The quips about long-running L.A. punk band X changing its name to Twitter started almost immediately after Elon Musk announced plans to rebrand the social media site he acquired for a cool $44 billion just last October.
“Big fan of the new Twitter logo @elonmusk #X #punkrock1977,” the group tweeted over a vintage photo to a total of half a million views and climbing, following up with a press release to “address the confusion,” claiming, “We would like to assure everyone that Twitter is not us and we are not it… To misquote David Bowie – ‘it’s not who does it second; it’s who did it first.’ We are still recording records and touring and have no plans on social media domination anytime soon.”
— Xtheband (@Xtheband) July 24, 2023
Indeed, the band’s singer/songwriter/bassist and co-founder John Doe is speaking to Los Angeles by phone en route from Austin to Santa Fe then back for the Orange County Fair for tour dates with the rest of the original members, none of whom go by their birth names — vocalist Exene (Christene Lee) Cervenka, guitarist Billy Zoom (Stuart Tyson Kindell) and drummer D.J. (Donald J.) Bonebrake.
“When Exene first came up with the band name, it was the last thing people wanted to be associated with,” laughs the man born John Nommensen Duchac. “It was dirty movies, poison on a label and all sorts of weird stuff. X Games. We all agreed it was a great name. And now this. Someone said maybe he’ll change to Elon Doe.”
“X is a negative, as in negative space,” acknowledges Doe. “You can place on it anything you wanted. It could mean anything. It was also a reaction to all those bands with ‘the’ in their name, like The Clash, The Jam, The Sex Pistols.”
When he first heard about Musk’s plan, Doe admitted, “I rolled my eyes. I’m sure nobody in his sphere has a clue that this punk-rock band that’s been around 40-some years even exists. And they still probably don’t. I’d love it if they tried to sue us or something. That would be a riot. Or maybe we should sue them.”
Has the band even thought about that? “Absolutely not, I wouldn’t waste my time. Who wants to consume your life with something so pointless?” he shrugs. “It’s like Jill Sobule had that song, ‘I Kissed a Girl,’ and then Katy Perry came out with a different track but the same title. And Jill had all these people streaming her song by mistake.”
The band released a spirited comeback album, Alphabetland, in 2020 (their first in 27 years since 1993’s Hey Zeus!), and are currently at work recording the follow-up, Smoke & Fiction, which Doe calls, “more stretched-out… We’re going to try to open things up a little bit.”
With his side project John Doe Trio scheduled for an appearance at this year’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass music festival at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, as well as several acting gigs, the longtime performer admits he’s learning “to say no” as he stays busier than ever.
As for X’s incredible 46-year run, Doe adds: “It’s what we do, it’s our livelihood, and I guess we like each other. It’s a family, with all that entails.”
And while there’s been no contact at all with Elon Musk or any of his people, Doe is asked what message he would tweet the mercurial tech mogul. “I’m glad you picked the best letter because that’s why we chose it. But it still belongs to us — and the world.”