Letter from America: Our US correspondent gives us the inside track on the Black Flag reformation
BLACK FLAG KILLS FANS ON CONTACT…AGAIN!
Black Flag walks among us again. Shouldn’t that have us bouncing off the walls in unrestrained joy?
Apparently not. Since word leaked out Friday that a new Black Flag lineup (which amounts to founder Greg Ginn on guitar, Jealous Again-era vocalist Ron Reyes, and a fresh rhythm section) was booked to play an English festival, it’s been an emotional shitstorm.
The whole matter is already complicated by another band, FLAG, comprised of ex-Black Flag members Keith Morris (vocals), Chuck Dukowski (bass), and Bill Stevenson (drums) (and Stevenson’s Descendents/All co-conspirator Stephen Egerton on guitar), touring late this spring and playing Black Flag classics. Which they’re entitled to do, of course. And it will probably be great, knowing the people involved.
But, notice that particular band calling themselves FLAG, rather than Black Flag. It indicates an understanding of what should be obvious: Unless Greg Ginn, his twisted avant metal guitar, brutally succinct songwriting, and singular vision is involved, you do not have Black Flag.
Black Flag’s mere presence catalyzed intense emotions, both pro and con, back in the day. There was something about their intensity and commitment that either bound you to them or repelled you from them with a passion. They didn’t play gigs – they played riots. Police forces, parents groups, and major record companies one and all hated them, and worked hard to obstruct Black Flag every step of the way. And as they evolved, they were so confrontational in the way they grew – both musically and personally – audiences frequently attacked them.
So, perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that response to Black Flag’s 2013 reactivation has been equally brutal. Internet postings on Facebook or news sites have been rife with speculation and innaccurate information. Questions, debate, harsh remarks, and quarrels have drenched the commentary from so-called fans. Then again, America can’t agree on whether or not to ban semi-automatic weapons, or whether it wants health care reform or not, or whether global warming is real or not, or whether Barack Obama is of American birth or not. So, why in hell should they be definitive on whether they want Black Flag back or not?
The fury has been so intense, Black Flag themselves have opted for an official ban on interviews, telling friends privately that that Ginn and Reyes have been quietly writing material for the past year. At this writing, they are holed up at Ginn’s recent d. (Which means Ginn is overdubbing bass lines, much as he did on My War.) No word yet on whether Black Flag has found a replacement for Mr. Nixon, with their earliest confirmed live date being that UK Hevy Fest date, for August 31st. The official SST Records press release promises a US tour in the fall. No word on whether Nig Heist will reform to join them on the road….
Ron Reyes still lives in Vancouver, BC, where he’s had a home and quietly raised a family since the early ’80s. He intends to continue in his band up there, Piggy, for whom he plays guitar; they apparently have recordings due for release soon, as well.
But what of the members of FLAG, all of whom are active in their own bands, themselves? Certainly Keith Morris’ OFF! is one of the records of the year, exploding in focussed-yet-uncontrolled rage. However, there’s younger blood bubbling Stateside, apparently determined to show up the veterans. Just this morning, before sitting down to write this, I stumbled across a ferocious young Toronto outfit, School Jerks. The Richmond, VA.-based Grave Mistake Records issued a 12-inch, 45 RPM full-length from School Jerks in August of last year that unleashed 13 songs in about as many minutes. It attacks as rabidly as the sorta punkcore that seared America’s VFW halls in 1981: Think The Germs’ (GI), Black Flag ca. Jealous Again, or even The Chiefs and you won’t be off-target at all. But this is so young, loud, snotty, and outraged, so furiously here-and-now, it’s the sound of 2013 and not 1981. It really gives a spike-topped heart a lotta hope….