Keith Morris and Chuck Dukowski at FLAG’s maiden show. Photo by Bob Lee.
In the months since its release, Keith Morris’ My Damage, written with Jim Ruland, has emerged as one of the most important, and most hilariously quotable, books ever written about punk rock. Morris was a founding member of Black Flag and the Circle Jerks, and there has already been a lot of ink spilled about him and his work, but now the frequent Topic is pointing the pen outward, and as he admits, “I painted a picture that wasn’t that pretty.”
But if not, it is a picture that’s vividly detailed and utterly engrossing. There are lots of the expected stories about the Good Old Days when police officers, audiences and even bandmates were bent on tearing him limb from limb, and it’s great stuff. Less predictable, and equally enjoyable, are the stories of Morris’ other musical journeys, with the bands Bug Lamp and Midget Handjob and his attempts to collaborate with others. The book gives a balanced and realistic portrayal of what a real life as a punk rocker looks like after the initial burst of energy has dissipated and you no longer feel the need to live out your teenage dream of eternal partying, but aren’t ready to die either. And it’s written in the same biting, sarcastic, unmistakable voice of the man who gave us “Nervous Breakdown”,”Deny Everything” and “Wasted.” It’s not like Rollins and his attempts at Hubert Selby/ Henry Miller inspired “literature,” it’s a guy talking in plain language about stuff that happened to him with a dash of acerbic commentary.
Morris credits Masque booker and author Brendan Mullen with inspiring him to tell his own story, and regrets that Mullen passed before they had a chance to collaborate on it. Co-writer Jim Ruland (ex-Razorcake and Flipside) is credited with “trimming the fat, hitting the brakes, and setting a tempo for the book” (like most of Morris’ stuff, that tempo is “fast”), as well as making it possible to meet the publisher’s deadline. This Sunday, from 4 to 7 PM, Morris will host a reading party and book signing at La Luz De Jesus Gallery (4633 Hollywood Blvd) along with his guests Dave Alvin, Chris D, Pleasant Gehman and Iris Berry. We talked to Morris over the phone this week about the book, how some things are better than others, and the immediate future of FLAG. Our conversation is lightly edited for length and clarity. Continue reading