Thursday, October 6, 2011
Ripple Library - Spray Paint The Walls: The Story Of Black Flag by Stevie Chick
Leave it to an English writer to tell the tale of one of America’s greatest bands. Given the long standing bad vibes that continue to exist between most of the key players it’s a good thing that someone with an outside perspective decided to deseed Black Flag’s dark history.
Guitarist Greg Ginn formed the band Panic in Hermosa Beach, California 1978 but later changed the name to Black Flag. He was lucky enough to cross paths with strong willed individuals like singer Keith Morris and bassist Chuck Dukowski, who shared Ginn’s enthusiasm for kick ass rock like Ted Nugent and Black Oak Arkansas as well as the new punk bands. Ginn was able to bankroll the band with funds created by his business that sold components for ham radios called Solid State Tuners. Later when he had difficulty getting a record label to release Black Flag’s music he created SST Records as an offshoot of that business. In the early days, band members would work a soldering iron by day and then shake the walls with the loud, pissed off music they were writing.
The story of Black Flag has been told many times and often it boils down to what other band members say and Greg Ginn refuting it. Spray Paint The Walls contains no new interviews with neither Ginn nor later period singer Henry Rollins, who has documented his time and opinions with Black Flag pretty extensively. There are, however, new interviews with Dukowski and Morris as well as singers Ron Reyes and Dez Cadena, bassist Kira Roessler and key SST label members Joe Carducci and Steve “Mugger” Corbin. Everyone agrees that Black Flag was much more than a band but a way of doing things. That hard work towards a goal is the most important thing even if no one else cares. That work ethic has inspired countless bands over the past 30 years.
Black Flag, along with Dead Kennedys and Canada’s D.O.A. were the first bands to be labeled “hardcore punk” and to bring their music across the country. The Ramones pioneered headlining smaller venues and bars but these guys brought punk rock to any dump that would have them and every basement show owes them a debt to this day. Not many bands could endure that lifestyle for very long but Black Flag managed to do it for about 8 years and towards the end were even bringing their own PA system along so that they would be heard properly. This massive effort is still something most bands are sane enough to not attempt.
If you’re a fan of Black Flag then you probably won’t learn too much new, but the new interviews are great to read, especially what Chuck Dukowski has to say. Chuck left the band under much stress in 1983 and often he’s forgotten about. Ginn provided the killer riffs and a lot of the lyrics but Dukowski was the one brought the intense attitude and ideas, not to mention his insanely driving bass playing. It’s often said that he sort of helped create the Rollins persona that eventually caused Ginn to quit his own band. This book is definitely worth reading even if you’re not a fan because bands just don’t operate like this anymore. Black Flag literally did everything themselves – released their own records, booked their own tours, ran a record label that gave us the Meat Puppets, Husker Du, Minutemen, etc. Read and be inspired to perspire.