It's a press day for Keith Morris, frontman for the punk supergroup Off!, and the interviews are bumping against each other like elbows to rib cages in the pit at one of his shows.
"I'm doing, like, three interviews today. And the guy that set up the interviews gave me 15 minutes for each interview. And [they] sometimes turn into conversations," Morris says when he answers the phone in his Los Angeles apartment, his next interviewer calling at the appointed time. "Like, the first question turns into a half an hour-long discussion. Can you call me back in about 10 minutes?"
The minutes pass, and Morris is at last free to talk. More to the point, he's free to keep on talking. He wants to continue the conversation from his previous interview, in which a reporter from Texas asked him why Off! had failed to invite any local band to appear on its current tour. The question seems to have put Morris on the defensive — "first off, we're a democracy," he says — but as he's demonstrated since 1976, when he co-founded the now-legendary hardcore act Black Flag, which he followed with an equally notorious run as the frontman of the skate-punk outfit the Circle Jerks, Morris has a way of turning a defensive posture into an offensive one.
So, over the course of the next 15 minutes, Morris attempts to direct the interview, to bend it away from talk of Black Flag and the Circle Jerks and to keep it focused on Off!, which will appear Wednesday, Sept. 26, at Miami's Grand Central. "I'm in a new band, and we're on tour, and we're supposed to be talking about them," he says.
And Off! is worth talking about. The band, which features current and former members of Redd Kross, Burning Brides, Hot Snakes and Rocket From the Crypt, earlier this year released a self-titled album that may be the sharpest, loudest and angriest work in Morris' career. Stuffed tighter than a compression sack, the album presents 16 songs in roughly 17 minutes, the longest cut (the roaring, aptly titled "King Kong Brigade") running an indulgent one minute and 37 seconds. The songs attack in a flurry of speed-metal guitar riffs, mortarlike percussion and Morris' seething vocals. The overall effect is a concussive one, but the song's insistent melodies, barbed as they may be, and Morris' borderline-cartoonish provocations ("I want to stab your tires … set fire to your lawn," he snarls on "Borrow and Bomb") act as a palliative.
Still, an interview — OK, a conversation — with Morris has to revisit the past, and after a bit of protesting, he launches into an alternately funny and angry anecdote about a Circle Jerks gig from hell in 1987 at Miami's Cameo Theater. This leads, somehow, to a diatribe against "Pitchfork intellectuals" who want to overanalyze the meaning of songs such as "I Don't Belong" and "Feelings Are Meant To Be Hurt," which leads him back to Off! and an argument he got into on Facebook with a fan who objected to his labeling people who fight at concerts "meatheads." And then, without any prompting, he brings up a Black Flag reunion in 2003 in which he didn't participate. "There was a reason why I left Black Flag when I did," he says, answering a question that hadn't been asked.
Morris does recognize a question about a book he's reportedly been writing, but he'd much rather talk about his screenplay, which he says involves — deep breath — "me and a record company and a couple of girls. An African warlord. Blood diamonds. An invisible army, and kids on meth. The IRS. Citibank. The CIA. Mercedes-Benz. … There will be some special effects."
The as-yet-untitled movie, he goes on, may star Jason Schwartzman of "Moonrise Kingdom," Viggo Mortensen of "The Lord of the Rings," some actors from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies (he doesn't say which ones) and John C. Reilly of "Step Brothers." Morris says Terry Gilliam, Tim Burton, Gore Verbinski and Penelope Spheeris have all expressed an interest in directing the film.
Offense? Defense? At this point, it's hard to tell who's playing where, and who's playing whom.
Fifteen minutes have passed. Morris' phone beeps. His next interviewer is on the line, and Morris clicks over to ask for more time, presumably while explaining the blurry line between an interview and a conversation and offering the caller 10 minutes to cool his or her heels, as a lesson on the distinction between a dialogue and a monologue lies in wait.
Earlier, Morris scoffed at a question about maturity, about whether it was more difficult or less difficult for him, at 57 years of age, to provoke listeners with lyrics such as "I want to club you like a baby seal/Staple your scalp to my steering wheel" than it was in 1980, when he introduced the world to the Circle Jerks with an album titled "Group Sex."
"I never really think like that," he says. "See, I grew up at the beach, and I grew up around a bunch of skaters, hang gliders, skimboarders, future snowboarders. Nothing we did was premeditated. With that mentality, you just go. You don't think, 'Am I going to go to the left? Am I going to go to the right?' You just leap off the edge."
With Negative Approach and Double Negative
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26
Where: Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami
Cost: $15 in advance
Contact: 305-377-2277 or GrandCentralMiami.comCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun