Keith Morris is a punk icon, but also a really friendly guy. Since I live in Silver Lake, I not only spot him at shows but have had my coffee re-filled by him at Millie's. Sometime after college and before Giant Robot, I saw him shopping for records at Rockaway, told him I was a fan, and got put on his guest list for a Bug Lamp show. More recently, when Eric and I were working on an article about Chinatowns for GR12, I went to You Got Bad Taste (where I had seen him working) and hit him up for stories about playing at the Hong Kong Gardens in the bad old days with Black Flag and the Circle Jerks. He comes across as not only a totally decent person but someone who makes time for others.
Like a lot of fans of L.A. punk, I was excited to hear about his newest band, OFF!, which includes Steven McDonald from Redd Kross and Mario Rubalcaba from 411, Clickatat Ickitawi, and Earthless, as well as Dimitri Coats from Burning Brides. A couple of weeks ago, I got to see the group kick ass at the FYF Fest, gushed about the set on my GR blog, and then received a note from Keith via Facebook, thanking me for the support. With the door ajar, I couldn't resist hitting him back for a quick interview…
GR: You've been in a lot of rad bands, so what's different or special about OFF!?
KM: There's nothing special about OFF! I'm cracking myself up over this one. The difference is this group looks as if it's made up of studly male underwear models and boy band leftovers, but what's really unique about Steven McDonald, Mario Rubalcaba, and Dimitri Coats is their musical instincts. The first time we made noise together, I wanted to be bummed out because it didn't sound right to me. I wanted it to be more aggressive in a Black Flag way, but it just felt right!
Mario, being who he is and where he's from, added a dash of a Latinesque/John Bonham flavor that gives what we're playing a real sexy feel. He isn't playing an oompa-oompa-oompa-oompa, punk rawk polka, hey-guys-why-don't-you-just annihilate-each-other beat! The world needs to hear more of that!
Steven grew up on Kiss, The New York Dolls, and The Runaways and has played in Red Cross/Redd Kross (who early on were The Tourists to Beck and Sparks), so he brings an amped-up pop feel and an uncluttered straightforward vibe. He's not a showoff who has to be the Eddie Van Halen of bass guitarists, playing 20 notes in a space that only requires 6. He lays down a great line.
Dimitri brought a metallic mentality, having played with the Burning Brides–a few of the bands they've toured with being Queens of the Stone Age, Audioslave, and Mastodon. But as we navigated our way through the songwriting process, I made him leave the “Butterfly” at home.