My Dinner with Keith Morris

I lay up my second shot on the 18th, total chickenshit move.
But between me and the green, now just 145 yards distant, lies a kidney shaped pond of water framed by cattails.
What is it about fucking Water?
I am suddenly terrified of the shimmering pool as if I am a green skinned sorceress surrounded by winged monkeys.
Oh, if it was just terra firma between me and that white flag, I would casually pull the 7 iron and give it a firm but easy swing, confident of ending up somewhere within two putts to end the day.
But this innocent water feature seems to have a gravitational pull of a Death Star, sucking balls out of the sky to claim yet another victim for its murky depths.
I end up grabbing a a five hybrid and swap out the Pro V1 for a scuffed range ball, acts of desperation that can only ensure failure.
And of course-of course!-I take the worst swing of the day, arms disconnected, already looking up before I even make the downswing. The ball shanks 45 degrees off the face of the club, spinning maybe 75 yards before skipping off the surface of the pond twice.
The tiny splash it makes before disappearing into the green water echoes like the bitter laugh of a cruel stepfather.

I’ve disrupted a couple of Canadian Geese lounging in the cattails. They honk in protest before taking flight, disgusted by the bad play.
And suddenly I am alone in the desert, on the walk of shame to the drop area, and its fucking hot.
I wonder at the importance I’ve assigned to hitting a tiny ball around the yellowing fairways in the midday heat, at the silliness of wearing a collared shirt-tucked in– per clubhouse rules.
Punk rocker? Me?

The carnival lights of Pappy and Harriets sparkle in the desert night.
We all clutch our vaccination cards and smartphone rendered tickets in either hand like unholstered Colts as we walk down the dusty ghost town street of Pioneertown.
We are masked as outlaws, bandanas replaced by N95s.
Heading for our fated showdown with the motherfuckin’ CircleJerks!

When they announced the dates to their comeback tour–what, for the third goddamned time?–we pledged to be there for night one.
For who knows what disaster or plagues those rascal Gods have planned for us in the near future.
We may be shuttered yet again by another variant of virus, or chased to the hills by anti vax zombies, who the hell knows?
Band tours are announced, rescheduled, then cancelled.
But it seemed as though it just might happen, this wonderful gig, though if we were all told to turn and evacuate at the last minute it would not surprise me.
But as we finally pass security and get into the gates I see Arab standing stage left and a dozen familiar faces, smiles unmasked, that I allow myself to believe we are going to see the Jerks play once again!

Negative Approach kicks off and the night is suddenly filled with with purging rage.
John Brannon up there shouting like the world’s most pissed off guy who has finally reached a human voice on the customer service line, his eyebrows inverted like two crows diving for the same roadkill.

Kimm and I wander around the crowd between bands, but we go only a few yards before we are stopped by an old friend or a fan of the band wanting a photo with us.
They see us standing together and take a startled second look, like children running into their third grade teacher in the supermarket.
It becomes apparent when we are together we become a different and altogether logical entity, like Bert and Ernie or weiner and bun.
His spiky blonde head, my tragic gigantism, together we equal those dudes from that old band.

We chat with a few more kids who tell us how their parents used to like us, then we decide to separate and walk to different corners of the corral.

As I wait for the band to come on, I am surprised by just how much I really want to see the Jerks play again.
They always seemed The Stones compared to Black Flag’s Beatles, or maybe they were beyond all comparison…. The Who?
A band that always embraced the ragged edge in urgent blasts of sound, The Circle Jerks remained the true standard bearers of So Ca hardcore, never wavering from the path of good old honest punk, man.

And out front, always Keith Morris.
He saunters onstage and welcomes the crowd in his nasally drawl, sounding like your favorite uncle who always asks about your love life as he slips a twenty in your shirt pocket.
Approachable to a fault, Keith has always been there for a chat, often helping our own band out with touring logistics or a gifted opening slot.
Between his three mega bands and countless offshoots of bug killing monikered projects, he is there in the darkened back of the club, a fan when not on stage.
He has become our own punk rock Bill Murray, a beloved elder statesman.

