Keith Morris

In October 2011, I interviewed Keith Morris whilst he was on the road with OFF!. We had a yarn about ‘what is wrong with the world’, the Pied Piper paradigm, his experiences with Black Flag and Circle Jerks, and evil West African warlords. The connection kept cutting out – Keith reckons that it was because he was around tall buildings, but I suspect our transmissions were being intercepted by Greys. Despite this, we had a good old bro-down and chuckle-a-thon. I’ve chosen to present our talk with minimal editing to retain the authentic tone of our conversation. I’ve kept the bad connection bullshit in so you can see how much of a patient legend he was. The original, edited version can be found here.

photo credit unknown

photo credit unknown

Hi Keithy*, how are ya mate?

Good, how are you?

 

I’m pretty good. What have you been up to?

Well, OFF! are in the van. We’re driving to the most beautiful city in this part of the world, in Texas – a town called Austin. We can see the skyline from here but it’s kinda bumper-to-bumper right now. Luckily we don’t play until about 12.30 tonight…which is kind of late for an all ages show, but hey.

 

Yeah, that is kinda late hey?

It is.

 

So, you guys are playing a few shows there and then you’re coming to Australia in December. Are you pumped for that?

Yes, we are very, very, very much looking forward to it. I have never been there before.

 

Yeah I was gonna ask if you’d ever been here…so, first time? Are you ready for the heat?

You know what? I’m getting some kinda like…it sounds like a microwave or kinda science fiction noise…

 

That’s just the UFOs in the background. The Greys are coming.

This connection is terrible. I’m getting some kind of like grindy noise on this thing. ‘Dot’, is it cool if I call you back?

 

Yeah no worries mate.

[Totally unintelligable crackly Keith robot voice and static]

 

Hello?

Hey ‘Dot’, sorry about that.

 

You’re right mate.

We’ll just try again…[more robot death crackles…I am put on hold and forced to endure some pop-punk bullshit that I later found out is Weightless’ ‘All Time Low’. Fucking terrible]. Are you there?

 

Yeah.

Is the connection clearer?

 

Yeah awesome. That sounds way better.

Hello?

 

Hi, again. That’s better, I just had the most horrible on-hold waiting music. Okay so, I was asking you about coming to Australia…

We will be there in December and I’m, like, totally psyched on this because I’ve never been there before. Mario [Rubalcaba] our drummer’s been there with his other band Earthless [as well as with Hot Snakes and Rocket From The Crypt], and Dimitri [Coates] our guitarist has been there with his other band Burning Brides. I don’t know if Steven [McDonald] our bass player, who plays in Redd Kross has been to Australia…

[“Twice!”Steven in the background]

Okay, twice. See, so I’m the guy that’s not been there, so…

 

Oooh! Virgin territory.

I guess I’m the most excited about going. All these other guys can say they’re excited but they’re only slightly excited. I’m totally excited; I’m literally shaking with anticipation [laughs].

 

Yours is legit excitement! Nice, well you’ll have to be ready for the heat because it gets a bit sticky around here in December.

But we are Southern Californians…the majority of us. [Dimitri] is the cold weather guy and he’s Polish so he can fend off any kind of weather whereas the other three of us, the three guys who are more important, the most important guys in the band, are from Southern California and that kind of climate so your weather is not that far removed. That Pacific tropical weather…we’re used to that.

 

Okay, good. I’m glad. We don’t want you faintin’. I’m pretty stoked that you guys are playing some all-ages shows, and you’re doing one tonight obviously. Is it fun to sweat on all those little kids, and get in their faces?

Um, I can barely hear you…

 

Oh I was just asking, at the all-ages gigs that you’re playing tonight and that you…

This connection is really bad again. Maybe it’s because I’m passing through a bunch of taller buildings. Maybe…I don’t know. I don’t know how these things work. Can you hear okay now?

 

Yeah, I can. Keith?

Um, speak up please? You may have to yell into the phone because it’s a bit delayed as well.

 

Can you hear me now? I’m hovering right over the phone.

Yes, I can hear you now.

