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They came from suburban Los Angeles, with a sound that seemed to flip a middle finger to the Southern California sun. Ticked off, amps turned up and in your face, these were the bands known as Black Flag, the Circle Jerks, the Adolescents, T.S.O.L., the Germs and Fear. Enter: hard-core punk. Led by a slew of Los Angeles-based groups, punk rock experienced an adrenalized revolution in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Under the hard-core treatment, punk's tempos sped skyward, crash-and-burn guitars turned even thrashier and slam dancing was born. For those who witnessed hard-core's initial blast, it must have sounded like the music world's final frontier. But from the speed-metal scene to Southern California's recent wave of multimillion-selling pop-punks, hard-core's influence continues.
Some of those pioneering hard-core bands are also carrying on, albeit in reunion form. Such is the case with the Circle Jerks, who perform Tuesday night at the Boardwalk in Orangevale with English punk veterans G.B.H. in support. The current version of the Circle Jerks is led by original vocalist Keith Morris, who was also Black Flag's first singer, and guitarist/co-founder Greg Hetson. Back in the late 1970s, hard-core's ground zero was Hermosa Beach, the coastal city about 23 miles south of Los Angeles that spawned Black Flag. In terms of influences, Morris and his Black Flag cohorts -- which included guitarist/bandleader Greg Ginn and bassist Chuck Dukowski -- shared a love of heavy-rock bands (Black Sabbath, Ted Nugent, Black Oak Arkansas). The Dead Boys, known for such brash masterpieces as "Young Loud and Snotty," and New York City's the Ramones also were jumping-off points for Black Flag's take-no-prisoners sound. "But what basically influenced us even more was that we were really upset with the music that was being played on the radio," Morris said in a recent phone interview. "And you'd go into a record store and all the albums that would be featured in the very front would be the laid-back, sniff coke, smoke pot, relax, take it easy (music of the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac). And we were fed up with that." Black Flag's first release, 1978's "Nervous Breakdown" EP, was a four-song blast of cynicism and suburban boredom. However, Morris split from Black Flag in 1980 to form the Circle Jerks, which shared his former band's fondness for breakneck speed but added a smart-aleck edge.
Meanwhile, Black Flag, with singer Henry Rollins in tow, cranked out such hard-core anthems as "Rise Above" and "Depression" on its 1981 "Damaged" album. The Circle Jerks reigned as the sultans of snarky, taking potshots at high society ("Beverly Hills") and indulging in insolent rage ("Live Fast Die Young") on their 1980 debut album, "Group Sex." Unruly and anti-authority, hard-core bands were misfits of the music world. Most nightclubs wouldn't touch them, fearing the potential violence that could be released by slam-dancing and general teenage anarchy, while renegade gigs in unlicensed venues often were shut down by the police. "A lot of people wanted to kill us. A lot of people hated us," Morris said. "When people came to see us, they expected us to be like the other bands that were all Top 40 bands playing Doobie Brothers and Led Zeppelin. I don't have anything against those bands, but that's not what we were about."
Hard-core acts such as the Circle Jerks also became outcasts from Los Angeles' overall punk movement. Up in Hollywood's clubs, groups such as X and the Blasters honed roots-rock and rockabilly influences and attracted older punk crowds. Some punk musicians even thumbed their nose at the hard-core set. "I thought the suburban beach hard-core thing ruined a good scene that we had all worked so hard to create," said X's Billy Zoom in "We Got the Neutron Bomb," a book by authors Marc Spitz and Brendan Mullen about Los Angeles' punk scene.
Meanwhile, the hard-core bands remained a favorite of young skateboarders and surfers, who found the Circle Jerks' thrash a perfect complement to their thrill-junkie lifestyles. "Our scene was a lot scarier (than Hollywood's) because we had all these aggressive, athletic, studly surfer boys and skaters," Morris said. "They brought the energy to the party, and the people up in L.A. and Hollywood moved to a certain beat. I think we sped the beat up a tad and turned the heat up a little more. "There was a big wall between the bands. The group of people up in Hollywood were pretty much a clique. Whereas the people from the South Bay and Orange County, and even the (San Fernando) Valley and the Inland Empire, weren't part of that clique. So it was really difficult to infiltrate the big L.A./Hollywood clique. Eventually we broke down the wall and everyone finally got together, and it was one big, hard-core happening."
