The rise of Auntie Christ

Exene Cervenkova throws down the gauntlet

It's rare to find a musician with such strong socio-political views who can back them with concrete, educated arguments. Cervenkova is less interested in flogging her new album and more apt to talk about the world she lives in; she's in music because she has things to say. Whenever she encounters ignorance, she feels she's in the wrong business, and she thinks that a lot of punk rock today is a fashion thing.

"When we started in LA, there weren't any mohawks or safety pins," Cervenkova says. "People who got drawn into punk were people who wouldn't fit in. Weird graphic designers in straight black pants when everybody was wearing bellbottoms, people with slicked-back hair who looked Fifties, people who looked Forties. Then we started throwing a few punk things here and there. It wasn't until the early Eighties when surfer kids with long hair started coming to the gigs and found out that punk was more violent than what they had. So they gave themselves mohawks and started coming to gigs wearing quilts and safety pins and spit at the bands. They were causing trouble, because they read in magazines that's what punks are supposed to do. Unfortunately, that's what survived: the fashion of it." (On "The Nothing Generation," she sings "One million needles piercing/their noses and lips/Stupid fucking kids, wake up/Stupid fucking sheep, you're asleep.")

Many people believe that the time is ripe for a new movement that will drag music out of the quagmire, the same way that punk rock exploded 20 years ago. Cervenkova hasn't seen it yet: "If there was a need, there would have been a movement already. I'd rather it wasn't punk that re-erupted, but something brand-new that kids came up with. People right now go for this whole beauty thing. You have beautiful, lush songs, beautiful women and men singing beautiful songs, beautiful MTV videos. A soothing fairy tale kinda thing. And that's what brought up punk in the first place. It was all Eagles and Fleetwood Mac."

Cervenkova believes that the big corporations have a stronghold on people's lives, and that's partly why most music has no bite. Whether it is Hanson or Marilyn Manson, the consumption patterns are exactly the same.

"It used to be that culture was created by people and filtered all the way up," she says. "Now everything is dictated from the highest corporate levels--corporate think tanks and Madison Avenue advertising. Then it descends on the public, and they're told what their culture is. And they don't seem to care or notice or to mind. To me, it's horrifying. People are like zombies. It's unbelievable--like science fiction. My whole theory is to tell people to turn against corporations and not let them into their house or love them."

And our government--supposedly looking out for us and watchdogging the corporations--is actually doing neither, she says. "The way government exists now is as upper-level management that manages the affairs of corporations and the way they interact with consumers," Cervenkova says. "So there is a big problem with government. And there are no countries anymore, there are economies; there are no citizens, there are consumers. Have you noticed how in the news they refer to a country as 'the world's fifth-largest economy,' or they talk about the 'consumer price index.' They talk about us as consumers!"

This consumerism and material co-dependence is probably the main reason there will likely never be another youth uprising like that of the Woodstock generation or the punk upheaval. "Everyone is hooked up to their computers. Everyone is plugged in. It's like a concentration camp with the doors being open, but no one wants to leave," she says. "I've been preaching against computers for 10 years now. Again, it's the corporate thing. I don't know if they do it on purpose, but they do it so they guide everything away from the soul and direct it to the ego. The ego is overfed, constantly bombarded, and the soul is totally neglected. You do it with Nike, with fashion shows, with sports, and you do it with bands: You identify with the number one most popular band. You do it with piercings, with tattoos, with everything. That's how people lost their souls," she says with a touch of sadness in her voice.

Then her tone changes completely: "But why should you care? Let them go!"
She goes on: "If you have your circle of friends, people who make music and films that you like, Herman Hesse books you can read, different people you agree with, then you say, 'I'm not crazy; I know what's going on.' Then you let everybody else go. Don't try to change them. I'm not gonna try to change the woman in the bikini, or the frat boy, or the Christian. Let 'em go! You're not gonna change their mind. The only thing I'm trying to do is pull people away from the herd."

With Life Could Be A Dream, Cervenkova does not try to convert new followers, nor does she preach to the converted. Rather, it is a soul-exposing album that comes from an inner need to express intense feelings. She recalls a recent musical experience she had when she saw Kristin Hersh in concert: "It was amazing how beautifully she sang and played, and how beautiful the words are. It was like classical music and poetry, and I was moved to tears. It was an incredibly moving experience. She is so talented. I aspire to create something so beautifully poetic. After the show, she talked to me and said that I was one of her influences. I like artists who are connected to their souls and have a complete pipeline from their souls to the audience. In music, I'm looking for people who are incredibly intelligent, totally poetic, and moving. I'm not a big fan of the ego."

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