Sixteen songs in roughly 16 minutes, all of them as ferocious as the name OFF! would imply. That’s what the Keith Morris-fronted punk collective plans to release next week via Vice — their first official full-length and a record you can stream in its entirety here at SPIN. Below, check out a brief conversation with Morris on topics ranging from his allergies and the meaning of the word “hardcore.” You can pick up your very own copy of the LP at iTunes.
:audio=1: How are you doing?
I’m doing pretty good, I’m experiencing the heaviness and fucked-upped-ness of allergy season. I’ve experienced like two or three days where I would have this thing in my throat, like acid reflux. I experience it every now and then if I eat the wrong thing but this has just been brutal. Like fuck, man, what is it? Throat cancer or bronchitis? This is pretty uncool. So I’m feeling that and because of that I get this like post nasal. You know it starts in your nose and your eyes and it goes to your ears and it goes to the back of your throat? I have a tendency to eat thick and heavy food, and I dig dairy and dairy just creates phlegm and so you’re just laying in bed at night and it’s just balling up in your sinuses and then it rolls down into your throat and it rolls down into your stomach so you wake up in the morning with a stomach ache and your throat’s sore and your nose is all itchy and your eyes are all scratchy and everything. It’s just really such a wonderful thing to experience. I wish it upon everybody. It’s like you’ve not lived life unless you’ve experienced the discomfort of allergies, whether it be food or whether it just be pollen or weeds or grass. Whatever is in the air. Our weather here is really fucked up, too. I mean we’ve got really nice weather right now but two days ago it was raining and the day before that we were supposed to have the worst thunderstorm, the worst rain that we’ve had at this time of the year. We have all of these people who don’t believe in the global warming thing, which is fine, but how do you explain all of the flooding in the Midwest and you know how all of the weird fuckin’ tornadoes? We just had a bunch. What was it, like, Oklahoma or Nebraska or somewhere? Indiana? But you know there’s supposed to be certain times of year where things are just supposed to be nice and you’re supposed to be able to just drive along and not experience any fucked up weird wacky changes in the weather. And now all of a sudden we’re getting all of that stuff. So these people need to get more real about what’s happening at the North Pole, you know?
It sounds like fodder for song writing.
Yes. The heavens are going to open and you’re all going to hell. So you better believe.
Well, what is “I Got News for You” about?
Well, a lot of our songs are very angry. A lot of finger-pointing. There was a reunion, a couple of reunion shows with one of the bands I was in, in the very beginning of my musical career. I was one of the founding members. And it got really ridiculous. It just spiraled into, — there could’ve been some more things written for Spinal Tap. And in the process I realized why I left in the first place. It was pretty much one guy’s band and everybody else were just players in it, everybody else were just parts. Everybody was kind of like the New England Patriots: Bill Belichick, the way he looks at all of the players with the exception of say, Tom Brady. You can’t replace Tom Brady, but all of the other people, well, you could get a new running back or a new wide receiver or replace a defensive lineman. And that was that. It wasn’t even a revolving door. But if you look at the family tree there were, oh I don’t know, four singers in the band, four different bass players, and how many drummers? My friend Billy Stevenson was the drummer in the Descendants. Probably besides Greg Ginn, Billy was in the band longer than anyone else. But it was, everybody came and went. But the situation that I was in, I went to a couple of rehearsals and I got there and I was just blown away by the building that the rehearsals were taking place in. I was excited, because I love the band, I love the music, and I was a part of it. And the situation, it just turned into this comedy of errors. And when they finally did do the reunion shows I was asked to not be a part of it. You know, when I left the band we were only playing 16 songs and we were working on 4 other songs. So it was one of these situations where, if you blinked your eyes, four or five songs would’ve passed you by. I’m completely lost. Are you there?
Shit. I’m just spaced out.
We were talking about “I Got News for You.”
The situation was that there are a lot of people that don’t have good things to say about the character. You’re full of yourself and you know, go on and do whatever you’re gonna do, but there’s just, it’s pretty much just a spiteful, hateful kind of song. And having been in the situation and it’s a finger pointing type of song. You know, “you’re bulletproof and nobody can get at you, so you just go on about doing what you’re doing.” It’s a character in real life. And it’s not pretentious. It’s very much drenched in anger. The situation was: I left a band and when I left the band everybody really disliked me. And there were a few events that went down and this is something that’s gone on throughout time with people in bands, and people playing music, people stealing music, people borrowing music. It’s all pretty much been played before, it’s just a matter of putting your own spin on it, putting your own personality into it. A lot of finger pointing, back and forth: you’re this, you’re that. Very childish kind of thing. And the song has almost got a kind of hateful, spiteful, teenage kind of vibe, I guess.
Some would say that’s typical of hardcore in a way, right? The last time we spoke, we talked a lot about the moment hardcore’s having right now, and the audiences it’s reaching for what seems like the very first time.
I don’t like using the word hardcore. Unless say, I’m describing, like, adult entertainment. No, just kidding. The situation is that being in this band and playing the kind of music that we play, that’s what we’re labelled. But we’re just like the guys in the band. They’re dads and they’ve got kids and they’ve got good hearts and you know when I think of hardcore I think of like, a biker gang and Hell’s Angels and Mongols and fuckin’ beards and leather, and fuckin’ steel-toed boots and here comes the bad gang and they’re hardcore and you better get out of their way. Just because we play angry, hateful, spiteful, very energetic, very loud, very brief, very to the point kind of music, I don’t know if we’re really a hardcore band.
If you were to ask us our influences you would probably say, “Yeah those influences aren’t very hardcore.” Cheap Trick is certainly not a very hardcore band. Although, KISS in a way, looks like what I just described with the Hell’s Angels and the Mongols. We are living in a time where you know if we were doing this say, 30 years ago, maybe the moniker would apply. But we’re doing a thing now: we only have so much time, there’s only so much of your attention that we can hold onto because there’s so much stuff going on. So it’s way more hectic, it’s way more urgent, it’s way more in your face. This is what we are, you’re gonna know what we are half way through our first song, and if you’re down with it, cool. If you’re not, hey, maybe we might grow on you. And you know, this isn’t about creating the 30 minute opus. We don’t have time. We don’t have time to like hang out and jam and like stretch out.
Would you say then that the way you play is more a reflection of right now rather than the way things were?
It’s very much about what’s happening now. You know, what’s happening in our lives. You’ve got those few minutes and you’ve gotta make the best of them. We don’t have the opportunity to turn this into anything more than it is.
Which is what?
This is a very profound statement: It is what it is. Who said that? Oh, I forget his name. He was this soul brother character on television. It was almost like something that would’ve been said on this comedy show called Laugh In and it was on Monday nights. We as a band, the guys in the band, we enjoy each other’s company because we don’t spend a lot of time together. It’s not like we’re a real band and everyone’s breathing down each other’s necks. And there’s a space for creativity. It’s not a big space. You’ve gotta get in and you gotta do what you gotta do but don’t be playing all over everybody else’s parts. There’s a certain mentality, there’s a certain instinct amongst the players. Everybody knows where to go, and everybody knows where to go and we know that there’s only a certain amount of time to be able to go there. You know, we know that it’s not three-and-a-half minutes and it’s not four-and-a-half minutes or five minutes. It’s like let’s just pounce on this and do it. And we don’t get to sit around and dwell upon what’s gonna happen with us or what we’re gonna do for the next record. When it comes, it just kind of fuckin’ happens, I guess.