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A Chat with Kern About Directing the New OFF! Video

A chat between our main pepperoni, and a guy who's famous for shooting lady pepperonis.
Rocco Castoro
Κείμενο Rocco Castoro
13 Απρίλιος 2012, 4:00am

If you’re a regular reader of this fucker, you already know that supreme punk Voltron OFF! released a new video this week for “Wiped Out,” off their forthcoming self-titled album. What may not have been apparent to less observant readers and viewers is that the video was shot and directed by Mr. Richard Kern. He had been talking to me about wanting to collaborate with the OFF! guys for a while, so when the video was finally in the can I called him to get the goods on what may be his favorite band that’s still making records.

VICE: The last few times we’ve talked you’ve mentioned that you’ve wanted to do an OFF! video for a while now, and you seemed really excited by the prospect. You had nostalgia in your eyes.

Yeah, I‘ve been listening to Keith Morris in various incarnations—well, not for years, but way back when. I saw the Circle Jerks here in New York when they came, and I was heavily into that style of music, and I’m a big Black Flag fan. But I also knew Redd Kross from Dave Markey’s movie Desperate Teenaged Lovedolls and Lovedoll Superstar. Steven Shane McDonald is, I believe, Johnny Tremaine in those movies. He was like this real sleazy Hollywood promoter. Redd Kross did some killer albums back then. And I still listen to Group Sex, the Circle Jerks’ first record, Group Sex. And I met Dimitri from Burning Brides—we talked about doing stuff years ago, when they were on—I think they were on Interscope maybe. The only one I didn’t know was Mario. I knew the band, but I didn’t know him as well.

How did Keith’s hair look in person? We analyzed it last year for an article, and if I remember correctly the results said it contained uranium.

Oh, his hair looked good! [_laughs_] I did have one edict in editing the video, which was to make sure Keith’s hair looked good. By the way, I went to Keith’s house, and it’s like a rock museum.

I bet it is.

The entire house is filled with the punk rock days—from Alice Cooper to now. It’s like a shrine where every surface is covered with posters from different periods. It’s great.

Did he have anything that particularly grabbed your interest?

He had the Alice Cooper poster from Love It to Death, that’s what it was. There was tons of shit like that, stuff I hadn’t seen since I was a kid basically.

So did you get any say on the track you wanted to shoot from the new OFF! album, or did they seek you out with this particular song in mind?

No, they just said, “Here’s the song, it’s ‘Wiped Out,’” and I looked at the time and I said, “Oh fuck yeah! One minute!” [_laughs_] “I can do that!”

And how long did it take you to shoot?

The shooting of the band and the audience took about three hours. But the prep was endless, just trying to find the space to shoot. We found this space that used to be a club in downtown LA that they did a lot of underground shows in, but the fire department closed them down and made them restructure the whole thing. So they had to tear out everything. When we arrived it was this giant warehouse, filled with stuff floor-to-ceiling. That’s why it took so long to prep, we had to move everything around to get one space big enough to put the band in.

Did you give the audience any directives, or were they just going hogwild on their own?

Well, I was really worried, I hadn’t been to a show like this in so long, I was like, “Do you think these guys will move around, or are they just gonna stand there?” Because, you know, you see shows in New York and a lot of times people just stand there and bob their heads. But as soon as the first guitar chord range out [_laughs_] the audience went nuts. It was just like the old days. They smashed it up.

At one point in the song Keith spells out “N-E-G-A-T-I-V-I-T-Y” and the word appears across the screen in red, which is something that reminded me of videos and maybe even some of your movies from the 80s. This super raw touch that sort of comes out of nowhere but is obviously directly related to the song.

Yeah, that took forever. The original idea was the word negativity kind of gets spelled out in the song. In my old movies I’d just write destroy, you know, it’d pop up and it’d be gone before you saw it. But the original plan was to have a girl’s tits, big tits, and have the word negativity spelled across that covering up her nipples, but it didn’t sit right. And Keith does this thing where he’s spelling it out while he’s playing and it’s just perfect.

Yeah, it’s perfect. I also see some familiar faces in the video, some girls from Shot By Kern, if I’m not mistaken.

Yeah, the girl who was shooting guns on the lake naked in the Montreal episode is in there… the girl from a forthcoming episode we shot in Pennsylvania is in there, as well as these two French girls I just shot. Pretty French girls at the beginning. As usual, I shot them—I was editing the video and I realized I needed more footage and I was going to Paris. I shot three girls there, and I shot the exact thing I needed to put in the video: a girl breathing heavy—at the beginning, that girl did jumping jacks for about ten minutes to get her breathing like that—and then, the girls in glasses were both shot in Paris for Shot by Kern. They’re not naked in this, but they’re naked in Shot by Kern. Big time.

In case you missed it, here's the video we're talking about: