Closing in on 60 years old has done nothing to slow Keith Morris.
Having founded Black Flag with Greg Ginn in 1976 and then the Circle Jerks when that relationship soured, Morris was behind two seminal outfits that will be synonymous with hardcore punk forever. And now four years into his latest project, the punk supergroup Off!, he's still ripping out new songs, tearing apart scuzzy rock clubs, and giving shit to the powers that be.
We recently spoke with the 38-year punk veteran, and here's what he had to say about politics, the music industry, and the power of rock 'n' roll.
New Times: I was supposed to interview you in 2005, but that fell apart because of Hurricane Katrina.
Keith Morris: Oh, wow. Hurricane Katrina and all those people who were displaced and had to move out of New Orleans.
You know, good old management from government.
Our wonderful government! We have the best government in the world.
That's what they tell us.
Does that make me a terrorist or unpatriotic because I say that our government is horrible? I live in California, and the State of California is one of the largest economies in the world — we're like five or six in the world, just the State of California. We have so much stuff going on here. We have computer valley, porno valley. We have grapes and wineries, walnuts, pistachios. We have marijuana up in the hills.
But another part of our economy, here in Southern California, is the military complex — you know, building helicopters and jets and rockets and guidance systems, Halliburton and all of those people. So consequently, a large portion of our population is working for these people, which is really sad.
All that military stuff is big money.
Yeah, it's like we don't need any more weapons in our military, and we don't need to be selling weapons to all these countries. I mean, we go to all these foreign places and we fight and we bomb and we kill, and when we're done, we leave everything behind because it is too expensive to bring it back with us.
Hasn't that been the M.O. since time immemorial?
Oh yeah. I have a question: How do you sleep at night when you're backing stuff like that up?
I wouldn't. But I don't stand to profit from that stuff.
The last time you were in Miami, you spoke with New Times, and when asked about dancing, you said, "When we say dance, we mean that the girls can shake their asses. To us, that is most important." Is that still true?
The good thing about rock 'n' roll is that's what it makes you want to do — tap your toes, snap your fingers, jump up and down. For the ladies, get on the go-go dance, get on the go-go plane, and shake your ass. Win that dance contest tab! One of the really cool things someone once pointed out was that Black Flag had the ability to make that happen. The Circle Jerks had the ability to make that happen. Off! certainly does, only you'll be shaking your ass for a minute and a half.
Sometimes that's all you need.
While Black Flag was always notorious for its infighting, Off! has been around for four years, and it seems like you've gotten it right as far as getting along with your bandmates.
I'm going to shoot that down. Because we had an incident today where the guy that used to be in the Burning Brides said something to the guy that used to be in Black Flag and the Circle Jerks, and the guy that used to be in Black Flag and the Circle Jerks told the guy that used to be in the Burning Brides to go fuck himself. I understand we're a bunch of grouchy, grumpy, curmudgeonly older guys, and some of us are set in our ways, some of us are spoiled, some of us are brats, some of us are dicks and assholes — and I'm raising my hand. The bottom line is that I have seniority, and I'm not going to have the new guy on the block tell me that my dance moves don't matter.
Any parting words?
I just want everybody to get off the computer, because people need to understand that you can watch band footage on YouTube, and that's fine and wonderful, but the best way to experience music is going to a hot, sweaty room with flashing lights and actual human beings standing next to you. There should be people jumping around, people getting excited, people out in the parking lot throwing bottles and crunching cans, smoking pot and cigarettes, and telling jokes. We need everybody to get off their asses and dance! Let's do this, people! C'mon now!