We traveled deep into the bowels of the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan, to a seedy dive bar on a mission to witness FLAG, punk rock royalty live! A super group made up of members from OFF!, the Circle Jerks, the Descendents, All and the Misfits. Serving a life sentence, Flag is: Dez Cadena, Stephen Egerton, Bill Stevenson, Chuck Dukowski and Keith Morris. Skaters have been blaring the music of these living legends for decades while shredding up the pavement. I sat down with FLAG frontman Keith Morris to get his take on Black Flag, skateboarding, the media and conspiracy theories. —Jon Stain
How did it happen that skateboarding and your music have influenced each other over the years?
Well, I grew up with skaters: Tony Alva, Jay Adams, all of Alva’s crew. We all grew up together. We were doing the same stuff that they were doing in Santa Monica and Venice. We were, like, 25 miles south down in Hermosa Beach. The music that we made, it made perfect sense because of the aggression, the athleticism and the go-for-it mentality. Let’s not stand around with our thumbs up our ass looking to see if there’s waves or if the police are around. Let’s just do it and suffer whatever consequences we’re going to suffer. Our music was their soundtrack. The way I explain this is you have these guys skating these empty pools and whatever else they are skating, and they brought a dance to the music scene, which is the slam dance now. On the East Coast they call it the mosh pit. It started with all of the skaters and the surfers. The same with stage diving. We were in Southern California. Where else in the world is there a larger concentration of swimming pools to skate besides Florida? So you have the stage dive, which is like somebody diving into a swimming pool.
Who comes to the Flag shows?
There’s a lot of different types of people coming to the shows: there are younger people showing up that didn’t get to see Black Flag the first time. There are people that had just witnessed Black Flag with Greg Ginn and the guys that he dragged around with him. Those people were not having that be the example of what the band is supposed to be.
Speaking of which, what do you think about Mike Vallely?
Mike Vallely is an amazing skater, and I could care less about anything he does musically. I think Mike is—you are not going to find a greater skater than him. I am not here to dis him. I will prop him up as a skater. I just do not—I am not backing the musical thing, except when Greg Ginn plays the theremin. That’s when they manage to kick it up several notches. Ha!
So what’s the real story about Greg Ginn and Black Flag?
Greg Ginn made millions of dollars off of Black Flag and most of us were in Black Flag, but we don’t even get to use the name Flag. None of our merch has Flag on it or the Black Flag bars. A cease and desist was the last thing in the lawsuit. Oh, by the way, you don’t get to use the name Flag, and you don’t get to use the four bars, because we juxtaposed the bars. So my idea was that, since there’s five of us, we should just add a fifth bar. We weren’t allowed to do that either.
What did artist Raymond Pettibon have to do with Black Flag?
Raymond Pettibon came up with the name Black Flag. He came up with the four bars and never got any compensation. He did all of the artwork on all of the flyers, posters, and album covers and didn’t see a cent. He also did the artwork for The Minutemen and Sonic Youth. He just sold a piece of art for $1.5 million dollars. That’s his payoff. He’s done shows all over the world. He’s probably been into 2,000 places. Having grown up at the beach, we’re surrounded by the surf culture, so that’s what he’s been doing—surfers, surfer girls. His direction right now is something like “I’m going to surf this 500-foot wave, get killed because I didn’t get with Gidget the surfer girl last night.” I’m just trying to come in with where he’s coming from.
Why are there so many senseless lawsuits nowadays? Everybody is suing everybody.
Here’s an example of why the big bands now travel with insurance. Bobby, who is one of the drummers in Bad Religion, threw his sticks out at the end of the show. Some guy reaches up and grabs one, and one flies past that guy and hits a girl in the eye. She ends up suing the security guys that were in front of the stage, the stage manager, the road manager, the manager and suing everybody in the band. It’s ridiculous.
Do you do any kind of social media: Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter?
Facebook does have something redeemable about it. Facebook is a good thing. I get all of my information on Facebook. I don’t watch any televised news, because it’s horrible. Twitter—I’ve never Twittered. Twitter is like—my dog, I took my dog for a walk, we stood at a red light, my dog, his tongue fell out of his mouth and he was gasping and panting. My dog needed me to take him to the nearest bar. That’s Twitter.
What are your thoughts on the mainstream media?
