If you've never heard of Off!, it's probably because the all-star punkers are about to make their maiden voyage to Australia this month. What are you in for? Well, let frontman Keith Morris give you the gist…
"It's very mellow, it's easy-listening - it's music that you would bring your dog and your parents to," says the former Black Flag vocalist. "Yeah, sure, it's the kind of concert that your mum would be proud to drop you off at. Then she would hear the music and she would call us 'the new musical messiahs', she would call us 'very sweet guys' and she would tell you to date and marry us. We're going to be as nice as possible, very pleasant, we stress upon relaxation so there's lots of repetition and mantras, there is a hypnotic vibe to it so meditation is important. We don't want anybody drinking, nobody is allowed to dance or jump around, and we forbid any acts of violence."
…By now, it's obvious the man considered one of the pioneers of hardcore is clearly pulling your leg. Morris' sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek description of his new band's stage presence is more like the complete opposite, as the singer laughs, and is set to make one hell of a first impression on Aussie audiences this November.
"Look, we're pretty in your face and we've got some messages we're going to pound into people's heads," Morris clarifies. "Be observant, have a good time, get loose, get sweaty, get wild, be open-minded and go and be free! This whole band has been pretty much a whirlwind in itself because I'm 56-years-old now and I'm supposed to be preparing for my retirement - but this is the busiest that I have ever been in all of my years of playing music! My highlight this year was being able to play in Europe and doing all the big festivals like Reading and Leads. At first we though that it might be like 24 people out in the field in front of our stage, which we almost kind of expected, but after we came out it was like 'wow, this is fucking huge!' - all of a sudden it looked like there were like 1,500 people out there! So yes, I'm embracing the chaos and the anarchy and I hope that our new audience does too."
While on paper the band may appear to be somewhat of a super-group - consisting also of Dimitri Coats [Burning Brides], Steven McDonald [Redd Kross] and Mario Rubalcaba [Earthless/Hot Snakes/Rocket From The Crypt] - Morris insists this is just a collective of like-minded individuals looking to inject some life into what is currently quite a stale scene…
"I'm still a big music fan so I listen to a lot of stuff but when it comes to most punk-rock acts or hardcore shows, I don't really get into what's around because I've just been doing it for so long - like 33 years. I was an original founding member of Black Flag so I've seen all of this stuff and heard enough of it before, I just kind of shrug my shoulders at most of it, to be honest… I'd much rather just focus on my own music than seek out other bands. I've never played in a band that's anything like this before! The first time that we all got together I remember there was a certain vibe that reminded me of Black Flag playing, or Led Zeppelin or something - two of my favourite bands combined. When you're dealing with musicians that can pull off that kind of vibe, you don't tell them what to play, you all just go with your instincts because they'll lead you in the right direction."
And while Morris may not be interested in much else but his own band when it comes to music, he does claim that Australian artists could actually be an exception. There's something weird going on in our waters down here, Morris reckons, something that is clearly proving to be a winning formula - and he's on a mission to crack it!
"It's weird, but I've got a real thing with Australian bands right now," Morris reveals. "I have no idea what it is about you guys, but you can't seem to put a foot wrong with quality. I don't know what your secret is, but I'll find out. I went to a Halloween party recently here in the 'States and one of the bands playing there were Australian; they were called Total Control, who just absolutely blew me away! They're kind of Velvet Underground, Gang Of Four, Joy Division put together… That's not the first time that's happened, I've noticed it happens to me a lot with bands from Australia. I love The Drones, for example. I remember when I first saw them, the record company people I was with didn't like them, it was at a show in Austin, Texas during South By Southwest. I had no idea what these people were on about because to me The Drones were fucking amazing. They looked totally dishevelled like the hadn't slept in three weeks, they smelled like a beer brewery on stage and their performance tapped into Sonic Youth and The Birthday Party and Neil Young - what's not to love? I also love Kim Salmon and The Scientists. I'm looking forward to finding out about some more Australian bands."
Off! play at the Corner Hotel on Friday December 9; Meredith Music Festival on Saturday December 10 and Fitzroy Bowls Club on Sunday December 11.