Black Flag

1976–1986, 2003
Keith MorrisVocals1976–1979
Ron ReyesVocals1979–1980
Dez CadenaVocals1980–1981, 2003
Henry RollinsVocals1981–1986
Greg Ginn Guitar1976–1986, 2003
Dez CadenaGuitar1981–1983, 2003
Raymond PettibonBass1976
Glen "Spot" Lockett Bass1976–1977
Chuck Dukowski Bass1977–1983
Kira Roessler Bass1983–1985
C'el RevueltaBass1986, 2003
Brian Migdol Drums1977–1978
Roberto "ROBO" ValverdeDrums1978–1981, 2003
Emil JohnsonDrums1982
Chuck BiscuitsDrums1982
Bill Stevenson Drums1983–1985
  • Black Flag were founded in 1976 in Hermosa Beach, California. They are considered one of the first hardcore punk bands and general pioneers of the West Coast punk movement. Keith Morris, Black Flag's original vocalist, told us the band were naive to the fact they were starting a music revolution: "While I was in Black Flag, we didn't know that we were starting or creating a template for a lot of bands. We didn't know that we started hardcore along with Middle Class and the Germs, and the Bad Brains, and Minor Threat and all of these bands. We just played music." Despite their hardcore punk routes, Black Flag would ultimately go on to explore other genres later on in their career, including sludge, fusion-jazz and heavy metal.
  • Greg Ginn's brother, Raymond Pettibon, came up with the name "Black Flag." According to Pettibon: "If a white flag means surrender, a black flag represents anarchy." Pettibon also designed Black Flag's legendary logo: four black rectangles, representing a rippling flag. Henry Rollins had this logo tattooed on to his bicep. It has since gone on to become a popular inking amongst music fans. Frank Iero from My Chemical Romance has the logo tattooed on his upper arm, while Foo Fighters front man, Dave Grohl, revealed to Mojo he gave himself the inking as a kid: "When I was 12 or 13, I gave myself a Black Flag tattoo, prison style, with a needle and pen ink."
  • Black Flag's line up changed many times over the years; guitarist, Gregg Ginn, was the sole continuos member. Original vocalist, Keith Morris, left in 1979 in order to form the influential punk band, Circle Jerks. Black Flag replaced Morris with Ron Reyes, who was then replaced by Dez Cadena, who was then replaced by Henry Rollins. Henry Rollins remained Black Flag's front man until the band's dissolution in 1986. Keith Morris told The Quietus that he believes all the band members were great in their individual ways: "The thing with the Black Flag vocalists is that we all brought our own little flavor to the table. And each one of us was as good as each other. My ego doesn't allow me to say that I'm the best one because it's all up to the listener...I'm not here to shoot anybody down; I'm here to pat everybody on the back. Because Black Flag was one of those bands that went through a batch of drummers, went through a few bass players and certainly had their share of vocalists. All of them were great. And the band was always amazing."
  • In 1981, MCA Records' president, Al Bergamo, refused to distribute Black Flag's debut album, Damaged, at the very last minute. Bergamo said it was because the record was what he considered "anti-parent." In backlash against Bergamo, Black Flag personally applied stickers reading: "As a parent...I found it an anti-parent record" to the back of album jackets, as to conceal the MCA logo.

    Damaged would ultimately go on to be distributed via Greg Ginn's label, SST Records. This move landed Black Flag in legal trouble with their label, Unicorn (a subsidiary of MCA Records), who claimed the band had breached contract. Black Flag were consequently banned from releasing records under their own name for nearly two years. Greg Ginn and Chuck Dukowski were even sent to prison at one point. Ginn told David Grad: "The judge treated us like scum and still said we had violated the injunction. Chuck and I spent five days in LA county jail - which is a long time to spend there. If I had been in there six days, I would have gotten beat up because people were beginning to figure out who I was." The legal dispute finally fizzled out in 1983 when Unicorn went bankrupt.

    Damaged remains highly influential within the hardcore punk scene. The record was ranked at #340 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
  • Black Flag were known to attract a violent following. This meant the band's gigs developed a large police presence. Black Flag blamed the police themselves for the riots which would often escalate. Chuck Dukowski spoke to Blank TV about one particular show: "The police came, no altercations whatsoever, made an effort to stop the gig. They came in, there were no exits, a phalanx of armed officers came through and beat the living crap out of a lot of kids and told them never to come back." Dukowski added why he thinks the police were against Black Flag and their fans: "They're scared that it represents change. Change scares anyone that is part of existing structure."
  • Black Flag's rise in popularity was in part due to their DIY punk ethic. Many of their business dealings, such as booking and promoting gigs, were done by the band or their friends. Greg Ginn's brother, Raymond Pettibon, was responsible for much of Black Flag's now-iconic artwork. Pettibon would create posters and flyers, printed with disturbing, comic-book style anti-authoritarian images, that Black Flag would then paste around the area that they was playing. Despite the sinister undertones, Pettibon told The Believer his artwork was not about violence, anger or hate: "I want to express forgiveness. That's the nature of my art in general. It's expressing love and compassion, the kinds of things that don't make sense in any other context other than emotive expression."
  • Since Black Flag's dissolution in 1986, Henry Rollins has gone on to become a high-profile author, activist and actor. Movies that Rollins has starred in include Bad Boys 2, Jackass The Movie and Green Lantern: Emerald Knights. Rollins also continues to play music with his Rollins Band. Keith Morris, meanwhile, went on to form the influential Circle Jerks, and OFF!, a hardcore punk supergroup. Greg Ginn has also remained active in music, playing with the likes of Gone and October Faction. Ginn was also part of the Black Flag reunion in 2003, alongside former members Dez Cadena, Robo and C'el Revuelta. The band played three shows to benefit a homeless cat shelter. Former band mate, Keith Morris, slammed the reunion. Morris told Punknews.org: "The reunion was stupid and depressing. It was so bad that I couldn't be a part of it. When my heart was telling me, 'Keith you have got to do this,' I was like, 'Keith, don't be an idiot!'"
  • In the early '80s, Henry Rollins grew his hair long, and the band transitioned away from the traditional loud-fast Punk sound that defined the genre in the '70s. Some Black Flag fans didn't go for the psychedelic jams, or the "hippie" look Rollins was sporting. This was an early look at what can happen when a Punk band doesn't conform to their fans' expectations, and Black Flag answered by denouncing the "punkers" who resisted change. In the '90s, Green Day triggered a similar reaction from some of their fans when they became Pop Stars.
  • In 1980, a friend gave Henry Rollins a copy of Black Flag's Nervous Breakdown EP. Rollins soon became a fan of the band, and attended as many of their concerts as he could. At an impromptu show in a New York bar, vocalist Dez Cadena allowed Rollins to jump up on stage and sing "Clocked In," a song Rollings asked the band to play because he had to drive back to Washington, D.C. - Rollins needed "clock in" for his day job as a manager at a Häagen-Dazs.

    Unbeknownst to Rollins, Cadena wanted to switch to guitar and the band was looking for a new vocalist. Rollins quit his Häagen-Dazs job and became Black Flag's new singer.

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