Greg Ginn is the only current member of Black Flag who was in any of the classic lineups, but current singer Mike Vallely is determined to do the band’s legacy proud. We spoke to the frontman prior to a string of SoCal dates…
L.A. WEEKLY: It’s been six years since the What The album — any sign of new music?
MIKE VALLELY: No, I think in order to do it it would have to happen in its own way and its own time. It has to be inspired. It couldn’t be, “Let’s write some songs just because.” Does the world need a new Black Flag record? It’s not something we would want to just try to push out into the world. It would have to come from true moment of inspiration or creative process that would have to happen organically. We can’t force something like that. But more so, getting out and playing is more about sharing the music that’s already there, getting in front of audiences and trying to have meaningful moments with these songs that are part of their lives.
You’ve been in the band for six years now…?
January 2014 is when Greg [Ginn, sole remaining founding member] asked me to sing for the band. I did three shows back in 2003 as a guest vocalist. In 2012, Greg and I started writing songs and working on a band, Good for You. So there’s kind of an official start date, but really it’s more about a friendship and a creative relationship.
But you were managing the band when Ron Reyes [who fronted Black Flag in 1979-80 and again in 2013] was in it?
When Greg and I started Good for You, we had a creative relationship with the band but also a business relationship, self-managing. When he decided to relaunch Black Flag with Ron, he asked me if I’d be willing to help him manage Black Flag. Greg and I were managing it, and I was basically tour managing and stage managing the band. Also, Good for You was the opening band on that tour so I was singing.
In the six years since then, do you feel like you’ve settled?
I feel like I’m settling in now. The tour we did in 2014, I think it was good and I did well, but I wasn’t in a really good place in my life at that time. I was going through some financial hardships. My skate career had come to a crashing end as far as the industry side of it. I was glad to be able to go on tour and be working with Greg — that was a real positive. But I wasn’t in the best place to do it the way I wanted to do it. It’s a lot different now. I’ve started the second half of my life, so I feel like I’m operating from a place of great positivity and optimism.
What is your favorite period of the band, prior to joining?
I listen to all of it, and I’ve spent so much time with these songs. I really love Ron Reyes’ songs, his vocals, maybe more so than everything else at least from a vocal standpoint. That’s not really my approach. But that’s why I like it. I saw Black Flag play in 1984 with Rollins fronting the band, and that was a very important moment in my life. The My War record was the first record of consequence that I ever bought for myself with my own money. That record and that time period were really big for me. That’s also the material that’s easiestly approached for me. I can dig right into that vocally. The headspace of the songs is right there for me. Some of the earlier stuff is more demanding, for me. So I love it all. The stuff that comes after My War and Slip it In is really underrated.
Who is coming out to see Black Flag in 2019?
It’s such a great mix. The majority are just music fans and they’re excited to see the band regardless of who the singer is. There are old school punker types that are just excited that the band is playing again. A few bucket list type people. A lot of skateboarders come out, first because the music intersects with skateboarding, but then a lot of skater types come to support me. Me singing for this band is meaningful to them. We try to play as many all ages shows as possible, and we see a lot of parents bringing their kids. A real positive energy from the audiences. Anyone who thinks it’s supposed to be 1980 with the LAPD cracking down, they kind of find that they’re out of place really quick. The energy in the room is celebratory.
Do you mix up the sets? There are a lot of SoCal dates…
Our setlist, we don’t really change it. But the show is different from night to night because where we go musically is always different. The solos and jams are never the same. But we have a certain amount of songs that we rehearsed hard. Changing the setlist from night to night doesn’t make a lot of sense right now. Probably in the future.
What’s next for the band?
We’ve got shows booked through the end of March. We’re off to South America and Mexico on March. Just concentrating on the live shows. No immediate plans to record anything but that could always change. It’s a very loose thing. We’re not putting any pressure on ourselves. The world doesn’t necessarily need a new Black Flag record, so we’ll let that play out as it plays out. I imagine we’ll try to keep the wheels on the road past March. We’re getting booking offers from all over the world.
Black Flag plays with The Linecutters at 6 p.m. on Thursday, September 19 at the Canyon in Agoura Hills; then on Friday, September 20 at the Canyon in Santa Clarita; then with Pulley and The Linecutters at 8 p.m. on Sunday, September 22 at The Observatory. In December, they return to play Saint Rocke and The Roxy.