Yes, this is Keith.
Hey, this is Mark Prindle!
Oh hey Mark!
Do you have time right now?
Yeah I do. Actually, could you call me back at a different phone number?
Okay, it's (a different phone number).
Okay, I'll call right now.
How you doing?
Oh, it's been really hectic today. It's President's Day, so we figured it'd be a laidback kinda day, but it's been hectic.
Oh you know, it's a record company. We've got all kinds of things going on all the time. We had a band come in today, one where getting ready to sign, called the Icarus Line. GREAT band. Like Stooges meet Spacemen 3.
Oh wow! I feel like I've heard that name somewhere, the Icarus Line.
Do you ever read Kerrang or the NME? They're big in both of those magazines. They've got a good thing going on in Europe, so that'll make things easy for us over there.
What exactly do you do at the label?
All sorts of different things. I send out mailings, talk to bands, go watch bands, listen to bands, comb through record stores looking for certain CDs. If I read about something cool, I try to track it down. I talk to managers, talk to lawyers, talk to club owners, talk to booking agents, talk to promoters..
Yeah, like I said, it's pretty busy. We've got a lot going on.
With all that work, do you still have time for the Circle Jerks?
Oh yeah! They encourage me to go out and play because I do the same thing that I'd be doing here. Talking to all the same sorts of people.
That makes sense. Who exactly is in the line-up now?
We have Greg Hetson on guitar -
Is he still in that other band?
Yes. He's still in that other band. We'll just call them "The Other Band." And we've got Zander Schloss playing bass and a guy named Kevin Fitzpatrick on drums.
Has he been in any bands we might have heard of?
The Geraldine Fibbers, Further and Shadowland.
Oh! I've heard of all of those bands! I don't think I've actually heard any of them though.
The Geraldine Fibbers are a great band. Like if Sonic Youth were to play country music.
Described like that, it makes me think of Thin White Rope.
With a female vocalist and more of a country flavor. Thin White Rope are a little bit darker.
So does it look like you might be recording another studio album? Or just touring for right now?
We're supposedly working on new songs; that's what we're telling everybody. But it's difficult when everybody's working day jobs and we have a member that's playing in another band - "The Other Band."
But you have time for short tours at least. Weren't you in Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago?
We played San Francisco, Sacramento, L.A. and then we went to Las Vegas for this big punk rock bowling tournament.
Was GBH with you the whole time?
Yes, we played with GBH on all those dates. It was basically their tour; they added us to it. It was a great thing. We get along with them very well and have for a long time. They are a really cool band.
So with the Circle Jerks back together, does that mean that Midget Handjob is finished?
Midget Handjob is an ongoing experience that will never be over. What happens is we're not really a band. Somebody will call me and ask us to play and I'll make 20 phone calls and whoever shows up plays as part of the performance. When I say I make 20 phone calls, I mean 20 different people. We have two sax players, two guitar players, two percussionists, a violin player, a keyboardist and we have a gentleman playing a saw.
How did that project get started? I bought the CD not knowing what to expect. I thought maybe it would sound like the last Circle Jerks reunion album, but it's more like - I mean it's basically spoken word with instrumental backing!
Exactly. It IS spoken word. What happened was I came down with diabetes and I couldn't muster up the energy to go out and do the punk rock thang so I did this other thang instead. And it blossomed into this thing all the punk rock kids hate!
Epitaph signed us thinking, "Wow, the punk rock kids will love it `cause they love Keith Morris." And we ended up becoming the worst-selling band in Epitaph history.
How? Was word-of-mouth that fast?
Well, 500 people paid for it and then our web site - or, first the Epitaph web site - got flooded with all these people that hated it. "Well, Lagwagon is cool and you guys are terrible! What is this crap? What is this shit? And why did Epitaph let somebody record this?" But Epitaph thought it was great! They can't wait for us to do another one!
Did that band ever play any live shows?
We did a U.S. tour for three weeks. And some nights we played in front of six people, other nights - one night we played in front of 600 people.
