Keith Morris, OFF! take off 

click to enlarge Retro punk: OFF! is the latest project of - Keith Morris, of Circle Jerks and Black Flag fame. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Retro punk: OFF! is the latest project of Keith Morris, of Circle Jerks and Black Flag fame.

It wasn’t as crazy as that Von Dutch celebrity cap fad from a decade ago.

But Keith Morris recently was taken aback by a sudden mail-order run on merchandise from his proto-punk supergroup OFF!, appearing in The City on Friday, backing its self-titled, Damned-retro debut disc.

“We were running to the post office two or three times a week, sending out hat after hat after hat,” says the ex-Black Flag and Circle Jerks frontman. “We had a real rash of teenage girls suddenly purchasing our trucker caps.”

The reason for the sales surge? “‘Thank you, Anthony! That’s my shout-out to Anthony Kiedis,” says Morris of the Red Hot Chili Peppers singer, who wore an OFF! lid during the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony this year.

The next day, their website was slammed. “I knew those guys when they were just starting a band, so they’re my bros, and they happen to pay attention to what I’m doing. So I’m not going to call up Anthony and say, ‘Could you stop wearing our hat, please?’ I mean, you cannot buy publicity like that, and I’m totally grateful!”

As if word of mouth on OFF! wasn’t enough. Two years ago, Morris — fresh from a six-year stint as an A&R man for V2 Records — was tracking a comeback album with his reunited Circle Jerks, with Burning Brides guitarist Dimitri Coats producing.

“Dimitri was in this Black Flag mode one day and he started jamming in my living room,” he says of OFF!’s genesis. “I said ‘Keep doing that! That’s where we need to go!’ So I had him go home that night and listen to the first Black Flag EP (“Nervous Breakdown” from 1978) as homework, and he came back the next day with four new songs, he was so inspired.”

Recruiting ex-Redd Kross bassist Steven McDonald and Rocket From The Crypt drummer Mario Rubalcaba, The Circle Jerks were off, OFF! was on.

They issued four now-anthologized EPs, with cover art from legendary punk illustrator Raymond Pettibon.

How fast are they? The new “OFF!” CD is 16 songs long, and clocks in at a breathless 12 minutes, 29 seconds.

Morris says they weren’t named after the mosquito repellent: “It goes back to Black Flag — Anarchy! Piracy! Get the f--- out of our way!”

The perpetually dreadlocked Morris, 56, is the only band member who hasn’t become a dad, something he thinks sets OFF! apart: “We don’t have a lot of time to be together. So there’s a sense of urgency to us, and this ferociousness when we play live. Like ‘Look, we’ve only got half an hour. We’ve got to make it count!’”

IF YOU GO

OFF!

Where: Slim’s, 333 11th St., S.F.

When:
9 p.m. Friday   Tickets: $15   

Contact: (415) 522-0333, www.slimstickets.com

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Tom Lanham

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