Keith Morris Is Alive!: A Long Talk With Keith Morris Of The Circle Jerks & OFF!

by | Jul 8, 2022 | MUSIC

You get 15 minutes sometimes. Sometimes it’s 20-30. Most of the time someone from their management company or record label connects the call. This is relatively easy. It’s often you get just the allotted amount of time, and maybe a few minutes more. Typically, the artist has a few interviews scheduled for that day already, or they’re on tour and have a travel/show itinerary to follow that doesn’t give them a lot of time to dick around. You can’t blame someone for wanting to knock out interviews as quickly as possible if they’ve still got a few more to do after yours.

That wasn’t the case with Keith Morris. The legendary 66-year-old frontman of LA punk rockers the Circle Jerks, LA punk supergroup OFF!, and the original singer of Black Flag, talked to me on the phone for over an hour. In the world of Keith Morris, there’s far more than his ankle-length dreadlocks to wax on about. For instance, stapling the severed heads of politicians to the side of an $800,000,000,000 super yacht, déjà vu, or Free LSD. That’s the kind of shit we talked about for an hour.

The Circle Jerks are playing a barnburner on Monday, July 11th at the Broadberry with 7 Seconds and Negative Approach. Six dates of the tour celebrating the 40th Anniversary of their seminal record Group Sex were rescheduled (the original tour was also postponed for two years due to the pandemic) because COVID pulled back the covers of the Circle Jerks’ California King once again. April’s Richmond date was one of the rescheduled six.

The Circle Jerks logo

Take a Sunday drive down Broad Street and you’ll see Mickael Broth’s mural of “Bernie Slamders” skanking on the side of the old Sea Dream leather building — an homage to Shawn Kerri’s iconic Circle Jerks logo from the 80s. “Feel the Bern” in black lettering, with the image of Sanders slam dancing, blends punk rock and politics once more for all of Richmond to see. Six years after Hilary Clinton was nominated by the DNC, the mural is still there, despite neither of the two candidates receiving enough votes to win the office of President. I can’t imagine aging punkers letting a mural of Donald Trump reenacting the famous logo live there without being set on fire. But this is Richmond, VA and it’s not much different than any other third-tier city. 

That Mickael Broth mural. RVA Mag file photo.

If you happen to be walking around the Los Feliz neighborhood in the Seven Corners area of East L.A, maybe you’ll see Keith Morris heading down the sidewalk to the record shop, or having a nice meal at a restaurant he likes. If you happen to talk to him for a few minutes, he might tell you some conspiracy theories he just read about, or why hanging with billionaires is a bad scene. 

He might even tell you about Free LSD.

Ryan Kent: So, you were supposed to be here in April at the Broadberry, but I heard that COVID came and got you and you were the last person in the Circle Jerks to get it. Did you get in Florida?

Keith Morris: Yeah, I got it. Here’s what happened. Little Lou, who is our tour manager – he got it first. I guess what they determined is once you test negative, you’re good for six months. I guess you carry the antibody for like six months, so you don’t have to worry about it. I would think though, that you can still get it and not have any of the symptoms and not know that you have it. It’s such a weird thing. If it came out of one of those Wuhan labs where they were actually experimenting on animals – I love conspiracy theories. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I go along with them or follow them or believe in them. But the first conspiracy theory that I heard was from somebody that does not ever talk about conspiracy theories. One of the lab workers at Wuhan, whose job was to dispose of the animal carcasses that they’ve been doing whatever they’re doing to [them]… What I’ve heard was this lab worker was taking the dead animals down to the open-air mart. People in that part of the world – they’ll cut something open and eat it right there in front of you. They’re not afraid! We have all of these airborne, airborne… Oh, geez, I can’t think of the word right now. But anyways. They’re all animals. Like the bird flu, the swine flu, and now we have monkey pox. 

RK: Do you remember the movie Outbreak with Dustin Hoffman and Morgan Freeman in the 90s? It was the [fictional] Matoba virus. It was supposed to be [a hemorrhagic fever] kind of like Ebola.

