Keith Morris Sounds OFF! About His Dark Punk Party
Rocks Off: You desire a gig in Mississippi or Alabama. Why?
I can barely remember the last time any of my other bands played in either of those states. Now, the excuse I keep getting is that they are very depressed states and maybe they are not doing very well financially, or just a whole list of things. But the fact of the matter is that there are colleges and universities down there, and when kids are paying their tuition ... they pay into an entertainment fund.
So, why can't they scrape up a couple thousand dollars for us to play at the local beer hall and get a party going? ... How often does a band on tour go to those places? You might drive through there on tour and never stop. You could also include Arkansas in there too. There's a whole area down there.
I thought it would be cool to play some of those places. My recollection of playing, I believe it was in Mobile, Alabama, was getting punched in the face trying to protect a couple of kids from getting beat up by drunk rednecks.
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RO: Like the Sex Pistols heading to the South during their 1978 tour.
There's another part to that picture too. Malcolm McLaren was managing the band and he is very manipulative, he is media-savvy. He is looking to create some kind of scenario, create a scene, stir up some trouble, and what better way than to send these loudmouth drunken punk rockers that don't look like anything anybody's seen in any of those places come and play those places. McLaren died in April 2010 - Ed.
It was confrontational - you got Sid Vicious spitting on people, slashing himself with glass. It was like, let's create some controversy. That's pretty much what that was about.
Keith Morris in the '80s
Photo by Ben DeSoto
RO: As a kid, you listened to AM radio. Does Off!'s music link to that?
Some of the stuff we got to hear on the radio when we were kids, there was some pretty wild stuff: The Kinks, The Who, "Louie Louie." The Seeds' "Pushin' Too Hard," that's kind of punk rock. That's kind of aggressive ... that's kind of anti-authoritative type of music, like, "Don't mess with me, I'm tired of your stuff. Don't hassle me, man. Get off my back. Get out of my face. Let me do my thing. You don't like it? Cool. No big deal. If you like it, well, that's fantastic."
RO: The Circle Jerks covered both The Creation and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Would OFF! do that?
When it comes to the Circle Jerks, you can go all the way back ... to more friendlier AM radio-type songs that were being played, that we were mangling. With Off!, that's not going to happen. There's some of that mentality that runs through the band, but it does not come through our music.
Bass player Steve McDonald is a huge fan of girl groups, the Partridge Family, and all that fun kind of stuff, but when it comes to the songwriting it's Dimitri and me. I write the lyrics, he basically just does a bunch of down stroking on the guitar, and we take it from there. I mean everybody is allowed to add bits and pieces, but it's on a musical level, it's not on a lyrical level.
The structure is pretty much set ...and the aggressiveness. That's kind of what Dimitri and I do when we are bashing it out in my living room.
RO: Do you consider OFF! less humorous and political than the Circle Jerks?
The Circle Jerks were light, fluffy, and airy. The Circle Jerks were popcorn compared to OFF!, which is more like sandpaper, glass, and rocks. Throw all that stuff in your mouth and see how it feels and tastes and what happens to your teeth and tongue. There is a lot of the same mentality, but at the same time a lot of it is missing.
The CJs were just out to be the life of the party. We wanted to be the guys that played the music for everybody to do their drugs and squirt red dye in the swimming pool and start the orgy. All the kids out front putting paper in the trees, removing people's hub caps and putting rocks in there.
RO: OFF! is a soundtrack to?
Our party leans a little bit closer to Black Flag, like the dark party. I think our thing is a little bit more sinister. Now, I personally try to hold onto as much sarcasm as possible because keeping a shield of humor gets you through a lot of ugly situations, where you can kind of shrug your shoulders and laugh under your breath and get on with it.
You can be in some real ugly, evil situation, and if you hold on to your sense of sarcasm, that helps deflect a lot of the crap that gets tossed your way. It's almost a scenario out of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, like whistle while you work. Maybe that helps speed up the time, so you don't have to pay close attention to the clock, and you don't have to pay that much attention to the boss breathing own your neck.
OFF! plays with Cerebral Ballzy and Retox, 8 p.m. Friday at Warehouse Live.
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