As the scene solidified in Los Angeles, other hard-core communities sprung up around the country, including Washington, D.C. (Teen Idles, Minor Threat, Bad Brains), San Francisco (Dead Kennedys), Minneapolis (Husker Du), Boston (SS Decontrol), Austin, Texas (M.D.C.), Reno (7 Seconds) and Sacramento (Rebel Truth, Reagan Kids). "It seemed like there was a movement across the country where bands weren't able to play clubs in their cities," said 7 Seconds frontman Kevin Seconds, who now co-owns midtown's True Love Coffeehouse and performs with the band Go National. "Even if you could draw 300 kids, most clubs didn't want to have anything to do with you. So we created this network and learned how to call somebody in another city, and you'd find out that you could play in some kid's basement, or someone was going to rent a hall. It became this crazy, fairly well-organized thing. If we had had the Internet at our disposal, who knows how it would've all turned out." By the late 1980s, hard-core's first wave had crested. Black Flag experimented with extended song structures and spoken-word poetry before disbanding in 1986. Minor Threat broke up after the release of its only full-length album, but would later morph into Fugazi, a seminal art-punk band. The Circle Jerks recorded sporadically through the mid-1990s, and guitarist Hetson concentrated on playing with Bad Religion, a popular melodic-punk group. But hard-core's no-holds-barred approach to tempo has had a significant impact on other types of rock music. In the 1980s, "crossover" metal bands such as D.R.I., S.O.D. and Corrosion of Conformity freely mixed heavy-metal guitar romps and long hair (a big no-no among hard-core's anti-hippie crowd) with hard-core-inspired speed. Slayer, one of the leading thrash-metal bands, would later pay tribute to its hard-core influences on "Undisputed Attitude," which covered songs by Minor Threat, T.S.O.L and others. Even now, bands are drawing from hard-core to form various punk/metal hybrids. Such is the case with Red Tape, a Sacramento band on Roadrunner Records, that borrows its name from a signature Circle Jerks song.
"I think the first record I ever bought was the Circle Jerks' first album," said Red Tape frontman Jeff Jaworski. "It was so impossibly fast, and to this day that album still sounds unique and untouchable. We have that heavy Black Flag/Circle Jerks influence, but at the same time we're not trying to be some throwback. We want to have a modern sound. But I want to tip my hat to the forefathers like Keith Morris and Jello Biafra (from Dead Kennedys). It's cool to see those guys still around." While hard-core in its unadulterated form is still too extreme for commercial radio, some aspects of its sound have infiltrated the pop charts via such pop-punk bands as Green Day, blink-182and the Offspring. Overall, hard-core bands kicked down doors of tempo and attitude, making way for more heated expressions in pop music. Judging by the range of acts that contributed to a recent Black Flag tribute record, including Ice-T, Chuck D. from Public Enemy and Hank Williams III, hard-core has even influenced the hip-hop and alt-country worlds. "There would be no blink-182, there would be no No Doubt if it weren't for the bands that came before them," Morris said. "Black Flag certainly played a role in bands like Slayer. And if you look at some of the people who play on the Black Flag tribute album, there's some really amazing stuff there."
A tribute album dedicated to the Circle Jerks is also in the works, Morris said. It's expected to include tracks from some of the band's comrades from the old Los Angeles scene, such as Los Lobos and the Blasters, along with singer-songwriter Ryan Adams and others. In the meantime, Morris is also writing songs for a new Circle Jerks album, which would be the band's first record of original material since 1995's "Oddities, Abnormalities & Curiosities." However, it's anyone's guess as to when the album will be completed, especially given Hetson's continued work with Bad Religion. Still, the Circle Jerks have been on the reunion concert trail for the past year and a half. And it's a hard-core homecoming when the band kicks into such signature slammers as "Deny Everything" and "Wasted." "A lot of younger kids are coming out, which is a good thing," Morris said. "And there's a lot of people who would see us in the past, and a few curiosity seekers, too. But the intensity's the same. The young kids are picking up the slack of us older kids."
