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John Doe Q&A

An Outdoor Lovin’ Man

As co-founder of X, John Doe played an instrumental part in the brief late 70s L.A. punk explosion that spawned several other notable bands, including Black Flag and the Circle Jerks. Doe has mellowed out sonically over the years and now splits his time between rootsy solo projects, The Knitters (another folk-infused band he leads with X co-vocalist Exene Cervenka), and X projects. He performs at 12 Galaxies on June 28th in support of his latest solo LP A Year in the Wilderness. Doe spoke with SF Station from the shoulder of Highway 5, somewhere in California.

SF Station (SFS): You do a lot of collaborations with women. What appeals to you most about working with women?

John Doe (JD): Women give a different perspective and two male voices don’t sound as interesting unless you are Lennon and McCarthy. I tend to write about the topic of relationships and things like that. How to sing with the opposite sex is something Exene and I learned early on.

SFS: What led you include “Darling Underdog,” a song that was written by Exene, on your new album?

JD: Exene had given me a number of lyrics when we were starting to work on some X material. I thought this one set of lyrics was particularly suitable for a slow song, which I don’t really think about when I think about using Exene’s lyrics. With Exene’s lyrics, I’m usually trying to think about X songs, which are uptempo. I guess I needed a slow song and I had some music. The sentiment and the words really seemed to fit together. Jill Sobule has a song called “Underdog Victorious” -- Jill and I have been good friends for 14 years -- and she just seemed perfect for this song.

SFS: You put a deadline on yourself for this album, which you haven’t done in the past. Why did you decide to do that?

JD: I had almost a complete record of songs and I needed a couple of more. Dave Way, who I have worked with on the last four records, was available at a particular time, so we just decided to go for it. We said by the end of January or early February this is going to be done and we are going to release it in June.

SFS: And now you have your own ring tone.

JD: (laughs) I don’t know if I have a ring tone. I could think of a couple that could be good, but I don’t know if there is one available.

SFS: There is one available on your website for “The Golden State.”

JD: I’ll have to check it out. You know more than I do; sometimes it’s hard to pay attention.

SFS: I’m sure you’ve been busy getting ready to tour.

JD: Exactly.

SFS: Your new album is a little darker than your previous solo albums, what was your thought process going into it?

JD: Life is rough and it can be really difficult. Part of my inspiration is making a chronicle about it. I guess I could fall into (the category of) kind of a confessional poet. When times are hard, the songs are a little darker.

SFS: Is it soothing for you to get that out in your music? Is it helpful?

JD: I guess it’s a little bit therapeutic. I hope that other people can relate to it and feel like it’s part of the human condition.

SFS: Do you do anything else for a release?

JD: I write poetry. Do I have hobbies? Is that what you are asking?

SFS: Yeah, what are your hobbies?

JD: My hobbies are Telemark skiing, which is a weird, kind of old-fashioned style of skiing and soccer. I coach my daughters at soccer.

SFS: Your album is called A Year in the Wilderness. Do you also spend a lot of time outdoors?

JD: I love to go hiking and I live in the wilderness. I live in the middle of a national forest. There are other people that live there too -- we’re not by ourselves. It’s both a physical and metaphorical wilderness when you feel separated from people and cast out. When you put yourself into a state of exile, either mentally of physically, then you are in the wilderness and you have to find your way back somehow.

John Doe performs at 12 Galaxies on June 27th. Tickets are $10 and the show starts at 9pm.