Prior to their visit to Manchester MEN Arena on the 20th and 22nd of June, Exene Cervenka kindly answered a few questions on punk, politics and the Decline of Western Civilization for Mudkiss.
PHIL: To me the essence of punk rock was giving reign to ones imagination and then marrying it to whatever talent you possessed to create something fresh. What did/does punk mean to you?
EXENE: You have explained it brilliantly! That’s exactly right. But the ‘something fresh’ had to have context, either geo-politically, locally, meaning, purpose. For the good, usually. It was a protest movement against the corporation, the Queen, Reagan, so many issues that to the public seemed benign, if not sacred. But we knew.
PHIL: Do think the attitude of punk still exists or has it just evolved into a genre of music with a particular dress code?
EXENE: It’s been a costume party and a boy's club for a dreadfully long time. I think it's changing because in desperate times people become so much more creative out of need. It’s like a shock that wakes people (sheeple) up.
PHIL: Do you think a movement that was both as political and personal like punk could happen again?
EXENE: It is happening again. People can't see it because they are waiting for the official report on that from the mainstream media.
PHIL: Do you think punk was responsible for giving female performers a voice?
EXENE: For a second. The original Hollywood scene, we had the GoGos, Me, Alleycats, and Maddog in The Controllers, The Bags, Phranc, Trudie, Trixie, Helen, Farrah, Pleasant, all original thinkers and quite the fearless leaders. Of course there were more guys in bands, but it wasn't dictated that way, I wish more women had done more.
PHIL: With Penelope Spheeris’ ‘The Decline of Western Civilization’ it must be odd to have a document of a particular moment of the bands development and snapshot of a certain stage of your life. Do you ever get nostalgic for the early days of X?
EXENE: That was a documentary about a slim aspect of the scene, such a tiny piece, and somewhat one-dimensional as well. But, everyone loves it so who am I to say what it accomplished or didn't? I have never really stopped doin X and I have never stopped living so no, I don't get nostalgic for anything.
PHIL: What are your most vivid memories of that time?
EXENE: A moment where I froze in place and a thought entered my head. it was at the Masque, there were a bunch of us hanging out, maybe a band played... my thought was, this is the most amazing experience, never forget this moment, you are in a moment of history, you are history. This is history.
PHIL: What do you consider to be X’s greatest achievement and why?
EXENE: I have no idea. Being in a band is mostly struggle. I guess that we just kept going.
PHIL: Are intimate relationships between band members a good or bad thing?
EXENE: An inevitable thing. Like being married to 3 people. And harder to divorce.
PHIL: Has there been any point that you’ve thought seriously about giving up music?
EXENE: A thousand times. Just this week!
PHIL: What’s your opinion of the political climate in American right now?
EXENE: I would be willing to give you my perspective but it would be incomplete unless we made a book. There is no government. There are no countries. There are no political parties. Do your research. Govt. websites. Congressional records. White house web sites. Go see what is being invented for us at Lockheed Martin or Boeing or Raytheon. There is a global agenda, there is a secret governance. It is happening. America has become and is accelerating into a fascist police state. Oops! Now i won't be able to get out of the country, they'll read this and arrest me, or put me on the no-fly list. I’m doomed!
PHIL: What do you live for? And, conversely, what would you die for?
EXENE: Well if those two things aren't the same, probably something is wrong. Gotta say: FREEDOM.
PHIL: Do you think the World Wide Web has been beneficial or detrimental to music?
EXENE: The only thing keeping it alive. Where else can you listen to somebody's 78 collection, and learn about the artist, however obscure in the past? Some have been lost to history until now.
PHIL: What bands would you recommend are worth listening to?
EXENE: Skating Polly, Petunia and the Vipers, the Americans, Sean and Zander, Phil Alvin, Frank Fairfield.
PHIL: Are you looking forward to coming to Manchester on the Pearl Jam Tour?
EXENE: Yes. I had such an amazing experience travelling and playing in South America with Pearl Jam. They are the most generous people, and its fun to see their show and get a little look around different cities and sites, time permitting.
PHIL: What do you think of Manchester’s music heritage?
EXENE: I was born in 1956, so I remember the beginning, or at least the early music. I am probably in the dark somewhat!
PHIL: As one of the first wave of American punk why haven’t you chosen to perform at the Rebellion Punk Festival in Blackpool UK?
EXENE: Chosen? Do you know how hard it is to get bookers and promoters to let us play? Or pay us enough to even get there and back? If it wasn't for Pearl Jam, X would never leave the states!
PHIL: What are your hopes for the future?
EXENE: That there is one.