Flag Reunites Black Flag Veterans
As previously reported, it was announced last week that former Black Flag members were reconvening into separate groups, to once again play the band classic tunes. One outfit including guitarist Greg Ginn and singer Ron Reyes will be going by the trusty old name Black Flag, while another (including singer Keith Morris, bassist Chuck Dukowski, and drummer Bill Stevenson) will simply go by Flag.
Both bands will be hitting the tour trail this spring, with more dates to follow (Black Flag has also recorded a new album, while Flag is focusing solely on road work at this point). Both Morris and Dukowski spoke to Rolling Stone recently, about Flag and their thoughts on the Ginn/Reyes Black Flag.
How did the idea come up to reconvene as Flag?
Keith Morris: It wasn’t premeditated. The situation was that a gentleman named Gary Tovar, who started one of the biggest concert promotion companies here in L.A., Golden Voice, was doing a series of shows at the Santa Monica Civic to celebrate 30 years of Golden Voice [in December 2011]. One night I think was Social Distortion, the next night was Bad Religion and TSOL, and the last night was the Descendents. Gary thought, “I’ve got room for another band. I need to come up with a big band.” So he called Chuck Dukowski, and asked Chuck if he could put together Black Flag.
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I know that [Dukowski] doesn’t get along very well with Greg Ginn. They worked together for years and they had their falling out, for whatever reasons. But Chuck saw that Billy Stevenson was already going to be there playing with the Descendents, because they were headlining, and he knew Stephen Egerton, who is also a member of Descendents. So he asked Billy to ask Stephen if Stephen would stand up there and play some Black Flag songs. Chuck called up and asked me if I wanted to do it, and we ended up playing the Nervous Breakdown EP. The response was insane. The place just went bananas. It was pretty wild. It was very exciting. That put all this machinery into motion. We decided that we wanted to continue doing it. So we talked about just doing this for fun, and offers started to appear.
I also understand that another former Black Flag member has just signed on with Flag.
Chuck Dukowski: We’d been talking about bringing Dez [Cadena] in too, so we brought Dez in. I’m so looking forward to it – it’s going to be great. Especially when I think of stuff like, there’s a video of the five-piece band at Mabuhay Gardens, and it’s just so powerful. And I’m looking forward to doing “My War” with the two guitars, which it was always intended to have. Some of these later tunes were designed to have an interplay between the two parts. And then we’ll bring some of Dez’s later stuff, too, that never really came out. Maybe we can do “Ain’t No Time Here Now” – I know he recorded that with DC3.
Did you know that Ginn and Reyes were also planning on returning as Black Flag?
Morris: We heard varying rumors, which, when it comes to Greg Ginn, there are some of us that could really care less. Normally, you don’t talk like that about friends. But he’s not a friend, so I could just go down a list of people that have sued him and people that have not received royalties. Henry [Rollins] writes a column for the L.A. Weekly, and he finally just said, “Hey, how about some accounting?”
The thing we’re doing is not in spite of anybody – 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. This isn’t about finger-pointing or “You did this” or “You did that.” As all of this progresses, certain things will be revealed. I can’t stand here and say, “Those guys suck.” It’s not like that. Ron’s my friend. Whenever I’m in Vancouver, I hang out with Ron. Personally, I’m happy that he’s doing it. If Ginn is capable of getting up there and whamming, jamming, sweating and grinding, more power to him.
Have you spoken to Rollins about Flag?
Dukowski: Henry knows it’s happening. He’s supportive, I think. I communicate with Henry – Henry and I are friends. He and Keith also talk. Keith was on his Rise Above tour [which benefited the West Memphis Three]. So I think Henry’s supportive. He seemed supportive when we told him about it.
Will there be more tour dates added?
Morris: We’re going to go wherever the promoters allow us to go.
I’d imagine it’s going to be tricky juggling everyone’s schedule.
Morris: The timing is difficult for us, because there are three fathers and three husbands and we’re all in other bands. So it’s not like this is what we do. We’re doing this for fun.
Any discussion about a set list yet?
Dukowski: It’s not all the way decided, but pretty wide range. I think those songs that I played on with Bill, for sure. And all the way back to the beginning. So I think we’ll go all the way up into the later albums, and then we’ll play virtually everything from Nervous Breakdown, Jealous Again, Louie Louie, Six Pack, Damaged – all that stuff. And then we’ll get choosier from the later stuff. I’m looking forward to playing all of it. Each one has different things to them. It will be interesting to do something like “My War” with Keith, because that’s never happened. I want to try that and see what that’s like. Hopefully we can bring out those later songs – “My War,” “I Love You,” “The Bars” – as well as the core – “No More,” “Depression,” “Police Story,” “Nervous Breakdown,” “Revenge.”
What about recording new material at some point?
Dukowski: That’s not what we’re trying to do. We’re really paying tribute to our past. We’re going to get out and rock the hell out of that stuff, and try to do it with the full intensity and emotional commitment that we always did, and was always so joyful for us to do it when we did it at the Civic.
Lastly, didn’t you recently have a health scare, Keith?
Morris: I just got back from Australia – my band, OFF!, we were on the Big Day Out. I’m in kind of a weird scenario right now, because I got back last Tuesday and I’m a diabetic and I failed to eat lunch. Came back, hung out with my girlfriend, and the whole idea was that we were going to do what grown-ups do – go take a nap and go get something to eat. It should have been reversed – I should have eaten first. So we did what we did, and I passed out. As I passed out, I actually blacked out and went into a diabetic-induced coma. So I’m kind of like the T-shirt that’s been sitting in the dryer for three days.
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