WITH: G.B.H., the Forgotten and Toxic Narcotic
WHEN: 8:30 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: The Boardwalk, 9426 Greenback Lane, Orangevale
CIRCLE JERKS CHALLENGE THE WORLD
By ChartAttack.com Staff
The Circle Jerks' Greg Hetson (photo by Keith Carman) I have this friend who, back in high school, used to wear a Circle Jerks pin on his jacket. He worked at a grocery store and would proudly display his pin, parading around the store for all to see. One day his boss came up to him.
"Circle Jerks? That’s disgusting! Do you what that means?" "Uh," shrugged my emaciated friend, "it’s a punk rock band."
"That’s not a punk band! That’s when a bunch of guys stand in a circle and watch each other while they beat off! Is that what you’re proud to show off? Is that ‘punk rock?’" The pin was gone in a second and I don’t know if he ever put it on again.
"He should have been proud to wear that button," grunts Circle Jerks frontman Keith Morris. "Not because of the band… because it upset his boss. It made him uncomfortable… challenged his little world and that’s what punk rock is about."
The Circle Jerks have just wound down from a brief stint with the 2002 Vans Warped Tour that helped to promote the re-release of their first two albums Group Sex and Wild In The Streets. Morris is extremely displeased. Not with the tour per se, but with what it’s doing to the essence of punk.
"One band sings ‘I’m Just A Kid.’ OK, cool… how deep is that? I don’t think the majority of kids got us or what we’re about ‘cause they‘re locked into a certain world. Be it the more corporate bands, pop-punk bands, boy-joy bands on the tour… we [were] the old school band. Bad Religion was old school, The Damned was definitely an old school band. None of those kids [understood] The Damned and if it wasn’t for them, all of this would never have happened."
Founders of the first wave of Southern California punk rock, the Circle Jerks (completed by guitarist Greg Hetson, bassist Zander Schloss and drummer Keith Clark) started as a frustrated reaction against not only society, but also against the bands Morris and Hetson (later to gain notoriety with Bad Religion) originally created.
"I was in Black Flag for a couple of years while Greg was in Redd Kross," states Morris pensively." "Eventually Greg and I got sick of it, so we formed the Circle Jerks. We’ve been doing it for 22 years, playing wherever we could play, just letting it fly! We’re always interested in playing wherever, in front of whomever. You don’t care… you’re in a band! Let the pieces fall where they may! Too many bands don’t think about that anymore. They’re content to let someone else take care of everything, which goes against what punk rock is about. Do it yourself."
So in the eyes of someone who was there, man, what are today’s kids missing out on? What invaluable cog hasn’t been turning to make them understand exactly why these individuals originally banded together to create a scene bent on personal and political expression? A scene that is now marketed to suburban teens? Why don’t they get it?
"It’s packaged," barks Morris. "I would call it mall-oriented — a production line. These bands aren’t paying dues or living on the front-line kicking in doors. They have no political agenda or sense of what’s really happening around them. They’re shelled off. The company says ‘You’re gonna play this tour,’ and they’re not aware of world events or political events. And the fans don’t understand that when punk rock started, it shook people up. You couldn’t buy your punk image. You were in it for something deeper. These kids don’t know what to understand. I hate to say it, but it’s like they’ve got their thumb up their ass wondering which way the wind’s blowing."
A HARDCORE DAY'S NIGHT
The Circle Jerks’ Keith Morris on bad reps, bastard kids and the needle.
by JOHNSON CUMMINS
History lesson #246: The year is 1978 and punk rock is just about to receive the final nail in the coffin on the Sex Pistols’ ill-fated U.S. tour. Razor blades are traded in for skinny ties and something called new romanticism rears its ugly head. Hardcore is a full two years away from maturing in southern L.A. but a seed is sown with the release of the first hardcore record ever, Nervous
Breakdown by Black Flag
Way before that blowhard Hank Rollins started barking into a mic, Black Flag was headed up by surf bum/record store clerk Keith Morris. The hardcore sound that Morris helped create at the time had no template or blueprint but was earmarked by a fierce and fast tempo that went right for the throat. Black Flag also marched in a new breed of punker, raised on the athleticism that was rampant along the Hermosa Beach coastline, keggers and a fondness for something called “the slam dance” that would guarantee Fleetwood Mac fans scrambling for the door. Morris eventually left Black Flag one night midway through a set and started up the Circle Jerks with fellow beach nerd (and current Bad Religion guitarist) Greg Hetson. With Morris’s familiar sceptre (a king can of Budweiser) in hand, the Circle Jerks would rule the hardcore roost with the release the seminal Group Sex record in 1980. Now hardcore had its bible and the Circle Jerks galvanized the hardcore movement as a force to be reckoned with.
