What does it say when the politically charged punk band X still continues to tour to packed houses more than 25 years after its inception?
"It could say that we're foolish, for one, or that we're committed," joked X frontman John Doe.
Actually, Doe cites a number of reasons for X to continue to pack up the van and hit the road: a steady demand from audiences and venues, the fact that it's still fun and profitable for them to be touring, and because they no longer have to deal with the pressure of writing songs or touring to support a newly released album. Instead, they're playing material off of their first four records and having a good time doing it.
But it's not all fun and games. Doe takes the activist political messages of X's songs just as seriously as the music itself.
"Artists have a duty and right to voice their opinion so that there is a balance," he said. "People in government are always going to be saying, 'Let's go to war.' Artists are going to say, 'That's bullshit.'
"I'm shocked and dismayed that people are surprised by that. It's been that way, probably, since the [ancient] Greeks. The Greek artists didn't stop writing plays and decide to go to war. That's the role that artists play."
As an artist, Doe plays many roles. When he's not on tour with X, he tours with his band The John Doe Thing. Their latest album, Dim Stars, Bright Sky, was released by the label Artist Direct last year. In addition, Doe has had a reoccurring role in the television show Roswell, and has appeared in more than 40 movies, including The Good Girl, Boogie Nights and Roadside Prophets. He is also currently working on an HBO series called Carnivale, "about a traveling carnival in the era of the Dust Bowl."
Doe says he finds himself switching constantly from the set to the stage, also from punk rock venues to quieter, more intimate settings for his solo material.
"I once heard a great quote from Kristin Hersh (of the bands Throwing Muses and The Grotto) that 'Quiet is the new loud,'" said Doe.
And Doe, like so many musicians, has followed suit as his interests led him to form The Knitters -- an "old-time country tribute band" -- in the mid-1980s, and more recently with his roots-rock solo project, The John Doe Thing.
Since Doe first made the switch from writing politically motivated, loud and angst-ridden punk to mellow, acoustic-driven songs with folk leanings, numerous prominent musicians in the independent scene have followed suit. Punkers, including Hot Water Music's alter-ego band Rumbleseat and Blake Schwarzenbach's switch from the seminal punk outfit Jawbreaker to his current singer/songwriter styled project Jets to Brazil, have cited Doe as a reason for turning the amps way down.
"It's the yin and yang of music," said Doe. "As long as you have loud, people will also make quiet. As long as there is shitty rap/rock, there will be people out there who continue to make good old-fashioned rock 'n' roll."