A phone interview with Keith Morris initially sounded terrifying. Surely he would be able to detect that I was wearing skinny jeans, a slim fit T-shirt – just my general Gen Y’ness, but the OFF! frontman, whose resume also includes seminal bands such as Black Flag and Circle Jerks, would have to be one of the most chilled-out dudes to ever wear shoes. The band will be embarking on a run of Australian shows, not to mention a slot on the Big Day Out, as the wave of support kicked up from their self-titled debut album grows higher and higher.
We had been warned prior that Keith likes to chat, and within seconds of answering the phone….“Did you hear about North Korea?” It had begun. “They recently launched a missile into space, have you heard about this?” I had actually become quite enthralled with that situation, and was happy to be in direct conversation with someone else who had studied it closely. “I say go for it, you know, the more [people in space] the merrier.” He added. We soon became distracted by the notion of some sort of space battle. I suggested Moonraker, but Morris brought up another: “What about…Man With the Golden Gun? Imagine if that happened!”
Such was the conversation for the next while. I knew a segue to music related topics was going to be difficult, but I assure you, 15 minutes or so later we got there. That is, after some very intense back-and-forth on a range of topics, including aliens, terrorism and conspiracies – and yes reptilian overlords were discussed.
The band is currently in town for their 2nd time in as many years. Given the logistics that go into touring Australia, it speaks volumes for the band’s dedication for the oft-neglected Aussie fan. Morris explained that the band are quite taken by our part of the world, though it’s a love affair years in the making: “There’s always been so much great music to come out of Australia. I mean, more recently Tame Impala are really attracting a lot of attention, but there have always been great bands to come from Australia, you know, look at The Saints!Frenzal Rhomb, there really are a lot of them.”
It seems that performing at BDO is not only an honour for the band, but also an important step in their business model. In a previous interview with the band, guitarist Dimitri Coats had also mentioned the band’s intent to diversify in the live music world, showing just how eager they were to do so: “We’ve heard great things about Big Day Out… We want to be a band that can play a festival with different artists, you know, and not just play with bands like us. That’s the beauty of things this time round, there’s so much more option to do that, and Big Day Out is one of them!”
The fruitful live music scene of late also played its part in intensifying the band’s desire to return Down Under: “Many of our friends have toured here as well and loved it, our friends Hot Snakes were only there very recently as well”
There are enough bands playing this year’s BDO to sink a small ship, though few of them are as closely linked to headlining act The Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Chili Willies recently gave a tip-of-the-hat to the band in a press shot where Anthony Kledis wore an official OFF! cap. A gesture of that nature was sure to get some attention: “People asked us all these questions about that, you know – how much did you guys pay for him to wear the hat? But it wasn’t like that at all. Anthony grew up right near me. I remember running around the streets of our neighbourhood with him; he’s one of us you know, and he’s one of our biggest fans. Anthony does what he wants, and if he wants to wear an OFF! hat, we’re not gonna stop him!”
Towards the end of last year, OFF! supported Swedish punk rockers Refused on their farewell tour in the US. We started talking about this and how it felt for OFF!, a band only just starting to be performing with a band intent on hanging up their leads. “We’re huge fans of Refused, they’re great guys and an amazing band. Imagine if you started something with friends, and things started going well, then for one reason or another it all ends… It was really good of them to do that for the fans.”
Unfortunately, things had to wrap up before we could get much chat on the band’s album, but what we do know is that Kevin Morris, and indeed the rest of OFF!, will be returning to Australia in perfect form, set to gig in front of an audience with whom they have a serious connection.
You can catch OFF! at Big Day Out 2013 as well as at their own headlining sidewaves in the coming weeks.