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What Would John Doe Do? — Touring Tips

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John Doe is the founder of the seminal Los Angeles punk group X, a solo artist and actor. John answers questions from our community members in the WWJDD? blog.

A Question from Mark in Memphis

Hey John,

I’ve seen X play several time over the years and have always been so impressed with the band’s live shows. I’d like to know what type of planning goes into the band’s live shows. Does the band use the same playlist every night or create new ones at each stop? How does the band decide which songs make the playlist and when to go “off script”? Do you have any route planning tips for planning a tour? How do you take care of your voice during a multi show run?

Any insights into tour or show planning you can share would be great.

Thanks,
Mark

What Would John Doe Do?

Hey Mark,

Creating the setlist for X has varied, even over the last 12 years since we’ve re-united w/ Billy Zoom. Usually I make the setlist but on occasion Exene will. In general I’ll have three or four lists that get changed somewhat or not from night to night. Other people use the same list night after night & that can help the flow because you get used to what song is next. I will repeat combinations of songs, if two work well together, in the same key so that you can run one into the next. But, I find that using the same setlist night after night can make the show blurry. didn’t we just do this last night? You never want to feel like you’re chasing a moment that’s already happened. Each band is different & you have to adjust as things either work or not.

The two most challenging tours to make setlists for were the TRL (total request live 2008) where each city voted for which songs they wanted to hear us play & the most recent tour, Los Angeles in sequence and 13-14 songs to complete the show. The first required a new group of songs each night but I was able to substitute certain song for others. And w/ the Los Angeles tour losing all those songs to the beginning of the set made for creative juggling in the second half. In general, I’ll add or subtract a song if it seems that the audience’s energy needs a slower or faster song. Regarding routing, that’s anyone’s guess, just try to play the bigger cities/cities where yr draw is biggest, btwn Thurs & Sat and try not to zig-zag too much or you’ll get dizzy & forget whether or not you’ve already played a city. Take care of your voice by first learning to sing from yr diaphragm, not talking & yelling too much after the show and drinking a lot of water during the day. cocaine doesn’t help much and neither does coffee. I still drink coffee. If you ever see him, ask Robert Pollard how he does it. It blows my mind how he can drink & smoke that much & still hit all those high notes. Oh yeah; good genes & being 25 or 30 yrs old also helps.

hope you can use some of this & as always, thanks for writing.

yrs,

JD

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If you have questions for John Doe about music, the music business or life feel free to email them to wwjdd@knowthemusicbiz.com.

For more information on John Doe check out theejohndoe.com or YepRoc.com.