THE MUSIC WA: Black Flag Column (Issue 1)

Published in The Music (WA) | 14.08.13 | Issue # 1




It’s only a matter of time until I find myself financially gutted for using the Black Flag name. In fact, I’m surprised founding guitarist Greg Ginn hasn’t tracked me down already.

Like most hardcore fans, I was overwhelmed with glee when the band announced an Australian tour. That excitement was quickly met with the realisation that it wasn’t Flag – the better reformation of the band, and somewhat of a supergroup.

While Ginn’s Black Flag is the original act, he’s really the only notable member of its current lineup. Flag, on the other hand, has ex-members Bill Stevenson (Descendents), Keith Morris (Circle Jerks, OFF!), and more, as well as Descendents’ Stephen Egerton. It seems a lot of fans also think Flag is a better band, which really doesn’t sit well with Ginn, and thus the lawsuit he has filed against them.

In 1981, Ginn penned the lyrics for Police Story, an anti-establishment number in which he wrote, “This fucking city is run by pigs.” Now he’s utilising a system he once despised. He’s one KFC Family Feast bucket of irony away from joining the Madden family.

Although the same people created both shows, Ginn suing Flag is like the UK version of The Office filling a lawsuit against the US version for being better… okay, I’m probably the only one who fancies Steve Carrell and co to the Gervais super team.

Maybe Ginn’s just upset that he wasn’t invited to Flag, and that’s why he fired up Black Flag again. There’s been some bad blood between the ex-members of Black Flag in the past, so it’s not surprising that this has happened. Ginn’s SST Records used to have a habit of not paying its artist their royalties, which led to numerous lawsuits. Apparently when Ginn lawyers up, he lawyers up good, so Flag may be nearing their end. The whole thing doesn’t seem to be about pride, though, if anything, it’s about money. And that’s about as far away from the hardcore way of life that you can get. But that’s just the way the music industry is going.

It was shocking to see Nirvana apparel sold at Big W, and when I was in Starbucks last year, the Ramones CD that sat for sale at the counter was good for a laugh. Grunge sold out, punk sold out, and now it’s hardcore’s turn. As of last month, US retailer Urban Outfitters began stocking Minor Threat t-shirts – and that’s with the approval of vocalist Ian MacKaye. Although he didn’t seem to take much notice, labeling the development as “absurd”, he let it slide. If it were mainly Minor Threat fans purchasing the tees, that’d make sense. But with the natural of retailers like Urban Outfitters, it’ll most likely be those who know very little about the band – like the Big W Nirvana fan who occasionally stumbles across Smells Like Teen Spirit on the radio.

If Ginn’s Black Flag doesn’t implode on itself over the next few months, you can catch them Sunday 24 November at Amplifier/Capitol when they headline Hits & Pits – that’s if the guitarist doesn’t embark on a vendetta against Black Flag insecticide.