But then the band kicks in and he becomes the snarling frontman of our youth, belting out song after song in the same bark and meter. A sound that conjures up the wild hot nights of the 1980s, transposed to voice the rage of this fucking world and its horrors.
A dust cloud rises from the desert floor, and though the venue is all outdoor the temperature of the Earth is suddenly hotter.
People raise their goddamned phones, naturally, that natural reaction nowadays to prove they were there.
But my faith in mankind is restored when kids start climbing atop each other’s shoulders, launching their bodies across raised hands.
Iphones and drinks go flying, dust becomes mud.
People start pocketing their precious electronics against the mounting mayhem and have to just watch and listen, be in the moment of this night.

It’s Greg Hetson up there next to Keith, those familiar tight kneed jumps, and all is right in the world.
Joey Castillo on the drums is a monster, and good old Zander holding down the bottom, I am starstruck once again that Joe Strummer had this guy on speed dial.
Song after song is played, and when Keith announces they are only half way through twenty seven fucking songs on their set list I am forced to find a cup of water and a seat.

I worry about bands going out on tour, amidst viral threat, expected to rage on cue as if they were teens.
Keith and Brannon both, having to get out there and pour out their souls and shred their throats nightly.
And while it may seem silly, all of us elder gents shouting above the guitar and drum, it only takes that first song to remind us of the value, a reminder that we shall import our meaning to the experience.
Whether confessing to a rage that somehow still burns at 60, or trying to get a small ball to disappear into a hole

The band plays Wild in the Street mid set, the crowd goes fucking wild.
It is epiphanically charged moment, the punk rock ethos suddenly clear as the stars hanging crystalline above the upraised arms of the Joshua trees.
That shared thing that allows us to wear a black and red sock to work, to get horrendous but cheap haircuts.
We wear Black Flag T shirts to the supermarket and buy the ugly fruit.
Because we know the fruit still tastes just as sweet and it’s only hair, it will grow back, and, hey! The fuck you looking at?
Because it’s not that we don’t care,.
We just don’t care what you think.

The next day I’m still in the desert, back on the course.
After the clubhouse turn I ditch the Travis Matthew polo and put on my sleeveless No Values T shirt.
The course is deserted again in the midday heat, and I crank my phone speaker volume.
Spotify choosing Circle Jerks songs off some algorithm they suppose will appease me.

I am now on the 18th tee, and I barely notice the pond standing between me and the flag.
I see only a mild lawn that I will own like a bitch, the water feature as inconsequential as a puddle of spilled Pabst in the desert dust.
From the cupholder in the cart, Keith sings I Wanna Destroy You, and I can’t help but laugh, a maniacal, knowing cackle that sends the geese into flight.

The ball launches pure off the face of my driver, and it disappears into a white expanse of sky.
I turn away, not even caring to track its flight, because I destroyed that thing.
Punk rocker, me.



The night that Joe Strummer died and I was hanging around backstage at House of Blues Anaheim.

This is when Social Distortion would do a run of 10-12 shows right around the holidays, a sort of OC punk advent calendar that everyone seemed to bitch about, yet it sold out every night.

I had cleaned out The Crowd’s dressing room of any remaining beer while they were on stage, the classic dickhead backstage move that I justified with the need to drink in Joe’s honor.

I walked down the hall swinging 2 warm Coronas like piss filled juggling pins, chuckling at the thought of Decker getting off stage to discover only Vitamin Waters left in their green room.
I caught sight of Mike Ness through an opened door.
He raised an eyebrow and nodded to me, though seemed to rightfully be prepared to run if I came any nearer, lest my drunkenness infect his hard-earned sobriety through sheer osmosis.

Then I saw Steve sitting in another open room, and he waved me over to chat.
And that’s how it always was when you saw him, the smile of mouth and eyes, a joke in greeting.
All of us, the characters that made up this zenith of So Ca punk, we all recognized the man at the very center.
The big guy we all circled, deserving of the very gravitational pull that brought you into his orbit.
A welcome.

I plopped down next to him and shook my head.
“Ah Soto, what a day.”
I was wallowing in my own pity for my hero’s passing, putting on the self-absorbed dramatics any proper drunk knows how to manipulate into just another excuse to have another shot.

“So tell me a story Steve,” I said. “Tell me a Joe story.”

