By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Dukowski: “It was a hard time for us. We were living on nothin’. We’d get some mail-order money in the morning — if we were lucky — and go spend it.”
Cadena: “We had this thing called ‘good cop/bad cop.’ Greg decided that Chuck should take care of the money, because Greg was a little bit too nice. If you said, ‘Greg, I need a little cash,’ he’d go, ‘Oh, here.’ Whereas at times we had to be tight-fisted to run this record company the way it needed to be run.”
Dukowski: “We’d sleep on the floor, wake up with the sun. Mr. Ginn [Greg’s father] would bring down a few sandwiches and feed us, pretty much every day. And he’d bring us a load of clothes that he’d found at thrift stores.”
Ginn: “He would take these preppy shirts and put the four bars on them with a marker. For tour, we’d have a bag of these clothes, and as the tour went on, you’d just go, ‘Oh, I could use a new shirt’ and pull one out of the bag . . . My parents went through the Depression, they went through some really tough times, so they’d always be thinking, ‘Well, you gotta make sure you can survive the worst thing.’”
Dukowski: “We’d be wearing old slacks and stuff from another era. It was like that for roughly a year — grilled cheese sandwiches and piles of clothes. And pizzas. It was all about cheese.”
Robo: “It was a hard life, but we all could do it because none of us were married. As long as there was floor space to sleep on and a sandwich here and there, it was okay with me. I had shitloads of fun playing, so I didn’t care.”
Cadena: “We would all have been miserable doing a 9-to-5 thing. We figured the only way for us to do music would be to do it on our own. That also meant that we kind of had to be like the Manson family and just all live together. But there was no other way for these particular people to do it.”10. ADVERTISE.In summer ’81, Black Flag and Spot produced a series of radio commercials for broadcast on KROQ, some of which made light of the punk rock scene’s treatment by the LAPD (“Attention all units! Chief Gates is in an uproar! Let’s get those punk rockers!”) while publicizing their upcoming L.A.-area shows and their new records.
Dukowski: “I think it was Greg’s idea: ‘Let’s do radio!’ We’d just put our whole crew together, people who were hanging around, mock up a script, and do it. That was really the heyday of that stuff, when we were real fresh.”
Ginn and Dukowski contend that Black Flag did not encourage or exploit the violence that attended its shows, even as that violence — and the not-infrequent clashes with police — inevitably drew media attention and gained the band free publicity.
Dukowski: “We worked to try to create an environment where the right things could happen, hopefully, and there was security and all of that in the venues. The violence isn’t a good thing — but on the other hand, what are you gonna do? One could say if you go into a Raiders game and cheer for the Cowboys you’re gonna get fucked up. If you go to a Black Flag show and you’re wearing your Genesis T-shirt and you’re screaming, ‘Punk rock is bunk squawk!’ then you’re gonna get yourself beat up. Yes, the violence probably hurt us, but it’s a two-sided coin. We can say we could have been bigger without it, that without that stigma we would have been allowed into the mainstream. On the other side of the coin, people weretalking, weren’t they?”
Ginn: “The news reports tied Black Flag and violence together, when that wasn’t at all appropriate. I thought, ‘Well, you have more problems at some heavy-metal show with a bunch of drunk people.’ People thought it was great publicity, but anytime you’re misrepresented — unless you’re trying to pull some kind of image scam — it’s gonna hurt you. We wanted to play music. We practiced five or six nights a week to play, not to have our gigs stopped by the cops.”11. NEED A NEW SINGER? LOOK TO YOUR FANS.When original Black Flag singer Keith Morris quit the band in ’79, he was quickly replaced by Ron Reyes, a Hermosa Beach teenager who had been following the band since it was called Panic and knew all of the songs. Five months after Reyes quit the band midshow, in ’80, he was replaced by his 19-year-old friend (and longtime Flag fan), guitarist Dez Cadena. Then, in late summer of ’81, Cadena — whose voice was faltering, and who was more interested in playing guitar, anyway — was replaced on lead vocals by 20-year-old Washington, D.C., Flag fanatic Henry Rollins.
Ginn: “Punk rock wasn’t some kind of established thing. We all came from the audience. Everybody in the band was always more of a rock fan than a rock star.”12. DO AS MUCH OF YOUR OWN LEGAL WORK AS POSSIBLE.Black Flag’s deal with Unicorn went sour, and the band soon found itself in court, fighting to be released from a contract it claimed had been breached. A local lawyer agreed to help the band in a supervisory role with their case.