By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
The dust has settled in the ongoing Black Flag legal beef, and the lawyers have demarcated the remnants of what was once called the best punk band on the West Coast, if not the entire universe.
The long and short of the settlement announced April 21 is that Black Flag's name and four black bars logo belong exclusively to Greg Ginn, the band's founder, guitarist and main songwriter. This all stems from a trademark-infringement suit filed last year by Ginn against his former band mates—Keith Morris, Chuck Dukowski, Dez Cadena and Bill Stevenson—who had begun touring as FLAG last year, performing the band's classics and peddling Black Flag merchandise. Henry Rollins was lumped into the legal action as well; according to the lawsuit, Rollins colluded with FLAG members to "fraudulently" trademark Black Flag under his name after discovering Ginn's trademark period had lapsed.
"The problem with FLAG was they didn't come in the front door, and they used slandering Greg to promote themselves to drive up ticket sales," explains Black Flag's current lead singer, Mike Vallely, an '80s skate-mag celebrity and longtime Greg Ginn collaborator who fronted the band for 2003 reunion shows, then went on to manage them.
Vallely and Ginn learned of Rollins' trademark grab while on the road in Australia. The reunion run was failing miserably. Ginn had enlisted onetime Black Flag front man Ron Reyes, and the pending litigation caused personal friction between them. They bottomed out when Ginn removed Reyes from Black Flag midsong, which, coincidentally, was how Reyes first left the band in 1979.
"Ron came in and shit on the lawn," says Vallely, who took over while Reyes was still onstage. "He wanted to politic himself as a punk-rock legend—he saw Henry with that status, Keith with that status. He wanted to steer [the band] in the direction of pleasing the Facebook crowd."
That crowd, Vallely explains, is the 5 percent of fans who "are completely against everything and the loudest of them all." Indeed, Ginn bore the brunt of blogger fallout; after the Australia debacle, Reyes echoed their sentiments, telling Pitchfork he felt as though he were in the middle of a battle between "good" Flag and "evil" Flag—and he was singing for the bad guys. The U.K. Guardian characterized Ginn as "bitter" and acting in "desperation," and it harshly panned the new record.
Ginn characteristically fell silent. "It's so easy to demonize Greg because he doesn't go on the record," Vallely says. "There's been a lot of money left on the table over the years because Greg hasn't been willing to re-form the band for money. That's the exact opposite of what Black Flag are about. Black Flag would rather be sluggin' it out in clubs for real money."
For as much praise as Black Flag received, they took just as much shit for progressing their sound through the '80s. Evolution was the credo for Ginn, who managed to spin into his sound a Black Sabbath approach—even a touch of Jerry Garcia—bending the edge of the punk-rock confines he had created. As a musician, Ginn does what he wants, and that's his legacy as an artist. All the drama and money-wrangling from band mates and artists he signed to SST—that's Ginn's legacy just the same.
"Most old-school punkers have a chip on their shoulder," Vallely says. "If you think you're owed money, get a proper accountant and a lawyer instead of talking to the press. Greg Ginn was the only person on the planet willing to record your music and put out your band. That was the start of your career. Come on, grow up."
As it stands now, when Black Flag are on the bill, it's Ginn on guitar, Vallely out front, and a pair of session players from Ginn's north Texas hometown filling in on bass and drums. They will play a "classics" set, with the songs arranged to allow Greg to roam instrumentally. FLAG can tour as FLAG, though there are no plans for them to do so at press time. Nobody other than Ginn will see a dime from authentic Black Flag merch.
In the end, it turned out just as he planned: Ginn will slug it out in midsize rock clubs through August as Black Flag, punk as fuck and without apology—the way he's always done it.
Every time I think these guys are moving on they come out and throw me under the bus again and blame shit on me. It is indeed very laughable. Regrettable yes, but hugely entertaining none the less.
Tell me; where are the great multitudes of fans and critics of last year’s tour that can honestly say Ginn was anywhere near able to play these songs with the honor and respect they deserve on a consistent basis? Where are all the reviews that praise that opening act “Good For You” for being so vital and entertaining (in a good way). And remember if you loved Good For you then you will also love the new Black Flag. However if you were one of the great masses who were outside smoking and complaining during their set (I overheard the laughter on a nightly basis as I was out in the crowd every night) then you will be wasting your time. Lets see a significant show of hands of those who believe just how dynamic Mike Vallely is as a performer and lyricist? And how he doesn’t at all sound or pose like a cheap Rollins wanna-be… Where are all the sober people who can honestly tell you with a straight face that the drummer was worthy of the task at hand? Where are all the fans that hated it when Greg would reluctantly cut off one of his 10 minute self-indulging and ridiculously repetitive and uninspired jams on guitar or Theremin? Shall I go on?
Oh yes but it’s all Ron’s fault… And now that he is gone we will be a stronger and more cohesive “band”… Punk Rock legend???? Are you serious Mike? I have no need for that and do not for one second think I deserve that status. I was in a couple cool bands early on then split a corrupt and drug filled scene to raise my family. Many years later I came out of hiding and have quietly playing guitar in my band “Piggy”. And Piggy aint no hardcore punk band. Geesh Mike you gotta work on your material. In another article they refer to me as a “victim”. I am laughing at the absurdity of them referring to me as a victim. However I guess I should be honoured that they have named their upcoming tour the “victomology” tour. After me? Awwww you shouldn't have…
Yes Mike is right about one thing. This “band” was doomed from the beginning. And yes I was the one who stood up to Greg and addressed the humongous elephants in the room. And oh boy did I receive a lashing for such abhorrent behaviour... But people trust me this NEVER EVER was a “band”. It was always Greg and Ron and a couple hired hands. In fact Greg was so insulted by “that bass player” and how he dared to have the disrespectful audacity to question the drummer’s ability… Early on when I wanted to promote Dave and drummer on our web pages Mike said no way man this is about you and Greg and those two guys will have to prove their worth.
