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X singer looks for gold

By John Benson

Friday, May 16, 2008

By John Benson

Cleveland holds special memories for the singer.

There are many reasons driving singer Exene Cervenka and her X band mates John Doe (bass, vocals), Billy Zoom (guitar) and D.J. Bonebrake (drums) to write their first studio album since 1985’s “Ain’t Love Grand.”

Of course, the challenge of finding relevancy in the new millennium for the late ’70s rock band is atop the list. But there’s something else at play for Cervenka that is decidedly not punk rock.

“I’d like to get a gold record,” said Cervenka, calling from her Los Angeles home. “I think all our albums are pretty close, but I don’t know why we don’t have one. I think that’s really unfair.”

She added, “I just think it would be nice to have a gold record. I’ve been in the music business for 32 years and it’s just fun to have. You’re supposed to hang it in the bathroom. That’s the punk rock way. Every punk rocker that I know hangs it in the bathroom.”

Cervenka, who admits she’d most likely hang her gold album over her record collection, helped co-found X in 1977. It wasn’t until 1980 that the band released its debut effort, “Los Angeles,” which was produced by The Doors’ Ray Manzarek. The critically acclaimed album helped define the Southern California punk sound with dark tracks “Nausea” and “The World’s a Mess, It’s In My Kiss.”

Over the years, the band, which embraced different styles ranging from thrash to rockabilly all the while delivering a punk rock aesthetic, remained busy touring and recording. In fact, Northeast Ohio holds a special place for Cervenka.

“I wrote a song in Cleveland called ‘Come Back to Me’ on ‘Under the Big Black Sun,’” Cervenka said. “I wrote it at Pirate’s Cove in the dressing room on a typewriter. I always think about that place in Cleveland and that song because it was about my sister who had passed away.

“It was the first song I could write about her, and it was a couple of years after she died. And it was quite a moment I won’t forget. Maybe I’ll write a song in Cleveland this time just to dare myself.”

By the mid-’80s, the band began to splinter with various members coming and going. It wasn’t until the late ’90s when the founding members reunited that X once again became a popular touring band. X is scheduled to perform May 17 at the House of Blues.

“Everything we do seems like it goes over pretty well with people,” Cervenka said. “I guess we’re just a good rock ’n’ roll band. There’s always a place for that.”

What remains true is among all of the bands that made up the early Los Angeles punk scene, X is not only the last group still performing but it boasts all of its original members.

“We are the only one,” Cervenka said. “It’s wonderful, I like to be the last man standing. I didn’t think about the future very much but now I think that’s exciting.”