Keith Morris refuses to be pigeonholed. The former lead singer of Black Flag and the Circle Jerks released his sophomore album with the veritable supergroup OFF! earlier this year on Vice Records. But while taking a break at home in Los Angeles, the dreadlocked screamer insists he’s not falling in line with other people’s expectations.
“With part of the hardcore mentality there became this batch of rules,” Morris tells Rolling Stone. “If somebody says, ‘Well, you’re hardcore’ or ‘You’re punk rock,’ I’m not gonna argue with you – except I’m not any of that stuff. I’m 57 years old. I’m just angry, and I’m pissed off.”
Coming off their jaunt with the Swedish group Refused, OFF! is preparing to hit the road this month, where they will take on small venues from Arizona to D.C. with bands including veteran Detroit punks Negative Approach, blistering speed-metal group Power Trip, pop-oriented band the Spits and Raleigh, North Carolina’s Double Negative.
“What we’re doing now is kind of like a party,” Morris says. “And we invited some of the bands that we believe are the best to be playing with us, to make this special, to make our party on wheels something that we want a lot of different people to come to.”
The party still rages on for OFF! The band has not slowed down, toned down or otherwise compensated their aggressive approach after playing music for so many years. With this particular tour, OFF! is not at the mercy of someone else’s schedule, so they were able to give themselves a break every so often.
“We get to dictate how many nights in a row we go, because we’re older guys – we need a night off just to rest our aching bones,” Morris said. “For me, I get what is called a ‘garbage can.’ I had a girlfriend back in the Nineties, she would say, ‘Well, you sound like a garbage can,’ because I’m out screaming and yelling and jumping around and beating myself to a pulp.”
After fronting a number of successful bands over the past four decades, you’d think the singer might be content in his advanced age. But as the genre of old-school punk is consumed by the 21st century, Morris scoffs at how some fans cling to false ideals. Case in point: the “punk rock rulebook” posted on the Internet.
“The punk rock rulebook? It’s a joke,” Morris says. “What’s supposed to be in that book? Who adheres to that book?”
The band may have broken one of those supposed rules when they performed at the Staples Center in Los Angeles recently with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The show went well, with the exception of “the girl that was asleep in the front row, with the boyfriend.” But some old-school fans are hard to please.
“People would chime in, ‘Why are you playing with them? Why are you playing at such as big place? That’s not punk rock,'” Morris says about the Chili Pepper show. “The whole idea, when we started out in Black Flag, we just wanted to play, and not keep ourselves in a box.
“That’s for somebody else. If those people want to come and they want to be a part of the party – hey, more power to them.”