Off!'s Keith Morris Mouths Off, Before the Group's Show at the Whisky Tomorrow
In this week's music feature we get inside the heads of punk rock "supergroup" Off! on the eve of the release their self-titled debut album. (They hate that term, btw.) The group, which is led by former Black Flag and Circle Jerks frontman and Keith Morris, was spawned from the disintegration of the Circle Jerks. Below are excerpts from our conversation with Morris -- at Carousel Restaurant in east Hollywood, where Off! was first conceived -- that didn't make the article.
On working "day jobs":
"I come from working class, so it's not that big of a deal. Not a big deal to get up at eight in the morning and chop up some fruit and some vegetables and ask people what they would like to drink ... [Friends] would look at me and go: 'Why are you working here? You're a rock star - you should be out playing the coliseums of the world.'"
On being considered a "legend":
"I don't shine that kind of light on myself ... Being a legend with a pocket full of change might not even get you a bus ride or a cup of coffee."
"The idea is just to get it and get out and trim all the fat. One of the things that I like bringing up is we have this invention called the compact disc, which I think holds 72, 73 minutes worth of music. And all of a sudden all of bands decided -- well, not all of the bands, but a great deal of bands decided -- 'well, if it holds 72 minutes of music we're going to have 71 minutes-worth of music on our CD'. Consequently, you had all these CDs where, after about the first 15, 20 minutes, was like 'why am I listening to this?' -- it's just meandering on and 'listen to me and how I can play this instrument' ..."
On the Circle Jerks' 2010 break-up:
"All of a sudden there were a lot of horrendous decisions being made and, being at the age that I'm at, if it was a record company or a manager making those decisions it would be 'OK - we'll either go along with this and see where it takes us or we'll fire them and move on.' But when it's a band member - you don't just, like, fire one of the most important people in the band! ... So, after a few disastrous decisions, I just put my foot down and said 'I'm no longer a part of this'."
On a "revenge of the nerds" attitude:
"Part of playing music - playing loud music; playing music the way that we play it with the middle finger up in the air - was all those [high school] bullies and all the teachers that said 'oh no, you can't do this; you're not good enough to do this' ... [But] now it's 'welcome to the party' - everybody should be allowed to come to the party. Being 56 years old and having seen as much as I've seen, participated in as much as I've participated in, it's like 'open the front door and let everybody come in'. And if you're a dick, then get the fuck out; and if you're not, then hang."
On never making that "mature, mellow album":
"I've done some experimentation with [late 1990s band] Midget Handjob. And I was in a rock 'n' roll band called Bug Lamp [in the early '90s] - that was my opportunity to sign the multi-million dollar deal ... My head said 'take the money; buy the house; have the nice big car'. But my heart said 'you don't want to play in the Keith Morris band'."
On his band's record deal, now with a major label subsidiary:
"I don't like the corporations - nobody should like the corporations ... But the fact of the matter is that, when they out a hand out, you take whatever is in that hand and you run with it. Because you helped pay for whatever they have in their hand."
On young bands on the Warped Tour:
"You're not qualified to be up there singing. You've not even lived life - like, 7 or 8 years of your life you've actually gone out there and done something. Come back in around another 15 years."
On "the people that make our decisions for us":
"My thing is, I'm pissed at all of them - all those people! If it were up to me, and I was a member of the NRA [National Rifle Association] and I was a gun owner, my dark streak would come up."
On being recognized:
"I appreciate that and it's good for the ego; it inflates the ego. Because we all need our ego stroked and rubbed and massaged ... Of course, there's times when it's a little too much. A perfect example would be standing on the curb out in front of the little Emo's [during South by Southwest 2010] ... all of a sudden I'm taking 20, 30 photos. And I could be angry about that; I could be angry at myself for allowing myself to be placed in that situation, but it comes with the territory."
On being a diabetic touring musician:
"One of the things I'm finding, I'm starting to get hypoglycemic after we get through playing ... With all the time changes, and tonight you're going on at 8 o'clock and today you're going on at 6 and then Friday night you're going on at 11. I try to eat like an hour before we play ... It's like going into the gas station and filling up before it's time to get on the freeway."
"I'm an alcoholic and a cocaine addict. At one point in time you could have lifted me up by my legs and I would've vacuumed your carpets with my nose."
On Off's first rehearsal:
"I wanted to be upset, because it leaned more towards Led Zeppelin that it did Black Flag. But then I had my epiphany, and that is 'you're playing with some really great musicians - let them be what they're going to be'."
"The Firm? Wasn't really that great. Asia? Blind Faith, on the other hand, that was pretty bad ass - they touched onto something."
"I'm also into the protest, and one of the things I refuse to be is a slave to the oil companies. So I have probably $3-worth of gas in my tank ... at one point I was filling-up once a month."
On the Whisky a Go-Go (where Off performs on tomorrow, May 8):
"There was a period of time that I would go to the Whisky a Go-Go at least two or three times a week - this would have been the '70s ... It's one of the most famous clubs in the world and it's become un-famous because of their booking policies - the pay-to-play. The last time I was there I saw a really horrible nu-metal band from Bakersfield." (Ed. note: For their part, the Whisky denies the assertion.)
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