And then he looked to the ceiling and smiled, rolling through that data bank of experiences. A lifetime of this music in every conceivable capacity.

He smiled then and turned to me. “Strummer or Ramone?”

For he did indeed have stories about either Joe.
With a Zelig-like ability to be there at all times, he had a story to tell of every gig and musician you knew, and loads more about the ones you did not.

You knew him, or course as Tony’s right hand man on that stage, the mighty foundation of The Adolescents.
Laying down the bottom end, yet sailing far above with the sweet high harmonies.

And then there was the stable of acts he held, always on hand to fill a rare open weekend night with a gig: Manic, Karaoke, Riders—etc.

And: tour managing, booking, studio cat.

Steve had excelled, it seemed, in every aspect of the music business:
make that the Music Life.

Martin Wong Photo

I’m in the studio, struggling with the punch ins: failing yet again to hit a common third.
The other guys have gone out for tacos, leaving poor Monroe alone in the booth to roll back time and again as I butcher the background vocals.

Take twelve and I throw up my hands.
Jim hits the talkback, but doesn’t say anything.
We look at each other, held in the silence, then nod as we both come upon the solution:
Call Soto.

And a day later we are in the control room, Steve out alone at the mic.
He tells a long story about Gabby, then puts on the cans and spins a finger in the air: roll it.

And then, one pass, boom.
He nails the track, then goes back again and lays another harmony on top of that.

We roll through again, and he effortlessly weaves in and out of the track.
It’s done, and he takes off the headphones.
So one time, me and Stan– this was way out like off the coast of Italy….


A couple years ago we met up in Köln Germany.
A cracker for a Monday night gig, The Adolescents and TSOL, MDC and us.

We are all decades removed from those bratty awesome early days, now more concerned with the WiFi password and a tea kettle than pirating beers from each other.

I find a nice cool seat outside as everyone is packing up and Steve comes over to sit with me.
We chat between people coming up to talk to Steve, asking him for a selfie or just to shake that hand. My thumbprint is left on a dozen Iphones as I am asked to take their photo together, these people so happy just to be near him.
And he is happy too, out here on the road, his home.
We talk about the rest of their European tour, though he was out with CJ before this leg, hasn’t been home since Punk Rock Bowling.

“Dude. I don’t know how you do it,” I say. “That travel schedule–sheesh!”

“Yeah, but you guys with the wives and kids– see, I don’t have a dream killer, do I?”
And he laughs at the joke, because ever the romantic, he is in love with a girl back home.

He continues to travel, as he always has.
To be far away from us yet somehow still close.
He saw this life as just that: a dream.

My Dinner With Biscuit

A European fest recently, I searched for an exit with the thought to wander around the old East Berlin neighborhood a bit before our set time.
I caught sight of Wattie standing outside a tour bus, his crimson Mohawk standing straight up as if it were a compass reading of his aura. The last time I’d seen him his stripe of hair hung limp in sickly dreads like hydrangeas wilted during an unseasonable heat wave.

We did the bro hug.
He Looked trim and hale, and I told him so.

“Ya gotta mate, ya gotta,” he said. Even that usually impenetrable Scottish brogue seemed clearer than usual. “Two ‘eart attacks mate, two” he said, pounding at his chest. “Dropped a wee bit o the fat, feeling fit, yeah?”

I’d heard, of course of his scare onstage.
Have we reached the season where our indestructible punk heroes, hell, ourselves, need to face the oncoming mortality?

As I strolled along the Spree, spearing currywurst with a tiny trident fork, I wondered at this thing that has given me the opportunity to be here at this time, in this place.

What world is this, that these heroes give a hug and we chat as the old acquaintances we have become?

And as so often with gentlemen of the twilight, how the talk reflects on the decades we have all shared in these trenches.
Has punk become the new blues, where no one bats an eyelash that a 60 year old is up there owning the stage?

Perhaps because we were supposed to be ugly in nature, boots on the ground and ear to the dirt, there has been no deterioration as the hair metal bands of the same time have suffered.

The senior class of punk looks pretty good up there, finally under proper lights and through modern sound gear, playing in front of 3000 well behaved fans that have aged along with us.