KM: Then there’s another movie [Contagion, 2011] with Matt Damon. His wife gets it, and she dies, like immediately. Gwyneth Paltrow plays his wife. That movie is pretty good. It’s really scary. And we, having ravaged spirit the way that we have, maybe it’s because we’ve killed all of these helpless animals. Maybe it’s some kind of payback. Maybe it’s some kind of karma. But anyways, our tour manager was the guy that got it first. And he got it, like, about a month before anybody else got it. Then the next guy to get it was [Circle Jerks guitarist] Greg Hetson. He got it at a concert. He went to see the Dickies. He’s good friends with Stan Lee, who’s one of the guitar players. He went to hang out with Stan at the Whisky a Go Go. And as it turned out, a bunch of people got sick at that show, and Greg was one of them that got sick. Then it just started to fall like dominoes. 

We get out. We’re starting in Baltimore, and when we came in, the weather was freezing. And on this particular tour, we were working our way south through Florida. We had Negative Approach opening, Municipal Waste as the middle slot band, and then at the end of the tour show, our drummer Joey [Castillo, Queens of the Stone Age, Danzig] got it. And we were passing Omicron, or whatever it’s called, the lesser of the evils. Also, easier to catch. All of these new variants, they’re easier to catch, but they’re not as deadly as Delta, which was like number one or number two on the list. Joey and Zander [Schloss, bass] both got Delta, and they were just hammered. 

Zander ended up having difficulty breathing. He ended up in a tent out in a parking lot in Glendale, California, in freezing weather. He was told that he tested positive, [and if he wanted] to spend the night there, [he] can sleep on one of these hard cold beds here in the parking lot in the tent. He said, “Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, fuck that. I’m gonna go home. Just tell me what I need to do.” They told him, “We need you up every hour, walking around. You can’t let anything settle in your chest. Get up, walk around, cough stuff out.“ “Just move around” was basically what they were telling him. And both of the guys got over it in 10 days. After 10 days, you’re no longer able to infect anybody with whatever you have. And also, after the day, you have a six-month period where you’re carrying the antibody.

The Circle Jerks. Photo by Atiba Jefferson.

RK: Yeah, then it’s like immunity–

KM: Immune for six months. Like I said at the very beginning, I would think you could still get the flu, or you could still get a cold, and those are basically the same thing as the COVID symptoms. They’re all the same. That’s the bummer with COVID. In the beginning it was just: if you have difficulty breathing, you get yourself to the hospital immediately. Now, if you’re running a fever, you’ve got to relax, stay home. That was one of those three symptoms in the very, very beginning of all…

RK: Loss of smell too.

KM: You know, that didn’t start happening – that was like the next group of symptoms to be added to the list. In the very beginning, if you got shortness of breath, you’re going to the hospital. Okay, that was like the number one rule. Then we were also in quarantine. Don’t leave your house. If you leave your house, wear a mask and avoid people. That was what was going on in the beginning and, and as we got further and further into it – now all of a sudden, there’s flu symptoms. There’s all of this stuff that’s been added to the list. And now the list is like 20 symptoms long.

RK: “If you have athlete’s foot you should go to the hospital, you probably have…”

KM: [laughing] If your ears are bleeding and your eyes are dry. They did add loss of taste and loss of smell. So, getting back to the Circle Jerks in Florida. Our gal that does merch, she got sick. She took it back with her to San Diego. Our soundman, he got sick. He took it back – he lives on a mountainside outside of Denver, Colorado. The drummer from Negative Approach, John – Mr. Lehl. He got sick. What was going on in Florida, when they got sick, it wasn’t like they were just hammered. You can be sick with some of these symptoms and not have to be bedridden. Some people get over this stuff in like, two or three days. It’s all about testing positive and negative. We get another tour where we were in [the] freezing cold and all of the guys from 7 Seconds got sick. That’s when I got sick. I prided myself on the fact in the very beginning. 

