Punk Goes OFF! An Interview with Keith Morris

Posted: October 24, 2011 by Esteban in Interview

Keith Morris and the steady shakes, trying to prove to me that he is sober.

When conjuring up the names of punk rock legends there are but a handful of individuals who simply cannot be overlooked like the standout fashions and hairstyles they’ve conjured up over the years. Individuals who have been timelessly imitated by their contemporaries while leaving their mark on rock and roll history, genuinely, ironically, or post-ironically. Musicians like Sid Vicious, Darby Crash, and of course former Blackflag and Circle Jerk frontman, Keith Morris, a living legend. In an exclusive interview at FYF, Keith sits down with em and discusses musical endeavors past, present, and future.

Hey, Keith, good to see you again. How have you been preparing for FYF?

As a curator for FYF, my choice [for bands to play FYF] was Guided by Voices. We’ve been trying to get them to play here for years.

FYF references you for bands you’d like to play at FYF?

Well, I’ve been a part of it [FYF] for six or seven years.

Keith, since you started OFF! has everything gone the way you had planned?

Well, originally we were working on a Circle Jerks album. Dimitri and I had a conversation about how the other guys in the band would find a way to fuck all of this up. To fuck up the free lunch. In the process, Dimitri said, “You need to make a list of people you would want in a band if you were to start band tomorrow.” The first people that we put on the list are in the band!

Does Mario still  live in Cadriff by the Sea?

He is in a place called Vista, which is kinda like Animal House. I’ve never been there, so I wouldn’t know.

Are you still in Hermosa, Keith?

No, I live right up the street in Los Feliz. I can’t go back to Hermosa, it’s horrible.

Why is that?

Because of all of the inflexive yuppies.

Yeah, I heard they were trying to crack down on noise and shit like that because of the WASPs and yuppies in the area.

They really ruined the vibe.

Whatever happened to the Church in Hermosa?

The Church was demolished. It was a parking lot for a few minutes, then they turned it into this microbrew.

Tell me about your live album. Why did you decide to record it for Record Day?

We had gone to New York and play some shows during the… crap I forget what it is called, but one of the shows was in the basement of a record store. Basically the guys in the band thought it was good enough to put into a record.

Fucking wicked. On vinyl?

It only came out on vinyl.

Nice. What I love most about OFF! is that the sound you guys produce is so raw, it almost sounds like you guys are making the songs up on the spot. Why do you think everything is so natural for OFF!?

There is another part of that, and that is being in the other bands that we’ve all been in. Like the Warped Tour, there is a certain vibe that says you’ve got to sound like this, like radio friendly, and all of a sudden you’ve got all of these bands where all of the rough edges…

Are we talking about dark party type stuff or pop punk type stuff?

We are talking about a certain mentality where it’s like, “We’ve got to get played on the radio! And we’re not going to get played on the radio unless our drums sound like this and we sound like this!”

That you’ve got to fit inside certain parameters.

Yeah! It’s like, “Let’s record it, then we’ll pay to have someone mix it to it’s friendly.” There is no spirit, there is no fire, there is no umph! It all sounds the same.

That’s what is great about the OFF! sound, is that it is raw and dirty and a throwback to that Blackflag style.

Early on, yes, but later on, there was a mentality where we had to fit inside a category. A perfect example is I went to a Green Day show…

Motherfucking Green Day.

-At the Hollywood Palladium. The two bands playing with them were the Muffs and the Queers. They were fantastic! Even Green Day was fantastic! That was early on when they were in their ascension. What bummed me out is that all of the music they played in between bands was all very horizontal. It all sounded the same. It all had the same quality, “be nice”. But we’re puck rock! “But be nice.” I don’t want to be horizontal, I want to be vertical. I don’t want to be black and white. I want to have some red and green and yellow.

Exactly. Hey, what the fuck happened to the unfinished Circle Jerks Album?

We don’t really talk about them anymore. They can go off and play with whoever they want to play with. We started to work on the album and all of a sudden, one of the guys was like, “It sounds too much like garage rock.” Then I get a call at 10:30 at night, “We don’t want to work with Dimitri. Dimitri is not going to be our producer. We know you are going to quit the band because out our decision.” And you know what, they were right. A half hour later I settled back in a collected my thoughts and figured, you know what? I started this band, I don’t need to walk away from this band, I don’t need to quit this band, I’m going to go OFF and do what I want to do!

Thus begun OFF!

Fuck yeah.

I loved the First Four EPs. You have a new song coming out called Compared to what and Rotten Apple.

“Compared to what” and “Rotten Apple” are singles we released. We were originally going to go on tour with Trash Talk. We were going to do a split 7” with one side “Compared to What” and on the other side was their version of a Bobby Blue Band cover they recorded, but for some reason they said they didn’t want to do it. We didn’t bother to get into any specifics. If they didn’t want to do it that is totally cool, so we released the 7” with “Compared to what” on one side and “Rotten Apple” on the other side. Our album is the First Four EPs, which was released as a box set and CD, never a 12”. We were hoping it would be released as a 12” but that never happened. That’s up to the recorded label. We can only moan and bitch and complain for so long.

When are you guys recoding new shit next?

We need to just get in a studio and bash out more songs.

Yeah. Because the OFF! sound is so natural, I image it is no problem for you guys to crank out more tunes.

Well, one of the things about the recoding is that it sounds the same way it sounded the first time we got together and were bash9ing away at these songs.

What bands are you looking forward to seeing perform at FYF?

We would talk about Guided by Voices, No Age, of course the Descendents. Billy and I go all the way back to the Church in Hermosa. And Milo who also went to our High School.

What have you been listening to lately?

My favorite stuff that I’ve been listening to lately are Dearhunter, Crocodiles, Status Quo live…

All great up and coming bands. That’s all the time we have. Thanks for chatting with me, Keith. Keep it Ultra Vulgar.

FYF, by the way, is not just a one day concert event. They actually sponsor dope shows all year round all across LA and beyond, like their Downtown Scavenger Hunt this November 19th. Check out our FYF review w/ photos for more info.

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