These guys are sooooo full of hypocrisy it must hurt.
The Album Cover???? They LOVED the album cover. Of course they did BECAUSE they were the bloody art directors (do we all know what an art director is???) who not only approved that cover but directed the evolution of that particular doodle. In fact they rejected other submissions and chose and directed that specific doddle of mine to its completion.
The singing on the album???? Mike told me over and over how he absolutely LOVED the new album and in particular my singing. Greg praised my performances during recordings and said I was the only one who could have sung those songs. He was sooooooo happy with the outcome especially the last song on the album (one of my faves as well). Mike said that record held up in the Black Flag CANON!!! Hell I’m not even that delusional. But people know this one thing. It was NEVER written to be a Black Flag Album. I wrote the lyrics before there was ever any mention of Black Flag. It was meant to be a Greg and Ron rock n roll album project. And yes I take my rock n roll very lightly with tongue in cheek. I am not an emotional tortured soul like Mike V who cries about failed relationships, knives in his face or preferring death over compromise (oh such nobility...)
So ya wanna know why it doesn’t sound like a Black Flag album? Because it is NOT a Black Flag Album. Is that clear? It is a Dale Nixon and Ron Reyes solo project album with a last minute Raymond Pettibon logo slapped on it for better sales. The music was recorded back in the 80’s or 90’s and was cut and pasted together with protools in an embarrassing manner. There was never any band recording that stuff people it was our beloved Dale Nixon playing with himself. So Tell me does this all sound like a band? Mike says I never took being in the band serious. WHAT BAND? When I asked Greg if we could ever record as a band his response was “why the hell would I do that? I have tons of stuff recorded already…” Does this all sound like a band folks? Yet as bad at things were, night after night I went out there and ran circles around both Mike and Greg.
I never quit the band: I did make some ultimatums about increased performance and replacing the drummer but who wouldn’t!?!?! Up until the end I was willing to fight it out if Greg was willing to take care of things. But after an incident in Australia it was clear to EVERYONE that the end was near. They operate out of fear as illustrated by their relentless control and censoring of their facebook and web pages. So out of fear they preemptively fired my ass on stage. Because they were scared I may say some things to hurt their feelings….. Wah wah wah cry me a river.
Good luck guys on your EMO Victomology Tour. Will Greg be better prepared and more able to pull this off on guitar? God let’s hope so. It was embarrassing watching him struggle night after night and resorting to weak shakes of the head and hips to distract people from his inability to be the guitar player we all knew and loved. Will the rhythm section be better? Tell me please HOW COULD IT BE ANY WORSE? And Dave was Freaking Awesome. However a rhythm section MUST be anchored by a serious drummer. Will Mike be able to hold a candle to any of the four Black Flag singers that came before him? You guys can be the judge of that. I will not be paying one red cent to support them and their lawyers. Like I said before, you can believe whoever ya want but consider the source…
Until the next batch of lies…
"The problem with FLAG was they didn't come in the front door, and they
used slandering Greg to promote themselves to drive up ticket sales,"
HAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! That part about FLAG needing to slander Ginn to "drive up ticket sales" is fucking hilarious! Ginn's current version of the band is about as interesting as the Smashing Pumpkins cover band that Billy Corgan now leads or the similarly bad excuse of a line-up that is now called Guns n' Roses. After all these years he brings us one original member (him), a skater (now that Ron has left) and two unknowns. And Ginn expects us to be excited about this? Meanwhile FLAG is hosting an veritable all-star lineup from the early days of the band with Ginn and Rollins really being the only big missing pieces.
I get that it was always Ginn's band and he wrote most of their songs and called the shots but dude come the fuck on, you can't fool us with this sad excuse for a lineup and you can't tell me that FLAG hasn't been delivering what this version of Black Flag can't. I saw FLAG last summer and it was everything I could have hoped for. Yea Greg wasn't there but it didn't matter AT ALL to me, because I always saw Black Flag as being the sum of it's parts rather than the Greg Ginn solo project it has become.
I like Mike V as a human and I
understand he has to look out for his friend but come on dude, everybody
knows about the drama and the two current versions of the band. Do you
guys really think Black Flag fans are that stupid or uninformed? We know
the story, we know of the drama, we are actually CHOOSING to see the
other band over yours because in the end it has much more to offer.
@wraithwolf -Um that "guy" started Black Flag, wrote almost all the songs and was probably the one who decided Rollins could be the singer of his band. At least he's still making music and playing small punk venues. Have you heard Rollins lately? He sounds like he works directly for the Obama administration.
@reyesx6"Where are all the fans that hated it when Greg would reluctantly cut off one of his 10 minute self-indulging and ridiculously repetitive and uninspired jams on guitar or Theremin?"
That was ridiculous. Leave the theremin and solos to Page.
Since '78 I've seen Black Flag fronted by Morris, Dez, Reyes, Rollins and Valley in over a period of about 25 gigs. Each bring their own, but the first three are to me, and always will be, Black Flag.
@reyesx6 I knew some of those tunes on the new album sounded familiar. I was jamming some of those riffs with Ginn back in the late 80s at Cruz. He'd record base tracks to a portable DAT machine and play them back through a bass amp for us to jam to. It wasn't very much fun for me and we parted company because I wanted to play in a real band and not program drum machines and synths. That didn't fly with Greg. His goal at the time was to eliminate as many band members as possible which I found disheartening.
@reyesx6 -In my humble opinion you are a punk rock legend Mr. Reyes!
@reyesx6 In my opinion, seeing "Black Flag" at this point would be about as amusing as going and seeing the last remaining Bee Gee perform.........you are solid, Ron!