I have a friend who played guitar in a band called The Plugz, and he sent me on Facebook a recorded message from a woman who was working in one of the hospitals off the coast of China. She said the Chinese have just started to perform autopsies on these COVID carcasses, and what they’re doing is they’re opening the ribcage and looking at the lungs. Everybody’s dying from pneumonia. That’s when your lungs fill up with fluid. They were finding all of the air sacs in the lungs [were] filled with some kind of fluid. They discovered this. She then said, “You need to get out and you need to walk around — you need to be active. Don’t let any of this stuff settle in. She also said, “When you get home, take off all of your clothes because it’s in the air, and it’s getting on your clothes. On your skin.” All of this paranoia. 

Then she got into a regimen of vitamins and supplements. I had been taking the supplements, except for the vitamin C, and the vitamin D3. She said calcium and magnesium calms your body. The last thing that you want to happen is to start worrying about all this stuff. It starts to place stress upon your nervous system. She said, this is all about your immune system, you want to keep your immune system totally [healthy]. Take the magnesium and the calcium to calm your body. So, you’re not stressing out and your nervous system [isn’t] wigging out to create more stress on your immune system. I prided myself on the fact that I was basically taking the majority of what she had said, I had already been taking it even before all of this stuff. 

RK: You were ahead of the pack. 

KM: Yeah. So, I was like, man, I just passed through Florida earlier. OFF! had played in Austin, Texas. And the deal was that our new bass player Autry [Fulbright II] was doing an art installation at an adult hostel on the other side of the highway in Austin. He said, “They want to pay us a good chunk of money and fly us out and put us up and have us play this party.” And I was like, “I’m not going to Texas. Texas is as bad if not worse than Florida.” And this is before I went to Florida. So anyways, I just started thinking, “You know what, it’s Austin, Texas. It’s one of the most progressive cities along that strip as you’re heading to the East Coast, when you’re going through the South. Austin is the University of Texas. Those are smart people, you know, so I’m going, “I’m not gonna worry about it. I’ll just wear a mask and hope for the best.” And I got there. We were there for two days and over the course of two days, I probably saw maybe a couple of hundred masks. And we were in a really heavily populated area. A lot of people coming and going. A lot of what looks to be fairly or highly intelligent people and that was not the case. Nobody was wearing masks. It was fucking ridiculous. So, we got back from playing the show – that was OFF!’s first show with our new lineup. It was a great show, by the way. If I might be able to say so. 

Anyways, two weeks later, Dimitri [Coats], our guitar player, he’s chopping up onions for some dinner stuff that he’s preparing for his kids, and he can’t smell the onions. So, he not only loses smell but taste, and that lasted for about three months. He’s just now getting it back together. Then our bass player — who requested that we go and play, who was doing the art installation – he got sick. He was bragging about the fact that when they started making everybody wear masks, he said, “I haven’t had the flu or a cold in a year and a half, and I normally get sick every three months, four months.” So, he was bragging about it and then he got it. And he was shit hammered. And he’s this studly young, Black buck dude, you know. Like, “Nothing can affect me. Bullets bounce off my chest.”

OFF! Photo by Jeff Forney, via OFF!/Facebook

RK: How does it feel to be out on the road with all of that?

KM: Everybody expected me to get it first, because I’m a diabetic. So, I had a precondition. Being a diabetic just opens me up to everything that’s available out there. Anything that’s carried in the wind and anything that’s carried on a breeze and anything that somebody coughs or sneezes. It’s like, “Okay, now it’s time to be bedridden for two weeks.” That paranoia. But at the same time, we’ve worn masks for two years. We were in quarantine for like a year, year and a half. And now we have the opportunity to go out. I think everybody’s kind of let their guard down. People – they’ve had enough, you know? It’s like, “Time to go out and party.” 

