There’s a simple answer for Black Flag fans who are confused about why two different versions of the band are touring this year: it’s about money, says Mike Vallely, who manages the lineup featuring founder and guitarist Greg Ginn.
That’s the version touring as Black Flag, with singer Ron Reyes and drummer Gregory Moore. Also, former band members Keith Morris, Dez Cadena, Chuck Dukowski and Bill Stevenson are performing Black Flag songs in concert this year under the name Flag.
“Keith and all the ex-band members through the years have been wanting to do Black Flag again, but they’ve been wanting to do it on their terms,” Vallely tells Rolling Stone. “They see a shitload of money sitting there and they want it, and they want Greg to open the gates and give them the keys and let their Century City machine come in and run the show, and have Greg be their guitar player. But that’s not what fucking Black Flag is about, man.”
Apart from a brief reunion in 2003, the pioneering hardcore band had been largely dormant since splitting in 1986. Then, after years of releasing music on his own and with various side projects, Ginn announced in January that he was re-teaming with Reyes and Moore for a tour and a new album as Black Flag, a move that Vallely says was nearly a decade in the making. “Greg and I had been talking about doing something together since 2003,” says Vallely, who is also a professional skateboarder.
That something turned out to be Good for You, a punk band with Vallely on vocals and Ginn on guitar. The group released its debut, Life Is Too Short to Not Hold a Grudge, in February on Ginn’s SST Records. Good for You seemed to signal that Ginn was ready to return to punk rock, and at the same time the guitarist was working with Vallely, he was talking to Reyes about reviving Black Flag – but not just to play nostalgia sets.
“He doesn’t want it to be about a reunion, or just some sort of greatest-hits act,” Vallely says. “It’s not Beatlemania, you know; for him it’s about the music. So there has to be new music for him to even consider playing the old music.”
On the other side of this is Flag. Morris, who fronted Black Flag from 1976-79, told Rolling Stone in February that convening as Flag “wasn’t premeditated” and “is not in spite of anybody.” The singer, who went on to play with the Circle Jerks and later Off!, said, “We’re celebrating the fact that we’re at the age that we’re at and people still love this music. And we’re still capable of playing it.”
Black Flag plan to release a new album at some point this summer to coincide with a tour that will keep them on the road in North America and Europe starting in May and continuing through August. Vallely says the new songs are “definitely spirited.”
“It’s definitely the sort of sound that people who love Black Flag, who are Black Flag fans, will be looking for,” he says. “It’s not a departure from Black Flag at all. It has evolved, but Black Flag was always evolving. Greg’s guitar playing is Greg’s guitar playing: he has a certain tone and style.”