Emerging from the punk underbelly of LA’s South Bay in 1979, Keith Morris (Black Fag, OFF!) and Greg Hetson (Red Kross, Bad Religion) formed Circle Jerks, who quickly became the innovators of a movement simply referred to today as HARDCORE PUNK ROCK. Circle Jerks have already been tearing up stages in Australia with Pennywise on this tour so far. The historic pairing of hardcore punk heavyweights will be leaving devastation in their wake on this tour not to miss. Hi Fi Way spoke to bass player Zander Schloss about the tour.
A tour with Pennywise in Australia doesn’t get any better than that?
Oh yeah, we’re excited to go and we’re running on all cylinders and ready to blast off!
How far back does the relationship go with Pennywise and do you remember meeting them for the first time?
I met Fletcher when he still was a fan of punk rock, I was playing bass with a band called the Weirdos, which was another legendary punk rock outfit that started around the same time as Circle Jerks in ’77. Fletcher used to come to Weirdos shows before Pennywise had even become a band. My relationship with Fletcher goes back to the mid eighties.
How much of a relief is it being able to tour more regularly now?
Touring has become a lot more boring in general, rock ‘n roll ain’t what it used to be. The dressing rooms aren’t full of naked chicks and drugs anymore, which is a shame, it was a lot of fun. At any rate with the addition of Covid we have been more sequested away backstage and having to be more careful who we interact with. We’ve all come down with Covid at one point or another anyway, there’s no avoiding it, everyone’s going to get it as it is just a matter of time then we’ll have herd immunity. Then it will be like going every year and getting the flu shot.
Have the reunion shows been an absolute blast?
We’re bigger and better than we have ever been. It is amazing to me that if you were to ask me in my twenties starting out in the punk rock industry if I would be a sixty year old man playing punk rock to bigger and better audiences and doing bigger and better business, that punk rock would still be something that people are still interested in I would have told you that you’re crazy and that it’s some sort of dream!
Did it feel like you were picking things up from where you left off?
In a very grand manner, I wouldn’t say picking things up from where we left off because where we left off was in a pretty dark place. A lot of the band members were not getting a long so well and I wouldn’t say business was diminishing but I think the fact we took a very long hiatus from playing built up this incredible anticipation. Then if I can speak positively of Covid, when our tour was postponed in 2020 it built up even more anticipation. Then 2021 was postponed again, it was almost like the perfect storm of incredible anticipation for this reunion to a frenzy of interest.
Does that frenzy of interest continue to surprise you?
I think there is more to it than that, it isn’t cut and dry and simple. I would say that due to the two years that have been lost people more than ever are wanting to go out and blow off steam and see live music. No better way to blow steam than to get in a mosh pit and see the Circle Jerks play. We have this uncanny ability to drive people nuts and turn them in to a frenzy.
Congratulations on the fortieth anniversary of classic punk rock album Group Sex, how good have the celebrations been for it?
I have been in the band since 1984 and came on when we recorded Wonderful. What I will say is that I have got thirty-eight years of playing those songs. I’m happy with all the renewed interest in that music.
The generational shift in your fan base must be pleasing also?
It is incredible to see and it makes me feel very hopeful to see a whole new generation of fans because it could of been real dark. They could of just been people with dentures and hobbling on crutches in to the shows! We have seen a lot of vibrant faces, if you see the face of a ten year old kid who is hearing the Circle Jerks for the first time and doing their first stage dive it looks like they have had some remarkable epiphany. It is life changing!
What are the future plans for the Circle Jerks? Is there pressure to write new songs?
Honestly, based on our history I don’t want to diminish hopes of recording a new album but I would say at this point our legacy stands pretty strong with the albums we have recorded. It is kind of like The Beach Boys, is anyone interested in hearing a new Beach Boys tune or rather hear songs off of Pet Sounds? We could literally tour the albums we have made for the rest of our lives. Would I like to go in and record new music? Absolutely with this line up, it would be a lot of fun and I think we could do something really great. I have talked to the guys about doing a live record and I think the recordings if I can be totally candid don’t demonstrate the raw power of the band. Doing a live record people would really get a palpable lift of energy from the music that has already been recorded hearing it played live.
Is the tour set list focusing on particular albums?
We can play thirty-two songs in sixty minutes because of the ferocity of the tempo. The set list is focused on Wild In The Streets and Group Sex which is the forty-second anniversary due to the lost years.
Being your first tour in Australia is there anything in particular you are looking forward to?
I want to hold a Koala! I also looking for complete admiration from the Australian fans and validation we are one of the greatest bands in the world and whatever else comes with that admiration!
Interview By Rob Lyon
Catch the Circle Jerks with Pennywise on the following dates, tickets from Live Nation…