I’ve been vaccinated and boosted. I’m waiting to get my second booster shot, but I’m not on the list, even though I’m 66 years old. I’m not on the list for another booster, because I’m just now getting over what I had. Granted, I’ve been testing negative, but you have these lingering side effects, like foggy brain, and I still have cold flashes and hot flashes. With all of the current events, I guess we just need to celebrate life. I think that’s what a lot of people are into. It’s like all of these guys with guns. When’s the last time a woman shot up a post office or tried to kill people that were watching a parade? Women, for some reason, just don’t do that kind of shit. It’s really kind of an odd scenario but if you’d looked at it – how many female mass murderers have there been? 

RK: For real. There was Aileen Wuornos [but] she was a serial killer, so I don’t even know about mass murder. 

KM: We’re just out celebrating. We have the ability to leave our house. We’re capable of getting out and doing what we need to do. Now, touring is grueling, but when we first started doing it, it was just: where are the random parties? Where are the drugs? Where’s the booze? Where are the girls? For us? Let’s go out and conquer the world. Now it’s just part of our survival program. This is what we do to pay our bills. 

RK: Just being out on the road with these guys again, first time in a long time, is there any déjà vu?

KM: There’s some of that. That happens occasionally. You know, “Hey Snake, remember, the last time we played in Boise, Idaho, when the cute girls that were tripping out on acid wanted to invite you over to their friend’s house for the orgy?” There’s been some of that. I mean, we have our laughs. And we were we’re very fortunate, because at one point, when the band broke up, we didn’t like each other. Some of us hated each other’s guts, and now we’re at a point where it’s like, we’re friends again… So even though it can get grueling, and some of it can be a grind, we’re actually having fun. That’s a good time.

RK: What would you tell a younger version of [yourself]?

KM: If you are presented with an opportunity, and if you don’t step up and take advantage of the opportunity, or opportunities that are placed in front of you, or just appear however they appear – you’re an idiot. What, are you going to sit at home waiting around for something to happen for you? Or are you going to [wait until] something does pop up. And you go, “I wouldn’t be a complete idiot for not taking advantage of this opportunity.” Now, some people would say, “Well, you’re just an opportunist.” And I would say, “That’s right. You’re damn fucking right.” You know why? Because I will take advantage of some of the things that are placed in front of me. Now, there are certain things that come up that are – if you have an ounce of integrity, you would say, “No, I’m not going to do that.” Now, you would also think, “Well, if I don’t take advantage of this opportunity it’s going to be presented to somebody else who will take advantage of it.” And the fact of the matter is that we’re still alive. We’re still doing it. We’re having a great time. And we’re doing it really well. Everybody that comes and sees us and hangs out and participates. We’ve not heard, but maybe twelve-dozen complaints.

Keith Morris performing with The Circle Jerks in 1980. Photo by Glen Friedman, via The Circle Jerks/Facebook

RK: Really? I can’t even believe people complained.

KM: People that complain – they’re always going to be people that complain. They’re always going to be the whiners and the moaners and the groaners and the malcontents. Capitalists. We get called “capitalists” all the time. It’s like “Well, yeah, I gotta be a capitalist in order to pay my rent, to pay my auto insurance, my health insurance, and buy some food, and get a couple of pairs of shoes here and there, and you know, buy some toothpaste and go buy some records or go to the movies or have a nice meal.” 

RK: When you quit Black Flag and started the Circle Jerks, did you think that you would be 66 and celebrating the 42nd and the 40th anniversaries of your two seminal punk records [Group Sex (1980), Wild In The Streets (1982)]? I mean, when you were making this, like, did you think this is gonna last forever? 

KM: Never ever thought like, “Oh, yeah, I see myself 45 years from now doing this.” Never, never ever thought like that. Every day was just: go for it. You know, have a party. We weren’t thinking about what we were going to be doing in the future. We were just living day to day. Just going for it. I guess we could call this the frosting on the cake.

RK: I don’t know if you’ve heard about this. But in Richmond, there’s a huge mural of Bernie Sanders. And he’s doing…

KM: I’ve seen it.

RK: Oh, you’ve seen it. You guys gotta take a photo [with] that when you get down here.

