Black Flag shoved an album called “Damaged” in punks’ faces. It’s a non-stop pummel-fest that should have been the official sponsor — if there was such a thing — for tinnitus.
Oxbow offered us a beauty titled “Fuckfest.” The band handed it over on a vinyl platter that might as well have been smeared with blood and reeking of animal carcasses.
Chuck Dukowski and Eugene Robinson are partially responsible for bringing these walls of noise to life with strangling bass lines and hissing and howling vocals — and now they’re architects supreme of Black Face. The newly formed band has Flag’s Duk on bass, Oxbow’s Robinson on vocals, Insect vs. Robots’ Milo Gonzalez (Duk’s son) on guitar and Oxbow alum Tom Dobrov on drums. Dukowski-penned Flag songs are on a pedestal here, as well as a quartet of Duk blasts from the “My War” era that have escaped Flag listeners’ ears until now. Bring on the noise — and fuck ear plugs.
Black Face’s 29-song setlist includes the new/old ones, “Monster,” “Leave Me Out to Rot,” “Where Will We Run” and “I Want to Kill You,” along with classics like “Padded Cell,” “Modern Man,” “No Values” and many more. (Actually, Duk’s old bands SWA and Wurm performed “Monster” and “Where Will We Run,” respectively.) Word has it that two 7-inch singles are in the works plus some live dates.
I first encountered Robinson when I saw a picture of him — bald, muscled and badass looking — in Ripper magazine in the early ’80s. I just had to buy a demo tape from this man’s hardcore-punk band, Whipping Boy. After it arrived in the mail from Palo Alto, Calif. — where Robinson attended Stanford University — I soon counted songs like “Roach Motel,” “Distemper” and “Fukked Up” as some of my favorites.
I exchanged letters with Robinson and spoke with him on the phone once in those early years, and we’ve maintained a friendship to this day. When I moved to San Jose, we met up several times (once he came to my workplace to hand off some Oxbow stuff, and I’m sure he intimidated my boss with his hulking appearance, but he was a gentleman … ha ha). Recently in Seattle, Cat, our friend Diana and myself attended one of his intense readings of his crime novel, “A Long Slow Screw.” (“The dogs were like whipsaws of frantic action” … an unforgettable line when describing a gun-wielding confrontation between Joe Baggo and Lester while penned dogs want some man meat to chew on.)
As for Dukowski, one distinct memory was when my friend Greg Cameron (SWA drummer), Duk and myself ripped apart a plywood section of a desk with our bare hands — we may have had some tools, but I’d like to think we didn’t — at the Redondo Beach, Calif., SST office on Artesia Boulevard back in the day. While we toiled away under the hot sun, a wild-eyed Henry Rollins shot fireworks in our direction, grinning and cackling away before he headed inside for another grueling Flag practice with Greg Ginn, Bill Stevenson and Kira Roessler.
Dukowski plays the bass much like attacking that piece of wood … hands furiously digging into the strings as if he despises them, but cherishes them all the same. (He warmed up those bass fingers while playing some Flag songs alongside Keith Morris and No Age in LA recently.)
So, now we’ve got Black Face … and here’s what Robinson has to say about his new venture:
How did it all come down?
Well, I kept asking. Like I keep asking John Joseph and Harley Flanagan to kiss and make up and re-form the Cro-Mags proper. There are certain things I’d like to see, and I keep asking to see them and eventually I will either die or I will see them. In any case, I will ask until one or the other happens, and this is one of those things.
I’ve been asking Chuck for years….Not to do this specifically, but to make music together. Chuck’s a genius. If you have a favorite Black Flag song, it’s probably one that he’s written. I mean do you remember anything off of “Who’s got the 10.5?” In any case, it was not so much to do Black Flag that got me, but making music with him since it seems to me that he still had it. And we’d be on tour with Oxbow and would see him at Dour (Festival) where he’d be playing with CD6 (Chuck Dukowski Sextet) and he’s got this crazy guitarist…this kid Milo who is a real idiot savant without the idiot part, and I just wanted to do SOMEthing. And as luck would have it, it ended up being this.
How does it feel to be involved with this?
Well it didn’t really feel real until the studio, and then it felt real in the same way a gun in the back feels like the most real thing you have ever felt if you have ever felt this. And once it felt REAL, well it spread out on front of me like this crazy wonderful thing and it dawned on me in a lot of ways that it happened at exactly the right time. And I don’t like to sleep anyway, so doing both Oxbow AND Black Face…plus the books and other side projects? Well, fuck, you know….death awaits us all.