 

Sweet, I’ll just hold this pose then [downward dog] for the rest of our yarn. So OFF!  came out of the ashes from a fight with Circle Jerks, who also came out of the ashes of a fight with Black Flag. I think that sets the tone really nicely for your sound, you know – that fighting, aggressive, in-your-face, balls-to-the-wall rocknroll thing.

What’s happened is we have a rash of these well-coiffed…um…it’s kind of like a giant box that is spitting out all of these big atoms, they all look and they all sound alike, maybe this is just a reaction to all of that. Also, we live in really horrible, social-political times…

 

Amen!

…that, coupled with the anger against some of the other music that’s out there, that’s not a good reason to be in a band, or doing what you’re doing. Maybe being a foil to some of this stuff…also being a mirror of some of this stuff.  What had happened was, all of the bands that I’ve usually been associated with, there’s always been some kind of aggressive anger towards certain things that are happening, and that’s also part of the fuel for what we’re doing. Plus we are having a really great time, we’re getting ready to go play in Austin, we get to travel, people like us, a lot of people are into what we are doing, and so we’re having blast. We’re having a great time.

 

I’m glad to hear that. So you were just saying that you’re pissed off at the world and what’s going on. We do live in in horrible times. There’s all kinds of terrible shit going down and people are being used and abused. You started out over thirty years ago…what things are the same that piss you off from back then and until now? What hasn’t changed?

Well, the only change really is that there’s just more of it going on. You know, more of the abuse, more financial abuse…like, we had these bailouts here, our government gave a group of people a huge bailout and they didn’t use it for what they were given the money for. They turned around and just spread it out amongst themselves rather then helping the people that the big bailout was supposed to be used for. So now we have all of these protests, and hopefully there’ll be some of these protests when we get over to Australia because it’s happened worldwide. It’s not just here. It’s kind of like there’s a group of people who control everything, and when I say everything that means in Australia, in Japan, in Europe, and we’ve pretty much had a bunch of people just string us along and lie to us, and you know, tell us how great things are, and now all of a sudden we have all of these people who are out of work, and can’t pay their bills, and being kicked out of their homes, and you know, that gets back to what I said initially – that our government gave out all of this money to these people to help these other people out and they didn’t.

 

Human greed at it’s finest, right?

Yeah, it’s really easy, when you see all of this abuse…when you see it next to you, you see it happening to your friends, you see it happening to your relatives, it’s really easy to be angry.

 

Yeah, definitely. It’s all connected. The music industry especially these days is part of that mega-machine of just churning out marketable, happy-sounding, money-making shit. And it’s nice that you guys don’t.

They’re doing that to save their jobs and the people that buy that probably don’t know any better. They wouldn’t know bad art from great art. But the situation with the record companies – because they’re in such financial disarray – they ordered it…they started scrambling to save their jobs and at one point they had become more important than the musicians and the artists, then the bands they were putting out. So they really have nobody to blame but themselves. If they lose their jobs, fine, they can go stand in the unemployment line, because a lot of them deserve to lose their jobs, just for of the shit they’ve put out. It’s a form of karma.

 

It is! They create all this bullshit, horrible music that gets put out and it ends up biting them on the arse. And that’s pure poetry.

Yeah!

 

So I was watching those Room 205 vids the other day…

Yeah, that was our friend Ari who works for a company called Incase. He’s a big fan and we spent the day…[crackling synthed Keith voice, unintelligible answer]…during the hottest day of Summer.

 

I didn’t get a lot of what you just said Keith, it cut out.

Well I’m passing through a bunch of tall buildings. This connection is not that happening.

 

Fucken Greys…well, we’ll just see what we can do anyway. The film clip for Black Thoughts shows Raymond Pettibon creating the artwork that you guys are using. It’s awesome to see him featured in that film because you have been tied in with him from the start.

Well, he and I have been friends since the very beginning of Black Flag. We were actually friends in high school, so we go further back than even Black Flag. But he has always helped out and has always wanted to be part of the scene. He sensed the energy. He realised that what we’re doing is very similar to what happened when we were all hanging out and partying at a place called The Church in Hermosa Beach. And Dimitri and I played him four songs and he immediately caught on to what the vibe was about and he offered up his services; he volunteered. He wanted to be a part of it. See he knows that we’re tapping in to something that took place about thirty years ago and he senses the energy, he senses the vibe. He knows that it’s very exciting and he wants to be a part of it.