KM: We didn’t see anything like that coming. And we didn’t give them permission to do that. Because – he’s our guy. He’s the guy that got ripped off by the DNC, who are just as worse as the RNC. We’re hopefully seeing the evil of both parties. And, of course, when it’s time to vote for president – we always end up holding our noses and voting for [a] piece of shit. Number two, I guess. Hillary’s just as evil if not more evil than Donald Trump.

Donald Trump was just such a piece of crap. It was like the choice was made for us. The DNC said, now it’s Hillary’s turn to be president. You’re not big enough. You’re not evil enough. You don’t have all of the financial backing that she – you’re not taking money from all of the people that she’s taking money from, and these are all people that support us. We’re gonna pull you aside and we’re gonna just let you know that it’s time for you to bow out. And if you don’t bow out, here’s a list of things that can happen. It’s kind of like our mighty military industrial complex, where there’s always got to be these countries fighting with each other because we need to sell them guns, to sell them bombs, and we need to sell them rockets and jets and tanks and battleships and helicopters that fire nuclear weapons.

RK: Yeah, I learned long ago, war is the biggest business there is.

KM: Yeah, and it’s like the new incoming president gets pulled aside, just like the DNC pulled Bernie Sanders aside, and they just let the new incoming President know, this is the way that this is, [and] what happens if you mess with what we’ve put into place. It’s taken us years and years to establish this, and we’re not going to let some new guys, some new gal, tell us what’s going on. I live in California. California is the fifth largest economy in the world. Why is that? Because of our agriculture. Because of the porno industry and because of our military installations. And when I say military installations, I mean, the technological. All of the Raytheon and Halliburton and TRW and Boeing and whoever else we have. There’s probably 80 different [defense contracting] companies in California. Oh, and then we’ve also got Silicon Valley. We have the computerized world that was basically based in Northern California. But the mighty military machinery is in full force, and nothing’s going to stop it. 

RK: That is absolutely correct. It kind of makes me think of that John Paul Sartre quote, “Hell is other people.” Do you think there’s truth in that, or do you think that’s just [being a] pessimist?

KM: There’s really, not much that could be done. I mean, all we can do – we’re at a point where the everyday Joe and Josephine should just live their life and not mess with other people and just be good souls. Even that’s not going to happen. There’s just too many other people that thrive on other people’s misery.

Keith kicks out the jams. Photo by Christopher Goyette, via The Circle Jerks/Facebook

RK: With the pandemic, people were isolated for so long, and it seemed like it turned a lot of people into monsters. Do you think it turned people into monsters, or was that already there?

KM: That was already there. And what the downtime did was just let these evil monsters stew in their juices. We’re watching this. Our government… and it’s not even our government. Our government’s not even in charge. There’s people that are pulling strings. They want us fighting amongst ourselves. If we’re fighting amongst ourselves, we’re doing their work for them. All of this disruptive, “I hate you because your mentality is this way.” And you know, “I’ve got all of these guns.” We’re seeing more and more and more mass shootings. There were a bunch of other shootings besides that guy in Chicago.

RK: We just had [two] in Richmond. A guy I used to work with was killed.

KM: That’s terrible. 

RK: Yeah, he was a father. [A] young guy. He was out on a patio and got shot [multiple] times. Some dude drove down and did it.

KM: That’s unspeakable. Yeah, it’s just… that’s just… that’s fucking horrible.

RK: Yeah, it’s a scary thing. I mean, you just see this stuff on television. You don’t expect to be standing out on the patio having a cigarette and then randomly you’re shot. You didn’t know this dude.

KM: I don’t know if this is the right way to say this, but we’re lucky to see whatever we see on television, even though that’s just not even a drop in the bucket. There’s all of these shootings every day. The shootings that are going on every day, and what are they going to do about guns? “We need to sell more guns. I need a gun to protect myself in case…”

RK: Somebody with guns is there [laughs]. 

