Q: Did Black Flag Reunite In 2003 With A Robot Playing Bass?
A: Yes. Yes they did.
In September of ’03, founding guitarist Greg Ginn decided to throw Black Flag back together for an animal rights benefit in California. Problem was Greg had burned alotta bridges within his own band, and the only original member he could get was the other guitarist, Dez Cadena. So instead of Robo or that bro from the Descendents, Greg had to hire some no-name to play drums (literally—the guy called himself “Drummer”). Instead of Keith Morris or Henry Rollins, an individual known as Mike V. was granted vocal duties. And, instead of Chuck Dukowski or Kira Rossler or even that C’el guy on bass, Greg just whipped himself up a robot.
The plan for this 2003 concert was to play the My War album in its entirety, so Greg pre-recorded/pre-programmed(?) all the bass tracks into one of them fancy sampler deals and lugged that up on stage. Sure, why not? Beats payin’ somebody. Greg slapped a sombrero on his synthetic band mate and referred to it as “Dale Nixon,” which is the pseudonym he used when he not-so-secretly played bass on the 1982 My War recording. Predictably, things got a little hairy during the show—the robot refused to take a break between songs, turning his human masters into the real slaves. Just like Frankenstein, right?
Meanwhile, the audience quickly realized Black Flag’s bassist was just one step above a Mr. Coffee, and they came pretty close to rioting (at least one garbage can was thrown on stage). In that sense, this reunion captured the magic of Black Flag shows past. I remember this whole thing being a pretty big deal when it happened, and it seems very odd the only account of it I could find online was this punknews.org message board thread. Then again, I’m a huge Black Flag fan, and I keep my ear to the ground Tonto-style for news about them. Now that I think about it, you never really hear about them in the mainstream press (unless someone’s profiling Henry Rollins).
The reason I’m bringing up Black Flag’s robot bass player (aside from the fact it’s one of the weirdest cases of rock n’ roll bullshit in the history of recorded music) is because I reference the incident in my most recent review for Crawdaddy! After I turned it in, the resident fact-checker e-mailed me askin’ me, “Hey, what the hell are you talkin’ about here?” I laid it out for him, and he reacted the same way I think every dyed-in-the-wool Black Flag fan did upon learning of Greg Ginn’s bizarre science experiment:
“Wow…that’s pretty stupid.”
Robots. We’ll let ’em beat the pants off Russians at chess, but as soon as they start playin’ musical instruments, we’ve had enough. That’s where we draw the line. Good to know.