 

Yeah, well it goes down really well. Are OFF! working on any new songs, or are you planning to record a new album anytime soon?

We will start chipping away at some new songs when we get back. I mean, we’ve tossed around some ideas. We’ve got music for a couple of songs. I constantly do what Mike Watt from Minutemen and Iggy and The Stooges would say to be the ‘D. Boon method’. D. Boon was the guitarist and the vocalist from the Minutemen, and what it is, it’s when you come up with an idea and you just write words down here and there and then eventually you build upon it. I think it would be like, say, if you were making a movie, it would be like using the Francis Ford Coppola method where you would start off with the skeleton and then you start putting on muscle, and then you start putting flesh on top of the muscle, so you come up with a basic idea and then you expand upon it.

 

Just fleshing out the skeleton, right?

It’s the heart of darkness. There’s that word again – darkness. Black thoughts, darkness…

 

Dark party

Apocalypse now

 

Apocalypse, death, destruction; all of that…

[both of us laughing]

 

So last year, or was it the year before? There were ‘creative differences’ you had with the rest of the guys from Circle Jerks. I guess you’ll always be friends, but are you on good speaking terms still?

I actually am friends with a couple of the guys. I don’t really spend that much time around them. I don’t really have a reason to because I am in a band, we’re out playing and travelling, and making new friends, and making new fans, and going across the country, and having all of the little kids follow us around, and Steven’s playing the flute, like Peter Pan…

 

The Pied Piper?

…the Pied Piper, yeah. You know what? We’re in an alleyway right now and I don’t know if you can hear me, but..

 

I can…I can hear you fine…

Okay. The Pied Piper…

 

…leading the rats, and then the children…

[laughs] …all of the little kids…

 

…all at the all-ages shows…

[laughs] …that’s nice…

 

Back to what you were just saying – that you don’t have the time to sit around and hold grudges because you’re out there doing your own thing now. You’ve got this new band, and you sound amazing, and you’re doing really well, you’re having fun and it seems that that’s the case with the last two bands too. When you start a new band, you don’t sit around and mope. You’re still really respected in the eyes of all your fans and you’re just exploring something new and I think that’s really cool.

We’ve gotta keep the energy going, and keep it rolling. Take it everywhere; take it as many places as we can. What I would like to do though, when it comes to that band that I was in for over thirty years [Circle Jerks], is I would like to thank them for allowing me to be sitting outside the Red7 in Austin, Texas, ‘cos we’re gonna be playing later on and we’re gonna have the fucking time of our lives.

 

Fuck yeah.

There are no fucken hang-ups, there are no chains around any ankles, no there’s no albatross around anybody’s neck. If there is, it’s around theirs. I get to move forward, I get to have a great time. I get to have a blast! [laughs]

 

[laughs] Good. It sounds like you are. So are there any other creative things that you do when you’re not rocking the fuck out in OFF!?

Well, I’ve been encouraged to write a book, which I’ve known that I needed to write a book for years – just to get all of that crap out of my head. So I have been chipping away on a book. My friend Brendan Mullen – you might wanna Google Brendan Mullen, who was the guy who pretty much put punk rock on the map in Los Angeles with the underground venue called The Masque – had been encouraging me to write a book. And my friend Brendan has written and worked on books, he did a Jane’s Addiction book and he was working on the third re-write of a Red Hot Chili Peppers book. But he’d also written a book called We Got The Neutron Bomb [The Untold Story Of  LA Punk], and that would be the history of LA punk, like The Weirdos, The Alley Cats, and X, Zeros, Germs, TSOL, Flesh Eaters, Middle Class, and so I started chipping away on stories. I’m about six stories in on a book that’s probably gonna have a minimum of maybe twenty to twenty-five chapters in it with varying stories from Black Flag, Circle Jerks, growing up at the Beach, sneaking into the Hollywood Bowl.

 

Nice.