KM: “…I’m walking down the street and somebody tries to shoot me.” I really hate to be the pessimist, but I’ve always leaned that way, because I see and read and hear all of these different stories. And in this day and age, we are unbelievably unfair. This is a hateful, spiteful world. And it seems that it’s pretty much a “me before you,” this new group of people that can’t be bothered with what’s bothering you. Because what’s bothering them is more important. “Get out of my way, I’ve got to be first in line.”

RK: It’s a sense of entitlement that wasn’t there before.

KM: Entitlement. I have just seen so much of that. It’s just, it’s beyond ridiculous. There aren’t enough faces to be slapped and punched. Dragged behind cars down freeways [laughs].

RK: [laughing] I feel that so much, man. [Being shitty] seems like it’s become a trend. Like carrying an Evian bottle was a trend, or having a Kabbalah bracelet was a trend, or wearing a Von Dutch hat was a trend. It’s just like being shitty is a trend, [and] it sucks.

KM: And there, unfortunately, if there is an answer, for all of this, a lot of those shitty people, they’re not going to want to hear it. They’re stuck in their ways.

RK: [laughs] Does any of that inspire you to write [lyrics] for OFF!? What does it inspire you to do?

KM: It most certainly inspires me to write lyrics about all of this. Because I’m affected by all of it. You would think well, he’s just in a band. He gets to [go] out and being on tour. He just goes home to his castle on the hill and can’t be touched or reached. I live in the middle of it. I live in eastern Hollywood. Los Feliz, Los Angeles. I’m behind one of the busiest streets, Seven Corners, in Southern California. So, there’s people honking their horns. There are people yelling at each other. There’s emergency helicopters flying over. There’s the fire station right around the corner from where I live and there’s stuff going on all the time. The energy is just terrible. 

And you would think well, “Gee, wouldn’t you want to move from there?” And it’s like, no, because I’ve got rent control. I’ve got off-street parking. I can walk to the market. I can walk to any of my favorite restaurants. I can walk to the movie theater. I can walk to the library. I can walk to a couple of bookstores. You know, there’s a lot of great stuff in the neighborhood, [and] there’s a lot of horrible things that go on that would make somebody have a really shitty mentality. But the fact of the matter is that I’m happy to be alive. And I’m having the time of my life out here playing shows. I have a great job [laughs].

RK: [laughing] Yes you do! You are living the dream, man. I mean, you have a great job.

KM: I have an amazing job.

RK: And you’re good at it too! Think about the people who have good jobs, and they suck at [them]. You’re so good at your job that we’re talking about shit you did 42 years ago. Think about that. 

KM: [laughing] Not only are we talking about shit that I did 42 years ago. We’re also talking about shit that I’m doing right now. Perpetrating the shit. 

RK: You have been employee of the [month] for a very long time.

KM: And that’s the reason why I’m the president, CEO, and everybody bows down to me. I’m the king. When I’m the king of the world – this is now part of my new spiel. You might hear me [ask] for political donations at the show. [My] campaign slogan… and it’s not even a slogan. It’s like, you gotta tell everybody what you’re going to be doing when they vote for you. Why they’re gonna vote for you. I’m going to chop off the heads of all of the politicians and I’m going to purchase a super yacht, like $800 billion yacht with a city built in the yacht. And we’re going to take all of these heads that have been lopped off, and they’re all going to be stapled and superglued to the sides of the super yacht and we’re going to just pull [into] one of the most important bays or ports and we’re going to set the whole thing on fire, and we’re going to shoot off 4th of July fireworks, but it won’t be the 4th of July. We’ll just be celebrating. 

And then the ship will blow up. It’ll be like a mini-nuclear explosion. And all of the parents – there’ll be a new law where the parents have to let the kids watch all of this. The little kids will go, “Why are all of those heads attached to the boat?” And the parents can tell their kids, “Well, that’s what happens to you if you’re a bad person.” See, in this world today, we don’t have any examples. We don’t have any fucking hardcore examples. Like, this is what happens to you if you do these things. One of my campaign promises would be: Every year at the Super Bowl, the halftime entertainment will be all of these corrupt CEO’s, all of these Jeff Bezos, and the guy that developed the Tesla…

RK: Elon Musk.