They manipulate all the news and steer everybody in all of these different directions. They’re told by the one percenters and the elitists to keep the people down. Keep them down where they need to be, but allow them the freedom to drive around and charge things on their charge card and purchase all of our genetically modified food and all of the oil that the oil companies want everybody to use. As long as we’re doing all of that, they won’t come in with the National Guard and the helicopters. I guess maybe we’re putting on as much of a front as they are by going along with it. Just by, “Oh yeah, you’re right. Sure. Whatever you say. Okay, that’s fine. Yeah, I’ll buy gas for my car twice a week.” But all of this fighting in the Middle East is certainly not because they’re protecting our freedoms and saving us from the horde of black clad sword-wielding guys that are going to come over here and behead everybody. That’s not going to happen. It’s about oil. They have all of these people shaking in their shoes. The NRA will tell them everything that they need to be told, and they’ll run right out there and buy more guns. “You won’t be able to take my gun. Oh, President Obama’s coming to get my gun.” Yeah, like he’s going to knock on your door and take your gun, fuckface.
I heard you co-host a podcast called the Blowmind Show?
I do a podcast with my friend and we go into to conspiracy theories. We talked about the murder of JFK. It was a plot by one of the most evil groups of people. They’re kind of a fraternity. They’re all, like, part of Skull and Bones, these secret organizations. I’ve got your back no matter what you do. I will make sure nothing happens to you. There’s a whole group of these people, and they’re on all these different levels in society. In doing our research, we came up with the Clintons, who are another one of these political dynasties. You have the Bushes. You have the Clintons. They’re all friends. They’ll all talk bad about each other, because that’s what’s expected, to put on this act, to veil whatever they’re up to. Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas for 16 years for four terms. That’s plenty of stuff that went down while he was governor. He was just a coke-snorting, whore-doing, partier. His wife Hillary is working for a law firm called the Rose Law Firm. They had set up Bill Clinton and his cronies. They’re supposed to be doing all of these great things for the state of Arkansas. We’re building roads. We’re building schools. We’re going to pay the teachers more. Oh, the kids—they’re going to have such great lunchtime food and all of these other scams. These people reach these positions of power, and that’s when the ego kicks in, like, “You can’t touch me. What are you going to do to me?” They surround themselves with all of these bobbleheads. All of these people that will say all the right things but are basically there to fend off all of the people that want to get to the answers.
Another conspiracy theory—JFK Junior. When his plane crashed in the ocean, that was a flight pattern he repeated three times that week. He would fly over his mom’s house, former first lady Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and then go back up to the altitude and height where he was supposed to be. And with his knowledge of this flight pattern, he crashes? Another conspiracy theory has to due with these so-called terrorists cells, like, the group that crashed the planes into the buildings on 9-11. How do a bunch of drunk partying pole-dancing who-yahs, tossing money at strippers the night before, fly these jets? The guys in these terrorist cells are trained by the CIA. They’re actually using weapons that we’ve sold those countries against us. This is a pattern. This is the little hamster in the wheel. These secret organizations are all evil. They stir up all of this shit everywhere so they can create the Taliban and the Al Qaeda and Isis; they are the new ones.
The main threat is the political dynasties, which basically the mentality is you don’t fuck with us because we’re surrounded by all of these people that are going to make these things happen for us. That is exactly what they have done for Hillary. For Bernie Sanders to have made it as far as he’s gone is unbelievable. I’m hoping that he continues all the way to the very end. It’s not over just because the media says it’s over. It doesn’t mean we have to buy into their bullshit. They anointed Hillary the new queen of America. Oh, get out of her way. Unfortunately, because of the dumb down and the moms and dads having to work two, three or four jobs to keep a roof over their family’s head, they don’t have time to pay attention to all the political ramblings of the media. They don’t have time to read into it and the masses become sheep.
How does the media get away with just sitting there and telling lies and misconstruing the truth? The Bernie people should not give up, because there are still more delegates to be won. You’re going to find that there’s been voter suppression in some of these states. There will be probably a handful more states stepping up saying the computers weren’t working properly. These people were given these ballots when they should’ve been given those ballots.