And what was the audience reaction? Did they know what to expect?
The majority of the people that saw it - See, we get a lot of people in the crowd to participate in our percussion thin. We throw out pots and pans and stuff we find at Home Depot and stuff we find at hardware stores. I would say the majority of the people who came to the shows loved it.
Did Buglamp ever release any records? I remember hearing "Sha La La" on that Ramones tribute ("Gabba Gabba Hey" on Triple X), but then I never heard from you again.
Buglamp only recorded three songs that made it out for public consumption. One was on the Ramones tribute - not the new one!
No, I know! I have 19 Ramones tribute albums.
Our second was for an Alice Cooper tribute album.
Ooo! What song did you do?
"The Ballad of Dwight Fry."
Ahhh. that's a great song! What was the third one?
The third was an original we wrote for a movie soundtrack. It was the final song in "Roadside Prophets" with John Doe and Adam from. Was it Adam? One of the Beastie Boys.
I didn't see it, but I saw a trailer for it.
It was a pretty decent movie!
I have to admit I haven't even seen Suburbia! I saw Repo Man though, at least.
I have only seen Suburbia once. Believe it or not, I just picked up a copy at a Goodwill store yesterday for a dollar. So I'll be watching Suburbia again soon.
One I HAVE seen about nineteen times though is The Decline of Western Civilization. Was that an accurate representation of that scene? Or no.. I've heard different opinions.
Some of those punk rock kids they interviewed were a little over the top, but the thing historically is - the L.A./Hollywood punk scene was basically based on English fashion. But we had nothing to do with that. Black flag and the Circle Jerks were so far from that. We looked like the kid who worked at the gas station or submarine shop. And when I say "submarine shop," I mean sandwiches.
Yeah I know.
Sub sandwiches. Philly cheese steaks. Mmm, I'm getting hungry! We were like the boy next door. The one your mom would want your sister to marry. The one your mom would want you to be like.
More so than a Darby Crash.
(laughs) Yeah. Or Stiv Bators or Sid Vicious.
Did that movie change the scene out there at all?
For us, it was kind of a business card. When people around the country finally saw it, we started doing a lot of touring. Like when our first record came out, people on the east coast went nuts over it so a promoter called us and said "I want you to play some shows over here - DC, NYC, NJ."
Were you an instant hit over there?
One of our first east coast shows was Irving Plaza with the Stimulators. And it went off; it was nuts. It was pretty insane. And we played in Washington DC at the 9:30 club, and sold out the place. Minor Threat were the opening band.
Did you get along with them?
Yeah, we got along very much, even to this day! There was really no reason for us not to get along.
So there wasn't any scene rivalry or anything like that?
We were never really into that. For us, it was let's go play and have fun.
How did you come to form Black Flag? How did you know those guys?
Greg Ginn and I grew up in same town. I was working in a record store, and the owner was madly in love with Greg's younger sister Erica. Which he had every reason to be in love with her. She was a beautiful, beautiful girl. And she would come into the store to visit the owner, and sometimes Greg would come along with her and we kinda hit it off `cause of our similar music tastes.
Which would be..?
Black Oak Arkansas, Black Sabbath, Ted Nugent, the MC5, Aerosmith, Thin Lizzy. The first show we went to together was believe it or not Thin Lizzy on the Jailbreak tour. Opening for Journey.
Opening for JOURNEY!?
Opening for Journey. Journey were huge here in America.
How big did Thin Lizzy get over here? I have a few of their albums, but the only ones I ever hear on the radio are "Jailbreak" and "The Boys Are Back In Town."
Yeah, those were both on that album. That was biggest album for Thin Lizzy, then they kinda fizzled. They toured a couple more albums, but that was about it.
Was Black Flag really big while you were still in the band? Or did that build up over time with the other three singers?
When we started Black Flag, we couldn't buy a gig. We were playing parties, neighborhood gatherings, wherever we could play. Nobody knew who we were! So we'd play people's basements, backyards, garages, living rooms. We played a 6th grade graduation with Red Cross. All the kids got jacked up on coffee. I remember they were walking one girl around pouring water down her throat because she'd drank three pots of coffee.
