John Doe

John Doe is one of the founders of the seminal Los Angeles punk band X, which is still together — with all of its original members — four decades after it started. Doe will appear Tuesday night in Corvallis as part of the Oregon State University "American Strings" series. 

John Doe figures he should be able to handle most of the questions that get tossed his way when he strolls onto the stage of the Majestic Theatre on Tuesday night to start "An Evening with John Doe."

"After a while, you get pretty good at dodging questions that you don't want to answer," said the longtime rock musician and co-founder of the seminal Los Angeles punk band X in an interview.

And if he doesn't want to answer in words, Doe can always just pick up his acoustic guitar and rip into a song. 

Doe's appearance in Corvallis is part of Oregon State University's continuing "American Strings" series, hosted by OSU's Bob Santelli. The series features musicians in conversation with Santelli, with occasional detours into song, if the moment seems to call for it. Audience members will get to ask questions as well.

Doe brings more than four decades of experience as a professional musician, songwriter, actor, author and poet to the Majestic, so there should be plenty of material for questions.

Doe arrived in 1977 to a red-hot Los Angeles music scene and met poet-lyricist Exene Cervenka and guitar player Billy Zoom to form X. Drummer D.J. Bonebrake was the last of the original members to join the band, which went on to make albums like "Los Angeles," "Wild Gift" and "Under the Big Black Sun" — efforts that regularly show up on lists of the best rock albums ever made.

Forty years later, incredibly, all four original members are still with the band, which regularly tours. And Doe (born John Nommensen Duchac in 1953) is just as stunned about this as everybody else.

"It's shocking," he said in an interview this week with The E. "It's mind-blowing. And talk about gratitude."

What has allowed X to endure while other bands regularly splinter and fly apart? "There's a bond between us," Doe said — and a hard-won attitude about not sweating the small stuff. 

"There are some differing political ideas in the band," he said, "but that's OK."

And the band's work ethic has helped immensely, he said, not to mention its willingness to play shows at smaller venues: "It's a good thing to keep swinging that sledgehammer."

The band was honored recently when the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles put together an exhibit, "X: Forty Years of Punk in Los Angeles," featuring some original instruments and clothing worn by band members back in the day. (Santelli's connections with the Grammy Museum helped arrange for the Tuesday session with Doe in Corvallis.)

But wait a second: An exhibit at a museum about a punk band? Doesn't that clash with the ethos of punk rock?

Doe doesn't see it that way: "I never said that we're here to destroy rock 'n' roll. I never wanted to destroy rock 'n' roll. I wanted to hear it. I wanted to celebrate it. But not the bull---- it had become."

Besides, he said, it's not completely unheard-of for a punk band to be the subject of a museum exhibit: "The Ramones had a big exhibit, and I thought, 'I've got some of that stuff.' ... If you can tell your story through that stuff, then you have your DNA in there."

And the exhibit turned out to be another occasion for gratitude — a subject to which Doe returned with regularity during the course of the 30-minute interview. "As you get older," he said, "you're more grateful for things."

For Doe, it started with his parents exposing him to folk and blues music — in part, he joked, because parents sometimes think that folk music is children's music, despite the fact that the lyrics often tell horrifying tales of deals with the devil and doomed relationships.

He started playing when he was 14 or 15, and the era of psychedelic music was in full swing.

His first instrument of choice: The bass guitar, "because it seemed easier. It's only got four strings, so it's got to be easier. And it is," he joked.

Since then, Doe has kept busy, not just with X but with the country-folk-punk band The Knitters and as a solo artist (his most recent album is 2016's "The Westerner"). He's also found time to write books, including 2016's "Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk," and teaches poetry workshops.

If you're not a music fan, you might recognize Doe from his numerous acting gigs, which now number more than 50 movies and TV shows, from "Salvador" in 1986 to the TV series "Roswell" and The Disney Channel's "The Wizards of Waverly Place."  He confesses to be "pretty mercenary about acting," but said he's tried to be more choosy lately about the projects he picks. 

But all of those activities help sharpen the creative saw: For example, he said, acting has helped to shape his approach to music: "The best thing that acting can teach you as a singer is to be more internal." 

These days, Doe finds himself wishing on occasion that he didn't have to travel so much — but then that sense of gratitude kicks in again.

"I would not trade it," he said of his career. "I lead a pretty diverse and sort of normal life. ... I have an enviable life."


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