Q&A: Keith Morris of OFF! Culture Room Show October 23
OFF! with Morris, second from right
Though introductions should be entirely unnecessary, Keith Morris was a founding member of seminal punk band Black Flag. Shortly after he left that band, he founded the Circle Jerks, which he fronted from 1979 until quite recently.
Keith now performs with the hardcore punk supergroup OFF!, which also include members of Burning Brides, Redd Kross, Rocket From the Crypt, and Hot Snakes. But where most supergroups fail to reach their perceived potential, OFF! has excelled above and beyond the promise of the names on the record sleeve, and gone on to forge an identity of its own.
At 55 years old, Keith shows no signs of slowing down. Though experience has certainly left its mark, the gargantuan amount of buzz generated by OFF!'s debut live performance at the 2010 edition of SXSW show that Morris has only grown better with time.
If you're still amongst what scant few skeptics remain, we urge you to give the band's initial four EPs a spin to hear what many are hailing as the best punk band since its members original acts. The four vinyl seven-inch releases are sold together as a box set, and between the Raymond Pettibon jacket art and era-specific sonic aesthetic, these records will be right at home next to their Frontier and SST ancestors.
County Grind: OFF! just got home from a tour of Europe. How was the reception over there?
Keith Morris: The European tour warranted that we not leave Europe and just move there, but I'm in a band with three guys who are dads, so they had to come back and get into all of that family type stuff. Being the only "single" member of the band, with none of those types of responsibilities made it very easy for me to say "I'm not coming back!"
We got up on stage and did our line check and there were like, 24 people in the field in front of us and I'm looking at the guys and thinking, "This doesn't bode very well for us." Everyone is on the other side of the park listening to some soft Swedish or Norwegian "Peter, Bjorn and John" doing their la-la-las with their keyboards and it just doesn't look good.
So we go back stage and did all of our yoga and stretching and yodeling, and I did my classical voice exercises to warm up, and we go on stage to what looked like 10,000 people!
About a third of the way through the set, his mom was so pissed off at him and fed up that she walked up to the front of the stage and threw him into the crowd! It was brilliant because in that situation, a seven-year-old weighs what? Maybe 30 or 40, possibly 50 pounds?
He crowd-surfed all the way to the very back of the theater, and then they pushed him all the way back to the front and in a very nice, gentle way pushed him back on stage. He immediately, with out looking at anyone on stage turned around and dove back into the crowd! He probably had the experience of his life until his parents take him to Disney World.
This might be a terrible analogy, but I don't think the Rolling Stones are going to go to Mick Jagger and tell him that he's no longer in the band. I don't think the guys in The Descendents would go to Milo and tell him "your services are no longer necessary." All of this ridiculousness and stupidity, and a bunch of decisions that were made based on pills, and bills and cheap thrills, and not really thought out.
There's a whole stack of stuff next to my turntable right now. I've got about 5000 records, so I could rattle off a whole bunch of stuff. I do an Internet radio show called Totally Psyched on Moheak.com. It runs Tuesdays from 3 to 5 p.m. Pacific Time. I'm one of the only guys that actually plays vinyl only. Hopefully I can get them to do some re-broadcasts while I work my way to South Florida.
I've been playing music for over 33 years, and I have some friends that are in extremely large bands. Maybe it's not cool to like them, but I couldn't care less. I like the Red Hot Chili Peppers because they're my friends, even though they did start a genre of music.
I've been extremely fortunate. I've been around a lot of different people on a lot of different levels, and my life has been extremely interesting, and if the Red Hot Chili Peppers ask us to play some shows, sure, we'll do it. We'll go out there and play in front of all of the people there to see RHCP and that means we've got to prove ourselves!
We could go out night after night and play to people who know who we are, and that's all fan-fucking-tastic, but part of our job is to take it up a couple of notches. Those people may hate us, but maybe they'll love us. There's only one way to find out and that's to do it.
We've been playing a lot of festivals and catching slack for that, but we're having a blast. There shouldn't be a list of where a punk band can and cannot play. We don't have someone standing over us telling us how to get from point A to point B.
We had just recorded the song and I felt that it needed backing vocals. Normally in that situation, when you need a group chorus, you've got no one except the guys in the band, and they're going to get in the booth and it's going to come out oi-oi-oi and it's so overdone and tired that it felt like, why bother? I didn't want to sing the chorus because it can get pretty winding live, and the light bulb goes on over my head, Could this be a good idea? A great idea? Maybe a terrible idea?
So I asked Debbie to do it. I had envisioned not only her, but a few of my friends from the band L7 in the room as well, but that never came to fruition due to a couple of them having the flu right before a tour, kind of like my situation right now. Anyhow, it wound up being just Debbie and I thought, "That's pretty cool."
She's so far removed from whatever hardcore punk rock kinda label that it just makes perfect sense. It's kind of like rubbing the dogs nose in the shit, you know? It worked out beautifully, and she joined us on stage at CBGB's after and it turned out to be a blast and an amazing experience!
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