But were you big when you left? At least locally?
When I left Black Flag, we were drawing only 200-300 people, and playing wherever we could get a chance. Like once we played a little coffeehouse. We were supposed to play two nights, but after the first night, everyone went insane and started breaking things. There were coffee cups flying through the air, salt and pepper shakers - and the woman said, "There's no way I can let you play tomorrow night." And that was just forty people.
Forty people who did a lot of damage.
Yeah. And it wasn't our fault, except the music - it got them really excited.
Was this 1979?
No, late '77/maybe '78.
Oh! So you were really one of the first punk bands altogether!
No no no no no no no - I consider the first generation of L.A. punks to be bands like The Seeds, The Music Explosion - you know, Riot on Sunset Strip stuff.
Oh sorry - I didn't realize you just meant L.A. punks.
No, The Creation were English psychedelia.
I know, I just meant - I mean I know you were a fan because you covered their song on your live album.
"Making Time," yeah.
So would the Doors be considered part of that first L.A. punk scene?
Umm. Yeah, The Doors could've been part of that.
So who was the second generation?
Bands like the Weirdos, the Germs, the Bags, the Plugz, the Flesh Eaters, X.
But didn't you form around the same time as those bands?
No, we were third generation.
So did you leave Black Flag just because you wanted to be in a band with Keith? Excuse me, I mean Greg Hetson?
No, I had worn out my welcome in Black Flag. I got tired of the fact that it had become all business and worklike. The fun had evaporated and disappeared. The Circle Jerks were easy because Red Cross were practicing the same place we were - The Church in Hermosa beach. Greg Hetson was fed up with Red Cross, and they'd just rehearsed an amazing drummer that the guys in Red Cross didn't like. So we met in the hallway and I said, "Let's take this over to my garage and see what happens."
Was it hard for the Circle Jerks to get shows in the beginning?
No. By then, hardcore thing was starting to take off, so it was no problem getting shows. Plus Black Flag was banned in all these different clubs and we weren't, because they didn't know who we were.
Did you continue to follow Black Flag's music after you left, or no?
Yeah, I went and saw Black Flag a couple of times. I even played some shows with them when Ron Reyes quit. He was the singer after I left. He was Chavo. When he left, they had some shows booked, and they asked if I could help out, so I did that. I played with them at the Fleetwood in Redondo Beach and up in San Francisco at Mabuhay Gardens.
When Dez (the third singer) joined, was he just the singer at first? And then decided to play second guitar later?
Yeah, Dez was the singer first and then he started playing second guitar. He's now playing guitar with The Misfits.
Oh yeah! Marky Ramone is playing with them too, isn't he?
Marky ramone WAS; I don't know if he is still. See, part of their set was - they opened with old Misfits songs, then they did Black Flag material, then they played Ramones songs and then newer Misfits songs.
I can't believe I didn't go see them. I'm in New York! I totally blew that one. So was there any trouble when you left Black Flag and took your songs with you? Or did they not really care?
There was some bad blood over me taking songs from them. We stole songs from a bunch of people.
Oh, you did?
Not consciously! It's just that when I started the Circle Jerks, I said, "Is there any music you guys wrote in other bands? I wrote lyrics in Black Flag and can use them however I want to." But that's all - I find it basically complimentary. Like we're using it because we think it's a great song. Of course, they didn't seem to take it that way. But that was many many many many many years back.
What ever happened to the original Circle Jerks drummer, Lucky Lehrer?
Lucky was going to law school, and we had an opportunity to go to England to record an album. That deal fell through, but not before we kicked Lucky out of the band. And I honestly have no idea what he's doing now. He's probably not in any bands; he played me some session work he'd done with a singer/songwriter guy.
And what happened to the rhythm section between "Golden Shower Of Hits" and "Wonderful"?
Uhhh. Gee.. Didn't they all die in a bus crash?
