The frontman for the seminal punk band X talks of this week’s Woody Guthrie tribute concert and his new book, “Under the Big Black Sun,” which will bring him to The Elliott Bay Book Co.
It’s no small miracle that John Doe made it out of Los Angeles alive.
As the frontman for the famed punk band X, Doe kicked people from the stage, hurled himself around it, sang himself hoarse, stayed up past sunrise — then did it all over again. For years.
“I think it was providence that got me through, and fate, and being of hardy Eastern European and Scandinavian stock,” Doe said over the phone the other day. “But I don’t think anyone cared if we were taking our life in our hands.
John Doe in Seattle
The frontman of the punk band X is in town this week to promote his new book, “Under the Big Black Sun,” and to help pay tribute to Woody Guthrie.
Interview with Charles R. Cross, 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 24, The Elliott Bay Book Co., 1521 10th Ave., Seattle. Information at elliottbaybook.com.
“Live @ Benaroya Hall:A Tribute to Woody Guthrie and His Month of Song,” 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 26, Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle. Details at seattlesymphony.org.
“We wanted to see the other side, and that was the price of the ticket.”
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Doe has captured that time, that “other side,” in a new book, “Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk,” which will bring him to The Elliott Bay Book Co.on Tuesday (May 24).
And on Thursday (May 26), Doe will take the stage at Benaroya Hall for “A Tribute to Woody Guthrie and His Month of Song,” performing with Northwest artists like Sera Cahoone, Bill Frisell and Shelby Earl, as well as Dave Alvin of The Blasters and (with Doe) The Knitters.
“You get the opportunity to be part of a Woody Guthrie tribute, and to visit a good bookstore? Yeah!” Doe said. “Sign me up.”
(He will also visit with a friend, the artist Alfred Harris. “That’s the real bonus,” Doe said.)
Doe is also celebrating the release of his new album “The Westerner,” inspired by his late friend, Michael Blake, who wrote “Dances with Wolves.” The record, released through 30 Tigers, was a three-year process, much of it spent in Tuscon, which gave the record an open, Calexico-inspired sound.
Doe calls it “a psychedelic soul record from the Arizona desert.”
He isn’t set on what he’ll play at the Guthrie tribute: “Vigilante Man,” maybe. There’s lots to choose from, since Guthrie — hired by the Bonneville Power Administration in 1941 to write songs for a film about the Columbia River — knocked out 26 ditties in a month.
For his part, Doe wrote eight of the 27 chapters in “Under the Big Black Sun” with the help of X’s longtime producer Tom DeSavia. (Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong wrote the foreword.)
“I’m not really a raconteur,” Doe said, “but I would tell stories. Then, in a spark of inspiration, I thought, ‘I know, I’ll be like Tom Sawyer and have other people help me paint the fence.’ ”
So Doe’s bandmate and former wife, Exene Cervenka, penned a piece about how they tried to “stem the tide of corporate rock.” Mike Watt of The Minutemen wrote about the intersection of the Hollywood rock and hard-core scenes. Alvin wrote about the effect of roots music on punk rock. And Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Go’s wrote about living at The Canterbury apartments, a broken-down building where punk thrived.
“The book’s cool because it’s representing Los Angeles at that time, and in a way that people really respond to,” Doe said, “because who doesn’t want to read about or wish they were part of a collaborative community of bohemians?”
Doe has been to Seattle many times, but he spent the longest stretch here in 1995, when he recorded basic tracks for an album called “Kissingsohard” while acting in the movie “Georgia.”
“That was a sad moment in my life,” he said. “It rained for 10 or 12 days in a row, and I thought, ‘If I hear the rain spitting on my window one more time …’
“But now, well, it just makes you feel good up there.”