I’m also about a third of the way through on a story for a movie. I have a friend, Richard Edson – who is part of Jim Jarmusch’s  stable – tell me that “you don’t write a movie script anymore, you have to write a book.” What they are doing is, they’re going around and they’re buying up the rights to books and someone else then writes the screenplay for it, and then they make a movie out of it. When I get ready to do my movie – depending upon how I go about doing it, if I just sell it outright to somebody, or if I get people to help produce it – having lived in Hollywood and having done what I’ve done over all of the years, I’ve made a lot of really great friends and a lot of really great connections in the movie world.

 

Yeah of course. So what’s the movie gonna be about?

It’s going to be about me [laughs], egotistically speaking [laughs]. It’s a dark comedy. A major portion of the story takes place on the West Coast of Africa. Like, the areas of Monrovia and Freetown.  One of the major characters of the movie is a guy who is in prison right now for human rights violations. And when I say violations, the human rights people say that this guy was probably the most brutal character that has ever walked the face of the earth.

 

And who are you talking about?

One of the presidents or dictators there on the West Coast of Africa. Chopping people’s arms off, chopping their legs off, chopping off ears, yeah.

[Could he mean this guy?]

 

Evil. Any last words Keith?

You write for an Australian magazine? So you’re all over Australia?

 

Yeah…

Well where out of Australia do you work out of?

 

At the moment I’m on the Gold Coast, which is about an hour south of Brisbane.

Okay. We’re gonna be playing Brisbane, which is where you’re gonna come to see us?

 

Of course! I’ll be there, front row, centre, sweating, singing…I’ll be there. And everybody else I know will be there too.

Will you be blowing kisses or will you be throwing drinks?

 

I’ll be throwing my hair around and jumping all over everybody, and singing and screaming and sweating.

Well, I guess the way we would want to end this conversation for this time and space, you know, we can talk later on, but…is just to let everybody know to come and have fun, jump around, scream and yell…

 

Oh they will! I’m sure you’ll pack the place out. Definitely mate, definitely. Well listen, have an awesome night tonight and enjoy the rest of your trip and I’ll see you real soon.

Okay, cheers!

 

Cheers mate, bye!

 

Interview by Defender Of the Faith in October 2011 for Australian Hysteria Magazine.

 

KEITHY’S DONE HIMSELF A MISCHIEF!

 

*Yep, I called him Keithy in my best Chopper voice. I actually couldn’t help it – honestly.

Riot Grrl

Right at the end of my living in London stint I started working at Pogo Café in Hackney. I also found myself in the middle of a riot.

One of the maddogs I used to work with

It was high summer and there was no teaching work for five weeks. I had considered getting a bar job but I couldn’t bring myself to work for six quid an hour – that is not why I went to uni for four years. Anyway, I went to Pogo one night to watch a screening of Noise and Resistance and starting yarning with one of the girls who worked there. It was an all-vegan anarchist co-op – completely volunteer-run, and all profits went to paying the bills and to helping various charities. Pogo would reimburse the workers for travel to and from work, and we were also allowed a free main meal while we were on shift. I explained that I would be moving back to Australia in a month but that I could work three or four days shifts per week up until then. I do realise that I went from refusing to work a bar job because the pay was beneath me to volunteering my services for free, but…it was probably one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. I really loved working there.

Senorita Ana

Everyone I worked with was amazing in their own way, and we were all there because we wanted to be, not because we had to. I worked with people from all kinds of backgrounds. One thing we all had in common was the café and the ethics and political lifestyle implications that came from that. All of us were vegetarians of varying degrees, mostly vegan. We all supported organic farming and fair trade. We were all part of various alternative subcultures and our lifestyle choices were not compatible with the dominant society. We were all misfits and outcasts in some way, some more obviously than others. We were homo-, hetero-, bi-, a- and trans- kinds of sexual. We were old and young and everything in between. Some of us rented, others lived in co-ops, a few squatted and a couple were homeless. Some used Pogo as their sole means of working and getting a free meal every day, while others just worked out of leisure. We all used it as a social hub.