Yeah, they all drove off a cliff somewhere, right? No, weren't they thrown off the ferris wheel at the county fair? Maybe it was the roller coaster. Maybe they leapt out of the little rolling seats.
That's terrible! What a tragedy!
We've had so many people play with us, it's hard to keep up with them.
How did you find out that you have adult diabetes?
I came down with a cold and it lasted eight weeks. I thought I had pneumonia, so I finally went to a doctor. I had lost 45 pounds by that point, and my friends all said, "Man, you have cancer." But I felt great; then I got this cold. So I went to a doctor, and he says, "Well it's a possibility that the pain in your chest is tuberculosis or HIV turning into AIDS. We need to take a blood panel to see what's going on." And I was like you've given me all this depressing news. Would it be okay if I came back in a few days for that? And he said that was fine. Then the next day, I tripped in the street and broke a rib in my back. So I went to my chiropractor. He drew blood and said everything was fine - no hepatitis, no HIV, my liver was fine, kidneys fine - except my glucose level was about 345 and your normal level is between 70 an 120. So he said, "Look, you're a diabetic - go to a doctor and get it taken care of."
Isn't that life-threatening? What did you do, have an operation?
No, you don't have an operation with diabetes. You learn to control your food intake and cut down on things you're consuming,. Cut your carbohydrate intake in half, eat more vegetables - way more leafy green vegetables. For a diabetic, that's about the best thing you could eat. Heh, I'm talking about healthy food and I've got this big bag of popcorn in front of me.
Does your condition affect how you're able to perform at all?
As long as I eat a couple hours before I perform, I'm fine. I've learned when to eat and when not to eat. It's really great because you get in tune with your body and all the things that are going on.
But I thought I read somewhere that you had some kind of operation.
Yeah, I did. I had an emergency appendectomy. And while they were inside with the camera - that's how they do it these days, the put a camera inside you - they noticed that I had a herniated navel so they worked on that also.
Do you still have kids recognizing you and running up to meet you because they've just gotten into the Circle Jerks, and stuff like that?
I've been accosted and accused of being Henry Rollins!
And I've also been accused of being the lead singer for a band called - I think It's MxPx?
Oh God, they're the WORST!
It just comes with the territory.
So how did Henry Rollins get you involved in the Black Flag tribute album for the Memphis Three?
He called and asked! He also sent me the HBO documentaries. Both of them - Paradise Lost and Paradise Lost 2. And I watched them and there was no way that I couldn't be involved in that, `cause that whole situation is wrong. That's not supposed to happen here in the U.S. with the judicial system we have. But I guess it can happen in Tennessee, where the governor covers his ears, shakes his head and says, "I refuse to hear anything more about this."
Oh God. So this is like. a very scary time to - or if not scary, at least strange time to be an American. And I was just wondering how you feel about the great job that George W. Bush is doing, especially how his fantastic foreign policy is making us a favorite among all the other countries in the world.
Well, I believe that it's inevitable that we're going to war because our president and all those around him want to go to war. They have their reasons to get rid of the evil regime over there, but what's sad is that there aren't enough people over there to get rid of the evil regime over here. It comes down to three letters - O-I-L. A lot of people don't know that the first flight out of the U.S. after 9/11 was carrying the Bin Laden family, who were over here negotiating with the Bush family.
And they've been working together for a long time, haven't they?
Yep. The Bush family is all about the oil.
At least millions of people were protesting yesterday.
And that's a great thing. Let's hope they keep on protesting!
Are you still writing a lot?
I'm writing for magazine called Destroy All Monthly. I write a column where I pick shows for the punk rock kids and alternative kids. I put in my 2 cents worth and let everybody know what I like and dislike.
What new stuff do you like?
I can hang with the Queens of the Stone Age, and a band called Granddaddy. And there's a band in New York right now that I like a lot called the Heroine Sheiks.
I love the Heroine Sheiks!
Yeah, they're great. Their singer used to be in The Cows.
I know! Did you like the Cows?
