Keith Morris of OFF!: "When I Think of a Supergroup, I Think of Asia"
Even without considering his most recent band, OFF!, Keith Morris' punk rock credentials would be secure. Best known as the original singer for Black Flag and the founding member of the Circle Jerks, Morris has been at the forefront of the American hardcore and punk experience for the better part of three decades.
Aaron Farley OFF!
From his home in California, and in anticipation of OFF!'s performance tonight at Trees with Negative Approach and Power Trip, Morris talked about what pisses him off these days.
Are you still living in Los Angeles?
Yes, I live about a block and a half from where I was born. I am under the emergency helicopter flight path to all of the hospitals over here. I live around the corner from one of the busiest intersections in Los Angeles. There's always some kind of commotion, some hubbub, people honking and screeching, all sorts of fun stuff.
You must have to take a lot of sleep medication.
I have a hard time sleeping, but I don't take any medicine. I am not about getting strung out on any kind of pharmaceuticals. I am a diabetic, so I am strung out on insulin. I want to leave it at insulin and nothing else. The people at my pharmacy are really nice people. They know who I am. But I don't want to become a slave to the pharmaceutical companies.
Many writers have referred to OFF! as a punk rock supergroup. Is that a contradiction in terms?
We are not bullet proof. We don't fly through the air. We are not invisible. We can't leap tall mountains in a single bound. We are not faster than speeding trains. I don't like that term supergroup. I think I am very fortunate to have aligned myself to the guys that I am playing with. They are amazing musicians. Our heritage and family tree is pretty incredible. When I think of a supergroup, I think of Asia.
And you certainly don't want to be known as the punk rock Asia.
I don't want to be the punk rock anything. I don't want to be Asia. I don't want to be punk rock. I actually don't have much to do with punk rock. If you were to stand next to me, you would know that I would finish last place in the Sid Vicious lookalike contest.
But you have to admit that you, Henry Rollins and Jello Biafra are kind of the godfathers of American hardcore punk.
That's just a label. You have to toss some of those labels out the window. There's a lot of stuff to be angry about. There's a lot of stuff to be pissed off about. Can't your average working Joe, middle class, hard working guy just be angry? Why do I have to be this just because I once did that?
OFF!'s debut recently came out and features 16 songs done in just over sixteen minutes. Is there a particular reason why the songs are so brief?
People have a short attention span. We had the invention of the CD and everyone thought that they had to fill up 72 minutes. Consequently, we were being bombarded with longer songs. All of a sudden, you were listening to music and scratching your head wondering why anyone would record this. Are you kidding? You lose interest about 29 minutes in. You find yourself listening to stuff that should have never been recorded in the first place. There are 800 million trillion bands out there. Everybody's in a band. Your parents, when you are not around, are conspiring to start a band. Your parents are partying hard when you least expect it. They are throwing a kegger. They are putting food dye in the swimming pool.
Are your current sets about 30 minutes long?
We just trimmed two or three songs from the list and added a few new ones. We will probably play 24 or 25 songs, somewhere around 45 minutes.
How do you have the energy and stamina to play this style of music night after night?
Maybe I am angry that there are a bunch of bands out there that shouldn't be out there. Maybe I am angry because I have something to prove. Maybe I have a new lease on life because I have been a diabetic for 13 years and I have come to the realization that I am not going to be around that much longer. Maybe I need to go to some places and meet some people. I need to do a few more things. I've got some stuff that I need to accomplish. I just want to go for it.
Do you still keep in touch with the guys you played with in Black Flag?
I haven't kept in touch with Greg Ginn. I had a falling out with him. He had a couple of reunion shows that I was asked to be a part of. He turned out to be not a very friendly guy, not a very straightforward guy. I do talk with Raymond Pettibon all of the time. The same goes for Henry and Chuck Dukowski. I talk with Bill Stevenson, Kira and even Ron Reyes. Whenever we play Vancouver, he is usually there. I keep in touch with a lot of the guys.
Do you think you will ever reform the Circle Jerks?
I am not closing the door, but I am in no hurry. I am in a new band called OFF! We are going everywhere. We are doing all of the things that my other band should have done. Why would I want to go back to a bunch of grouchy, grumpy, arrogant, egotistical, know-it-all, overbearing guys? Why would I want to do that when I can be in this new situation where I am having a great time? I am having a blast. I am having the time of my life.