We Analyzed Keith Morris’s Dreadlock

They say eyes are the windows to the soul, in which case your hair is what? The roof?

By Vice Staff

They say eyes are the windows to the soul, in which case your hair is what? The roof? Like a roof, your hair is important but something that most of us hardly ever think about beyond its outward appearance. If you don't take care of it, it will rapidly be tangled with gunk and tennis balls and dead birds. Take Keith Morris, former Black Flag vocalist and frontman for the Circle Jerks and the recently formed OFF! He's been growing his dreadlocks in a variety of configurations for almost 23 years, and they now look like something that was snaked out of a gutter after a particularly bad rainstorm.

This is why, after pondering the cornucopia of disgusting junk that might be found in Keith's keratin helmet, we asked him and his fellow OFF! bandmates (who would serve as a control group, of course) to send us at least three grams of their locks. The plan was to mail the samples to a lab in Texas that specializes in "Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis." This not-exactly medically approved hair test determines which vitamins and minerals an individual is lacking and how many hazardous metals are constantly being pushed through his or her scalp. We thought it'd be a good alternative to a normal music feature, because writing about bands is usually about as interesting as taking a shit in your shoe and walking around the block.

The next time we heard from them, they told us that not everyone was into it. Initially, we figured it was Keith who was uncomfortable with the idea because he felt singled out due to the situation on his head. But for the record, we must state that Dimitri Coats, Steven Shane McDonald, and Mario Rubalcaba—three supposed punks who between them were in Burning Brides, Redd Kross, and Rocket From the Crypt—were, for whatever reason, scared of having their precious manes inspected by weirdo pseudoscientists in Texas. Keith, however, was totally game and immediately FedExed us a little furry cigar.

For science's sake, and because the rest of the band declined to participate, we tested three other samples alongside Keith's: a black guy's dread, some ginger strands from one of our photographer buddies, and a bunch of clippings we stole off the floor of a barbershop. After about a week, the lab sent us back pages of charts and graphs that we did our best to process and summarize into language that someone would actually want to read.

Hair A (Left) & Hair B (Right)


Brayden is a photographer with hair like Sideshow Bob's. He's also always up to no good (the day before we finished this article, he was stabbed by a cab driver in the arm for arguing over a fare), so we thought he'd make a great candidate for this project. The lab report's confusing "Nutritional Elements" bar graph showed that he has lots of minerals like calcium, manganese, cobalt, and iron in his system. We thought that was good, but then the following page told us that the calcium "is not being utilized properly," and this could lead to joint stiffness or low energy levels. Even more troubling was the presence of excess cobalt, which can be caused by exposure to paint or animal feed, and manganese, which is present in gasoline and fertilizer. The only explanation is that Brayden spends lots of time in a dung-filled flophouse, getting high on fumes from gasoline-coated rags. Clearly, this is not the ideal lifestyle in terms of balancing one's vitamin and mineral intake. According to the report, he should eat more oysters and pumpkin seeds but cut back on the pickled herring. If Brayden continues his bad habits, he's at risk for such ailments as fatigue, depression, and bradycardia, which apparently is a condition where your heart rate slows to under 50 beats a minute. Not good.   


What can you tell about a complete stranger from analyzing his or her hair? Not a whole lot. This dude's hair—we're assuming it's not a lady's because it looks like man-hair and we got it from a barbershop—is remarkably similar to Brayden's in terms of chemical composition. The big difference is that it contains a bunch of cadmium, which is often caused by either tobacco smoke or zinc smelters. He suffers from the same risks of fatigue, allergies, and bradycardia as Brayden (and, suspiciously, all of our other participants) and received the same sort of labyrinthine dietary advice: Eat less cabbage and kale but more rye bread, wheat germ, and blackberries, which contain high amounts of phytates (phytic acid in salt form). 

Hair C (Left) & Hair D (Right)


Finally, someone who is actually in pretty good shape! This dreadlock came from a guy who told us that he gave up drugs and alcohol years ago, and his clean living is apparent in the test results. His hair contained more than the usual amount of aluminum, but this isn't an issue because most food contains the substance. He also had an excess of vanadium, but that's not likely a cause for concern. The lab report said he was at risk for allergic reactions, itchy skin, and headaches—but doesn't everyone who lives in a large city have those problems all the time anyway? Like everyone else we tested, the report also suggested that he buy a bunch of nutritional supplements. In our professional opinion, though, he's going to be fine.   


The first thing we noticed about Keith's results was that there's a ton of uranium in his hair. The report said that this isn't the type of uranium that turns people into superheroes or kills them, but we're still a little worried for him because it's fucking uranium. He also had a bunch of arsenic in his mane, but curiously the report focused more on his apparent excess of copper, which can have an "antagonistic effect on zinc." High concentrations of copper, the report warns, have also been associated with hair loss. Maybe Keith knows this, and that's why he's let his coiffure mat and clump for maximum coverage. The 25-page analysis also includes a chart marked "Tendencies" that lists ailments Keith should expect to experience unless he shifts his day-to-day habits toward metabolic optimization. In Keith's case, he could suffer from depression and unnamed allergy symptoms, which doesn't sound that bad considering he's walking around with the Fukushima reactor on his head. In fact, Keith's hair was probably the healthiest overall.

Catch OFF! live on our new music site Noisey.com.