In turn, your metal band playing the same hall sees this as just another step down the ladder, a bitter disappointment from playing the arena that shadows the horizon of this same city.

Those spandex pants and scratchy hair extensions now a cruel reminder of better days.

It is a shame that not all of the old friends, heroes as well, are not here to enjoy those lights.
It’s the fact of our age, and that sparkling wild life we all enjoyed, that make you cringe just a bit when the phone rings, a name and number you haven’t seen in years.

And then the inevitable question that serves as a greeting: Hey, did you hear about….?

The Big Boys

It’s a  week before our first Southwest tour.
We’re talking 1982 here people, long before a nationwide jaunt could be booked with a few lazy swipes at the smartphone, raping Facebook for local promoters.

Kimm had been doing his homework for months, conferring with the master Chuck Dukowski for contacts in the different cities. It was a patchy affair, a mysterious Underground Railroad type network of people connected by the love of punk and borrowed phone calling card numbers.

There was a person, a club, a band in every town, and of course when it came to Austin TX, man, that crew was The Big Boys.

We went out to the Whisky on a Thursday night when they were in town, an opening slot for X, maybe it was their first time in LA?
We’d heard a few tracks, and were digging the chugging groove they were laying down, adding a new syncopation and funk to the skate thrash meter.
But also a bit mystified by the big lug of a singer, Randy-Biscuit-doing the set in a big ol white jumpsuit.

Then came the closer, a raucous version of Hollywood Swinging, when Biscuit shed the one piece, revealing a pink motherfucking TuTu underneath!

He smeared cheap lipstick across his face and threw himself into the song, into the crowd, terrifying and exhilarating.

Just. Great.

On the way home, cruising down the deserted 101, burping up the ghost of an OkiDog (with kraut yo), we meditated on what we just witnessed.
We were excited, maybe a little intimidated, about the next weekend’s gig in Austin with the Boys themselves and another rookie band called Husker Du.

The next day we returned to Hollywood and met the band at Exene’s bungalow.
Would Biscuit greet us in drag? Shout in our faces as the madman we witnessed shouting out his demons onstage last night?

But when we got to the bungalow, we found him rinsing out the tutu in the kitchen sink, the white jumpsuit already hanging out to dry in the courtyard. He was doing the laundry, but turned to greet us with that expansive grin.

Hey, how y’all doing?

To be continued

My dinner with Shithead


The band is done with their first encore and Joey takes a step back to drink some beer and wipe some sweat–
Here’s my chance, I’m thinking. Time to go up there and rouse the crowd.
Get one more song out of em, let them know how we really feel about the mighty goddamn D.O.A. !!

I’m thinking I’ll quote a little Rimbaud, something about golden chains across the stars, maybe tell these yokels how, yeah, we might’ve lost Ramone and Strummer, but we’re left with one good true Joe: Shithead!

And then Joey will tear up, of course, and we’ll say our goodbyes right there on stage , 2 big lugs hugging it up, all sweaty brows and Newcastle-soaked shirts.


It’s the Valley on a Superbowl Sunday night, of all things, and we’re a tad burnt from the night before:
A quick jaunt down to the Brick in San Diego to meet up with D.O.A. with all good intentions of keeping things easy.
You know, catch up with Joe and get the lowdown on this farewell business, maybe a few sane cocktails before our warmup set, catch the band and be in our motel beds in time for SNL—har!

Brick by Brick, San Diego
Brick by Brick, San Diego

It turns into a beer dripping night down South, of course, a hazy thing recalled through bizarre images: Wolf head shirts and double guitars hung around necks ala Rick Nielsen.

The Spirit Animal guises us through the night!
The Spirit Animal guides us through the night!







We got there early for soundcheck (….theirs, not us ya silly goose-we obviously have not soundchecked since 1984!) and load in: rainy Saturday evening.
Have’t seen Joe and the fellas for a year or so, and it’s good to catch up for a few ticks in the quiet of the club before the nights’ inherent shenanigans unfold.

