Excerpts from an interview Alice did for the release of
Rhino's "Best of X" collection. Interview by longtime scene
supporter Kristine McKenna:
Q: First time you saw X? Impressions?
A: I can't recall the first time I saw X, but I did see them
many times during the early part of their career. Mostly I
recall being struck by John and Exene's harmonizing,
something which was quite unusual at the time.
Q: Favorite X song? Why?
A: My favorite X song would probably be "johnny hit n'
run pauline," simply because the dynamics of that song
were so aggressive. Violence was sort of an underlying
theme of Bags' songs at the time and "johnny hit n' run
pauline" is a violent song. (When I first heard it)...I never
listened to the lyrics and it was only much later that I
realized the music was mirroring the story being told by the
song. I understand that the song created some controversy
at the time due to its supposedly sexist lyrics, but X never
shied away from examining the uglier aspects of life in their
songs. It was part of what made them a unique voice. It
was the reality of life in a big city.
Q: Your opinion of Exene's contribution to the punk fashion
A: Exene and I moved in somewhat different circles in the
early days. I'd have to say that I'm not qualified to judge
her sense of aesthetics since she and I were concerned
with different matters and maybe value different things. We
were all aware at the time that the punk community was
creating something out of nothing. There were no rules,
which was very exciting. I think that the freedom to
express oneself was evident in the fashion and art of the
time. The notion of re-invention as an art form was an
integral part of the punk scene. Hence, you had "Bobby
Pyn/Darby Crash", "Exene" and "Alice Bag". These were
self invented alter egos which allowed us to express
ourselves in ways not available to "Jan Paul Beahm,"
"Christine Cervenka" or "Alicia Armendariz." Self
expression through punk fashion was a natural outgrowth
and we all cultivated our own styles. For me, Exene's most
important aesthetic legacy has nothing to do with fashion,
but rather the value she placed on being a highly creative
and intelligent woman in rock music. I don't think you'd see
great bands like Sleater-Kinney today if it weren't for
Exene. She inspired a whole generation of young women.
Q: Why do you think X achieved early success (as opposed
to other bands?)
A: If I think back on the bands from the first punk wave
out of L.A., I can think of only three that were signed to
major labels: The Dickies, The Go-Go's and X. Bands that
were lucky enough or organized enough to record and
release records were the ones that ultimately ended up
reaching a national audience. I think a major part of X's
early success came from the fact that their lyrics were
exactly what music critics love: literate, open to
interpretation, subject to exposition. Rock critics hadn't
properly been able to champion rock lyrics since the age of
Dylan and The Beatles, and X rightly benefited from their
(rock critics) support. I think that X's songs were written
in such a personal style that their early fans immediately
identified with and adopted the songs as their own stories.
The relationship between John and Exene made the band
even more personal and real for fans, like an extended
family of sorts, so there was that kind of fervent devotion
to the band, even very early on. X fans were (and still are)
dedicated to the band.