Best known as the singer for X, one of the leaders of the late-'70s/early-'80s California punk explosion, Exene Cervenka has also issued solo albums, launched several side bands, and penned books. Although Cervenka has been closely associated with California for a long time, she is not originally from the West Coast. Born on February 1, 1956, in Chicago, Christine Cervenka grew up primarily in Tallahassee, FL before relocating to Santa Monica, CA during the summer of 1976. Through a local poetry workshop, Cervenka met John Doe, and the seeds of what would eventually become X were planted. With both sharing vocal duties (and Doe doubling on bass), Doe's friend Billy Zoom supplied guitar in a Duane Eddy style and was soon followed by the arrival of drummer D.J. Bonebrake, resulting in the birth of X in 1977.
With Cervenka changing the spelling of her first name to Exene, the group led the Hollywood punk movement, but there was much more to their sound than the average punk band -- as country, rockabilly, and Exene's poetic lyrics set them apart from the pack. A string of classic (yet criminally overlooked) releases followed -- 1980's Los Angeles, 1981's Wild Gift, 1982's Under the Big Black Sun, and 1983's More Fun in the New World -- during which time Cervenka and Doe were married. In addition to her X duties, Cervenka appeared as part of the country spinoff the Knitters (1985's Poor Little Critter on the Road), and issued (also in 1985) a poetry collaboration with Wanda Coleman entitled Twin Sisters. But as the '80s wore on, Cervenka and Doe's marriage would collapse, as did X after Zoom's exit and a few spotty albums. With X winding down, Cervenka launched a solo career, resulting in 1989's Old Wives' Tales and 1990's Running Sacred.
After a break early in the decade, Cervenka, Doe, and Bonebrake resuscitated X in the early '90s with a new studio album, 1993's Hey Zeus!, and 1995's acoustic affair, Unclogged. Later in the decade, Zoom signed back on, resulting in a re-formation of the original X lineup (no new studio recordings surfaced, however; just live dates). During this time, Cervenka found the time to launch a new albeit short-lived band, Auntie Christ (in which she also supplied guitar), including X bandmate Bonebrake as well as major X fan Rancid bassist Matt Freeman -- and also issued a third solo release, 1996's Surface to Air Serpents.
The early 21st century saw the formation of another musical side project for Exene, the Original Sinners. Additionally, Cervenka has issued several books, including the titles Virtual Unreality (through Henry Rollins' 2.13.61 publishing company), A Beer on Every Page, and Just Another War, the latter of which was a collaboration with Pulitzer Prize-nominated photojournalist Kenneth Jarecke, in which Exene supplied commentary to Jarecke's photos of the Gulf War. The Knitters resurfaced in 2005 with The Modern Sounds of the Knitters, and the following year Cervenka released the solo album Sev7en. Somewhere Gone appeared in 2009, followed in 2011 by another solo album, The Excitement of Maybe, which featured guest spots from Dave Alvin and jazz bassist Christian McBride. ~ Greg Prato