One of the first punk rock vocalists I ever heard was Keith Morris. My brother gave me Circle Jerks’ Group Sex on vinyl when I was a teen, it was one of the records that was my gateway into punk rock. Later on I’d pick up Black Flag’s Nervous Breakdown EP and over the years amass quite a collection of Keith’s work with all of his bands – most recently I’ve added latest musical project Off! In the week just passed Off! Played two amazing shows in my hometown of Brisbane. Keith was kind enough to speak with me for my Conversations With Punx project. Here’s a little snippet (we talked for over an hour). The full conversation will feature in the next zine in the CWP series (which I’m putting together at the moment). This conversation means a lot to me, Keith is one of the loveliest people I’ve met in punk rock. I’m so stoked that at 56-years-old he’s creating even more than ever—it’s truly inspiring!
You’ve been working on a book and a film. Can you tell me about them?
KEITH MORRIS: I’ve been working on the movie for about five to six years. I probably started working on the book about two years ago.
Is it fiction or non-fiction?
KM: The book is: Circle Jerks, Black Flag, Off!, working for a record company, working at a restaurant, working for The Commodores – you know The Commodores?
KM: Slippery When Wet, (She’s A) Brick House. The movie is my take on the Wizard of Oz.
Wow! That’s like my favourite movie ever!
KM: Well you know how the Wizard of Oz starts in black and white and when Dorothy and Toto get to Oz everything becomes beautiful and all of the colours are bright well my story is the Wizard of Oz upside down.
That will be amazing! I’ve heard that you’ve talked to Josh Homme from Queens of the Stoneage and Chris Goss [Masters of Reality] about working on the film score?
KM: And Daniel Lanios [who has worked with U2, Brian Eno, Neil Young and more]. Daniel said, ‘Keith when you’re ready to create these songs this is how it normally works – you’re pretty much playing other people’s music anyway because it’s all been played before so all you do is change what you need to change. If you’re writing these pieces to fit certain scenes in the movie, the music is going to move to what’s happening in the movie.’ If something is moving real slow then you’re just going to [makes sounds at a slow tempo] ‘wamp wamp wamp wamp wamp wamp wamp.’ When it starts to get energetic you’ll toss in a [picks up the tempo] ‘wa boom boom boom boom.’ It will be a guitar orchestra. I’m thinking maybe ten guitar players. You put ten different guitar players in a room and everyone wants to solo! You’ll have a couple of them whose egos are bigger than everybody else’s, it’s like ‘oh I have to play more notes.’
Do you find that when you create things whether it’s writing a book, lyrics, film or making music that you do it sometimes to help you make sense of your own life?
KM: That’s a good way of putting it. Most of the stuff that I write is mostly stuff that just bothers me, stuff that affects me; like I just need to purge myself of that, I need to blood let and just let it all out. A lot of it’s out of anger; a lot of it’s out of frustration; a lot of it’s just out of being depressed; a lot of times (like we were talking about) going down town to skid row; a lot of times we don’t have the opportunity to do that and we find ourselves in a situation where I feel like I’m in a hole. I feel like I’m in a ditch, how am I going to get out of here? Maybe the only way that you can lift yourself out of the hole or climb out of the ditch is just by screaming and yelling [laughs]—well that works for me! I don’t know if it would work for anybody else.
I also find when I do interviews with people that it helps me with things in my life.
KM: I have a lot of friends who are creative people and I believe that the majority of them don’t create out of anger or out of depression. I find a lot of their stuff to be more cheery and not so dark, not so heavy, but I like that. I like that ‘well let’s take this colour and through it against the wall. Let’s take some pink and toss it in there.’ Dimitri [Coats – guitarist for Off!/producer] and I, we think black and white. I eventually want to get to the point, well there’s some green, there’s a couple of dabs of some yellow. Why not add some red and some blue over here.
Off! live instore:
Keith Morris with F*cked Up live:
For more Off!
Peace & love,