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Black Flag Biography


Home > Music > B > Black Flag > Biography


Birth Place: Hermosa Beach, California, United States
Years Active: 1977–1986, 2003
Genres: Hardcore Punk


Black Flag were a punk rock band formed in 1976 in Hermosa Beach, California. The band was founded by guitarist and songwriter Greg Ginn. Black Flag's sound was heavily influenced by the Ramones met Black Sabbath, with an anti-authoritarian and non-conformist stance. Their songs spoke to angry, disaffected youth and dealt with social isolation, mental illness, and poverty. When Henry Rollins joined the band in 1981 and took over the lead vocals role, he took these themes a step further and got into the psyche of a disengaged youth. Black Flag's sound began as a straight-up hardcore punk-rock band, as the 80s progressed so too did their music; ever changing, growing, and evolving, the band are considered innovators of the punk subculture in the U.S. Ginn's guitar playing is renown in punk circles, he was known for playing more complex arrangements at a time when it was popular for bands to play a fast, three-chord format. Black Flag's catalogue of music has thrown everything, even the kitchen sink, into their sound, making them the kings of the 'DIY' punk ethic.

The band started out calling themselves 'Panic,' with Ginn at the helm as the tyrannical, perfectionist who insisted that the band rehearse several hours a day. This sense of dedication towards music was too much for some band members, and as a result the band went through a number of line-up changes over the years. The band played their first show as Black Flag in Redondo Beach in 1979 and continued to play gigs all over California, building up a local following along the way. While Ginn was acknowledged as the band's leader, he was very quiet, whereas bassist Chuck Dukowski's personality was more suited to speaking with the public and press, and was dubbed Black Flag's spokesman. Keith Morris was the band's initial singer for three years, his energetic stage presence was pivotal in earning the band the reputation they gained in their early days. Morris quit the band in 1979, due to creative differences with Ginn and his drug use; he went on to form the Circle Jerks. Ron Reyes took over on vocal duties for the band's EP “Jealous Again”

By 1980, after just one year with Black Flag, Reyes quit during mid-show and was replaced by fan Dez Cadena. The band's debut album, “Damaged” appeared in 1981, followed by a national tour in support of the album. By the end of 1981, Cadena's voice was shot from all the touring and never having professionally sang before; enter twenty-year-old fan Henry Rollins. The band invited Rollins to audition; Impressed by his intensity and stage presence, they offered him the job as lead vocalist. The band's second studio album, “My War” arrived in 1984, and with Rollins at the helm the band's popularity began to swell. Rollins brought a whole new style to Black Flag by infusing spoken word, poetry, and satirical criticism into the driving punk rock sound they had already developed. A dynamic live performer and powerful singer, Rollins was a huge hit with the fans. By 1983 Dukowski retired from performing with Black Flag, but continued on in his role as tour manager for the band.

1984 also saw Black Flag release two more albums: “Family Man” and “Slip It In,” releasing a total of three albums in one year, backed up by endless touring. 1985 saw more line-up changed and the appearance of the band's fourth and fifth studio albums: “Loose Nut” and “In My Head.” By 1986, the band was exhausted and the tensions were high. Endless touring, in-house fighting, and living in near poverty caused the band to part ways with Ginn deciding to quit first, followed by Rollins. Rollins went on to have a hugely successful solo career and also embraced a successful acting career. 2003 saw Black Flag play three reunion shows with a line-up of Dez Cadena on vocals, Greg Ginn on guitar, Robo on drums, and C'el Revuelta on bass. Professional skateboarder and singer Mike Vallely also sang all the songs from My War at these shows.