Russel Gardin
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While at Fun Fun Fun Fest, Steven McDonald was available for a quick interview to talk about the past, present, and future of punk, especially in California.

OFF!, Photo: Steve Appleford

Punk rock Icon Steven McDonald knows the true definition of being in a band. As a founding member of the alternative rock band Redd Kross, McDonald found success with his brother Jeff while the band became to be an international touring band. Now, while continuing to be a part of  Redd Kross, McDonald has found success yet again with the punk rock super group OFF! along with vocalist Keith Morris of Black Flag and the Circle Jerks, guitarist Dimitri Coats of Burning Bridges, and Mario Rubalcaba of Earthless, Hot Snakes, and Rocket From The Crypt.


The band debuted at SXSW in 2024; Is it still the same experience for you and the band when you play Austin, or even Texas, for that matter?

The same experience? Not really, our first show was at Beerland in front of sixty or so people. I guess you could say we’re a SXSW success story, we’ve got humble beginnings. We started at Beerland and now we’re at the black stage here at Fun Fun Fun Fest.


Was the initial plan for OFF! a few shows at SXSW? Did you expect the band to gain so much momentum so quickly?

Nah, we didn’t know how far this would go. None of us were in that mode, but we were open to it. I’m sure that some of the members wished that it would happen more than the others did. It’s been a pivotal thing for all of us. We’ve been so welcomed. We feel so grateful for all the opportunities we have gotten.


What inspired the band to go full force after the few shows here and there?

People keep coming to the shows. We continue being encouraged. It becomes a little harder in rock and roll, when you become older, to still feel vital, relevant. It is a nice feeling that we are still welcomed while continuing to still celebrate our old stuff. We all have other successful band we have been apart of, but to me it is almost like another piece to a puzzle. We have a nice schedule, we get to take some time off when we want, but we can also go to the studio whenever we want.


For Record Store the band collaborated with artist Shepard Fairey on the cover for “Learn to Obey,” how did that deal come about?

Honestly, I’m not the best person to ask about that. I think Keith would know that better than anyone else. We almost played his gallery once; Dimitri set that up. I think it just worked out to do a one-off with Fairey. We work with Raymond Pettibon for artwork, for the most part. He’s the one that did all the original work for Black Flag. He’s a good friend of Keith and I. In the early days of playing in bands, Raymond was part of all of that.


Does the band feel any differently about playing rather than some of the newer, up-and-coming acts playing nowadays?

We’re older than most of the bands playing here, that’s a big thing. I don’t really have an idea. The fact that each member of OFF! has been in other bands gives us a bit of experience. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not [laughs]. Maybe we are a little more traumatized. If you add up all the members we’ve been in bands for over a century; I think that is pretty unique.


Does the experience from the previous bands have any factors for the band when you go into the studio? Do you do anything differently?

We have our own studio where we practice. A little recording gets done there, too. With that, we can keep everything pretty spontaneous. We keep it in the garage, so to speak.


All the members of OFF! have been in successful bands before the formation of this group, is there a new feeling for you while playing in this band rather than your old band, Redd Kross?

I think the main difference for me is that I have a different role. I was the number two guy to my brother in Redd Kross, we led the band and had a ton of musicians with us, we still do, but we’ve held the same lineup for quite a while now. I’m not with my brother in this band, that is a little different. I’m more like the Dee Dee Ramone in OFF!


Is it the same kind of crowds that see OFF! as the ones who’ve seen Red Kross?  It’s a cliché question, but do you think the scene has started to shift?

I’m not sure if the scene has changed, but it’s more than likely the same people in the crowds. Perhaps you could say there’s a new generation. They’ve formed a new era of festivals, but I think it always goes like that.  A good example would be the band that played before us: Title Fight.


I think that’s the way festivals, maybe music in general goes. Being based out of California, what kind of impact do you think people like Ty Segall and John Dwyer are causing for the punk scene?

I know those guys; they’re really good. Those guys are bringing back a certain sound to the mainstream. Burger Records have had an important effect on the scene from their festival, Burgerama. I think their store is important, too. The Growlers are here at the festival. They are another big band for the scene. They do Beach Goth, a really impressive festival in Santa Ana.  


Has the four of yours success in previous bands shaped the sound/persona of the new group in any sense?

That’s one of the most unique things about the band as well. We all try to collaborate, it’s a democracy. Making time is something that can sometimes get difficult, but we’ve kept OFF! as our main priority for the past several years. I think we are going to try and spread out for a year or so, I think that will be good and healthy for us. We’re not going to stop, we’re lifers, I think our audiences are lifers, too.


What is the next step for the band?

Our plans are to make a record this year. We have some more plans for this year, hopefully. Our main focus is to have the record done soon, though. Keith will probably come back soon with Flag. That’s a band with the original members of Black Flag, without Greg Ginn. Mario keeps busy with Earthless; it’s a psych rock band. I plan on doing a bunch of recording, too. I enjoy to record while I am home. I plan to have a record come out by the end of next year, but we’ll see.


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