“The early days in L.A. were really a free-falling, wild kind of scenario,” says Morris over the phone from L.A. “We had no roadmap or game plan to what we were doing. We were playing backyards, parties and renting halls and kind of just scrambling. “As for the violence at early Circle Jerks shows, I think that has always been blown out of proportion. Violence will happen at any show, except maybe the Indigo Girls, but we always seemed to be the band that got pointed out. We came from a skateboarding, surfing kind of scene and that was a real gung-ho, go-for-it thing. Hollywood was full of fashion from England and we weren’t part of that. They were doing things like the pogo and the worm and then you get all of these kids from the beach coming in and, with the energy of the music kicked up a few notches, of course there is going to be some wild stuff flying around. But I always thought that calling us trouble makers was a bum rap—we just stirred the shit up. And without that scene, there would be no Metallica, Slayer, Rancid or Pennywise.” Zoom forward 20 years and the Circle Jerks are playing to a whole new audience who have largely never heard of them. At Montreal’s Warped Tour, the Circle Jerks are sandwiched between mall rat bands that seem to have more to do with selling shoes than punk rock. I guess you could call them their bastard children. “A lot of bands are doing it for the wrong reasons,” Morris says. “It’s kind of watered down and really poppy now. I saw the Warped tour in Ventura. Hot Water Music were awesome but a lot of the bands reminded me of ’NSync with guitars. They don’t have any balls or beef—it just sounds like tofu and sprouts.” With Morris’s rapid fire speech and piss and vinegar delivery it’s hard to believe that just two years ago he could barely get off the couch to boil water, let alone plow through 18 songs in 30 minutes. “After cracking two ribs I went to see a chiropractor, he said I looked like I was getting ready to die. He told me to look at myself in the mirror for 15 minutes and then tell him what I saw. After that, I was diagnosed with diabetes. I take my insulin in the morning and night and eat right and feel great now. “I just want to keep playing music. I have the landlady screaming about how the rent is overdue and I love it because if you don’t have things like that going on you are just not living. It’s more important now than ever that the Circle Jerks keep going and show these kids what the old school is all about. I’m just glad that we are still around to do it.” : On the Warped Tour at Parc Jean-Drapeau on Friday, Aug. 16, 1pm, $31.29–36.29
There are few funnier skate-punk anthems than “Wild in the Streets,” the title track to the Circle Jerks’ 1982 opus sporting the immortal line, “A ’64 Valiant, a head full of valium/A couple of beers could really do me right.” But seriously, does this SoCal hardcore unit really have any business existing 20 years later—and didn’t they split again after reuniting for that ’95 major-label debut/finale, Oddities, Abnormalities & Curiosities? Whatever. Keith Morris and sundry CJ members are simply back—no new album, no label, nothing. Let’s see pantywaists like Sum 41 try that in 2022.
TIP OF THE WEEK
It's a crime that these guys are playing the same night as Savage Republic--two giants from LA's bizarre early hardcore/punk scene on one night almost seems apocalyptic. The Circle Jerks, however, are basically the exact opposite of Savage Republic, the architects of the buzzsaw-guitar sound, three-chords and a giant middle finger to everything and everybody, sharing more in common musically with Black Flag and Dead Kennedys than Wire. Though the band has a lengthy catalog of records, they could have stopped making new music after their first two, "Group Sex" and "Wild in the Streets," both released in 1980. With ultimate punk-rock singer/screamer Keith Morris belting out bleak lines like "Every night the scene is set/gotta drink to forget" over dreary guitar blasts (a genuine precursor to doom metal) from Greg Hetson (who would go on to be Bad Religion's founding guitarist), the Circle Jerks' first two records practically wrote the book for the next ten years of hardcore and American punk. Later dalliances in metal had the Jerks floundering (unlike the Suicidal Tendencies, CJ just weren't destined to hit with the metal crowd), but they'd already done enough sonic damage to leave a steel-toed legacy. By the time I was 16, the Ramones and Sex Pistols were already dinosaurs--as far as I'm concerned, it just doesn't, or didn't, get any more punk rock than the Circle Jerks.
