From his earliest days growing up in Hermosa Beach, California, to his current gig as the vocalist of Off!, Keith Morris has always been surrounded by music. His father, Jerry, was a jazz musician, but as he explains in his recently-released memoir, My Damage: The Story of a Punk Rock Survivor, that didn't mean his old man was a fun guy to be around. "He was basically a thug," says Morris in his book, explaining that his father was a hard-drinking, bar-fighting kind of headcase.
Luckily for Morris, he found punk rock during its nascent days. My Damage finds the former Black Flag singer tracing through his back pages, delivering the behind-the-scenes kind of stuff we all love reading in rock autobiographies via his unique storytelling style. If you've ever listened to or watched a Morris interview, you'll have just as hard of a time as I did not to hear his unique speaking voice and cadance while reading his book. The man is a character, and that certainly comes through here.
Co-written with Jim Ruland (Flipside, Razorcake), My Damage is a frank look back at Morris' colorful life in the music scene, calling out himself in many cases, and his former bandmates in other instances. But perhaps the most interesting parts of the book are the ones where the 60-year-old talks about the other jobs he's had outside of being a musician throughout the decades. During a spell in the '00s, Morris was an A&R director for V2 Records, working for his friend Jon Sidel, the music executive who signed The White Stripes and The Crystal Method to that label. Morris also worked blue collar jobs in the service industry, and this was all way after he had already cemented his punk rock status. These periods of his life were a lot of fun to read about.
My Damage includes a ton of "No fucking way!" kind of moments, after all, the singer of the Circle Jerks wrote the damned thing. But it's Morris' honest take on every aspect of his life that sets My Damage apart from many of the other punk-related books that have also hit stores in the last couple of years.
[Editor's note: Cover photo for this article by Geoff Moore.]