OFF!'s Dimitri Coats Talks Phoenix Oil Theft Charges

All of the record covers by OFF!, the hardcore supergroup fronted by Keith Morris of Circle Jerks/Black Flag, and have been designed by punk-art icon Raymond Pettibon.

On cover features the phrase, "I've heard some wild stories about the band" scrawled in Pettibon's signature style.

The band, rounded out by members who have spent time in Burning Brides, Rocket From the Crypt, Hot Snakes, Eartheless and Redd Kross, recently experienced one of those wild stories here in Phoenix. As reported by Pitchfork, the band was arrested here last month for allegedly stealing vegetable waste, which their van runs on.

Guitarist Dimitri Coats, known also for his work with Burning Brides, Chris Cornell, and as the villain in the 2009 rock 'n' roll vampire comedy Suck,  took some time off preparing for their upcoming Coachella gig and impending tour with Henry Rollins and Dinosaur Jr. to clear up exactly what happened at Ono Hawaiin BBQ and how OFF! managed to beat the charges.

Up On The Sun: I wanted to ask about the oil theft charges, and that whole story.

Dimitri Coats: Well uh, basically, I had been to that spot before. A year ago, on our way back from South by Southwest. We were looking all over Phoenix for some waste, and we came across this spot in a strip mall, Ono Hawaiian BBQ, which was just beautiful --[an] oil [vat] filled to the brim, enough to fill our tank up, and we sort of made a mental note of it.

This time, we were heading to South By Southwest, Mario, our drummer, was us, so it was the three of us [Coats, Mario Rubalcaba and Keith Morris]. And, we went back to that same spot, and sure enough, it was a gold mine of used cooking oil.

Sometimes there are warnings on the containers, because the trend in certain areas if for companies to come in and pay the restaurants to take their grease, and, I dunno, turn it into biodiesel and make some money off it or whatever.

But this particular container, it has a companies name, with a phone number, that's really about it. Usually you'll see something like: The contents of this container belong to this company, and removal of these contents will result in prosecution or whatever. This didn't have anything like that on it. Just Major Commodities Incorporated. That could be anything. Usually, the way it is in this country, the restaurant has to pay to have their grease removed.

UOTS: My understanding was that a lot of times, restaurants will pay to have a service come in and remove the oil for them.

DC: Yeah, and that usually is the case. Which is why, nine times out of ten, people are just looking at us like, "What are you doing?" Including the cops, who by the way, when they showed up on the scene, wanted to let us go.

So what happened was, the company has hired a security card to watch this stuff, which is ridiculous, and we started putting it in our vehicle, and he comes running up, and saying we're under arrest, and he's already called the cops and we're just like, whatever, we're just doing our thing, so we stop putting the new oil into our vehicle, and starting putting our equipment away, our buckets. They showed up pretty fast, and we were there for however many hours.

We barely ended up making our show with Bad Brains, which was our main concern. We were already running just a little bit late, and this really put it over the top. So the cops wanted to let us go, the company really wanted to throw the book at us and press charges.

So because of that, we had to get fingerprinted and they scheduled a court date, which we were nervous about making, because it was two days after our last show on the tour, in Minneapolis, so we basically had to make a beeline down to the court case. So the whole time after we left, we got our lawyer to try and get it thrown out of court, which luckily, he was able to do. It turns out the prosecuting city attorney is a Circle Jerks fan [laughs].

UOTS: Really? That's pretty serendipitous for you guys.

DC: Yeah, yeah. And you know, the rest of that trip, we continued doing what we do with our vehicle. It didn't stop us. That had never happened to me before. I've gone all over the country, been in every situation you can imagine, had cops pull up into alleys while we're doing it, and usually there's more of a fascination with the fact that our vehicle runs on the stuff then there is with, as to whether or not we may be doing something wrong.

It was kind of ugly, I have to say. Usually the worst thing that happens is someone saying, "Hey, get out of here." I didn't really appreciate being made to feel like criminals or whatever. It really made me angry to be honest with you.

UOTS: So after Coachella, do you guys have any plans to come back to Arizona?

DC: Absolutely. I want to play Phoenix. We had a really good offer to play Phoenix, but our bass player [Steven McDonald] had to fly out to Austin and meet us, so he missed out on that whole drama, and couldn't make Phoenix. We're going to play all the major cities eventually. We want to play Phoenix.

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.