In the glory days of L.A. punk, Keith Clark made his money drumming classics like “Beat Me Senseless” and “Nervous Breakdown” as part of the Circle Jerks, one of the country’s premier hard-core bands. But few musicians have the career longevity of Mick Jagger, and there comes a time when youthful rebellion gives way to practicality, which is why Clark, now 43, makes a living cranking out tax returns.
He has a wife, three kids and a thriving practice in downtown Burbank with an entertainment-oriented client base. All referrals are strictly word of mouth.
“Primarily, people like me because I can relate to their business. I know that a musician who goes to Europe on tour and gets a $50 per diem is really entitled to an $88 per diem,” says Clark, who has customized work sheets for stylists, musicians, cameramen, photographers--even prostitutes.
But the real reason for Clark’s success is most likely his past.
“My clients can tell their friends their accountant played in the Circle Jerks. No other accountant can make a similar claim,” he says slyly.
To those who don’t know him, it may seem strange that Clark went from drumming punk to working for the man, but Clark doesn’t have a problem reconciling the disparity. He was an accountant the entire time he was in the band.
Billing himself as the Musicians’ Income Tax Specialist, Clark started his practice in 1980 by sending fliers to members of the local musicians union and giving it a list of itemized deductions that included studio rentals and guitar strings. It wasn’t until 1983 that he joined Keith Morris (former singer for Black Flag), Greg Hetson (former guitarist for Redd Kross) and Flea (bass player for the Red Hot Chili Peppers), replacing the Circle Jerks’ original drummer, Lucky Lehrer, who, ironically enough, had left the band to attend law school.
“Everyone made a living in the Circle Jerks. I just made two livings,” says Clark, who made sure the band’s tours took place during November and December so he was back by January, the beginning of tax season.
With a lava lamp on his desk and an out-there Ren and Stimpy doll on the shelf of his office, it’s obvious Clark still has a bit of punk in him. It’s even evidenced in the name of his practice: HNR Clark, a play on the H&R; Block tax-preparation franchise that, Clark says, stands for Honest, Nice and Respectful or Horny, Nasty and Reprehensible.
“It’s not very punk to do taxes,” Clark admits, “but if you’re gonna do taxes, you might as well be helping people to pay the least amount of money as legally possible.”
HNR Clark: (818) 848-5858.