John Doe makes a name for himself

John Doe is best known as bassist/co-vocalist of X. He’s been described as “the punk rock George Jones” by Social Distortion’s Mike Ness, who also called X “the missing link between Sid Vicious and Woody Guthrie.” Although Doe still plays occasional X shows, lately he’s concentrating on his acting career (including a recurring role on the WB series Roswell) and playing with his own band, the John Doe Thing.
Your new John Doe Thing record is titled Freedom Is ... . Why, and what do you mean by “Freedom is just the end of the longest downhill climb”?
There was a time, when I wrote “Someday/No Day,” that I felt I’d bottomed out professionally. But I realized that it was a liberating experience, because when you hit the bottom then you’re free to do anything you want...And, I have to admit, that line about freedom was inspired by Kris Kristofferson’s line, “Freedom’s just another name (sic) for nothing left to lose.”
Tell me about the new song “Too Many Goddam Bands.”
There’s just too much of everything — books, bands, indie movies — it’s incredibly difficult to keep up. Lou Reed used to say that a thousand people bought the first Velvet Underground album, and each of them started a band. Well, 10 million people bought the Nirvana record, and every one of them started a band!
How do you see the current state of indie rock, especially with MP3 and Napster changing the rules?
I think there’s just as much or more great music around, but it takes effort to find it. I must say I’m totally relieved to not be part of the Big Game. I don’t wanna hear Korn, Limp Bizkit, Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera. But there is good stuff out there that I will listen to, like the Old 97’s, Elliott Smith, Aimee Mann...
The script for Kevin Costner’s Wyatt Earp (1994) describes your character as “a slight, disreputable tinhorn” — not exactly the sort of image that screams John Doe. How did you land that role?
At that point, Kevin Costner and I still had a friendship so I got it from the inside. I wouldn’t mind that as a description of me, though — “a slight, disreputable tinhorn.” It’s more exciting than being “Mr. All-American”!
What lies ahead for John Doe?
I’m gonna tour behind this record till nobody wants me anymore and try to make it successful. I’m also doing another Knitters record, and Rhino is talking about re-releasing all the X albums, so we’ll be playing again for that. I’m in another indie movie, one called Above and Below — sort of like The Shining at a high school reunion in Salem. Oh, and I’m in an episode of ER — as the head of a rehab clinic! Who’d have thunk it?!
The John Doe Thing performs at the Echo Lounge on Saturday Oct. 7.