If I’m reading the latest in the Black Flag lawsuit kerfuffle correctly, Greg Ginn and his label SST Records do not own any copyright on Black Flag or its related trademarks, Henry Rollins and Keith Morris might own some kind of copyright, Greg Ginn never quit Black Flag despite not performing with or as that band between 1986 and 2013 (save the one-off charity concert he played in 2003 with the robot bass player)*, and Henry Rollins also never quit Black Flag because he literally never said in writing or verbally “I quit.”
If this donnybrook goes to court (which “they” say is unlikely at this point) I hope it yields a diagram or chart outlining each member of Black Flag and whether or not they ever quit. Maybe everybody’s still in Black Flag! You hear that, Emil Johnson? YOU MAY ALREADY BE A MEMBER STILL.
Interesting to see the judge note “no likelihood” of consumer confusion between Black Flag and FLAG. I’m very confused whenever my friends talk about these bands because they all have a habit of calling the latter “Black Flag.” I think this stems from the fact eighty guys from Black Flag are in FLAG. Thus I am always forced to ask, “Are you talking about Black Flag featuring Greg Ginn and Ron Reyes or are you talking about FLAG, all caps, featuring Keith Morris and all those other rockin’ dude-meisters?”
Of course, consumer confusion is a moot point since Joe Law has decided Greg Ginn doesn’t own the trademarks. Kinda seems like nobody owns ’em right now. So don’t worry, guy who is currently Photoshopping the four bars logo into a handful of tampons captioned “KOTEX FLAG”—nobody from the band is gonna sue you. At least not today.
* – I am acutely aware Henry Rollins ends his Black Flag tour diary Get In The Van with an entry recounting a phone call between Ginn and himself during which Ginn quit the band; although Ginn’s never challenged this story he’s also never confirmed it as 100% truth (as far as I know). Not that I’m taking his side. Motherfucker tried to reunite Black Flag with a robot.
[Flag, the more name-heavy of the Black Flag reunions, treating Moose Lodge 1873 in Redondo Beach, CA to a secret show, 4/19/13]
– thank you, Chuck Dukowski, for bringing a splash of color to this shindig
– I’m surprised the band didn’t institute a “no cell phone” rule to prevent the tangled mess of arms rising up from the crowd; on the other hand, when’s the next time most of Black Flag’s gonna be at your local moose lodge?
– feel like maybe they hung those antlers up for effect
– in a surprise to no one, this reunion performs with a degree of excellence, probably because no robots in sombreros are involved
– the person recording this made some weird cuts, such as editing down the tension-fraught bass / drum opening of “No More” (WHICH IS KIND OF THE WHOLE POINT OF THAT SONG BUT W/E)
– Egerton nails Greg Ginn’s guitar tone; again, not a surprise as he seems like something of a Ginn disciple, but still, I didn’t assume he’d be this on target
– this has no relevance to anything but I met Egerton after an ALL show in 1997 and he was really nice
– Flag hits it out of the park on “My War”
– am I on drugs or does the band look “professionally lit?”
– “My kids are out there!” Chuck says at one point in reference to the crowd, seemingly amused that his children even exist
– I think “White Minority” has always kinda spoken for itself and doesn’t necessarily need further defense, yet Keith offers one any way (something about his grandma sexing Native Americans)
– when Dez Cadena takes over on vox for a few songs his stage patter makes him seem like a “down to Earth bro” I’d “like to have a beer with” (I’m actually being sincere)
– Dez gets a little Vegasy in “Thirsty & Miserable” and I ain’t mad at that!
