OFF!'s Dimitri Coats: "A lot of so-called punk has moved away from what made it exciting."
OFF! (due Saturday, April 19, at The Marquis Theatre) is a bit of a hardcore supergroup, founded by Keith Morris formerly of Black Flag and Circle Jerks and Dimitri Coats who was best known as a member of heavy rock band Burning Brides. The two became friends not long after Coats and the Brides made Los Angeles their home. Beyond their personal chemistry, there was an immediate musical bond the two men shared. Along with former Redd Kross bassist Steven McDonald and ex-Clikatat Ikatowi, Rocket From The Crypt and Hot Snakes drummer Mario Rubalcaba, Morris and Coats wrote the kind of simple and direct music that made hardcore so compelling in its early days. The band just released its third album, Wasted Years.
Before OFF!'s show this Saturday at the Marquis Theater, we had a chance to chat with the amiable Coats about dropping out of Juilliard for rock and roll, how Los Angeles has opened up so many opportunities for him beyond just music and how the artwork of Raymond Pettibon has been the perfect imagery for OFF!
Westword: You with to Juilliard for acting but dropped out. Why?
Dimitri Coats: Because I saw that I was too much at the mercy of other people. That's not something you can just do on your own from the ground up, the way that I can if I pick up the guitar and create an entire world and not have to wait for the phone to ring and tell you to audition for this and go to the audition and say, "Hey, please take me, accept me." You have no control over who you're working with, for the most part. It's more like being a pawn in the chess game as opposed to being the puppeteer. I wanted to express myself in a more purely creative way. I guess at the time I was thinking I could go back to acting but that the window for being in a rock band was relatively small and that I should get going and get started.
Had you played music before you went to Juilliard? Many actors seem to have had some music experience along the way.
Yeah, I played the electric guitar as a serious hobbyist since I was thirteen years old. I'd learn to play an entire Zeppelin record. Maybe not the solos. A lot of classic rock stuff. It was something that was always important to me and a secret dream of mine. I just didn't know how to approach it at that time as a kid growing up in Concord, Massachusetts.
When you formed Burning Brides you lived in a number of places before settling down in Philadelphia. What was it about Philadelphia that was appealing to you at that time?
Well, it was really cheap. We could, at the time, rent a whole row home with a place to play in the basement for like seven fifty a month. It was close to New York, DC and Baltimore. It just seemed like a good location from which to do our thing. The music scene was pretty insular and diverse so we were accepted right away.
Did you ever play with Bardo Pond or anyone like that?
Yeah we did.
Why did you end up relocating to Los Angeles?
After the Brides toured pretty extensively for a few years we just started realizing that a lot of the new friends we were making from being on the road, people like Queens of the Stone Age and people working behind the scenes in the music industry, were living in L.A. and we made a record here and just kind of fell in love with it. We were looking for a change. Philadelphia was a great place to get started but there's just a lot more opportunity here. I never would have ended up in OFF! if I didn't live here. I would never have played with Chris Cornell if I didn't live here.
What do you like about L.A.?
It's what I just said. Being able to maximize whatever situation I'm in. This is where the heart of the music industry is. I used to be an actor as well and I think my story is still being written just because I live here. And the weather is great.