Foraging in Hackney yields sweet returns

Some of the people I worked with in that last month showed me some of the best times out of the whole time I lived in London. The time Ana from Spain and I went bike-riding through Hackney, found hidden farmland and picked buckets full of wild blackberries, then sat in a field of horses, got blazed and munged out, and talked about human circuses, punk rock and literature. The time Seba from Poland and I sat at Pogo for two hours after it closed and showed each other up in the thrash stakes on Youtube. The day I first worked with the beautiful Eva from Italy and she allowed me the privilege of watching her make mouth-watering, healthful and colourful salads out of our garden, flowers and all. The day that Jozsef from Russia Hungary and I made ten different kinds of scrumptious vegan desserts and taste tested them all. The day that Joel from Byron Bay first came into the café wearing the exact same Dangers jumper as I, and we sat and trouted about hardcore all morning. The day that Summer from LA told me she was a writer, and we read to each other bits and pieces of things we’d written over the years whilst listening to Rodriguez and Neil Young. The time Paul from Dublin introduced me to some low-down and dirty rocknroll from his hometown in the style of the Cramps. All these times were very special to me – bonding with strangers from all over the world about the things that matter the most in my life. I was sad to leave but grateful to have been a part of it. It’s something that I would like to start up here eventually, once I get tired of the academic rat race. A not-for-profit, organic vegan café that doubles as an art and music space, run by a community of like-minded and eclectic individuals that could make it greater than the sum of its parts. One day…one day…

Beauteous Hackney farmland

Anyway, you would have heard something about the England Riots of 2011. What started out as a legitimate angered response to police brutality and lies regarding the shooting of Mark Duggan turned ugly when the cops bashed a young girl in Tottenham on the Saturday night. This of course set the community raging even more so – police stations were picketed all over most of the poorer areas of London – Tottenham, Brixton, Hackney and Croydon amongst others – and full-on riots began that Sunday night and carried over for close to a week in different parts of the country. It started in these areas in London, and the High Streets were set ablaze and looters took advantage of the chaos. What could have turned into a righteous response to ongoing problem of police power tripping quickly turned scummy, and people lost their lives trying to protect the streets, their families and themselves. I witnessed the scumminess, and also the strength, of some of these people firsthand as I went into Pogo on that Monday afternoon. Here is an excerpt from my journal that evening:

<beginning of entry>

Monday, 8th of August, 2011

I just found myself in a pretty fucking intense situation. I went to go and watch a movie at Pogo; I left home early because I wanted to chill and have a feed at the café beforehand. There was a report that Hackney Central station was closed because of the riots yesterday, as was Brixton tube, so I took a train from Tulse Hill to St Pancras, then a tube from King’s Cross to Highbury and Islington, and then the overground towards Homerton, where I was going to get off and walk, but the train ended up stopping at Hackney Central anyway. That was a fucking mission!

As soon as I got out of the station shit was weird. Riot cops had shut off the ramp and directed us down the stairs towards Amherst Road. Across the road, there were about thirty people gathered in the square – some masked or scarfed over, but most brave-faced. Something was being anticipated. You could see it in the way everyone was shuffling their feet, hands in pockets or clutching drink bottles, eyes flicking in a 360° vista, placing themselves in relation to everyone else. Always feeling safer amongst my own and wary of the real bad guys, I stood amongst this crew and looked to the right, toward the ramp of the station. Four riot cops stood, blocking the way of the nobodies trying (yet) to get through.

I took my headphones out – I realised I would need to be catlike and alert to be safe – and that’s when I noticed the unholy noise of drone and doom from the sky. I usually love that shit but hearing it live and not at a gig is fucking unsettling. I counted four black choppers in my direct vicinity and a few more scattered further away and hovering in and out of sight. This shit was serious.

Well, no way was I going to get onto Mare Road where I usually walked to the café. As I walked north along Amherst Road to go the long way towards Dalston Lane, I could see through the alleyways on my right that Mare Road was blocked off – the cops clearly anticipated that rioters would be looting the shit out of those swanky High Street stores. Thing is, for all of their armour and batons and weapons, I could see even at this early stage that the cops were outnumbered at least four to one and this isn’t even the intense part yet. I kept walking along the strangely silent street, overdubbed with the sound of the blades spinning overhead. I got to Kenmure Road which is a side access to Mare Road and walked up to one of the cops blocking the way in.

“Hey mate, I need to get to Clarence Street,” I said.

“Where’s that?” he asked.

“Well usually I walk straight up here and past the estate, up that street.”