– closing with “Louie Louie” hit this brother hard in the heart for some reason, maybe because that seems like a true Black Flag move, in the true spirit of the orig band
– DUDE NO “TV PARTY” WHAT THE FUCK THAT’S A “FALSE FLAG” IF I EVER HEARD IT LOL LOL LOL
Euro friends: you too will soon have the opportunity to see each version of the reunited Black Flag as both factions are scheduled to invade your shores this spring. Greg Ginn’s “Black Flag” featuring Ron Reyes and Dale Nixon is booked for the Ruhrpott Rodeo on 5/18 in Hünxe, Germany; Keith Morris and Chuck Dukowski’s “Flag” featuring Bill Stevenson and a Descendent will be appearing twice at Deutschland’s Monster Bash Festival (4/26 in Munich, 4/27 in Berlin) and once at Belgium’s Groezrock Festival (4/28 in the scenic municipality of Meerhout). What’s next, showdowns in Canada, Japan, and the Falkland Islands?
Now, the $64,000 question: which Black Flag would I see if someone put a gun to my head? I’d be inclined to choose the Ginn / Reyes situation only because I’ve never seen either of those guys in concert. What if by some miracle they blow the doors of the place? Also, the possibility of viewing a robot bass player in a sombrero excites me. Keith Morris, Bill Stevenson, and S. Egerton are all really talented and fun but I’ve seen them loads of times performing with other bands, and I get the distinct feeling their “Flag” performances won’t have the same element of surprise or danger (read: a robot bass player in a sombrero malfunctioning).
In a related story, I’ve come up with a few more great titles for the new “Black Flag” album Ginn and co. are finishing. Hey Greg and Ron, feel free to swipe any of the following: Jealous Again (Again); Oh, That’s Who Had The 10½, Thanks For Letting Us Know; The Process Of Smoking Tons Of Weed & Deciding This Is A Good Idea; Slip It In Again But Not Too Far (I’ve Got Work In The Morning); My War 2: Fight For Your Right To Artie Lange.
This question courtesy of my own nagging subconscious.
As a teenager / young adult who clung to Everything Went Black like it was the Rosetta Stone, I never imagined the powerful, no nonsense unit that called itself Black Flag would ever exist as two separate factions on the punk rock reunion circuit a la Ratt or Steppenwolf. Yet here we are, staring down a festival season where “Flag” (founding members Keith Morris and Chuck Dukowski plus drummer Bill Stevenson plus Stephen Egerton from the Descendents) will perform at a Las Vegas bowling party in May while “Black Flag” (founding guitarist Greg Ginn plus second BF singer Ron Reyes plus nobody knows yet) is set to play the U.K.’s Hevy Fest in August. The sad part is this is not the first time this has happened.
In 2002 Henry Rollins (BF singer #4) assembled the benefit album Rise Above to help raise funds for the West Memphis Three, and it was a big deal in part because several former Flaggers—Morris, Dukowski, mid-period bassist Kira Roessler—agreed to participate. Noticeably absent was Greg Ginn; It’s unclear (at least from preliminary Google searches) if Hank reached out to him for the album, but I’d be surprised if he did considering the well-documented glacier that formed between the pair following Black Flag’s 1986 disbanding. What can be confirmed is Ginn’s lack of immunity to the nostalgia bug. The guitarist also had his own charity to champion. Thus, in 2003 Greg Ginn reformed his version of Black Flag, with a robot, for a one-time concert to benefit wayward cats. It didn’t go so well.
These previous situations both benefitted worthy causes, so it was hard to be very angry at what was going on generally. Now, however, it looks like a different ball game. I don’t fault these guys for doing their separate things with the members they still get along with because, hey, we all like to have fun and get paid if we can, but as a fan it’s just the worst. I want to believe Black Flag was at some point a sacred order, the one thing upon which all its varied members could agree—let’s do the band this way or not do it all—and that maybe one day in the near future they’ll go back to this mindset. Of course, I suppose you want to believe that about every musical group you see. The hard truth is none of these people are monks and they’re all on the wrong side of fifty. So what shall be shall be.
It could be worse. The Ramones could be reforming with the Geico lizard on vocals. It’s all about perspective.
Image swiped from blackflaglogo.tumblr.com.