He is one of those people that, as a rock journalist, I have often dreamt about conducting an interview with, but wondered if I would ever get the chance. He is after all a fucking legend... A punk rock original and a rock and roll icon... Who would have thought that he'd find time in his hectic life to talk to me?
I'm starting to realize that this blogamachine really isn't a bad gig...
Keith Morris's musical influence within the punk rock community is immeasurable... Two of the acts he is associated with, Black Flag and The Circle Jerks, are considered to be pioneers of the indigent West Coast punk scene. His latest project, OFF! is garnering world wide respect, and is one of the most sought after live acts in this modern era.
Black Flag and The Circle Jerks both came from South Bay in California - Hermosa Beach to be precise- and dunked the California music scene headfirst into a bubbling bath of bone melting anarchy. That was in the late '70s and the scene has never fully recovered. It certainly has not been the same since. Nor has the rest of the world... Anti-Flag, The Dropkick Murphys, Bad Religion, The Meat Puppets, Falling Sickness, Bouncing Souls, Rancid and even Megadeth are a few of the bands that have named Black Flag and/or The Circle Jerks as an influence to their music.
Keith Morris was a driving force with both of these bands, taking his pent up anger off of the streets and bringing it to the stage. And while Black Flag's sound is significantly different from that of The Circle Jerks, both bands apply social disorder as a common thread to their sound and their attitude. Keith Morris has attitude... Maybe that's what lends to him being one of the most sought after live musicians today in a world consumed by governmental atrocities and corporate monetary genocide. While technology has evolved since 1976, the federal bullshit capacity hasn't, and neither has Keith Morris's style. And this explains why he is still relevant... He is one of us.
|Nervous Breakdown EP (1978)|
1. In 1976 you co-founded Black Flag with guitarist Greg Ginn who shared your intense work ethic... What led to you and Greg collaborating together to form this band, and what band(s) would you say was the main influence for Black Flag?
It was GINN's work ethic that forced me away from BF and the fact that I wasn't having fun, we weren't playing that many shows which lead to lots of hours in the rehearsal space. The formation of the band happened naturally as Ginn and I wanted to start a band. We had absolutely no idea as to what we were doin' or how to move forward so we just went along at our own pace.......figuring things out for ourselves. We asked friends to play with us in the practice room and finding out who were good players and not. We had 3 bassists before CHUCK "THE DUKE" DUKOWSKI who came in and really kicked up the work pace. We had a ton of influences ranging from THE LAST, DOGS, TED NUGENT, LYNYRD SKYNYRD, ALLEY CATS, BAGS, GERMS, X, WEIRDOS, CONTROLLERS, FLESHEATERS, THIN LIZZY, PLUGZ, RHINO 39, SCREAMERS, GRATEFUL DEAD, JOURNEY, BLACK OAK ARKANSAS, AC/DC, DAMNED, SKULLS, ZEROS, EYES, SEX PISTOLS and IGGY & THE STOOGES..................and all of the mediocre top 40 bands that played on the weekends across the South Bay who were probably more inspirational than any of the "REAL" bands I mentioned!
2. Three years later you co-founded the Circle Jerks with another Greg, this time Greg Hetson (who later played guitar for Bad Religion.). What can you tell me about the transition between Black Flag and the Circle Jerks? (ie: What was your mindset, was it a smooth transition, etc?)
It was pretty easy as we initially had Hetson, Lucky who had auditioned for Red Cross and myself. I said let's start a band and I found Roger Rogerson drinking a 40 ounce gut wrench beer inna' brown paper bag in front of the Anti Club and the Circle Jerks fell into place and was all downhill from there. Our mindset was that we wanted to have a good time and not mess up the party! We, unlike Black Flag weren't into the violence so the difference between the 2 bands was that they didn't care and were more serious and the Circle Jerks were more comical and tried to bring a festive mood to wherever/whatever we were up to.
|Circle Jerks circa 1981|
Touche'... The Circle Jerks song "Golden Shower of Hits" was a medley of six cover songs from such surprising artists as The Carpenters, Starland Vocal Band, Captain and Tennille, and Tammy Wynette to name a few... It's a medley of six songs strung together to tell a story about two people falling in love, having an unplanned pregnancy, getting hastily married, and eventually, getting divorced... Heh... What's the story BEHIND the story?
There's no story leading up to the song except that I was always quick to do cover songs as long as we were doin' a good job playing them. We'd already decided to name the album "Golden Shower Of Hits" so the rest of the songs just fell into place............we we're being mismanaged at that time and one of the guys who thought he was in charge decided to take credit for coming up with the idea to cover a buncha' songs that had abso-fuckin'-lutely no business being mangled by a band of our caliber!
4. Who are some of the modern bands that you listen to?
Right now I'm listening to the "Scott Pilgrim Vs The World" soundtrack which is FUCKIN' NUTS! Before that was ZOFFY's "Zo Zo Zo Zo Zoffy!!!", THE BLACK ANGELS' "Phosphene Dream", IDLE TIMES' 1st album, DANZIG's 1st album, DEERHUNTER's "Microcastle", DEEP PURPLE's "In Rock", HIGH ON FIRE's "The Art Of Self Defense" and PRIMAL SCREAM's "Primal Scream" album................yesterday was THE GUN CLUB's "Fire Of Love", (Turn On) THE MUSIC MACHINE, ELASTICA, ALICE COOPER's "School's Out", EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING, SECRET MACHINES "Now Here Is Nowhere".........WOVEN BONES, CROCODILES, TEN YEARS AFTER, FUCKED UP, JESUS LIZARD, CLINIC, DUM DUM GIRLS, WARPAINT, MASTER'S APPRENTICES and a few others.
5. Your latest band project, OFF! is receiving world-wide acclaim... First of all, what is it like to be a full fledged punk rocker in his mid '50s, and secondly, now that you have several months under your belt with this act, what is the general vibe within the band? In other words, is most of the bullshit you put up with while in Black Flag and the Circle Jerks still a common thread, or have you finally found "harmony" with a band?
I don't and never really considered myself a "Punk Rock" as I'm just a guy who's angry and has been fortunate to be playing pissed off, aggressive music and there's tension in this band at times but we channel the ugliness into our incredibly beautiful thing! LMAO! I LOVE THIS BAND 'cause the guyz are extremely talented as players and have been through enough stuff to understand that we've got something totally happening goin' on and we all look like studly handsome men's underwear models.
|Morris on stage at the Vans Warped Tour '07|
(Bonus Question): Assuming that you are content with OFF!, what is your take on the Black Flag "reunion shows" that keep getting brought up? From what I can tell, Henry Rollins has no interest... If he is out, and you have your own gig going on... Is it even plausible?
GINN put onna' coupla' reunion shows that had about 99 and 1/2% of the attendees totally bummed out........I only heard one positive critique and that was that this one particular person dug GINN's guitar sound. Most peeps said it was a ripoff. I was asked to participate to make sure that ROBO, "THE DUKE" and RON REYES were gonna' participate in what was being billed as "THE FIRST FOUR YEARS" but after a coupla' horrible rehearsals I knew it wasn't gonna' happen with me. Too many lies, accusations, bogus phone conversations and finger pointing which brought me to the realization of why I left BF in the first place! HENRY loves GINN and has the utmost respect for him but was never gonna' be a part as we'd done the WEST MEMPHIS 3 benefit tour and that was enough for him. GINN wasn't happy with us doin' that tour and made Junior High Schoolgirl comments towards a coupla' guys that were part of the tour...........TOTALLY WEAK!