“Well that’s all blocked off, you’re best to walk up and around and then you’d have to go through the estate, but I would advise against walking through there by yourself.”

“Are you talking about Pembury Annex on the corner? Like, don’t go through there?” I asked, not sure of what he was telling me to do.

“Yeah. Stay away from the estate.”

“Why’s that? No, don’t worry. I know exactly why. I’ll sort something out.”

“Righto,” he said.

“Racist cunt,” I thought. “You think I’m one of you and so you’re trying to point out false boogeymen in the places where the brown and poor live. Well, I am brown and poor, and the only people on this earth that scare me in situations like this are white men in uniforms.”

I walked back down the way, debating whether to walk up to Homerton and jump on a train home, or just go around the long way to Pogo. “Fuck it, I’ve come all this way, may as well have a go.” As I kept walking I noticed a tall young man fall into step beside me.

“Hello, are you going through Pembury?” he asked in a heavy Eastern European accent.

“Yeah, are you?”

“Yes, I have to meet my friends up the road. I can walk with you if you like.”

“Yeah thanks. What’s your name?”

“Mikael.”

“I’m ‘Dot’. Where are you from?”

As we got yarning, I learnt that this young man was from Romania, and had just lost his job at a construction company. He’d been living in London for nine months, in Hackney, and wasn’t educated past Year 10, making it really hard for him to get work.

“How old are you?” he asked, peering sideways into my face.

“Too old for you love!” I joked.

“No, you’re only about twenty-one or twenty-two,” he argued.

“Actually I’m nearly twenty-seven mate,” I laughed.

“Oh! Oh okay. You look like a kid still. How old do you think I am?”

“I don’t know. I don’t like these games.”

“Just guess.”

I turned and smiled at him. “Sixteen?”

“No, of course not,” he puffed, his manly pride clearly hurt, “I’m twenty-three.”

“Still too young darlin’.”

After a minute or so he asked me: “What makes you feel crazy?”

Unsure of what he meant, I asked him to elaborate. He wanted to know the things that made my blood heat up, that made my toes tingle, that gave me butterflies, that made me smile secretly. He wasn’t being smutty, and this was one of those interesting conversations that punctuates the mostly banal exchanges I have come to expect from strangers in London. No shit, I have been told too many times to count that I was the most interesting person that some people had ever met, and it made me sad because there are millions more interesting than me out there. This is what I crave – chaos, unfamiliarity, that which creates friction and so, growth. I am glad that I gave that young man the time of day. Anyway, back to the conversation.

“This,” I said, “this is what gives me butterflies – connections, warmth, belonging. Throwing a net out in the vast and overpopulated ocean, not to catch a multitude but just one or two special, rare and willing finds.” Not sure he wouldn’t take that as encouragement, I added to distract him, but no less honestly: “When I talk to and when I think about the person that I love, I feel a thousand times happier than I did before.”

“Mmm. This is a nice answer. I like it. Would you like to have a drink with me later?”

“No, I don’t drink.”

“What about a coffee then?”

“Look, I don’t want to give you the wrong idea about me. I’m not interested in anything romantic.”

“That’s okay, I understand. Somebody is very lucky to have your heart,” he said sweetly.

I smiled, and thanked him, and wondered how accurate that statement really was.

We turned the corner and stopped, taking in the sight of burning bins on the rubbish strewn northern end of Clarence Road; hundreds of people, mostly masked and hooded, gathered around, sporadically visible through the black smoke of burning plastic and rubber, which moved through the air around us in zigzags, pushed this way and that by the helicopters chopping into the ether just above us. Mikael suddenly put his arm across my chest and pushed me back as something flew past us and glass smashed on the wall next to my face.

“Holy shit! Thankyou! There’s no way I’m going into work tonight.” I stared all around me. Mikael grabbed my hand and offered to walk me through.

“No, I think I’ll just go home. Thankyou anyway, and good luck!”

“So I can’t see you again?”

“Look, I think not. I’m moving back to Australia soon. But please, stay sweet. Its very refreshing.”

We hugged, then I smiled at him and walked away past a young woman and man putting out a council bin fire and moving it off the road. An older man was heckling them. The young woman had enough, stood up and looked him in the eye.

