“We actually got arrested for stealing used vegetable oil,” Mario Rubalcaba tells me. The former Hot Snakes/Rocket from the Crypt drummer now plays drums with OFF!, Keith Morris’s new post–Circle Jerks project. He says they were driving to a South by Southwest appearance in March in guitarist Dimitri Coats’s cooking oil–powered van and the tank was running low. “There was a place that Keith and Dimitri had stopped at before in Avondale, Arizona. It was, like, the Valhalla of veggie oil.” Rubalcaba describes a vast fast-food restaurant row. But the eateries, it turns out, were no longer band-friendly.
“All of a sudden there’s this ’80s Miami Vice guy that drives up in some ’80s sports car and he yells, ‘Freeze!’ He ended up calling the cops.” OFF! was arrested on charges of theft and detained for three hours. “The two arresting officers said that in eight years they’d never seen anything like that...they wanted to let us go. But the security company wanted to press charges,” says Rubalcaba, “so technically they had to arrest us.”
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Rubalcaba says veggie oil from Asian and sushi restaurants is best. “It’s, like, the cleanest oil you can find.” He says OFF! found several restaurants on their tour that were willing to let them take the used cooking oil. “Some of them were even grateful.”
But, the demand for recycled cooking oil may be on the rise. “Apparently, a lot of places are starting to contract out to companies to take the oil and the grease from them, and this particular restaurant,” he says of the outlet in Arizona that had them arrested, “I guess, had a contract. They had 24-7 security there.” In the end, OFF! members were required to appear in an Arizona court. “But it turns out the prosecutor is a fan of the Circle Jerks, and they dismissed the charges in return for a small fine.”