KM: Who would associate themselves with people like these? These selfish, stingy “I’m more important than you” people, getting back to what we were talking about earlier – the entitlement. They would all be like corrupt police and serial killers. I’m not a fan of capital punishment, but we should put capital punishment into play. Like, that kid shot all of those people at that parade on the 4th of July. He should have never been captured. He should have been executed right there on the spot. There will be all of the people that will say it’s barbaric. You’re a barbarian. And you know what, if you go back to those times, like what they would do in the Middle East. If you stole or robbed from somebody, they just chop off a couple of fingers [or they] chop off a hand, or they chop off an arm. How barbaric is that? But at the same time, they don’t have crime in the Middle East like we do here, but somehow [people manage] to end up in prison for their lives, and for some people that’s better than what they have on the outside. I would be a horrible president. I would be a barbarian and there would be, like, carcasses hanging from lampposts and freeway overpasses.

RK: Would you be Keith, the Impaler?

KM: Nobody would be getting impaled. Everybody would be getting – they would have limbs being severed.

RK: You [could] put those on the side of the boat. This is kind of like a new, radical version of the Hunter S. Thompson “Freak Power Ticket.” He said that he’d have stocks on the town square [for] all the bad drug dealers.

KM: [laughs] There’s also the scene from Terry Southern’s Magic Christian where they have a giant, huge vat of human excrement and they toss dollar bills on top of it. Businessman line up, like, “I got to grab as many of those bills as I can.” Just all about the greed. We would eliminate…I would, I guess, I would call it black team. Team black.

RK: [laughing] I like it, man. This is great. I want you to be president.

KM: [laughing] I’m evil. All of this makes me sound evil. And I’m a really nice guy. And you know what happens – it’s kind of like, you don’t piss off a pacifist. 

RK: When you’ve pissed off the pacifist, that’s when you’ve really fucked up.

KM: Yeah. We’re playing Richmond in like, five days. Six days? Eight days?

RK: The 11th.

KM: Okay, so we’re not that far away. It’ll be fun. I love Richmond. I lived in Richmond for a year. It was wonderful.

RK: No shit. Really? When did you live here?

KM: Oh, I don’t know. I don’t pay attention to dates and years and stuff like that.

RK: That’s awesome you lived here. It’s a much different place than it was when I moved here [almost] 20 years ago. 

KM: I was a member of Millie’s. I actually chipped in some money for them to be able to open the restaurant. I lived right across the street from the – there was a battlefield or a field hospital. And it was – I love the city. I didn’t love how it was divided in half, but what can you do? What can you do?

RK: Yeah, I think that’s kind of the shape of everything going on. Divided in half.

KM: So, I’m going to divide this conversation in half because we talked a little bit about OFF! We’ve talked about the Circle Jerks [and] how we’re all friends again, and rock, having a great time, and we’re going to be playing in Richmond in like, five or six days. I need to let your readership know that I’ve been — along with Dimitri, who is the guitar player in OFF! — we’ve been working on a movie. We were coming close to finishing our movie, and we had a really difficult time getting this project going. The music, everybody was wondering, all of the OFF! fans are wondering, when are we going to hear new music? When are we going to hear new music? We’re not that far away from the release of our new album, which is in September on Fat Possum Records. But the music that we wrote is based on conspiracy theories. I had a podcast called Blowmind, with my friend Pete Weiss and myself. Dimitri came to me and said, “We need to start working on some new music.” So, we started talking, and then it was like, what kind of subject material are we dealing with? [Dimitri said] “Well, you’ve got a podcast. You’ve got lyrics spread throughout your podcast. Let’s go there. Let’s start doing it.”

RK: That’s smart.