“You know what Uncle? My mum and baby brother need to drive home very soon. We live here, this is our street. So I’ll just clean up your mess Uncle, and you respect my family in turn.” Chastised, he let them be and wandered into the crowd, muttering to himself. I hope that strong young girl’s family got home safe and sound.

I wanted to walk north through the park of Hackney Downs, but was loathe to pull out my work smartphone in the middle of this, to check out my direction, which lines were down, and the best way to get back south without putting myself in any dangerous situations.

There was a pub nearby, and I went in to the toilet and pulled the phone out to check where the closest open station was. Satisfied with my orienteering skills, I went out into the bar for a few minutes. The pub was packed, all patrons with pints in their hands, staring at the news on the flatscreen. They were watching news of the riots in Hackney, when they could well have just looked outside for a flesh and blood update.

“Fuck this flatscreen culture,” I thought. “Hyperreality sucks everyone in.”

I walked through the community orchard, and the apocalyptic doomsday atmosphere got under my skin. There were random packs of other humans, and I was a lone wolf, a female, and very fucking thankful that I dress like a teenage boy in times like this. I pulled my hood over my face and my scarf up where my beard would be if I’d had a Y chromosome. I wasn’t hassled the whole way home – I kept to myself and stayed alert.

I caught a train from Rectory Road to Seven Sisters, and then into Camden Town. I treated myself to a nice dinner at Inspiral Café, and sat and wrote and people-watched. I caught a few more trains to get back, sticking to the peripheries of the city itself, giving wide berth to the hotspots. It was a long and winding road home, going around the tedious way, narrowly avoiding some crazy shop fires and opportunistic looting in the centre of Brixton, but I eventually got home safe and sound. I’m glad I didn’t get caught up in anything gnarlier!

London’s burning?! Camden Lock, Monday night of the riots.

<end of entry>

The next day I spoke to some of the Pogo crew. They had locked the café and watched the rioting from inside. Some of the photos they took were pretty full on. There was a car upended in front of the shop and set alight. It gave off so much heat that the front window of the shop cracked! A few shops down the street were looted and destroyed. We started up a fund straightaway to help our neighbours. It was rad to see everybody lending a hand.

Delicious Pogo food

Anyway, that was my experience of arson, stealth and romance in the London Riots of August 2011. Namaste.

Defender Of The Faith,  20.11.12

Medicinal Paranoia

Verdant Medicine, Dharug country

I’ve always had a healthy dose of paranoia – probably a latent genetic inheritance – and in my teens, the sleeping giant awoke with a roar at the realisation of society’s invasive attempts at spiritual colonisation. I actively resisted enslavement, using the wisdom of printed tomes and tools of the technological revolution to armour my mind. However I am still, to this day, overshadowed by a fear of Orwellian hells. And so, because I was already pre-disposed to paranoia from my larval years, I am still highly susceptible to conspiratorial hypotheses as an adult. Although I have stronger barriers today, this wound has never completely closed and transdermal reinfection is recurring; propaganda permeates even the toughest membranes.

Familial baggage has also been a blessed preservative in my case: the effects of transgenerational trauma ensure that I have never trusted the medical and welfare establishments to have my best interests at heart because historically, these institutions have rarely done the right thing by my kin. I have always refused to take the pills that various medical charlatans have ignorantly prescribed me to treat the symptoms of socio-spiritual diseases, because I’ve always intuited that these dubiously-tested psychotropic drugs are not the cure for what ails me. Besides, I have been self-medicating from an early age. Biochemically and entheogenically both – experimenting with substances, breath, endorphins, trance, creative pursuits – in various combinations, dosages and means of administration. I’m no physician but I know what medicine to use to heal myself. And I know that if I ingest their pharmaceutical toxins, I will become a dumbed-down, apathetic and unfeeling shell of myself. My fire will be extinguished.

I am suffiently paranoid to fear that their drugs would annihilate my curiosity, eradicate my creativity, eliminate my sex-drive, obliterate my passion and terminate my righteous rage. These things are good and necessary in a functioning person. Any paranoid, depressive, anxious or manic symptoms that surface show me that I am functioning well; these are healthy reactions to a sick culture. Only the living dead show no symptoms because they have no fire left. Without fire, we are easily controlled, herded and sacrificed. I will never be one of those. I will always burn for something, no matter how inconvenient it may be for society.

