By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Carducci heard she had a Nikon camera, so the next morning, she was hired as a photographer. Her first assignments were Saccharine Trust and St. Vitus. And Carducci was thrilled to have photos to send to the fanzines and college papers hungry for SST news, even if the mainstream media were generally oblivious. Petersen became a key figure there, a rare female peer in the Black Flag orbit and something more than another momentary conquest. By 1985, she had her own rep on the national indie scene, while keeping her day job as hostess at the Black Angus restaurant in Northridge, where she worked with her friend Duff McKagan, bassist from a new band called Guns N’ Roses.
“There was something of a toll that women or girls paid when they got next to Black Flag,” Carducci writes. He spoke also with Black Flag singer Henry Rollins. “He said if you were a girl around Black Flag, you were going to get fucked. Not raped, but fucked,” says Carducci. “The girls who came up to them, some were troubled or drunk, some were extremely intelligent and were operating on the same level we were: art and action.”
The label was home to a full roster of sonic revolutionaries, bands that were freeform and unique and shared a true DIY ethic. The Minutemen were “fucking corn dogs” from Pedro led by the great singer-guitarist d. boon, and the Meat Puppets “were a mix of heady and redneck,” writes Carducci, and the only band everyone at SST could agree on.
I got to be a tourist in that world for a time, as a student journalist as obsessed with the SST roster as any miscreant or college boy looking for raw kicks on the fractured punk-rock scene. There were other bright spots smoldering within the underground during those years just before punk (and Nirvana) broke, but SST was the only brand that mattered, a real stamp of approval for an alternative state of mind. So there were far-flung shows and interviews with Sonic Youth, the Puppets and Minutemen, and then my pilgrimage to the Ginn family home in Hermosa to interview Rollins himself.
(Click to enlarge)
(Click to enlarge)
Sonic Youth, in their SST years
We would talk in the backyard, where a large pair of plaid pants hung from a clothesline, and then step for a moment into the Shed, Rollins’ elevator-sized hovel on the Ginn property that was crammed with cassette tapes and a cot, all beneath the burning gaze of a menacing Charles Manson poster. But on the way in, as we passed through the living room, he introduced me to Pettibon, who is Ginn’s brother and the unpaid SST artist and inventor of the ominous Black Flag logo, still one of the most distinctive trademarks in rock: four black vertical bars in the abstract shape of a flag rippling in the breeze, a design that also suggests pistons at work. Pettibon’s art didn’t come out of punk rock, but it was a crucial venue for him, with an audience of freethinkers and misfits hungry for dangerous images. He sat in an easy chair. But he didn’t look up when Rollins and I passed by. He just glared into space.
Soon after, I was at the SST offices to interview Ginn, a bong at his feet, his hair long and tangled, barely a year before Black Flag disbanded. And before leaving, I briefly met Naomi Petersen, whose name I knew and envied from the series of publicity photos she created. Those raw black-and-white images were a crucial document of an otherwise unknown scene, whose lasting impact would not be fully appreciated until the ’90s, when it was all gone. Petersen’s pictures could be grim or silly, depending on the mood of the band and the moment, created during low-rent photo sessions at a time when major labels typically spent thousands on an artist’s photographs.
Carducci left SST back in 1986, amid growing tension at the label. He wanted to get back to writing. He kept in touch with Petersen for another decade by mail after returning to his former home of Chicago, then moving to Wyoming. She contributed some photographs to his Rock and the Pop Narcotic. But he lost touch with her until hearing of her death, after years of fading health and heavy drinking.
Carducci wrote Enter Naomi not simply because Petersen had died, but because it took two years for him to even hear about it. “It really was like a gut punch,” says Carducci, now 52. “And it goes back to that night when she was bleeding on the floor from her wrists. I was afraid of this in some way.”
Enter Naomi is lovingly researched and bluntly told in rich detail, sometimes lifting from Petersen’s journal entries (“Fucked day — someone shot my car”). It’s also an impressionistic view, at times requiring some awareness of the SST scene and certain events to fully grasp. But Carducci takes it deeper, as only one who knew the players could.