THE CIRCLE JERKS
A leading light of the Cali hardcore scene in the early ’80s, The Circle Jerks were a supergroup of sorts, uniting vocalist Keith Morris (Black Flag), guitarist Greg Hetson (Redd Kross) and, later, drummer Chuck Biscuits (DOA, Black Flag). Their first album, Group Sex, ripped through 14 songs in less than 16 minutes, mixing open-throttle punk rawk with a searing sense of humor. Their appearance in the underground film Repo Man, and on the soundtrack exposed a whole new army of fans to irreverent classics "When the Shit Hits the Fan," and "Coup d’Etat." Whether deconstructing schlock classics like "Afternoon Delight" and "Love Will Keep Us Together," or burnishing lightning licks and humorously offensive lyrics, the band’s furious attack and nonstop attitude offered a blueprint for American hardcore. After splitting in 1990, the band returned in the wake of the Nirvana-led punk explosion, releasing Oddities, Abnormalities and Curiosities in 1995, but blew apart in the middle of that tour. So it remained until May of last year, when they reunited for a gig in L.A., followed by a monthlong tour in August. No label, no new album, just classic punk, from a band that revolutionized the form.
MEL TORMENT'S "Rants & Raves" 5/20/2002
A SIGN OF THE TIMES-NOTHING EVER CHANGES
The stabbing I witnessed outside the major Hollywood club last night was not the first I've ever seen during my fifteen or so years of attending punk rock shows. That occurred some time in the early eighties; at one of my first LA shows when I was a roadie for Big Wow, an emerging OC band who was rolling around Fullerton back then. We were someplace downtown, and loading out into the alley behind the club. Suddenly, this guy comes tearing into the alley screaming for his life, only to be chased down by his knife-wielding assailant. Someone had gotten the raw end of a bad deal. The incident itself took seconds, but the cries of agony from the wounded man still echo in my brain like it was yesterday. I remember wondering what had happened and why, as we drove into the night with our gear, and feeling no connection at all to the man who lay bleeding in that alley.
While that little intro to life in the big city was a bit of a shock, what happened at the Circle Jerks show last night was less so. No, it wasn't an overly violent show inside...too many people kept the pit pretty contained and the lack of room to move prevented any ugly incidents from getting out of hand. The music of the Circle Jerks is not overtly violent anyway, not unlike a lot of bands whose vitriolic messages are aimed at stupidity, government and authority figures. Keith Morris knows his targets however, and his message, as he articulated to the crowd, was that of "not fighting amongst ourselves, but surviving the fight against those who genuinely oppress us."
But this was a major club on Sunset, and this was the first time this old school band was playing in over six years. Its not like they have "this following" of troublemakers (promoters code words for bands who attract large numbers of skins, nazis or other surefire problem makers). Why do the knuckleheads seemingly use any major old school event as an excuse to turn petty rivalries (they don't seem so petty when someone gets knifed) into full on street brawls? During the show I didn't pay much attention to the Unity signs being flashed, but I did notice responses from others who seemed more than just offended. Apparently this was more than just a pit.
The gang mentality, often present in the punk scene here in Southern California, has existed since the early eighties. I remember a show at Ichabod's in Fullerton, where Social Distortion was scheduled to play with Suicidal Tendencies. Rumors were flying that the Social D boys were going to meet their match at the hands of the Suicidal Boyz.
That recipe for disaster came at a time when punk rock was under siege by municipal authorities everywhere. Trying to control a scene they couldn't understand but were sure they could stamp out, shocked city fathers and angry righteous social guardians quickly began to misinterpret all the wrong things. The stage diving, the slamming dancing, the leather and spikes, the fights, the drug use, the anti-parent messages, the out of control shows, the virulent music.