I loved the Cows. Let's see what else - I don't know, there's just a lot of bands I'm listening to. Take into consideration that I'm at a record label so I listen to different bands all the time. I probably listened to twenty different bands today!
How long have you been with the label?
I've been here just over 7 months. (spoken loudly enough for his boss to hear) And I still haven't gotten a raise!
Well, these are tough economic times.
(still speaking to his boss) And I still haven't been promoted! I still haven't been promoted to vice-president or president and that's not gonna happen, but that's okay because it's a cool company and all the people are really really cool people.
What bands do you have on the label?
We actually have some amazing bands. We've got the White Stripes, we've got the Burning Brides, Cornershop, Mercury Rev -
Oh wow! I didn't know you have Mercury Rev. I like that band a lot!
We've got the Datsuns.
Somebody just the other day was telling me I need to hear them.
You need to SEE them. Their record is a good record, but they're a live band. You have to see them live. They're this young New Zealand band - these pretty boys who rock all over the place. They've taken a page from the MC5 performance book.
Do you still talk to many of the people from the old early-80s hardcore scene?
I run into a lot of the old hardcore people from just hanging out. I talk to Exene all the time. I ran into Alice Bag from the Bags the other night. She has a new band called The Stay-At-Home Mom. I was sick for about three days last week. I came down with food poisoning and I thought it was the flu. Another thing about diabetes is you're real susceptible to everything else that's going around.. Like if you're at party with 60 people and five of them are kinda on the cusp of getting something, chances are you're gonna have it too. But you have to deal with it twice as long as they do.
Is this Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 - adult onset due to.. I had stopped exercising for a couple of months and my diet got really bad, so I only have myself to blame. Plus I was stressing out and that's the number one factor in becoming an adult diabetic. Or at least that's what they told me at the hospital, so you have to take that with a grain of salt. No two diabetics are alike.
So is this still life-threatening, or do you just have to take care of yourself?
You just have to monitor how you're doing. And the way you do that is by doing your blood count like three or four times a day. At one point my fingers were black and blue - they get bruised from pricking yourself with a little - well, not a little - it's actually a pretty big needle. Just not a long needle. A big fat blunt kind of needle. Then you put a drop of blood on a blotter, put the blotter in a machine that counts the glucose in the blood and lets you know where you're at. Normal is 70-120, and after eating, you're maybe, depending on how well your pancreas is pumping out insulin and the strength of the insulin, maybe 200, 225. Depending on what you eat also - the amount of food, amount of carbohydrates and sugar.
So how often do you have to do this?
You're supposed to do a blood count 3-4 times a day 7 days a week. But I've gotten really lazy; I haven't done that in three or four months. But I know when I need to eat. I know when I'm suffering hypoglycemia. I never suffer hyperglycemia, which is too MUCH sugar in the blood. Sometimes I don't have enough though. See, it's kind of a contradiction. Your brain runs on sugar, but you can't have too much or too little. What they're afraid of with either of these is you could go into a coma. I've been as low as 22, and the doctor said, "First of all, you weren't supposed to walk in here. Second, you're not supposed to be sitting here fully erect conversing with me. You're not supposed to be as coherent as you are. You were supposed to have come in here on a stretcher." Then he immediately got a big tall glass of bottled water, dumped a couple packs of sugar in it, and that got me back up. Then they proceeded to cut my side open!
My one and only diabetic screwup. When I'm administering my insulin, twice a day, I keep it refrigerated. I keep mine in my vegetable drawer. So you have your insulin syringe, you pull out the amount of insulin you have to give yourself, you swab off the bottle with an alcohol swab, swab off an area of your skin, then stick yourself, inject the insulin, withdraw the syringe and wipe yourself off again with the alcohol swab. So you're using the alcohol swab 3 times. Somewhere in the process this one time, I didn't swab something. And I developed an abscess on my side that grew to about the size of a baby's fist. So they cut it out.
How did you react when you found out you had diabetes?
