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John Doe: From Punk Rock Pioneer To Punk Rock Historian

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With a second book recently published about the Los Angeles punk movement, X co-founder John Doe has evolved from a punk pioneer to a punk historian.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:05 [inaudible]

Speaker 2: 00:05 in the late 1970s, John Doe and his legendary band x dominated the punk rock scene in Los Angeles.

Speaker 1: 00:20 [inaudible]

Speaker 2: 00:20 on top of being on the road for more than 40 years. Doe has documented the early days of punk and a series of books. His latest one is titled More Fun in the world. And the audio version includes punk artists singing their songs. Like you may not have heard before. An acapella KPBS arts editor, Nina Garren spoke with doe ahead of a performance in San Diego this weekend.

Speaker 3: 00:43 Can you explain your first book under the Big Black Sun and what that covered?

Speaker 4: 00:49 So under the big black sign is a punk rock book about La Punk Rock. And instead of being the authority, which made me a little uncomfortable, and also it seemed like a whole lot of work. I, uh, reached out to some of the other people that were there and could tell their stories. And then I, uh, Tom to Salvia, my coauthor and I put it together being a little bit more of a narrator, if you will. And then this next book, both of them together, 10 years of La Punk rock inspired music, the community that it spawned and the kind of a rebel, I don't give a damn a attitude. And then the second book is a little bit more of the sex and drugs and rock and roll, even though there was plenty of that in the first one.

Speaker 3: 01:35 So why did you initially want to chronicle this time?

Speaker 4: 01:39 I didn't. It's a matter of fact when I came up with the idea of having more people write about it to me cause I didn't want to be the, um, authority then it got around to doing it. It's much more comfortable to be the narrator than, than the authority because I could tell some stories, but I couldn't tell like Jane Wheatland story and I couldn't tell. Um, you know, the story of held as Robert Lopez, his story in the new book, I, Louis Perez has a chapter and so he tells Los Lobos his stories and I, those are just too, too far outside of my experience. So

Speaker 3: 02:18 the message that you were singing about and the ideas that you were singing about when you first started, do you find that they're becoming kind of relevant again?

Speaker 4: 02:30 I think if something is basic enough, if it's true enough, then it doesn't lose its relevance.

Speaker 5: 02:38 Honest to goodness, the bars weren't open this morning. They must've man vote and far new president or something. Do you have a quarter? I said yes, because I did. Honest to goodness the Jews had been following all over this country. His face was better before, before the voted for, what's his name? This was supposed to be the [inaudible].

Speaker 4: 03:01 Like a song can be played in many different styles if it's a really good song. I mean politically. Yeah, no, I mean I, I think that there's a lot of, uh, yeah, you can make a case for anything. I know that there's a lot of punk rock bands that are coming up. There's a lot of people that are doing music that might have something to do with hours that are young and, and that makes me happy.

Speaker 3: 03:27 So how has it been personally to hear or relive these stories that happened so many years ago?

Speaker 4: 03:34 It's been eye opening. Charlotte Kathy wrote a chapter for this book and um, I knew Charlotte a bit, you know, but I had no idea that she struggled so much with heroin and I didn't know when she got into recovery what she's been in recovery for five years or something. So this chapter was her chapter, this particularly surprising and, and beautiful in, in her constant dedication to songwriting and, and how, even though she was struggling that she, she still, you know, had that as something of a center, even though it got pretty confusing. I guess

Speaker 3: 04:12 I was also really, I haven't read the whole thing, but I was so surprised that Jane Wieland's chapter was much more, um, to vouch Horace than I, I thought of the Gogo Charlotte

Speaker 4: 04:26 said, said it got thrown out of Ozzy Osborne dressing room. They got 86 from us. I mean, Ozzy Osborne, you think of him as being a complete party animal and, and the Gogos goes, were too tough for Ozzy and Rod Stewart,

Speaker 6: 04:43 yours sliver a glass under my skin. A sliver of glass.

Speaker 3: 04:51 [inaudible]

Speaker 6: 04:51 yeah, a constant hurt. Never a constant little hurt that never [inaudible] again. [inaudible]

Speaker 3: 05:10 why do you think x is still together 40 years later?

Speaker 4: 05:14 I don't know, cause we don't hold grudges that much and we've worked on a lot of our, uh, you know, problems. We don't sweat the small stuff kind of thing. And uh, and we'd like each other, you know, we basically, that goes a long way. We haven't made a bazillion dollars, so we can't just say, oh cool, I think I'll retire. So that's why we'll play the belly up for two nights. You know, right around the corner. Have a lot of respect for, for our music and what we've done. And if it wasn't for the fact that there's young people and old people coming out to see us, we wouldn't do it just for fun. We wouldn't, you know, this is our career at this point, you know. So this is what we do.

Speaker 2: 06:00 Yeah. And can you talk about the audiences? Are you seeing people who are kind of new to punk, and are you seeing people who were there in la that so many years ago?

Speaker 4: 06:11 Well, not so many people from so many years ago, but definitely people that are in their 50s and people that are in their teens. So we've been around, we've, we've stood the test of time and, and I think with all so many things that are things that aren't genuine, things that haven't been tested by fire, people that want to see that.

Speaker 2: 06:33 That was John Doe of the seminal punk rock band EQ speaking with KPBS arts editor, Nina Garren x will be performing at the belly up this weekend. You can also catch John Doe's signing copies of his new book, more fun in the world at lose records in Encinitas. That's on Saturday at 2:00 PM.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.