All the worst symptoms of a society the city fathers thought they were in charge of, were being held up into the light by this runaway phenomena called punk rock. Unrest in suburbia? Hadn't they already swept the sixties under the rug? Punk rock seemed to present a new menace, and the message to authority figures everywhere was all that and more. Perhaps more than a little angry at seeing the death of the indulgence hazed, mild mannered seventies at the hands of these wild kids, the authorities in cities everywhere were determined to do something about it.
Utilizing such effective methods as sending phalanx's of shielded baton swinging cops into crowds of (mostly) innocent concert goers (Devonshire Downs, The Palladium, Olympic Auditorium, etc). the perceived violence of the music and its patrons were met with the very real violence of the cops. The enemy, and the perception of that enemy, was at the time, arguably, best articulated through the struggles of bands like Black Flag and Minor Threat. To anyone who got cracked by a baton, maced in the face and dragged to jail, harassed, and/or beaten and held without charges, the price of a Mohawk or a shaved head meant being at the wrong place at the wrong time could be very costly indeed.
But the threat of a gang war between the Social D boys and the Venice Beach turf tested Suicidal Boyz was different. This was not us against them, this was us against us. That rumble thankfully failed to materialize, but it certainly became apparent that the street roots of many punk fans and (not necessarily those) bands were bringing other scores to be settled on the wrong battlefields. Not that the "code of honor" which was supposed to keep slam dancing hard but fun, has ever worked beyond a certain degree.
Most major punk events (and scores of small ones) were always careening out of control, and people always got hurt, some rightfully so and some not. They still do. Despite the best intentions of punk idealists, the music and the mayhem has always pushed beyond the edge of common understanding, and one punk's honor code was often another's green light to strike first or to settle a score. Sometimes violence is random-how many times have you seen someone get his noggin split by the flailing boot of a stage diver? We play rough...people get hurt. Some get hurt more than others, and sometimes it's hard to understand.
Is the cost of punk rock violence worth it? Many know the next day pain of bruised kidneys, shattered limbs or a cracked skull, but ask Jello Biafra (who to this day still receives death threats and drive bys) the price he paid for his opposition to Nazi punks. What is the cost of protecting freedom of expression when the idea expressed is one of oppression by any means necessary-i.e. an agenda of intimidation and physical harm? Beyond the obvious stupidity of drunken testosterone fueled boneheads who beat others for no apparent reason, is our tendency to create mayhem the rope with which we hang our scene? Is the fact that we are a violent society not obvious enough that we must prove to everyone how capable of self-destruction we truly are?
Sometimes the price of being in the wrong place at the wrong time can cost you in other ways...ask my buddy Chad who tried to help a stabbing victim at the infamous Fear show that helped close the Ice House in Fullerton for good. Lots of Nazi's showed that evening although Lee Ving had a black bass player in Fear at the time. No matter. They found someone of Chinese or Indian decent and stabbed him good outside the show.
Now Chad knew the scene, knew the players in the scene, and knew enough to stay clear of the idiots present that night. But, with a shaved head, and lots of scary tatts', well, I guess he just had that look. Or so the cops and security thought. Walking outside and directly into the ensuring mayhem was enough for some security guard to point him out to the police. The DA had all the motivation in the world. It was time to rid the city of punk rock violence and stop racially motivated hate crimes. They could kill two birds with one stone.
If this was backcountry Texas in the sixties and they were looking for someone to lynch for an alleged rape, they had their Negro. If this were Rampart in the nineties, they had their cholo. But, this was Orange County in the nineties, so they had their punk. Never mind the lack of evidence, like the absence of any of the victim's blood to be found on the shirt Chad wore during the brutal stabbing. Or eyewitness accounts that placed him in the club talking to Lee while the stabbing took place. The wrong place at the wrong time, combined with the wrong image (never mind the guy is actually Jewish) made for a triumphant conviction. Take that punk. How do you like your violence now? Ten to twenty in the slam! Federal hate crime charges!
Luckily, the story didn't end there. After finding competent representation and exhausting his family's meager resources, he appealed and after cooling in the pen for over a year, his case was re-tried and thrown out. Even a review by the FBI failed to turn up anything remotely close to being considered evidence to convict much less bring charges. No wonder. He didn't do it. He paid the price of being at a show where the senseless violence was not even remotely connected to the music. And beyond the year he spent thinking about it, he nearly lost an even larger chunk of his life to an overzealous DA unconcerned with getting a conviction at all costs. Its called railroading, and punk rockers are an easy target.
