Jeff Morris, who started rattling local cages more than two decades ago with the hardcore band NPD and made his bones a few years later with The Bruisers, blew out of town on July 1, packing the old Durango ("with guitars, mostly," he says) to settle into a new apartment and start a new job in the Windy City. It's actually the first time he's lived away from Newburyport, aside from a short residency in Haverhill years ago that came to an end after a murder in a neighbor's apartment forced him to reassess his priorities. And a similar sort of reassessment, sans the murder indictment, lit a fire under his ass this time: His mother died, he faced one of those always-troubling birthdays-that-end-in-a-zero (the fourth), he took stock. "You look around," he says. "You take an inventory of where you are and what your options are — you do what’s best for your family."
He got an offer that turned his life upside-down, but was so sweet he couldn’t walk away from it -- heading up a German firm’s American ink operation. He’s living outside Chicago -- alone. His family is still in Newburyport, as they sort out troublesome details, like selling a house in the way-down market. He gets back to Newburyport a couple times a month. He likes Chicago, which is big but manageable, and not not so rat-racy: It's clean, it doesn't smell and the people are nice.
The band, which features bassist Mike Savitkas and drummer Steve Toland, is still together and will remain active, as active as you can be considering these distances. Things were slowing down anyhow. "We got together at the end of 2005," Morris says. "For the first two years, we took every show we were offered, from coffeehouses to union hall shows with the Dropkick Murphys. You’ve got to do that to get your names out there,but you can't go full-throttle forever."
Morris will be back this weekend to find some Sailor Jerry's "since I can't find any out there." He'll spend Labor Day weekend with the family. Lobsters, steamers, corn on the cob, beer, the whole New England thing. Then the Harper's Ferry gig with Darkbuster's Lenny Lashley‚ his first show in a while — and Friends. What friends? He's not telling. Bad form, you know. But he is saying this much: Death & Taxes will likely break out some of the new tunes they've been working on for their follow-up to "Tattoo Hearts & Broken Promises" they'll be in the studio with in the fall. Morris says the disc will come out, hell or high water, early next year. With titles like "Trading Scars" and "Band Luck, Bad Living and Bad Decisions," it sounds like a typically Morris feel-good encounter session. Musically, Morris says, the new stuff is leaning toward the Cadillac Hitmen, the instrumental surf-punk band he fronted in the late 1990s — but far away from the joyful, noisy self-indulgence of Zuni Fetish Experiment. "The first album was bare bones, four-on-the-floor rock," he says. "This seems like it will be more intricate, but who knows how it will turn out?"
JUST THE FACTS, MAN: Death & Taxes returns to Boston Saturday, September 5, at Harper's Ferry with Darkbuster's Lenny Lashley and Friends plus Jason Bennett & The Resistance. Tickets are $5. For more information, on the band, click here. . For more on the gig, check out Harper's Ferry here.