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MUSIC: JOHN DOE : Making a Name : The founder of the band X is expanding his horizons with movie roles and a solo disc.

July 26, 1990|BILL LOCEY

Like everyone everywhere else, John Doe wanted to move to California.

He did. On Halloween in 1976, he moved from Baltimore to Los Angeles. Then, like half the people in L.A., Doe wanted to start a band. In the late '70s with Exene Cervenka and Billy Zoom, Doe formed X.

Seven albums later, Doe, like everyone in L.A., wanted to move to Ventura County. He did that too. He lives in the boonies, out near Frazier Park and close to a Boy Scout camp--big trees, 5,000 feet high, snow in the winter, no cable television, no satellite dish.

Expanding his horizons, Doe recently has been in several movies, such as "Great Balls of Fire," "Salvador," "Slamdance" and Sandra Bernhard's "Without You I'm Nothing." Busy, busy, busy, bassist Doe just finished working on Mojo Nixon's latest album, which includes the memorable "Don Henley Must Die" and "Destroy All Lawyers."

Doe just released his debut solo disc titled--what else--"Meet John Doe," featuring lots of "relationship" songs and no members of X. On guitar, Doe has Jon Dee Graham from the True Believers and the legendary Richard Lloyd from Television. Doe's band will be at The Carnaval Club in Santa Barbara on Tuesday, July 31. He had this to say in a recent interview:

How's the album doing?

Well, it's not going through the roof, but it's not going down the toilet, either. Actually, it's getting a lot of exposure on college radio and alternative radio and from people in-the-know.

How is the album different from an X album?

For one thing, I did more stuff myself. I didn't have the band to look to and ask, 'Is this a good idea?' or 'Is this a bad idea?' I relied more on the producer as a sounding board. Also, I could do more personal songs without having to reflect a group attitude. And I used two guitarists. I've worked with Jon Dee Graham before. As far as Richard Lloyd, someone suggested him and I thought 'That's a great idea, why didn't I think of that?'

Was J. Geils right, does love stink?

No, love is everything.

Describe John Doe music.

It's right there in my bio. I'm somewhere between the honky-tonk and the art gallery.

How did you get involved in the music biz?

I always wanted to be a musician as a kid. It sounded like a good job--get on the Ed Sullivan show, travel around.

Obviously, you've seen the movie "Meet John Doe."

Of course, I have it on tape.

Will X live again?

Oh yes, we hope so; maybe next year. We just sort of let X expire. We put in our time at Elektra, seven years' worth. The live album from '88 was our last one--we did seven albums in the '80s and we played a lot.

Why aren't people like John Hiatt or bands like The Blasters rich?

Tell me and I'll be rich. Actually, John Hiatt probably is rich--a lot of people are doing his songs. As for The Blasters, part of it is sticking to it and striking it big from the beginning. It was the same with X--we did well, but not that well. We were on the verge of having that big hit for six or seven years. Whether or not it's your fault, I don't know. But then you start reading all this stuff and then you begin to wonder, what are we doing wrong? It's crazy.

Who are some of the bands you like?

Let's see, I like a band from back east, The Titanics, also The Tragically Hip, The Black Crowes, The Replacements, Thelonious Monster.

What's the difference between music and acting?

One's internal, one's external. Music is external.

* WHERE AND WHEN: The Carnaval Club is located at 634 State St., 962-9991. Tickets are $9. They are available through Ticketmaster or at the door. Doors open at 9 p.m.

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