So this stabbing I saw last night...I wasn't all that surprised by it. Nothing I had seen inside the club made me think things were more tense than usual. I wasn't even all that shocked when it all went down, although I wasn't the one helping my friend hold his face together, trying to get him to the hospital before he bled to death. I knew it had nothing to do with the music, or the club, or the majority of the people there for a good time. It had more to do with the signs being flashed in the pit, the associations and the complicated rivalries that dictate taking a stand and backing your bro when shit breaks loose. And baby, when the mad dog stares, the flash of colors and the slights of the pit all come together in one Sunset Boulevard flashpoint, that shit hit the streets stopping traffic while people beat each other over the head with metal folding chairs. Punk rock violence? Ya think anyone needs a knife at a show? Just in case? In case of what?
Now I don't pretend to fully understand the history of the Unity Punks, nor the convoluted history of the various Venice Beach factions, nor that of any of the skins, the Nazi-low riders or any other myriad of gangs and loose associations which some people call "family". I've had attempts at explanations and thumbnail histories or the rivalries involved. I've witnessed events and I've seen the results of only but a scant handful of the 'misunderstandings' between such groups who happen to be in the same place at the same time, punk shows or on the street. There are those who know the entire tired history, and others who can relate with glee the gory details of this beating or that brawl. Big fucking deal. How tiresome. How self-defeating. Where does it end?
Or more accurately, will it end? Doubtful. For as long as we have this tendency towards self destruction, it won't matter if its Orange County, LA, Palestine or Bosnia. Violence seems to be a part of who we are. Sad but true. Bad monkeys on a good planet. Satan doesn't kill people, he's kicking back on some beach, drinking a margarita, laughing. He knows who'll do the dirty work.
Punk rock, more than any other form of musical expression, allows us to exhibit our real society. From all walks of life we come to rebel, to fight and to blow our collective cool, as pent up rage, anger and frustration all combine in various and sundry explosions. Do we have to self-destruct? Maybe. Will violence continue to haunt and hurt punk? Probably. Do you have be involved? Definitely not. It pays to keep your head up and your eyes open. Any pussy can pull the trigger (at least we've avoided this affliction of the hip hop scene) or flash a blade and in an instant the best brawler in the world can be very hurt or very dead. You never know what price you may pay for being a part of our scene. But at least we have this. In punk rock, we have never been afraid.
CIRCLE JERKS TRIBUTE
Breeders, Fishbone and Pennywise team up to jerk off the record!
Hello Records are releasing a tribute album to punk legends The Circle Jerks. The tribute is to benefit Circle Jerks vocalist Keith Morris who has adult onset diabetes. Proceeds from the album will go directly to Keith to help with his medical bills. The project is still "in development" but the list of bands confirmed goes something like this: The Breeders, Fishbone, Fu Manchu, Mudhoney, Murphy's Law, Nashville Pussy, Pennywise, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, SNFU, Superchunk and Jane Weidlin.
We spoke exclusively to the project's curator, Tony from Hello Records;
Crud: Why was now the right time to bring out a Circle Jerks tribute album?
Actually I started working on this project about a year ago. I'd heard Keith Morris (vocalist) was sick and he was working as a waiter or something in Los Angeles. I told a good friend of mine about it and he said "why don't you do a Circle Jerks tribute release and give him the mojority of the profits". Circle Jerks were showing no signs of reforming and I thought it would be a cool thing to do.
Crud: The line up is amazing - how did you manage to get the bands to contribute?
I made a bunch of calls initially, and got committments from bands like Fishbone, Superchunk and SNFU. Joey Ramone had a contract to do a song, and last time I corresponded with him he was getting ready to get it back to us. Unfortunately he wasn't able to record before he passed. I had tons of bands ready to go. After I told Keith Morris about the bands I had, he started calling people he knew to see if they wanted part of it. And they all did.
Crud:How do the band feel about the interpretations?