The DNC is as corrupt, if not more corrupt, than the GOP. They’re both just really horrible organizations. I had donated $500 to Barack Obama’s first campaign for presidency. One of the first things he did when he became president was place one of the big wigs from Monsanto in charge of the FDA and our food. How ridiculous is that? That was so apparent. For every great thing that he’s done, he’s done two or three bad things. This transpacific partnership is one of the most evil things anybody’s ever created. It makes NAFTA look like preschool.
What’s up with your other band, OFF!?
With OFF!, we’re supposed to have a year-long hiatus. I wanted a break, because for the last five years, I’ve spent more time flying in airports traveling everywhere. In five years, I’ve been to more places than I’ve been in my entire life. My first tours were in a van, which meant it took twice as long to get there. Being in an airport and having all of these people coming and going, dragging along whatever stuff they’re bringing from wherever they came from, you better hope that all of the water and all of the soap is automatic and there are no handles to touch. The people sitting next to you while you’re waiting for your flight or racing to get to where you need to get to in the airport, you hope you’re not surrounded by a bunch of people that are coughing, hacking, sneezing, and germs.
How did Jack Black wind up in your OFF! videos?
I know Jack Black through his sister-in-law, my ex-girlfriend. When we posted those videos, there were a lot of people that were giving us yays and two thumbs up and then there was the punk rock ethics committee—the naysayers, the shit birds that couldn’t wait to tear into Jack Black. How could you do that? He’s this. He’s that. The fact of the matter is that when I sat down and had a turkey burger with him at Fatburger it was a great experience, because we didn’t talk about Hollywood. We didn’t talk about rock music. We didn’t talk about showbiz. We talked about how his kids were doing and how his one kid snuck onto the computer and ended up charging up $3,000 worth of bills on one of those computer games. And just like another actor/musician, Johnny Depp, you’re going to find out you’re not going to meet a nicer person. You’re not going to meet a more humble person. He’s not a rock star. He’s not a movie star, even though he’s been propped up to that position.
You have been around the music scene for decades. You saw the Sex Pistols on their last tour with Johnny Lydon and Sid Vicious.
Well, Johnny Lydon and Sid Vicious were friends. That was the reason why Sid Vicious was in the Sex Pistols. Sid Vicious was obviously a horrible musician. When I saw the Sex Pistols for their final show in San Francisco, they turned his equipment off.
Who are you supporting for President?
Trump is best friends with the Clintons. He’s just a plant to help Hillary get to become the queen of North America. Hillary, from some of the research that I’ve done, is as evil as anybody that ever walked the face of the planet, so I’m not voting for either. I registered as a Democrat to vote for Bernie Sanders. I’m thinking of writing Bernie Sanders name down on the ballot. I refuse to buy into all of the lies—oh, it’s going to be so ugly.
As for Trump, he’s going to build a wall around the United States to keep all of these people out. Nobody is going to be able to come and get us. You know what? Stop blowing your fucking hot air. There’s not going to be a wall around America. There’s never been a wall around America. There is never going to be a wall around America. I’m not going to pay for it.
I know you liked to party back in the day, but you’re sober now?
I’ve been sober since 1988. The situation is if back in the day someone jumps up onto the stage and slams into you and you’re wasted, you don’t feel it. Now that I am 61 and we are on our fifth show on this tour, tonight I feel it. You’re around your friends who are smoking. All the noise with people talking, people yelling and the loud music. You feel it after a night in a bar. It’s just sensory overload.
What advice can you share with our readers?
My advice is to just do whatever you want to do. You’ll learn for yourself. I can’t sit here and say, “Well, you shouldn’t do that because it’ll do this to you. You’ll end up like that and you’ll be down the wrong path.” The yellow brick road turns into cement and asphalt. Where will you go then? There are kids who go through life without smoking, without drinking, without doing drugs. More power to them. If that’s what they choose to do, if that’s their path, you can’t sit here and say, “You’re not supposed to do that because it leads to this and this turns you into something that you are not.” You’ve got to go out and experience these things yourself. Maybe you’re surrounded by people that are experiencing all of these things and you’re getting to look at them as examples—be it bad examples, good examples, role models. You got to just go out there and live it. Go out there and see it. Maybe you experience it in a different way. Maybe your friend gets killed in his car because he’s coming home from a party and he’s on his cell phone. What do you learn from that lesson? Leave your cellphone in your pocket.
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