Former Black Flag and Circle Jerks frontman Keith Morris has always had a lot of fascinating and often dark stories to tell—and now those stories have been put to paper, thanks to his new book, My Damage: The Story of a Punk Rock Survivor.
Morris and his current band, OFF!, will be returning to the area for a long-sold-out New Year’s Eve show with Redd Kross and The Melvins at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.
During a recent phone interview, Morris said that writing the book with Jim Ruland was not easy.
“The difficult thing for me was just getting over the initial situation of having to work with an assigned writer,” Morris said. “We did 70 hours of interviews, and he had to transcribe all of it, sit and listen to everything, and take notes. When you read the book, there’s a certain flow to it, and it’s like listening to a punk-rock record. It moves really quickly, and I really appreciated that.”
There are a lot of rough stories in My Damage—related to Morris’ addiction issues, his departure from Black Flag, and the difficult relationship with his father. Surprisingly, Morris said none of it was hard to talk about.
“Not at all,” he said. “One of the great things about what happened with this process we went through is I work steps: I’m a recovering alcoholic and a cocaine addict. You go to meetings … and there are all these different steps to take for this enlightenment—tapping into your spirituality, and seeing the light. I consider it a bit of a self-cleansing and self-realization process. With the book, I got to tell some stories I got to get off my chest, so it worked out really well for me.”
Morris said he’s received complaints about some of the stories in the book.
“I had some people reach out to me and say they were really upset about what I had written about them in the book,” he said. “One of them who I had a bit of a conversation with—if you consider a Facebook chat a conversation—I said, ‘Look, we’re still friends. What I said wasn’t damaging, and all I was doing was telling the truth. Why would I sugarcoat anything?’ All I was doing was telling a story.
“One other person accused me of being a liar. That person can turn around and say things like, ‘My friend owns a bookstore, and she’s not going to carry your book, because you’re a punk-rock loser, and you’re a sexist.’ On that note, I might actually use that quote for the back of my second book to help sell it.”
Morris shared a story in the book about how he almost died in Norway from issues related to diabetes while he was there at the invitation of the band Turbonegro.
“I think that if the little old lady who came into my hotel room hadn’t come back when she did, it would have been the end,” Morris said. “I was completely dehydrated and gasping for air. That was about all I was capable of doing.”
Interestingly, not-so-positive parts of the book mention Steven McDonald of Redd Kross—who also currently plays bass in OFF! with Morris.
“Steven, who is actually a good friend, and I at one point we were at odds,” Morris said. “He listened to the audio version of the book while he was touring with The Melvins. Steven has not complained about anything. Steven is like a younger brother, because I’ve known him since he was 11 years old. He’s my bro; he’s my friend; and I love the guy. He can be a freak and irritating at times, but that dude gets an A-plus in my world.”
My Damage: The Story of a Punk Rock Survivor
By Keith Morris with Jim Ruland
336 pages, $24.99