They've only heard a handful of tracks so far. I've got all the masters and stuff and they're actually pretty excited about it all. I just don't don't make it a priority to send them tapes because I think the element of surprise would be good for them.
Keith Morris was the original vocalist with legends Black Flag. He left the band in 1978 after their debut EP," Nervous Breakdown". By 1980 Morris hooked up with former Redd Kross guitarist Greg Hetson to form the Circle Jerks in Los Angeles. The Jerks were lewd and loud, Morris has said "The Circle Jerks were basically out of a school of do-it-yourself, just play it as it lays, let it fly, see if it sticks, and go with it."
Their debut LP, Group Sex, featured such tracks as "I Just Want Some Skank" and "World Up My Ass." The Jerks' notoriety grew when they were featured in "The Decline of Western Civilization," a 1980 documentary about L.A. punk bands. The band released 6 more albums, experimenting with heavy metal and,umm,Debbie Gibson before going on an indefinite hiatus in 1996 More recently, Morris has Djed on LA radio, played with his band Midget Handjob and battled against his health problems Morris told "Rock Around the World": In recent years, Morris DJed on a Los Angeles radio station and battled adult onset diabetes.
CIRCLE JERKS TOURING
for the first time in six years!
Los Angeles punks the Circle Jerks won't exactly be living up to the title of their 1982 album, Wild in the Streets, when they hit the road this August, frontman Keith Morris says.
"What we're doing for this tour is stocking up on Geritol and Viagra; we've got some Formula 44 and the Helsinki treatment," Morris said Tuesday. "Our vehicle is like an oxygen tank on wheels. I need a walker and an electric wheelchair." All joking aside, Morris said he'll have to forgo some of his old stage antics and take it a little easier on the group's first road trip in six years, which kicks off August 1 in San Diego. Diagnosed with adult onset diabetes in 1999, the 46-year-old singer only recently became well enough to work (see "X, Weirdos, Pennywise Help Raise Money For Circle Jerks Singer").
"I'm feeling pretty good, but I'm still only about 80 percent," he said. "I can't get up there and be the partymeister, which is what I wanna do. I wanna do somersaults and back flips and cartwheels and leap off the third-story balcony, but I can't do that anymore." The band's lineup also features original Jerks guitarist Greg Hetson (also of Bad Religion) and latter-day bassist Zander Schloss. Ex-Geraldine Fibbers drummer Kevin Fitzgerald replaced Keith Clark.
The Circle Jerks originally decided to reunite for a string of dates on the Vans Warped Tour, but the job fell through. "We just said, 'Look, there's still all these places we can play — let's go,'" said Morris, who co-founded the Circle Jerks in 1980 after a few years in Black Flag.
The band has played some spot warm-up shows to prepare for the tour, beginning with a May 17 gig at the Key Club in West Hollywood, California. "We did a 45-minute set, and at the end of it I felt like I'd run into this big wall that had spray painted across it, 'Guess what? You're old!'" Though the setlist for the shows will span the band's career, Morris said he's retired some favorites, including the classic "Live Fast Die Young" from the Jerks' 1981 debut, Group Sex. "Back then, I wholeheartedly believed in it, but now I don't. I've seen death, and I'm not afraid of death, but it's like, 'Hey, if I can put it off a little while I've got some places I wanna go.'" Morris, who also fronts a group called Midget Handjob, said a new Circle Jerks album is "very likely," but the band will have to work around Hetson's schedule with Bad Religion.
Also in the works is a Circle Jerks tribute disc to help Morris pay his medical bills. Artists confirmed for the project include the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Breeders, Fishbone, Fu Manchu, Mudhoney, Nashville Pussy, Pennywise, Superchunk and Go-Go Jane Wiedlin.
"When you've got really great bands, you're at the mercy of their schedule," Morris said, adding that Pearl Jam, the Beastie Boys and Los Lobos have also expressed interest in contributing to the project.
He said he hopes Los Lobos will record their cover in Spanish, since he's not interested in the contributors staying loyal to the Jerks' original recordings. "All these punk rock tribute albums have punk rock bands covering punk rock songs, and why do you need a punk rock band playing another punk rock band's punk rock song on a punk rock tribute?" Circle Jerks tour dates, according to their booking agent: