Perfect Sound Forever

Exene interview

Photo courtesy of the Exene home page

by Ernesto Yermoli

FROM MARCH 2000: "This is an online interview I recently conducted with Exene Cervenka. It's kind of a shambolic back-and-forth, but hey, this is punk rock, no? I conducted the interview entirely via AOL Instant Messenger, at Exene's request."

PSF: What have you been up to lately? Any big projects in the works?

Exene: Well, my new band is Original Sinners as you already may know, with Elaine Fierro and Sam Soto: two guitars, drums, no bass. There is a song on some MP3 type thing, I don't know the final details right now.

PSF: What do you think about MP3's? I've heard some artists rave about it, about the freedom of access it provides the fans, but others have complained that artists can get ripped off and lose some kinda sovereignty as a result of it... what's your take?

Exene: It's a new way to rip off artists. Eddie Vedder did an X song with Supersuckers and it was supposed to be in a movie and there was some problem with conflicting recording contracts so it couldn't be released. So the song "Poor Girl" got put instead on Pearl Jam's web site with a free download. (ED NOTE: this eventually appeared on the Free The West Memphis Three benefit CD). Well, I am glad people are hearing it but if there were royalties paid for every download, John (Doe) and I could pay our bills for a year! MP3 I dont know much about. Who tracks the downloads? ASCAP? BMI? No one?

PSF: What do you think of punk rock at the dawn of the 21st century? It seems like the term is almost meaningless these days, so much has it been bandied about by the likes of MTV, etc..

Exene: Are you kidding? Punk rock lasted for about five years: 75-80, 81. Like the T-shirt says, "punk's not dead it just sucks now." It came out of a political and social structure that no longer exists. And the people that created it did so on purpose. They weren't passive. We didn't see it on TV and then copy it.

PSF: So do you think it's impossible to reclaim that sense of outrage anymore? Is the sociopolitical climate just not conducive to it, What with Madison Avenue co-opting the culture of rebellion at every turn?

Exene: Exactly. What's shocking today is selling tomorrow. If Bush becomes president and things get ultra-conservative (ED NOTE: welcome to the new millennium) you'd maybe see that feeling come back. I think political correctness is what is killing the punk in us.

PSF: What do you think about political correctness? In some ways, it seems like it nips rebellion in the bud before it can flower into positive energy, a la punk. At the same time, though, in some ways -- at least from a liberal progressive perspective -- it seems as though its heart is in the right place -- "be sensitive to everybody, etc."

Exene: IT'S NOT 1968. I think people on the left have gotten too fascist, also too concerned with only their own CONCERN. Afriamer (African-American), dyke, animal liberationist, vegan, latino, feminist.... blah, blah. We should all switch our causes to someone else's for a month. Or share causes. Liberal/left people are so factionalized.

PSF: That's a good idea- maybe I'll go vegan dyke next month. So tell me about the music your doing with the Original Sinners -- is it similar to the Auntie Christ stuff? Or is it closer to Lillith Fair?

Exene: Lillith Fair is something I've only read about but never heard. I doubt my voice would have fit there. We sound a little like rockabilly, folk in a ragged way. Maybe a little like the Cramps musically but not vocally. The songs are mostly unrequited love and drinking.

PSF: Do you listen to a lot of country? Certainly a lot of your X stuff and Knitters stuff would suggest it, and now these unrequited love and drinking songs.

Exene: Almost every X song was an unrequited love and or drinking song!!! I've been listening to country since Johnny Cash sang "Ring of Fire" on AM radio in the car.

PSF: Do you think there's a sort of categorizable strain to L.A. rock? What I mean is, bands like Love, the Doors, the Beach Boys, X, there seems to be a lot of alienation in the music. Is that just coincidence or is it in the air out there?

Exene: Don't know. You left out the Knack, the Monkees, Linda Rondstadt, Joni Mitchell, Red Hot Chili Peppers... I mean, there's alienated people and there's lets-fuck-groupie bands.... L.A. has a lot of different musical styles. Fleetwood Mac was the big thing here when punk started. Now they don't seem so bad, compared to alternative music.

PSF: So you don't like this "alternative" music, eh? It's pretty bland, I agree. I've never seen you do spoken word stuff, but when I saw Auntie Christ two years ago, your between-song tirades were amazing -- it was really incredible seeing a woman with graying hair sound so raw and pissed off. Why aren't there more of you around? Do you think the rock world is still biased against women, especially pissed off women, and super-especially pissed off women who aren't under 25?

Exene: I don't have any gray hair. I'm not pissed off: I'm just smart. Biologically, men prefer younger, fertile women. Women prefer powerful men. Therefore, men are in control of our images. Of course, both men and women will lose out in a society that bans 30+ people. Look at the new April issue of Jane. See what you think about the 6 foxiest women alive, who are all over forty and have had no retouching done to their photos. Shocking! I'm very proud of that one.

PSF: I'm glad you haven't pulled a Courtney Love and gone all Vanity Fair.

Exene: Well, there's nothing wrong with wanting to look good, I guess. It's just crazy when you realize our idea of what women are supposed to look like comes from mechanically altered photos and supermodels in their teens and early twenties. And we feel very inadequate because of that. And defensive about our hair. It's not gray yet really.

PSF: You said earlier that you weren't pissed off, you were just smart. Who else out there do you think of as similar to you in that respect? In other words, what other current artists do you rate as cool or smart or right on?

Exene: L7. Ani DiFranco. I can't think of anyone else right now. I know there must be more.... Bjork I like.

PSF: Actually, there's a Japanese hippie freak group called ghost, and I like them. Also, jane siberry.

Exene: Fuckemos from Austin Texas...

PSF: Oh yeah, I've heard of them, but I haven't heard them... I really like the name, though.

Exene: Not much into Jane Siberry musically but I think she is cool. Ghost I haven't heard. I like really rock n roll music: verses, choruses, fast exciting, good beat. I hate moody silverlake emo music.

PSF: Yeah, Jane Siberry is tough going, but she's Canadian and so am I, and we stick together (except for Anne Murray). I guess you wouldn't much dig ghost, they're pretty freewheeling. I'm gonna be in L.A. at the end of the month for a week. Can you recommend any good record stores?

Exene: Destroy All Music on Sunset in Silverlake, Headline Records on Melrose in Hollywood. Those are punk/indie stores. And Rhino on Westwood for weird, country, folk, indie, et al. Have fun here. Don't get depressed and write unrequited drinking songs the whole time. thanksbyeexene

PSF: Awesome... Thanks, I'll try not to.

Also see our other interviews with Exene from 2002 and 2009

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