum of Art in 2005, which featured her journals and mixed-media collages. “I try to cover as much artistic ground as possible,” she says.
Her latest achievement is her newest solo album The Excitement of Maybe, one that she calls a “love song record.” The album encompasses many aspects of love, from the innocence of falling in love to the desperation we feel when love may or may not be over. “I think emotional content is super important. The more emotionally I can connect while I’m singing, the better.”
Exene Cervenka will perform at One Eyed Jacks Monday night at 9 p.m.