I’ve always been a massive fan of X! X’s Los Angeles record is one of my all-time favourite punk albums. Exene’s vocals entwined with John Doe harmonies; the offbeat reckless, yet pretty, unusual sound and dissonance they create. I’m also a massive fan of her collage art (see below). As you can imagine, this chat for my forthcoming book, Conversations With Punx, was a really special one for me—Exene was incredibly open, candid and thoughtful in her answers. Here’s an excerpt…
BIANCA: What does the spirit of punk rock embody to you?
EC: Rather than anarchy, I would say freedom. They’re two different things. Freedom of responsibility, responsibility to yourself, to your friends, to the community you’re a part of. There are a lot of people that aren’t that way in the punk world. That is definitely what punk started out to be though, freedom but responsibility at the same time to your family.
B: In a previous interview I read with you, you were asked about how punk affected your ideologies. You commented that there are some parts of the punk rock mentality that doesn’t mean much to you anymore, but then there are other parts that still mean something to you and that you still really believe in. I was wondering what those parts were?
EC: Freedom culturally and artistically as a person, the liberation aspect of it. That you’re outside of society and you’re creating something new and that you are being revolutionary which is the really important part. There’s a certain level of responsibility that goes with that freedom that makes it worthwhile, otherwise I don’t think it makes it very valuable. To me punk doesn’t involve mosh pits.
B: What are the things that are really important to you right now?
EC: The things we’ve been talking about, writing songs. One thing that is really important to me right now is learning to accept myself at this point in my life, to accept all the things that I have done, good or bad; to not have too many feelings of regret or have unfinished business. I’m trying to take care of that stuff. It’s complicated because as you get older you have a lot of stuff you’ve been through and you look back on it all and you get an image of yourself. It’s not always the best image. Maintaining a healthy self-image and really loving yourself is something that’s really important to me. People let life get to them too much and they get beaten down by it. They become cynical and jaded. It’s really important for me not to become like that. When I look back and say I want to love myself it’s not because I’m running from my past, it’s because I’m learning to accept who I am with flaws. It is really hard to do sometimes in life if you weren’t raised that way. I wasn’t raised to speak up about anything or express anything that was upsetting. It was a quite inner life. Feeling that my life is big and that I love it is a big accomplishment.
Looking forward to sharing the entire chat with you via my book soon!
In the meantime here’s Exene talking at Pitzer College on “A Brave New World Order” – technology: our best friend, our worst enemy.
More Conversations With Punx extracts to check out:
*Exene collage art by me; original photo by Annaliese Moyer Tassano.