Related Articles: Music, All

Keith Morris of the Circle Jerks

Still Jerkin’ Around After 25 Years

The Circle Jerks are a pillar of California’s hardcore punk community. They’re crass, raunchy and loud. What else would you expect from a band that recorded songs, such as “Group Sex”, “World Up My Ass”, and “I Wanna Destroy You”? With 25 years under their belt, the group finds itself now opening for bands that it influenced. Lead singer and founding member Keith Morris spoke with SF Station from his office at V2 Records in Los Angeles, where he was employed in the A&R department before its planned closure. The Circle Jerks open for Pennywise on Feburary 9th at The Fillmore

SF Station (SFS): How long have you had a day job at V2 records?

Keith Morris (KM): I’ve been here for three and a half years. Sadly, it has come to an end. There is kind of a shelf life when you work for a record company unless you are one of the upper executives. It’s been fun -- I’ve worked with some really incredible bands.

It was a great record company. We got bought out by an entertainment corporation. They knew exactly what they wanted to do but they didn’t know how to implement their plan, which was to purchase all these little indie labels. All of a sudden it becomes the world’s largest independent label.

They don’t really know how to work a brand new band. They don’t know how to deal with putting a band in the studio and making sure it has songs to record, making sure there aren’t any drug problems, and making sure guys don’t go to jail and can’t get out. When you are dealing with musicians, the majority of them are one of the lower life forms. You sometimes can find more intelligence down at the tide pools or the petting zoo.

SFS: Are your shows much different now that you are older?

KM: Now that we are at this age, we try to turn the stage into a giant oxygen tent with nurses on the side. We are all members of the hair club for men.

SFS: How do you get amped up for your shows?

KM: What you could do is go to a pharmacy and go up and down the aisles and write everything down. Now, we give all of the companies props on stage.

SFS: You have sponsorships from pharmaceutical companies?

KM: Oh, yeah. It’s like all these young bands that are sponsored by video game and clothing companies.

SFS: Most of the bands that started in the same scene as you aren’t around because they didn’t make it out or they quit.

KM: They died, or quit to have a family, or became lawyers, astronauts, brain surgeons (laughs).

SFS: How has your band maintained longevity?

KM: Stupidity.

SFS: Stupidity?

KM: Yeah, lack of wherewithal. Everybody has their 15 minutes of fame. We probably have about another minute and a half left in our 15 minutes. One thing that has contributed to our longevity is we’ve been kind of stealth, we have not been on a lot of peoples’ radar. Not a lot of people know about us, so we haven’t been under a lot of scrutiny or under a microscope.

Now, what’s happening is we are being asked by other bands to come and participate with them. This tour with Pennywise has taken years to put together. We are their heroes, so they wanted to play with us, but out of respect they wanted us to headline.

But, we have the same booking agent and he finally had to go to them and say, “Look guys, you’ve sold three million records, the Circle Jerks sold thirty records.” There’s a big difference. When we pull into these venues, if there are 2,000 people there, 1,999 are there to see Pennywise and the other person is there to see the Circle Jerks. We have absolutely no problem with that.

SFS: No egos get in the way?

KM: Our egos are not so inflated that we can’t walk in and out of doors.