A few weeks ago, I awoke with a mild case of apocalyptic paranoia; disturbing dreams did stalk my sleep and their hangover carried over into my waking existence. Later on in the morning, a particular social networking site further fuelled the fire. Facebook: that intangible yet all-too-real noosphere that is the habitat of the voyeur and/or narcissist. It has truly opened up the ways in which we can understand each other. Before, we only had contact with certain facets of certain people’s faces. Now, we can gain an experiential understanding of more than we ‘should’; we gain knowledge of people by seeing the things they like and judging the content of their comments.

With Facebook*, I can step outside of myself and into the paradigms of other people; or rather, I can let other paradigms infuse my own. I’ve had to become selective with what gets on my feed – no more song casino poker quiz shit, no more rednecks, no more bimbos, no more ignorant nationalists, no more boring drivel. Instead, I let myself be affected by the stuff that really matters: astronomy, political critiques, heavy metal lore, plebian art, living geography, obscure Youtube film clips of the first wave of hardcore punk bands, backyard tattoos, psychedelic consciousness, Indigenous rights and cultural pride, Carl Sagan and other less important scientists, drug law reform, Earth-centred theologies and DIY lifestyle tips. I’m a discerning woman, so I sort through the chaff to find the seeds that will germinate in my subconscious and inspire my evolving and increasingly complex worldview. You can’t change the world, but you can change how the world appears; by choosing what is emphasised and what recedes you can thus manipulate how the world materialises.

For an empathic person like myself, I must be careful what I take in because I truly take things on, mind body and soul. I’m highly susceptible to other people’s altered states. I get free contact highs, I get sick with other people’s anxiety, and I am soothed in the presence of relaxed folk. Back when I had a television, I wasn’t able to watch the news without crying uncontrollably and I couldn’t even watch puppy dog ads without misting up. I’m not as tough as I would lead you to believe.

On this particular morning, I was inundated by unsubstantiated pseudo-evidence that a tidal wave was going to drown the city in which I reside. Intellectually, I knew it was bullshit, but I found myself enjoying the immediacy of the doomsday prophecies. I promptly threw the essentials in my car and drove two hours inland; not so much ‘just in case’, but more of ‘a need for verdant medicine’. And so, to the mountains! Apocalypse or no, I wanted to be myself again, and my paranoia was a timely reminder that I was long overdue.

On the first day I explored the mountains, stopping the internal chatter and being where I was instead of in the past or future, in books or theory, in social paradigms or spiritual crises. The air was so clean and cold and it was snowing. I sat underneath a sheer mossy cliff face and ate some fruit. Soon, a lyrebird came over near me and started foraging in the littoral rot, and in its wake three tiny sparrows scavenged around her abandoned sites. I began to remember that I am a part of the world, not apart from it – a forgetting that is unfortunately somewhat necessary to function in a zoo city life. More and more, I was listening, connecting and communing without the social mind.

On the second day, I walked over twenty kilometres through majestic rainforests and down steep cliffs and up mountains following the trails of pristine waterfalls. I got high off myself and had profound psychedelic experiences. I relied on my ears and turned my vision down, letting the sounds come to the fore, and all the subtleties revealed themselves to my ears when I relied on them more. I was hearing everything which was amazing because I’m ninety per cent deaf in one ear. I was hearing all the high and low, close and far sounds as though they were inside of me, not out there. I cried a few times with joy and I was dizzy with the greenness, high off the clean green air. Again, there was no distinction between ‘me’ and ‘the world’. I was not moving through the landscape; rather, we were one and moving together. My skin wasn’t a barrier anymore.

This walkabout reawakened my yearning to quit my lifestyle and live in the mountains where I experience the most natural acceptance. This was a legitimate experience of singularity and it was especially powerful in this place because it’s where some of my ancestors are from. The trees were singing a welcome home song to my DNA, and my DNA was singing a love song of belonging.

– Defender Of the Faith, 22.08.12

*Quit Facebook? Check. My reality is now my own.