KM: We had the original lineup, they’re gone. We had Dale Crover [the Melvins] play drums for the recording, and our original drummer came back and said, “I can do better than that. I’m going to be a part of this project.” He bowed out because we told him we’re making a movie. The music that we’re recording is not only based on these lyrics, but based on the movie, and back and forth. And then we experienced a problem with our original bass player, so, we have a new rhythm section. [In] the course of all of this, it’s taken us six years, a little over six years. [The] movie’s in post-production right now. And like I said, the music comes out on Fat Possum in September. But this project, I have to say, out of all of the things that I’ve been a part of, this has probably been the most difficult thing that I’ve been a part of. And we didn’t know if we were going to be able to make it, and [then] everything seemed to fall into place. We’ve had people step up and help us out. So we, “we” being OFF!, we have that to look forward to.

RK: What is the title?

KM: Free LSD.

RK: God damn, that’s awesome. I was not expecting that to be the title.

KM: Well, it was originally going to be called, Watermelon. [We] were told, see right now we’re dealing with Black Lives Matter. You know, it’s like that one sheep that strays away from the flock and that one sheep needs to be found. But then it’s like well what about the rest of the flock? And the person looking for the one sheep that’s lost says, “The flock’s going to be all right.” We have to find them the missing sheep. So, we had a few You people tell us, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no Watermelon, that’s self-defeating. And I was upset, because watermelon is one of my favorite fruits.

Anyways, it’s taken us about six and a half years. We’re in post-production. What that means is that they’re placing the music where it needs to be placed and colorizing what needs to be colorized, whether it’s too dark, whether it’s too light, all of that kind of stuff. Editing, making sure the pacing of the movie is [good]. We have some stuff going on in this movie that’s just beyond fucking ridiculous. And hopefully, we’re keeping our fingers crossed, there will be people when they see the movie that walk away saying, “Who allowed them to make this movie?”

RK: Where are we gonna be able to see it? Is it going to be on a streaming platform, or is it going to be a theater release? Or what?

KM: We don’t know yet. We what we do know is, I think we’re scheduled to show it at South by Southwest during their movie, film section of the festival. Slam Dance [annual film festival in Park City, Utah]. And we are submitting it for the Midnight Movie section of Sundance. 

RK: [laughing] [Like you said] people are gonna say, “Who gave them money to do this?”

KM: We had various contributors, who we will call producers and executive producers and semi executive producers, sort of maybe kind of other producers. Normally, when you watch a movie nowadays – movies at one time, there was one producer. That was the guy that put up the money who worked for MGM, or Paramount or Sony or whatever studio, Warner Brothers. The movie studios, they’re not putting up that kind of money anymore. It’s kind of like record labels. There was the period where these companies were just tossing money around left and right. It was raining $100,000 bills, if there’s such a thing as $100,000 bills, and they started to realize — we’re not a bank. We aren’t made of all of this money that we think we’re made. So consequently, when you see a movie nowadays, you’ll see… I love movies made in China, like science fiction and fantasy and shoot ’em up gangster shit. I can’t even rattle off any names right now…

RK: What’s the title of [the OFF!] movie? Was it, Free LSD?

KM: Free LSD.

The Circle Jerks will be playing, along with 7 Seconds and Negative Approach, at The Broadberry, located at 2729 W. Broad St, on Monday July 11. Doors open at 7 PM. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased at The Broadberry’s website.

Top Photo by cat rose photos/There’s Something Hard in There, via The Circle Jerks/Facebook

Ryan Kent

Ryan Kent

Ryan Kent is the author of the collections, Poems For Dead People, This Is Why I Am Insane, Hit Me When I'm Pretty, and Everything Is On Fire: Selected Poems 2014-2021. He has also co-authored the poetry collections, Tomorrow Ruined Today, and Some Of Us Love You (both with Brett Lloyd). His spoken word record, Dying Comes With Age, will be released by Rare Bird Books in 2022. Ryan is a staff writer for RVA Magazine and maintains a pack a day habit. (photo by D. Randall Blythe)

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