Joey explained that he was taking an indefinite break from the band, there was a chance now for some real action, something about a real shot at getting a spot on the Legislative Assembly with the BC New Dems…..
(Hell, I don’t know— what am I, goddamn Mike Wallace? Check Andy Nystrom’s awesome blog for details on Joe’s political plans)

I hint that perhaps this might not really be the end of the line, hmmmm?, but when he tells me of the recent sale of the rugged War Wagon tour van (mileage, a conservative 800k!), I know he is sincere about his new political chores before him–best of luck man!

If any of you have the means to go vote for the man, I’d say by all means, do it!
We’ve known a lot of characters in our time out there, and one constant of swinging back through town every couple years is change.
Seems like every straight edged vegan who was running the Anarchist Food Co-op last time through is now a junkie with mascara and surviving on AmPm hotdogs….

But Joe has always stood behind the talk, God Love him, and shamed us in a good way to recycle those beer cans, pick up that goddamn cigarette butt, and hey! maybe eat a salad now and then, huh?
We’re gonna miss him out on there!


We’ve crossed paths so many times, and it’s always been our very real pleasure to play with the men of DOA:
Different incarnations, rowdy gigs with Chuck Biscuits and Dave Gregg in the band, Dimwit on bass, Dimwit on drums.
The band as a 4 piece of 3, it didn’t matter as long as Joe was up there, legs wide, eyes straight ahead, singing the truth!

Charlie Harper, Pete Dee, Joey Shithead: Do not stand in the way of hungry seniors!
Chow line @ Warped Tour 2010 Charlie Harper, Pete Dee, Joey Shithead: Do not stand in the way of hungry seniors!

A blizzardy New Year’s Eve, 1982, and we’ve gathered in NYC for a big Punk a Rama gig at Irving Plaza.
We scored an opening slot on a bill with Misfits, The Big Boys, D.O.A., last minute to salvage a cancelled UK tour with Blitz.

We play a shaky set on borrowed gear, still rattled by the red eye flight and the incessant taunting from Doug Holland.
And then the sound is cut and the lights come up: Nobody’s getting paid, apparently!

The turnout is bad and the promoter has left the building.
The bands are all grumpy: Biscuit is counting heads of those who paid, Danzig and Doyle looking around like they’re sizing up various bar utensils to use as weapons.
We all complain about the weather.
But in come the DOA boys, all flannels and Sorels, looking like lumberjacks who just enjoyed a game of street hockey on the black ice of 15th Street: They did.

And then we all adjourn to A7 for some late night drinks, Joe telling us jolly tales of just driving 2000 wintry miles, avoiding horny moose all the way, for this abandoned gig.
But what ya gonna do?
Joe gets up from the bar and sizes up the tiny stage, and soon they’re setting up for a late night set, the New Year salvaged.

Weber's Bar, Reseda
Weber’s Bar, Reseda



We get to the club late, having spent the day on the couch alternately snoozing and rousing to see the 49er’s blow the big one through inane coaching.

It’s out to the Valley for our last gig with the mighty DOA. It’s bittersweet to be having a last visit backstage and we really don’t feel like drinking again…but, oh, we do!




And then those fearsome Canucks climb the stage one more time, Joe counts it off, and on downbeat, a beer goes sailing through the air and baptizes the crowd for a last visit with the man!





It’s a loud sweaty set, people singing along with the songs and shouting out requests:
Fucked Up Ronnie! The Prisoner! …..War!
Kids are slipping around in the pit, falling on their asses for all the lager that has been sloshed out of the pitchers held aloft in cheer.
It’s a fitting sendoff, just another Sunday night for a band that has traveled a million miles, one last trick: to make a blah Sunday night into something fine, communal and rousing, a night of smiles and hugs.

It’s time for my farewell toast to the band, and as Joe turns his back to tune up I jump up on the stage.
But when I stumble to the microphone, the Bushmills we’ve been nipping on all night kicks in, and my eloquent goodbye turns out to be:
“Blah! Fuck! Come on!!- WOOOO!”

There are immediate beer cups flying at my head and the chant Get off the stage Jethro!, but I am not to be denied.
Our long road with these gentlemen has apparently come to an end.

And so I can only spread my arms wide, as if to encompass the whole fuckin’ thing that we’ve all been through and shout out, “Don’t you understand? It’s D.O.A.!!”


Many thanks to and BigWheelMedia for the awesome live shots!