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6. WATCH YOUR DIET.
Dukowski: Ron Reyes [the bands second singer] had next to no money and was living on potatoes. Which is a pretty good choice of food to live on. But on the other hand, he was living too hard he was drinking a lot and tried to be a vegetarian too. Not having enough money to eat right, thats a good way to get malnourished. He freaked out.
Robo: I sweat like a pig from the way I play. I really put out. So, playing so much, I lost a lot of weight. Id been a vegetarian for like seven or eight years. I said, Man, Im gonna either drop dead or get sick. So I started eating meat again.
7. OWN A VAN.
Dez Cadena (third Black Flag vocalist, later guitarist): When the Ramones first came to L.A., we knew that they were a punk rock band, but because they were on a big record label, we expected them to be in a big Winnebago and traveling like rock stars. Instead theyre coming out in this old beat-up 69 Ford van, with all their equipment cramped together in the same vehicle. To us it was just very impressive. Greg said thats why he decided he wanted to do everything on his own.
Dukowski: I bought this old 64 Ford Econoline window van, had it all slicked for tours.
Ginn: When the tires would run too low, Chuck would get replacements from the ones they throw out in the back of gas stations.
Dukowski: It was parked at my house, with Black Flag and a million other band names written all over it. Id drive down the alley, and the Hermosa cops would pull me over and just harass me. Theyd leave me there and take my keys with them back to the station, five or six blocks away. Id have to walk to the station and get my keys from them, then walk back up. Eventually, I took all the graffiti off for this reason.
8. RELEASE YOUR OWN RECORD IF NO ONE ELSE WILL.
Egged on by a local African-American roller-skating-guitarist friend named Spot, Black Flag (then called Panic) recorded eight songs in late-December 77 at Media Art in Hermosa Beach. Bomp, a San Fernando Valley garage-rock label that had expressed interest in releasing a Black Flag single, had been going through cash-flow problems for more than six months. Around Christmas 78, Ginn pressed up 2,000 copies of the four-song, five-minute Nervous Breakdown EP at a cost of $1,000. The garish cover was by Pettibon, whose artwork and lettering would be featured on almost all of Black Flags releases, as well as those of other SST artists like the Minutemen.
Ginn: We kept waiting and waiting for Bomp. Finally I decided to release it myself, and thats where SST Records started. From SST Electronics, obviously I knew how to set up a business. But I wasnt looking forward to putting out records myself, because I felt that I had my hands full between working my business and trying to play. So it was kind of by default: I can do this, so Ill do it.
The band sold its records at shows and via mail orders to SSTs P.O. box an address that never changed, despite the band having to move from city to city. Sometimes the mail-order money was the band members sole source of income. To encourage retailers to order Black Flag records from the bands distributors, band members would pose as fans and call stores across the country, requesting the bands forthcoming record.
Dukowski: Brendan Mullen did us a favor. He gave us a phone-card number; someone at U.S. Sprint had given it to him and said to have at it. He was in a good position at U.S. Sprint they were just starting out, no one was policing it. So we had at it. I called everybody, all the time! I was on the phone from 9 in the morning until 11 to 12 at night.
Ginn: Jem, which was an import distributor at the time, was the first real distribution that we got. But retailers were used to marking up imports really high. We sold our records real low to Jem, and then wed go around to stores and theyd be in import bins for way higher. So we felt like there wasnt proper distribution, that we were dealing with people that were more interested in imports and it just was not going to develop.