When I found out, I was really depressed. In tears. Cuz I'm scared of needles. But I've been using them now for about 2 years, and the needle you use is such a fine short needle that its like a pinch, it's really not that bad. So you get used to it. I've heard varying stories - some people think you need to take insulin the rest of your life, but that's not necessarily true. If you can get your diet in order - it doesn't mean that you have to completely stop eating sugar, you can still eat sugar. You don't have to drive yourself crazy - potatoes are actually worse for you than chocolate cake.
And now that we're completely off the topic of music...
Oops! Umm, yes. So the Circle Jerks. Do you rehearse together a lot?
We rehearse maybe four or five times before we go tour,. If we don't know the songs by now, we're never gonna know them.
I know I've taken up a lot of your time, so I just have a couple more questions. The first is - I know that the recent passing of Dee Dee Ramone and Joe Strummer must have affected you..
Well, I loved the Ramones and I really love the Clash. I consider the songwriting team of Joe Strummer and Mick Jones to be comparable to Lennon/McCartney and Richards/Jagger. I'd place them up there with Ray Davies and Pete Townshend. And I was also paid one of the greatest compliments that I've ever been paid by anybody about my music from Joe Strummer. One night when I was tending bar, I mixed a drink for him and he told me that he thought that my body of work with Black Flag and the Circle Jerks was among his favorites - that he considered it outstanding. When you get a compliment like that from somebody of that stature, it really hits home. There are times when you're crushed and wondering, "Why am I writing this? Is anybody listening?" But you just go out and do it, and take it as it comes along.
And here's my final question. Did you realize at the time, in Black Flag and all the way through your initial run with the Circle Jerks, that you were part of something that would still be remembered so fondly and discovered and loved by new young fans 20 years later?
It NEVER dawned on me. I'm just now coming to that realization. Like I'm actually right now helping to organize a Circle Jerks tribute album. A guy called me and said, "Hey, a lot of bands at my label are going to record these songs to help pay your hospital bills." Then he started naming bands and I said, "Hold on, I've been in the music business for twenty years now and I've made some pretty good connections. Let me get in touch with some of the people I know." So I've gotten Queens of the Stone Age, Kim Deal from The Breeders, Los Lobos - I've talked to both Cesar and David Hidalgo and both said they'd be more than honored. We've gotten Mudhoney, Fu Manchu with Fishbone, Superchunk with Jane Wiedlin. We got this band from Austin, TX called the Lord High Fixers. A couple of guys in the band used to be in a band called Poison 13, and one of those guys used to be in one of Austin's greatest punk bands - a band called the Big Boys.
Oh cool! Who from the Big Boys is in the band?
Tim Kerr. Also from Austin, we've got Sixteen Deluxe, which is one of Gibby Haynes from the Butthole Surfers' favorite bands. They're a psychedelic band, which I think is totally cool. When the kid from the label started rattling off all these punk rock bands, I was like, "Who wants to hear a bunch of punk rock bands doing punk rock songs?" I tried getting Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips, but he's too busy. Same thing with Mark Linkous from Sparklehorse. A lot of these bands just have really busy schedules. I talked to Bob Pollard from Guided By Voices. Just all the bands I love, you know? I want to hear bands I love playing my songs! Nashville Pussy is another band we've lined up. And we're gonna be talking to Slayer.
Did they - they didn't cover any of your songs on that hardcore CD they made a few years ago, right?
I don't think so. I think they covered like the Dead Kennedys and Minor Threat.
Yeah, I think they covered TSOL as well.
Do you have any idea when the tribute might be out?
Oh, we've still got a long ways to go.
Is there anything else you'd like to mention that we haven't covered?
We'll probably be doing an X song for an X tribute album. We're just trying to figure out who, which gal out there I'll be doing the duet with. Even though the song I wanna do isn't much of a duet. The female part is just singing, "Like a woman!"
Oh cool! Wait - I know that song, but I'm blanking on which one it is.
"Universal Corner" from the "Wild Gift" album.
Oh, okay. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me!
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